Category Archives: SEC Football

If you build it, they won’t come.

If you’ll recall, Joe Alleva seemed mighty pleased at how inhospitable the last expansion of Tiger Stadium would make the place for visiting fans.

It looks like his master plan is working.  A month before the start of the 2o14 season, six of seven visiting teams – Sam Houston State, Louisiana-Monroe, Mississippi State, New Mexico State, Kentucky and Ole Miss – all returned tickets to LSU.

He’s a regular marketing genius, alright.  The sad thing is that he’s one of the people whose job it is to figure out how to keep attracting fans to attend games.

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Filed under SEC Football

Change of pace

Sounds like Malzahn’s offense is The Next Big Thing in SEC Land.

“Their scheme they had was significant. Everybody’s looking at it,” Missouri Coach Gary Pinkel said. “That’s what we do. We steal. Everybody steals what other people do.”

It’s not just the scheme that’s attractive; it’s the change of pace.

“There are some really interesting concepts in that offense,” Pinkel said. “Gus was ahead of the change. He was leading the band on that. He did a remarkable job. You’re going to see more of that. I guarantee it.”

Florida, for one, is making a move. After four years of offensive stagnancy, the Gators have pinned their hopes on new coordinator Kurt Roper, who is coming over from Duke after the Blue Devils’ ACC title-game appearance last year.

His offense ran 72.6 plays per game last season, primarily out of the shotgun, and was able to gouge defenses both through the air (3,474 yards) and on the ground (2,492).

Ringing any bells?

“We have the players to make this offense work,” Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel said. “We have offensive line that can block one-on-one. We have running backs and skill position players that can make people miss in space. That’s a word you’re going to hear a lot, is ‘space.’ This offense creates space and, when you get that space, that’s when big plays happen.”

Based on last year’s results, why wouldn’t you be interested?

The Tigers were one of eight SEC teams to see increases in plays per game from 2012 to 2013, and the league as a whole ticked up its average from 68.0 to 69.7.

Six teams — Mississippi, Missouri, Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Georgia and Auburn — ran more than 70 plays per game. All but Mississippi State ranked in the top six in the league in total offense.

Correlation ain’t causation, as we all know, but that kind of statistical linkage is going to get attention.  If you find that compelling, though, what do you make of this chart compiled by John Pennington?

2013 Defensive Comparison

School Avg. Seconds/Play Avg. Points/Game Allowed (SEC Rank)
Texas A&M 21.87 32.2 (14)
Ole Miss 22.78 23.7 (7)
Missouri 24.17 23.1 (6)
Georgia 24.25 29.0 (10)
Auburn 25.17 24.7 (9)
Tennessee 25.80 29.0 (10)
Kentucky 26.04 31.2 (13)
Miss. State 27.14 23.0 (5)
S. Carolina 27.14 20.3 (2)
LSU 27.56 22.0 (4)
Vanderbilt 28.08 24.6 (8)
Arkansas 28.29 30.8 (12)
Alabama 30.22 13.9 (1)
Florida 30.70 21.1 (3)

Interesting.  Not one of the five fastest offenses ranked among the league’s top seven in terms of points-per-game-allowed.  On the flip side, five of the SEC’s most stingy defenses also happened to be paired with offenses that used more time in between snaps.

2012 told much the same story.

2012 Defensive Comparison

Schools Avg. Seconds/Play Avg. Points/Game Allowed (SEC Rank)
Texas A&M 21.43 21.8 (7)
Tennessee 21.83 35.7 (14)
Ole Miss 22.75 27.6 (9)
Kentucky 23.51 31.0 (13)
Arkansas 24.03 30.4 (12)
Missouri 24.83 28.4 (11)
Georgia 25.56 19.6 (6)
Vanderbilt 26.93 18.7 (5)
LSU 27.00 17.5 (3)
S. Carolina 27.12 18.2 (4)
Miss. State 27.60 23.3 (8)
Alabama 30.19 10.9 (1)
Florida 30.60 14.5 (2)
Auburn 30.68 28.3 (10)

So here’s the question you’ve gotta ask yourself if you’re Will Muschamp:  how much of your team’s defensive prowess over the last two seasons was the result of the deliberate pace you set on offense?  Because if it turns out that the answer is more than just a little, how are you going to react when your defense gives up more points in the context of a faster paced offensive scheme?  (In other words, Pat Dooley raises a fair question in this column of his.)

It’s not just Florida that should be asking how hard to mash the accelerator pedal.  Note Georgia’s numbers and consider that we’re told Hutson Mason is more comfortable playing in a faster paced offense than Aaron Murray was.

But also remember ultimately that the participants in the last SECCG were two of the faster paced teams in the SEC, neither of which finished in the top five in scoring offense.  Does Boom strike you as the kind of coach who can live with that sort of trade-off?  (I’d probably argue that Richt is.)

I don’t have any answers here, except to note that I bet there will be more than a coach or two questioning his approach as the season progresses.  That’s probably not a recipe for success in 2014.

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Filed under SEC Football, Strategery And Mechanics

Everything old is new again.

Here’s one thing at least we’ll all want to see once the SEC Network gets rolling.

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Filed under SEC Football

Wednesday morning buffet

Buffet away.

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Filed under Bert... uh... Bret Bielema, Big 12 Football, Don't Mess With Lane Kiffin, ESPN Is The Devil, Fall and Rise of Bobby Petrino, Georgia Football, Nick Saban Rules, Phil Steele Makes My Eyes Water, SEC Football, Stats Geek!

Tuesday lunch buffet

A little later in the day, but just as tasty.

  • John Pennington argues that the SEC Network may actually work against national exposure for the conference’s schools at first.  I understand the point he’s trying to make, but I think he forgets that SEC schools have benefited from national exposure on CBS for many years now.
  • Here’s a nice Xs-and-Os preview of the Clemson-Georgia game.  The author thinks it’ll be “all about Clemson’s ferocious defensive line vs. Georgia’s all-world backfield.”  Agree or disagree?
  • Phil Steele has nine sets of power ratings he uses to evaluate teams.  One of those sets has Georgia going undefeated; another four call for an 11-1 season.
  • College football players want NCAA Football 15 back.
  • Bobby Petrino compares the ACC Atlantic to the SEC West.  I guess that’s his way of telling Louisville fans not to expect any division titles.
  • Jimbo Fisher said Jameis Winston was not subject to more discipline for shoplifting seafood at a supermarket in April, because, as he was punished by the baseball coach, double jeopardy attached (“… you don’t punish a guy twice for the same crime.”).  Kinda like a Law and Order episode minus the Lennie Briscoe quip.
  • Be still, mine heart.

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Filed under Clemson: Auburn With A Lake, Crime and Punishment, Fall and Rise of Bobby Petrino, Georgia Football, PAWWWLLL!!!, Phil Steele Makes My Eyes Water, SEC Football, Strategery And Mechanics, The NCAA

Hutson Mason and the year of the running back

I’ve touched on it before and it’s been noted elsewhere that with the departure of so many talented quarterbacks from the SEC, the conference is likely to see many teams rely more on their running games.  But it’s worth keeping in mind that even during last season’s Year of the Quarterback, it’s not exactly as if the SEC was a pass-happy league.

SEC teams ran the ball on 57.3 percent of their plays from scrimmage last season. That marked the highest percentage from any of college football’s “Power 5” conferences, edging the Big Ten’s 56.8 percent.

Pac-12 teams ran least, keeping it on the ground only 51.9 percent of the time. SEC champion Auburn ran the ball 71.9 percent of the time. SEC teams ran the ball more than 55 percent of the time in each of the past six seasons.

So, it may be the contrarian in me, but I have this feeling that if we’re looking at a heavier dose of the run from some offenses, those that can still throw the ball with some effectiveness are going to have an advantage taking what defenses will be geared to try to stop.

And that leads me to something I heard Mark Richt say on Sports Center about an hour ago (here’s to the rewards of home recuperation).  Talking about Mason’s chances this year, Richt made a point about it not being simply that his quarterback had been patient and liked being at Georgia.  He stressed that Mason’s a fifth-year senior who’s benefitted from being in the same program, with the same position coach, the same offensive coordinator and the same offensive system the entire time.  There’s something to that, and outside of South Carolina’s Thompson, I’m not sure there’s another starting quarterback in the conference this season who could make the same claim.  Throw in Mason’s surrounding cast, and you may really have something other conference offenses will have a hard time matching.

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Filed under Georgia Football, SEC Football, Strategery And Mechanics

A bargain at twice the price

Mike Slive’s had a pretty good week.  The NCAA is in the process of capitulating to the power conferences on governance.  And Comcast is taking on the SEC Network.

SEC Network landed its biggest fish Friday, announcing a long-term carriage deal with the country’s biggest distributor. Comcast will carry the channel at its Aug. 14 launch on its expanded basic tier within SEC territory and digital basic outside of it. Sources say the channel’s rate card is at $1.40 per subscriber per month within the SEC’s 11-state footprint and $0.25 per month outside of it.

That ain’t exactly chump change.  It’s likely that DirecTV isn’t far behind, either.  All in all, it sounds like the SEC is having a smoother rollout of its broadcast operation than either the Big Ten or the Pac-12 had.  And that may be the result of a deliberate tactical decision Slive and the presidents made.  They don’t own the SEC Network outright, as the Pac-12 owns its.  Nor are they the controlling end of a partnership like the Big Ten is. Instead, the conference has elected to maintain the role of content provider and leave production in the hands of ESPN.

What’s gained by that?  A shitload of leverage.

The Comcast deal also includes TV Everywhere rights, allowing for live streaming of the channel on Xfinity TV Go and WatchESPN (John Ourand, Staff Writer). FOXSPORTS.com’s Clay Travis noted news that DirecTV is close to a deal is “square with the private comments of SEC and ESPN executives, who are confident that a deal is near as well.” DirecTV’s negotiations with SEC Network “are part of a larger negotiation with the other ESPN networks.”

In other words, if you want to carry ESPN – and if you’re a distributor, that’s not really a choice – you’d best resign yourself to finding a niche in your product line for the SEC Network.  The good thing is that if you play ball, ESPN has plenty of extra sweeteners to toss in the pot for you.  And that’s basically what’s happening.

With the Comcast deal in place, an agreement with DirecTV “would mean that every major cable and satellite company — excluding Time Warner, which has remained fairly quiet so far — would carry the SEC Network.” It also would allow ESPN and the SEC to “hit their goal of roughly 75 million cable and satellite subscribers at launch.”

That’s an easier sell with ESPN on your side than without.  (Note that “DirecTV, which has more than 20 million subscribers, carries the Big Ten Network but not the Pac 12 Network.”)

The SEC took a more conservative approach to establishing its broadcast arm than its predecessors.  And while it may be hard to say whether that’s a decision it’ll come to regret down the road if having more control equals greater profitability, at present it’s probably more valuable to get the sign ups done as smoothly as possible.

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Filed under ESPN Is The Devil, SEC Football

I’ve tried subtlety.

Steve Shaw repeated a message at SEC Media Days that you should keep filed in the back of your mind to avoid some frustration this fall.  He’s got the new targeting protocols gamed out.  It’s up to you to keep up with him.

Now the 15-yard penalty will be wiped out on simply targeting calls if they are overturned but not if roughing the passer is also called.

Shaw said fans need to listen up for an official’s call on the field.

“It’s a subtle part of his announcement,” Shaw said. “If you hear him announce personal foul/roughing the passer with targeting regardless of the review the 15-yard penalty (will be assessed).”

Actually, that’s a message for the replay official. We’ll be just along for the ride. If an official on the field thinks something smells like targeting and makes a dual-penalty call like that, he’s making sure that a 15-yard hit is coming, regardless of what the replay might indicate.  Call it making the crime fit the penalty, if you’d like.  But I doubt we’ll be calling it subtle.

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Filed under SEC Football

Monday morning buffet

A light nosh before SEC Media Days kicks off.

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Filed under Big Ten Football, Look For The Union Label, Recruiting, Science Marches Onward, SEC Football, Stats Geek!, The Blogosphere

I was gonna ask a good question at Hoover, but then I got high.

While I’m sure there will be a myriad of subjects discussed at this week’s SEC Media Days – I learned five years ago there’s no shark in Hoover that can’t be jumped – here’s one subject I’m skeptical we’ll hear much about:

We knew this was coming: you do not lose Johnny Manziel, AJ McCarron, Aaron Murray, Zach Mettenberger, Connor Shaw and James Franklin without some sort of dropoff. But it does create an interesting debate this week: just who is the best QB in the SEC?

Wallace and Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott have their supporters. Auburn’s Nick Marshall will likely be first-team All-SEC, based on where his team ended last season and the location of SEC Media Days. Alabama’s Jacob Coker has never participated in a practice at the school, but is the presumed starter. But the answer may be either Missouri’s Maty Mauk or Georgia’s Hutson Mason. Both started games because of injury last season and impressed. It’s their job now, and each one has the skill (and the schedule) to go on a run through the SEC.

I just don’t see much traction for Mason in a preseason conversation like that. Anyway, it’s likely that Marshall’s sucked all the oxygen out of the room this week.  Then again, Clay Travis could always ask Gus Malzahn if Nick Marshall’s the best quarterback in the conference when he’s high.  Maybe I should hold off on my doubts.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Media Punditry/Foibles, SEC Football