The Southeastern Conference's football culture, created by its regional history, Southern pride and die-hard fans, has become legendary.
Here's what some experts have said about the SEC culture and what makes it different than anything else in college football:
CBS college football analyst Tim Brando, who was born in Louisiana and has covered the SEC for decades:
“I think people in the heartland — and I think this is also true in the Big 12; I'm not gonna leave out Texas and Oklahoma and Oklahoma State and a lot of the schools in the heartland — I think a lot of the schools in the flyover states, in general terms, are less inclined to be about pro sports and more inclined to be identified by either where they went to school, or where they hoped to have gone to school when they were kids.
“I think they identify themselves as human beings by where they're from, or what the state school represents.”
Phillip Fulmer, who played at Tennessee from 1968-71 and won two SEC titles and a national title as its head coach between 1992 and 2008:
“The stadiums have gotten bigger, and you've got more really, really qualities coaches in this league right now. Maybe more than ever. The television and the dollars are bigger than they've ever been. The SEC television contracts put three or four big games a week out there. It is probably bigger than it's ever been, but it's also more exposed than it's ever been.”
Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury, who spent the 2012 season as Texas A&M's offensive coordinator:
“I think at a place like Alabama — where there's not a professional team — that's religion to them. You watch the fans come out, and they're there all day long, rowdy and rocking. That's their passion. They're raised on it.
“It's fun to watch and it's great for the game.”
Former SEC commissioner Roy Kramer, quoted in the 2012 book, “How the SEC Became Goliath,” by Ray Glier:
“Football was part of the recovery of pride in the South one hundred years ago, ninety years ago, eighty years ago. They were building a cultural pride, and if you were from Alabama, you said, ‘That's my state, that's my team.' There is something to that, I think.”
ESPN college football analyst Robert Smith, who played running back for Ohio State and the Minnesota Vikings:
“It's an absolute obsessive level that goes even beyond what you see in the state of Texas. They live, breathe and eat football down there.”
New York Times reporter Warren St. John, who followed Alabama's 1999 football team in an RV and described the experience and crazed fans he met in his 2004 bestseller, “Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer.” From the book's introduction:
“I grew up in Alabama — possibly the worst place on earth to acquire a healthy perspective on the importance of spectator sports.
“A recent poll by the Mobile Register found that 90 percent of the state's citizens describe themselves as college football fans. … To understand what an absolute minority nonfans are in Alabama, consider this: they are outnumbered there by atheists.”
Clay Travis, a Tennessee-based writer and radio host who has authored two books on SEC football:
“I think what Southerners have done is put football in the middle of the culture of the South, which is family, cookouts, drinking — probably to excess oftentimes. Football is a part and parcel of the experience, but it's really just a small part.
“Ole Miss says, ‘We may lose a game, but we've never lost a party.' A lot of these fan bases have not been historically successful, but you still show up because it's almost like a big family reunion. It's a party. There's nothing that compares like it. I've been all over the NFL, and it's laughable to compare NFL tailgating and atmosphere with what goes on in the SEC.”