May 21st, 2013 10:00 AM║ Posted By: John Pennington ║ Permalink
║ Schools: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Missouri, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt
Tags: Alabama, Georgia, LSU, SEC
Running or passing?
We wanted to know which statistics provided a more accurate gauge of overall success during the 2012 SEC football season. When talking about the SEC, defense is usually the first word out of the mouth of any coach, fan or pundit. Should it be?
In an effort to find out, we took six key (but simple) statistics from last season and compared them to the win/loss records of each of the 14 SEC schools. We used only stats from conference games (SEC versus SEC) and we’ve compared only last season’s conference records. Last year’s SEC title game was not included in our study.
In this piece, we’ll focus on the offensive side of the ball. Below you will find last year’s SEC teams ranked according to their yards-per-carry average:
2012 SEC Rushing Offense / Yards-Per-Carry
* Four of the top five teams in the yards-per-carry category — Alabama, Texas A&M, Georgia and Florida — finished with six or more SEC wins last season. But Tennessee ranked fourth in this statistic and still managed just one league win in 2012.
* Tennessee was hardly the only team that was “out of place” record-wise when it came to this stat. Arkansas (2-6) and Kentucky (0-8) ran the ball more effectively than LSU (6-2) and South Carolina (6-2). The Gamecocks also ranked behind Mississippi State (4-4) and Missouri (2-6). Vanderbilt finished with a winning record in the conference yet the Commodores averaged more yards per carry than only Ole Miss and Auburn.
* Long-time football fans will tell you that you have to play good defense and run the football to win ballgames in the SEC. But running the ball effectively — and we’ve seen this hold true in recent seasons — isn’t as important as it used to be. Yes it’s darn helpful to be able to wear down a defense with a punishing ground game. It’s a plus to be able to grind out the last few minutes of clock when leading, too. But there is not longer a clear correlation between yards-per-carry and wins.
* Some might be wondering if straight rushing yards would be a better indicator of league success and the answer is yes. In terms of overall rushing yards per game in SEC contests last year, every team with a winning league record (Alabama, Texas A&M, Georgia, Florida, LSU, Vanderbilt and South Carolina) finished in the top eight of the conference in total rushing yards. Only Tennessee snuck into the top eight with a losing record. But those seven schools with winning SEC marks also ranked among the top eight in rushing attempts in SEC games. That was to be expected. Teams with leads try to milk clock by running the football (as noted above). So it can be said that winning teams run the ball more often — possibly/probably because they’re playing with late-game leads — but it can’t be said that winning teams the ball more effectively (yards-per-carry average).
* To see the importance of rushing defense, click here for a breakdown of opponents’ yards-per-carry averages. We have also broken down some numbers for passing offense and defense from last year’s SEC action. For those results, click here for yards-per-attempt and click here for opponents’ yards-per-attempt.
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