SEC Domination: But are lofty defensive stats helped by weaker SEC offenses?
The Southeastern Conference has built a reputation as the best college football conference in the country. All the SEC need do is point to its five consecutive Bowl Championship Series national titles. A sixth straight championship is all but assured with No. 1 LSU facing No. 2 Alabama in the BCS title game in New Orleans on Jan. 9.
The league is probably best known for producing some of the nation's elite defensive units. This season was no different, as the SEC has the top four defenses in the nation and six of the top 20: Alabama (1), LSU (2), Georgia (3), USC (4), Florida (9) and Vanderbilt (19).
But are the numbers skewed? Were the defenses that dominant, or was it a down year for offense in the SEC?
The SEC had just two teams ranked in the top 30 offensively this season -- Arkansas at No. 27 and Alabama at 30th. Florida (102) Tennessee (103), Auburn (104), Mississippi (114) and Kentucky (118) were among the worst offensive teams in the country. The SEC's top-rated passer is Alabama's A.J. McCarron (149.80 passing efficiency rating). LSU's Jarrett Lee (152.04), actually put up better numbers, but he's no longer the Tigers' starter, and because he didn't play in enough games, he doesn't qualify in the final NCAA passing statistics.
When SEC teams stepped outside of the league and faced quality quarterbacks or offenses, they often looked less than dominant. Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore threw for 261 yards and three touchdowns in a 35-21 win over Georgia, as the Broncos had nearly 400 yards of total offense. LSU was torched by West Virginia's Geno Smith, who threw for 463 yards in a 47-21 loss to the Tigers. The Mountaineers finished with more than 530 yards of total offense.
But that wasn't always the case. In South Carolina's 34-13 win over ACC champion Clemson last month, the Gamecocks limited the Tigers' high-powered offense (441 yards per game) to just 153 yards, and held quarterback Tajh Boyd to 83 yards passing.
A year ago, the SEC had three of the country's top passers in Auburn's Cam Newton, Alabama's Greg McElroy and Arkansas' Ryan Mallett. Auburn and Arkansas ranked in the top 10 offensively. The SEC had three defenses ranked in the top 20 in 2010.