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The 7 greatest games in the history of the SEC-SoCon Challenge

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The SEC likes to give itself automatic wins in mid-November. Well, they’re not exactly automatic.

Michael Chang/Getty Images. Banner Society illustration

The SEC-SoCon Challenge — or the week prior to Thanksgiving, in which most of the SEC treats itself to a helping of easily beatable non-conference opponents who may or may not actually be in the SoCon — is a newer innovation. Until about a decade ago, the SEC’s mid-November was defined by rivalries like LSU-Ole Miss, Tennessee-Vanderbilt, and even the Iron Bowl itself.

Eventually, the SEC discovered its teams could essentially gift themselves extra bye weeks during a crucial spot in the calendar. As long as they picked the right cupcakes, at least, they could get some breezy reps in and stay healthy right before the biggest games, with smaller schools getting crucial revenue.

Doctors in other conferences hate this one weird trick! (Even though most conferences do similar things internally before Rivalry Week anyway.)

Every November, Big Ten fans look up from their team running a layup line on a 1-9 Rutgers or whatever to complain about Alabama getting to play a bad team in November.

I assure you, Charleston Southern — which plays every SEC team at once every year (it’s true) — is often as good as the Kansas, Oregon State, or Maryland your team is playing during the SEC-SoCon Challenge. And if you force the SEC to add a ninth conference game, it’ll just grant membership to Wofford and UT Chattanooga.

But still, yes, I get it, yes. It’s silly and weird and not courageous of the SEC to do this in November, whereas it’s totally acceptable for almost everyone to do it in August. Yes. I get it. Sure.

Either way, we’ve now got roughly a decade of SEC-SoCon Challenge history to reflect upon.

Bama was one of the first teams to deploy this maneuver, way back in 2007. Boy, did it work great right off the bat. We’ll get to that game.

7. Alabama 63, Georgia State 7 in 2010

Important point: Georgia State has never been in the Southern Conference. But as noted, all mid-November games involving an SEC team and a wildly overmatched non-power are spiritually included in the SEC-SoCon Challenge. Thank you.

Noteworthy only for the image of a program in its first year of existence, nine weeks after losing to a since-defunct NAIA team, scoring a touchdown in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

The part I wish the broadcast (which for some reason had Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, and Desmond Howard???) had captured: GSU’s post TD victory lap by like the entire roster up and down the sideline.

6. Alabama 45, Georgia Southern 21 in 2011

Nick Saban said this:

Y’all don’t remember the Georgia Southern game, do you? I don’t think we had a guy on that field that didn’t play in the NFL and about four or five of them were first-round draft picks, and I think that team won a national championship but I’m not sure.

And they ran through our ass like shit through a tin horn, man, and we could not stop them. We could not stop them. Could not stop them.

And Georgia Southern made shirts about it.

5. Kentucky 42, ULM 40 in 2006


4. Georgia 23, Georgia Southern 17 (OT) in 2015

Well hey there, Dawgs! You clicked on this post, all excited to see a certain Georgia Southern game, and now you’re being reminded of this other one. I know this doesn’t exactly ruin anything here for you, but I just wanted to say hello.

3. The Citadel 23, South Carolina 22 in 2015

You know how Midwestern teams are terrible at not scheduling North Dakota State? The SEC is terrible at not scheduling FCS triple option teams. Speaking of:

2. Georgia Southern 26, Florida 20 in 2013


1. ULM 21, Alabama 14 in 2007

One of the greatest upsets in the upset-bloated 2007 season and by far the most delightful loss ever suffered by a Saban team, this was also arguably the first game of the SEC-SoCon Challenge era.

The year prior, the Iron Bowl had been in this weekend. But around this time, the SEC decided to move its biggest rivalries to Thanksgiving week, helping fortify the last weekend in November as the national Hate Week.

In 2007, Auburn played Tennessee Tech in November, but the Tigers used to play cupcakes before Georgia, not right before Alabama. The Tigers wouldn’t move their November cupcake week to before Thanksgiving until 2011, around which time many other SEC teams began doing the same.

So it’d be reasonable to credit Bama both with putting the SEC-SoCon Challenge in its current spot and with getting the whole thing off to a deeply enjoyable start.

And again: ULM was not in the SoCon, except for one special day.