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Advantage Through The Air: The SEC’s Best And Worst

We all know that the passer rating system is a bit convoluted.  Still, it gives us an idea of which teams have the most efficient passing attacks… and which teams make passing more difficult for their opponents.

Kerry J. Byrne of ColdHardFootballFacts.com — a good guy who’s built a great site dealing mostly with NFL stat analysis — wrote earlier this year for SI.com that the difference between a team’s offensive and defensive passer ratings is “the most important stat in football.” 

In the SEC — a run-first league — that doesn’t always hold true.  Here’s a look at how the SEC’s teams ranked last fall in Passer Rating Differential:


School
Off. Pass. Rating
Def. Pass. Rating
Pass. Rating Diff.
Overall Record
Alabama
167.79
103.56
64.23
10-3
Auburn
180.56
133.68
46.88
14-0
Arkansas
162.19
120.66
41.53
10-3
Georgia
152.97
121.55
31.42
6-7
Kentucky
144.08
123.37
20.71
6-7
Tennessee
136.45
116.84
19.61
6-7
Miss. State
139.25
124.29
14.96
9-4
S. Carolina
147.63
136.83
10.8
9-5
Florida
117.3
108.65
8.65
8-5
LSU
117.59
114.24
3.35
11-2
Ole Miss
123.30
150.99
-27.69
4-8
Vanderbilt
95.55
140.52
-44.97
2-10



So passer rating differential isn’t as accurate a predictor of success in the SEC as it is in the NFL.  That’s partly because college teams play three or four cupcakes per season, while all 32 pro teams play at a similar level.  (For the argumentative among you, there’s a bigger difference between a #1 college team and an FCS opponent than there is between the best and worst NFL teams in a given year.)  There are also some differences between the NFL’s passer rating formula and that of the college game.

So why show you this year’s passer rating differential numbers?  Because they still give us a good idea of which teams are most likely to win a game through the air.

Below are this year’s numbers through the first six weeks of the season:


School
Off. Pass. Rating
Def. Pass Rating
Pass. Rating Diff.
Overal Record
LSU
154.44
98.43
56.01
6-0
Alabama
138.39
85.08
53.31
6-0
Georgia
151.81
102.93
48.88
4-2
Arkansas
153.14
113.07
40.07
5-1
Tennessee
162.50
124.31
38.19
3-2
Florida
134.56
106.68
27.68
4-2
S. Carolina
120.42
97.30
23.12
5-1
Miss. State
126.21
117.11
9.1
3-3
Vanderbilt
101.95
106.89
-4.94
3-2
Ole Miss
102.18
122.26
-20.08
2-3
Auburn
118.35
133.58
-20.23
4-2
Kentucky
78.48
120.18
-41.7
2-4



Observations:

* Check out the decline for Auburn.  The Tigers have gone from +46.88 last year to -20.23 this year.  If AU doesn’t shore up its pass defense and reignite its own pass offense, Gene Chizik’s club will likely be in for bigger struggles as it dives deeper into SEC play.

* Kentucky’s defensive passer rating is actually a hair better this year than it was a year ago.  But look at the offensive number — and yes, that drop-off is pretty offensive.  (I’ll be here all week.)  UK had a passer rating of 144.08 in 2010.  In 2011, that number’s been halved down to 78.48.  Mike Hartline doesn’t look so bad now, huh?

* Looking for a reason for Vanderbilt’s slight uptick this season?  Check out the defensive passer rating for the Commodores.  It was 140.52 in 2010 but it’s fallen all the way to 106.89 this year (thanks to 14 interceptions).  Vandy’s pass defense has been the difference for James Franklin so far.

* LSU and Alabama look as good in this stat as one would expect.  But while this suggests your team isn’t going to beat the Tigers or the Tide through the air, a victory via the ground game is probably just as unlikely.  They’re efficient on offense, beasts on defense.

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