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The Defense Rests: Has The SEC’s DNA Changed?

mrsec stat analysis newYou’ve seen it with your own eyes.  You’ve read about offensive explosions and quarterback duels in SEC contests.  Now you can take a quick gander at the stats below and see just how down the SEC’s defenses really are in 2013.

And at this stage of the season… they’re down.  Way down.

Granted, it’s early in the season and many SEC squads have yet to play more than one or two games against BCS-level competition.  But the nearly across-the-board decline in defensive play is still alarming.  That’s especially true when you consider the fact that the SEC’s recent dominance at the top of the college football food chain has been attributable largely to the league’s brand of stiff defense.

As of today, eight of the SEC’s 14 programs are allowing more points per game against BCS foes than they did last season.

Ten SEC schools are giving up more rushing yards than they did last season.

Ten are allowing more passing yards per contest.

And eleven are yielding more offensive yards overall to BCS opponents than they did in 2012.

See for yourself (italicized numbers are used to denote a decline in defensive performance).  (More analysis after the jump.)


SEC Scoring Defense Vs BCS-Level Foes

  School   2013   2012
  Alabama   17.3   13.3
  Arkansas   36.5   32.4
  Auburn   26.3   33.1
  Florida   15.0   15.4
  Georgia   36.3   19.8
  Kentucky   25.5   35.9
  LSU   30.7   17.8
  Miss. State   22.5   28.6
  Missouri   28.0   31.5
  Ole Miss   27.7   32.2
  S. Carolina   25.3   21.4
  Tennessee   45.0   37.9
  Texas A&M   31.7   20.1
  Vanderbilt   37.0   21.5


SEC Rushing Defense Vs BCS-Level Foes

  School   2013   2012
  Alabama   121.0   79.7
  Arkansas   158.0   127.7
  Auburn   183.3   233.4
  Florida   54.7   98.4
  Georgia   166.7   174.0
  Kentucky   244.0   176.9
  LSU   174.3   101.8
  Miss. State   203.0   174.1
  Missouri   98.0   160.5
  Ole Miss   168.0   153.0
  S. Carolina   129.0   121.3
  Tennessee   215.5   204.3
  Texas A&M   176.0   146.4
  Vanderbilt   213.0   158.8



SEC Passing Defense Vs BCS-Level Foes

  School   2013   2012
  Alabama   227.3   193.3
  Arkansas   303.5   285.4
  Auburn   262.0   224.7
  Florida   147.0   190.7
  Georgia   290.0   192.0
  Kentucky   203.0   251.8
  LSU   222.3   225.8
  Miss. State   242.5   220.0
  Missouri   377.0   246.5
  Ole Miss   225.3   253.9
  S. Carolina   252.0   188.9
  Tennessee   319.0   276.6
  Texas A&M   319.0   247.3
  Vanderbilt   321.0   198.3


SEC Total Defense Vs BCS-Level Foes

  School   2013   2012
  Alabama   348.3   273.0
  Arkansas   461.5   413.2
  Auburn   445.3   458.1
  Florida   201.7   289.1
  Georgia   456.7   366.0
  Kentucky   447.0   428.7
  LSU   396.7   327.6
  Miss. State   445.5   394.1
  Missouri   475.0   407.0
  Ole Miss   393.3   406.9
  S. Carolina   381.0   310.2
  Tennessee   534.5   480.9
  Texas A&M   495.0   393.8
  Vanderbilt   534.0   357.1


Remarkably, only one SEC school — Florida — is better in every key defensive category year-to-year.  Unfortunately for Gator fans’ championship hopes, UF’s offense already fumbled away one game at Miami before losing its starting quarterback for the year.  And with freshmen charged with replacing star defensive lineman Dominique Easley, some of those defensive numbers could take a hit.

Of the six programs expected to be top 10 or national title contenders this year — Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Texas A&M and LSU — the Gators are the only squad that hasn’t shown a massive decline on defense during the season’s first month.  Georgia and LSU are worse in three of the four main statistical categories.  Alabama, South Carolina and Texas A&M are performing worse in every single area.

They’re not alone.  Arkansas, Tennessee and Vanderbilt have also dipped in every area.

Whether this is a one-time blip remains to be seen.  A number of the league’s top schools have had to play more youth than they would like on defense this season.  Couple that with a bumper crop of skilled quarterbacks — AJ McCarron, Aaron Murray, Zach Mettenberger, James Franklin, Bo Wallace, Connor Shaw (when healthy), and Johnny Manziel — and you’ve got a prescription for big points and big yards.

The fear, however, is that even the proud SEC — the last bastion of old-timey defensive power — has finally succumbed to the surge of up-tempo offenses.  More and more of the league’s own schools are running no-huddle systems.  And just last week, even Nick Saban talked about using more no-huddle at Alabama.  (Somewhere Gus Malzahn chuckles.)

Southeastern Conference fans should hope that the Great Defensive Drop-Off of 2013 is just a glitch, rather than a switch in the league’s DNA. The SEC has thrived in the BCS era thanks to bigger, stronger, faster defenses.  The BCS era will end and a new playoff era will commence next season.  That in itself could make title-chasing tougher for the SEC.  But if the league is shifting from one of defense to one of offense, that could make next few years’ transition even more difficult.



I think it deserves to be mentioned that the Gators not only are the team that has improved in each category, but they lead in each category as well, including YAPP.  (And though this article was about defense, since you mentioned losing Jeff Driskel, please allow me to point out that through two SEC games Tyler Murphy leads in the total QBR stat and it's not even close.)


Of course TN's numbers are shifted due to Oregon. It will be interesting what the numbers will look like by the end of the year. I expect TN's for 2013 to be better than 2012, but only because 2012's numbers were historically bad so anything will be an improvement.


Doesn't the SEC, like the rest of football, have a higher percentage of pass plays than in the past? And with more snaps per game, wouldn't we expect to see more scoring? Where is the SEC this year v. the last few years in yards per snap?

An offset for next year: several excellent QBs in their last year of college reside in the SEC this year. When they leave, expect scoring to drop down some. 

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator


I pointed out in the story that the league's quarterbacks could be part of the issue.

I'm about to post a response to your initial "yeah, but."

Thanks for reading the site,



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