Heisman Pundit explains his unified theory of the college football universe:
I’ve been touting the importance of scheme in college football since before the 2005 season when I extolled the offenses of Florida, Boise State, Louisville, Utah, Cal and USC–the original Gang of Six. I felt these schools were utilizing some extraordinarily effective offensive systems that enabled their programs to succeed well beyond the levels that their talent would normally provide.
I don’t want to take the time and effort here to jump on his rather lame effort to hold up the BCS title game as a complete vindication of his “Gang” theory (although you should take the time to read through the responses to his two posts on the subject – the effort he makes to defend himself is pure comedy gold), but I do want to respond to something he wrote in attempting to answer his challengers, namely, that the SEC is mired down in offensive mediocrity due to an overabundance of knuckle-dragging offensive coordinators.
Here are a few choice nuggets from Mr. “Scheme Uber Alles” that illustrate his point of view:
… And also because, as I noted below, [Meyer] goes into most SEC games knowing that he probably doesn’t have to outscore the other team and can therefore hunker down and play more conservatively.
… Look. You SEC guys have to get on board what is happening. The SEC is fast becoming a coaching league, with legitimate head men like Meyer, Saban and Spurrier now in place.
… LSU would not have done the same to Ohio State because LSU’s offense is pretty basic and Ohio State would understand how to defense it. That was not the case vis a vis Florida.
(Note that HP never explains how Saban is a “legitimate” head coach, while Jimbo Fisher, who’s been the LSU offensive coordinator under Saban and Miles, hasn’t run a worthwhile offense.)
In HP’s defense (see, I can be a nice guy), this is actually a fairly common criticism of the conference. Defenders of the SEC point to how difficult the conference is because the majority of its teams can play well on the defensive side of the ball; those that feel the conference is overrated tend to dismiss that claim and take the position that it’s really a matter of the conference offenses being subpar for the most part.
I’m curious to know if there are any grounds for the validity of either side’s argument. To try to find some answers, I’ve compiled a list showing the points scored (both total and per game average) by the nine SEC teams that went bowling this season, broken down by conference, regular season (including, in the cases of Florida and Arkansas, the SECCG) and bowl games.
- SEC: 133 (total) 16.625 (avg)
- Season: 267 (t0tal) 22.25 (avg)
- Bowl: 31
- SEC: 221 (total) 27.625 (avg)
- Season: 390 (total) 30 (avg)
- Bowl: 14
- SEC: 162 (total) 20.25 (avg)
- Season: 305 (total) 25.41 (avg)
- Bowl: 17
- SEC: 178 (total) 22.25 (avg)
- Season: 375 (total) 28.846 (avg)
- Bowl: 41
- SEC: 185 (total) 23.125 (avg)
- Season: 296 (total) 24.667 (avg)
- Bowl: 31
- SEC: 163 (total) 20.375 (avg)
- Season: 319 (total) 26.583 (avg)
- Bowl: 28
- SEC: 220 (total) 27.5 (avg)
- Season: 397 (total) 33.08 (avg)
- Bowl: 41
- SEC: 147 (total) 18.375 (avg)
- Season: 302 (total) 25.167 (avg)
- Bowl: 44
- SEC: 212 (total) 26.5 (avg)
- Season: 352 (total) 29.333 (avg)
- Bowl: 10
- Conference Average (SEC): 22.513
- Season Average: 27.259
- Bowl Average: 28.556
Anybody notice a trend here? Sure, you can discount the season average being higher than the conference average somewhat due to the typical cupcakes that appear on every team’s non-conference schedule, but how do you explain the conference’s bowl average? If the SEC is really a conference full of Pat Dye look-alikes masquerading as offensive coordinators, shouldn’t that number be lower than the season average?
Contrary to popular opinion, this guy isn’t a SEC offensive coordinator.
Most teams in the conference have competent passing games these days. Many teams have had running quarterbacks in the past few years, as well. What’s happened is that Spurrier provoked a sea change in offensive and defensive philosophies in his first stint in the SEC. That was at least ten years ago. It’s not a “three yards and a cloud of dust” conference anymore – which is why I have to laugh at HP’s comment that the SEC is “fast becoming” a coaches’ league.
I’m not saying that the above stats are absolute proof of conference superiority, but I don’t see how you can look at them and deny that the SEC is a very tough defensive conference. Whether Meyer’s offense will ultimately be a big success in the SEC is still open to debate (unless, of course, you’re debating HP), but the results to date would tend to support the notion that this is a conference full of good defenses that hold down offensive production, regardless of scheme.
UPDATE: KG’s comment got me to thinking about how the 2006 defensive stats for the conference would compare. I’m not going to break it down team by team, but here are the defensive averages based on the same nine schools listed above:
- Conference Average (SEC): 19.34
- Season Average: 17.69
- Bowl Average: 21.44
That would seem to follow a more expected pattern, accounting for weak nonconference opponents during the season and better opposition for the bowls. But note that the difference between the conference average and the bowl average on defense is considerably smaller than it is for the respective offensive averages.