About a month ago, we at MrSEC.com would have told you that the SEC is down. The league’s defenses just hadn’t played up to typical SEC snuff. And great defense has been the great differentiator between the teams in Dixie and the teams of the East, Midwest, and West.
Well, the defenses are still giving away yards with ease, but it sure hasn’t hurt the league in the national championship picture.
This season, only two SEC squads are allowing fewer than 335 yards of total offense per game — Alabama and Florida. In 2012, five teams allowed fewer than 335 (Alabama, Florida, LSU, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt). There were six schools under that number in 2011 (Alabama, LSU, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Vandy). In fact, the SEC had four or more squads that allowed less than 335 yards per game in 2010, 2009, 2008 and 2007. In 2008, only one of 12 SEC teams — Arkansas — gave up more than 335.
Make no mistake, the SEC is playing wide-open football this season, like every other league in America. Perhaps that’s why the league has struggled a bit more against quality non-conference foes (Clemson, Oregon, Oklahoma State, Louisville, Rutgers, and Miami all hold wins over SEC squads). But when you look at the current BCS standings, so-so SEC defenses haven’t prevented Mike Slive’s league from placing six teams in the top 25 and three teams in the top five:
1. Alabama (11-0, remaining games: #4 Auburn, possibly SEC Championship Game)
2. Florida State (11-0, remaining games: Florida, ACC Championship Game)
3. Ohio State (11-0, remaining games: Michigan, Big Ten Championship Game)
4. Auburn (10-1, remaining games: #1 Alabama, possibly SEC Championship Game)
5. Missouri (10-1, remaining games: #21 Texas A&M, possibly SEC Championship Game)
Clemson and Oklahoma State each have one loss but they’re behind the SEC’s surprising Tigers (Auburn’s and Missouri’s). The same goes for Baylor and Michigan State. Fresno State is undefeated, but they’re not going to be part of the national championship discussing.
So once again, even with the league’s defenses down, the Southeastern Conference appears — for now — to be sitting pretty in the national title picture.
The worst case scenario at this point? FSU and OSU win out (which they probably will). Auburn upsets Alabama in the Iron Bowl. Texas A&M upsets Missouri. South Carolina would then win the East and meet Auburn in Atlanta for the league title. A Carolina win there would in all likelihood end the SEC’s run of seven consecutive national crowns.
It would be hard for a one-loss Alabama squad to jump back into the BCS Championship Game over a pair of undefeated conference champions from the ACC and Big Ten. Even a surprisingly weak Big Ten.
But at the moment, the SEC’s title hopes are looking pretty good. Heck, three teams in the top five? Who cares about disappointing defenses?