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The Most Successful SEC Football Programs Of All-Time, Ranked No. 14 Through No. 1

It’s a hot, muggy day in downtown Atlanta. A group of 14 SEC football fans—one from each school—has gathered around a big, wooden table at a dive bar. Their goal: drink some alcohol, but more importantly, debate which program is, historically, the best in the conference.

The Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, and Kentucky fans pass out at the table after a couple of beers. It's not like they could stake much of a claim in their respective team ranking No. 1, anyway. 

The Texas A&M, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Missouri quartet bows out midway through the debate. They don’t have the stamina to last very long in the discussion. It’s now down to six fans: Alabama, Tennessee, LSU, Georgia, Florida, and Auburn.

The Auburn, Florida and LSU fans each get kicked out of the bar for being rowdy. Like their respective teams, they didn't come of age until recently. The Georgia fan is also a bit out of it, having been yelling something about Herschel Walker for the past hour. He's quite old, however, like the Bulldogs' last national championship (1980). 

It’s come down to a one-on-one discussion between the Alabama fan and the Tennessee fan.

The Alabama fan talks about Bear Bryant and Nick Saban, and how the Crimson Tide have been elite in nearly every era.

The Tennessee fan talks about how many games the Volunteers have won, how awesome Peyton Manning was, and the amount of bowl victories its program has.

There has to be a better way to figure out which program in the Southeastern Conference is the most successful historically, though. This is where we come in.

Considering national championships, all-time record, bowl wins, and conference championships (not just SEC championships), we’ve ranked the SEC programs on historical success, ranked No. 1 to No. 14. 

We then make our way into the bar and put our list of the 14 teams on the table. The debate is over.

Which fan has bragging rights?

Presenting The Most Successful SEC Teams of All-Time, as ranked by College Spun. 

Start with No. 14, Mississippi State >>>

No. 14 - Mississippi State 

  • All-time record: 516–549–39 (.485)
  • Bowl record: 11-7
  • Claimed national titles: 0
  • Conference titles: 1 (SEC)

When ranking the 14 SEC teams in four categories--all-time record, bowl wins, claimed national titles, and conference titles, Mississippi State ranks No. 11, No. 14, No. 11 and No. 14, respectively. 

There has never really been a time when the Bulldogs were consistently good. Until the 2000s, Mississippi State never won more than one bowl game in a single decade. 

Could things be getting better in Starkville, though? It's seems so. Dan Mullen has led Mississippi State to three bowl wins since taking over in 2009. 

Next: No. 13, Vanderbilt >>>

No. 13 - Vanderbilt

  • All-time record: 582–582–50 (.500)
  • Bowl record: 4-2-1
  • Claimed national titles: 0
  • Conference titles: 14 (12 SIAA, 2 Southern) 

The Vanderbilt Family seemed to rule much of the world during the Gilded Age (1870s to 1900), but Vanderbilt football sustained much of its college football success in the early 1900s. 

From 1901-21, the Commodores' football program won 11 conference championships, playing in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association. 

When Vanderbilt joined the SEC in 1932, though, much of its football team's achievement died. The Commodores have never won the SEC or their respective conference division. 

While Mississippi State boasts more bowl wins than Vanderbilt, the Commodores have more wins, and did, at one point, dominate a conference, which is something the Bulldogs can't say. 

Next: No. 12, South Carolina >>>

No. 12 - South Carolina

  • All-time record: 566-544-44 (.510)
  • Bowl record: 7-12
  • Claimed national titles: 0
  • Conference championships: 2 (1 Southern, 1 ACC)

Surprised? To the younger fans: South Carolina didn't do college football very well before Steve Spurrier arrived in Columbia. 

The Gamecocks have won just seven bowl games, with each of those victories coming after 1994. If we were ranking "The Best SEC Programs Of The Past 20 Years," South Carolina would likely stand at No. 6 or No. 7. But we're ranking these programs based on all-time accomplishments, and before the 1990s, South Carolina really didn't achieve anything. It made eight bowl appearances from 1946 to 1994, losing each of those games. 

Where will South Carolina rank 10-15 years in the future? If Spurrier's recent success is any indicator, the Gamecocks will continue to rise. 

Next: No. 11, Kentucky >>> No. 11 - Kentucky

  • All-time record: 581–593–44 (.495)
  • Bowl record: 8-6
  • Claimed national titles: 1
  • Conference titles: 2 (SEC)

The conference's best basketball school checks in at No. 11 on our list of the most successful football programs. Average the two rankings and the Wildcats have one of the better football/basketball combo programs. Not bad, Kentucky. 

In football, Kentucky's never really had a great era. The eight bowl wins are spread out over five decades, with the most success occurring recently. Three of the Wildcats' eight postseason victories have come since 2006. Five of Kentucky's 15 bowl appearances have come since 2006. 

Like South Carolina--on a much lesser scale--Kentucky is an SEC football program that should rise in this ranking in another 10-15 years. 

Next: No. 10, Arkansas >>>

No. 10 - Arkansas

  • All-time record: 682-464-40 (.592)
  • Bowl record: 13-23-3
  • Claimed national titles: 1
  • Conference titles: 13 (Southwest Conference)

There was a time when Arkansas was one of the country's most prestigious college football programs, but this was when the Razorbacks were playing in the Southwest Conference. 

From 1915-91, Arkansas was a member of the SWC, winning 13 conference championships. Their best era was, undoubtedly, when Frank Broyles was the head coach. Broyles, who led Arkansas from 1958-76, won seven conference championships and a national championship in 1964. 

Recently, it seemed as if Arkansas was destined for serious success in the SEC. Under Bobby Petrino from 2008-11, Arkansas had an 11-2 season and finished No. 5 in the AP Poll in 2011, and finished 10-3 in 2010 with a Sugar Bowl appearance. 

Bret Bielema is now the man in Fayetteville and optimism isn't too high. Arkansas went 3-9 in the former Wisconsin's coach's first season. 

Next: No. 9, Missouri >>>

No. 9 - Missouri

  • All-time record: 642-534-53 (.544)
  • Bowl record: 14-16
  • Claimed national titles: 0
  • Conference titles: 15 (12 Big 8, 3 WIUFA)

If 2013 is any indication of how Missouri will fare in the SEC, the Tigers should have great success in the years to come. Missouri, in its second year in the conference, won the SEC East before losing to Auburn in the conference title game. 

Missouri's had above-average-to-modest success during recent decades, too, but never has it really been great. Its last conference championship came in 1969, when it was in the Big Eight. 

There have been good years--2007, '08, '10, '13 each saw Missouri in its conference championship game, all losses--but never has Missouri really taken the jump from a modest football program to a very good one, which is likely why it ranks No. 9 on this list. 

Next: No. 8, Mississippi >>>

No. 8 - Mississippi 

  • All-time record: 636–497–35 (.560)
  • Bowl record: 23-12
  • Claimed national titles: 3
  • Conference titles: 6 (SEC)

From 1959-62, Ole Miss was elite. The Rebels won three national championships in that four-year span--though only one ('62) is officially recognized by the NCAA--posting a 30-0-2 record. 

What's happened since then? Ole Miss football has fallen off, a bit.

The Rebels have won six SEC championships--none since 1962--and perhaps most impressively, won 23 bowl games, the fourth highest total of any SEC school.