Revenge of the Big 12?

College football punditry, like nature, abhors a vacuum, so it should come as no surprise that folks are rushing to take note of the rapid decline (or is it demise?) of SEC defenses, seemingly across the board, and providing explanations for the same.  Let’s go through one of those.

Let’s look at offense.  Facts, unfortunately, are facts.

SEC offenses are finally figuring this out, and it’s something that the Big 12 has been doing for years. In conference games since 2017, Big 12 offenses have thrown the ball on more than 55% of their snaps.

Big 12 pass rate (2014-2020)
Season Total offensive snaps Passing snaps Pass rate
2014 7,054 3,849 54.56%
2015 7,219 3,790 52.50%
2016 7,216 3,795 52.59%
2017 6,824 3,807 55.79%
2018 6,790 3,761 55.39%
2019 6,660 3,762 56.49%
2020 1,987 1,123 56.52%

This had not been the case for SEC offenses in conference games going into this season, as pass rates hovered between 49.32% and 51.7% between 2014 and 2018. Last year saw a sizeable increase — there was a 2.27% one-year rise, putting the conference pass rate at 53.97% — but 2020 has already seen a huge jump from even that. SEC offenses are now passing the ball 57.67% of the time — it’s early yet, but all signs point to the conference breaking the record it set last year.

SEC pass rate (2014-2020)
Season Total offensive snaps Passing snaps Pass rate
2014 8,281 4,201 50.73%
2015 8,145 4,208 51.66%
2016 8,259 4,160 50.37%
2017 8,017 3,954 49.32%
2018 8,077 4,176 51.70%
2019 7,968 4,300 53.97%
2020 3,026 1,745 57.67%

As the SEC passes more, their very pride and joy — their precious defense — has taken a hit.

Not only are SEC offenses throwing more, they’re throwing more on first down and creating more yards per pass.  And here comes the depressing part:

This offensive explosion has come just as the spread offense has finally hit the SEC square in the mouth. When Urban Meyer came to Gainesville in 2005, it started that conference down a path to where we are now. Meyer’s Gators were a “spread-to-run” attack that used wider formations and misdirection to run the ball, and we’ve seen a huge shift throughout the SEC in recent years in the use of those single-back formations.

This is not Hal Mumme erasure. The Kentucky Air Raid of the late 1990s, a two-back offense, has just not had the same trickle-down effect that Urban Mayer has had.

It’s bad enough I’ve had to credit Spurrier with revolutionizing SEC offenses in the 1990s.  Now I have to give Corch credit?  Gag.

But I digress.

The point here is that between increased emphasis on the passing game on all downs, virtually abandoning two-back sets and spreading the field, SEC offensive coordinators have done much to nullify the talent advantage SEC defensive coordinators have enjoyed.

The SEC is still recruiting incredible talent on the defensive end, but the tactics used by these new offenses are mitigating them completely. Spreading defenders out and then continuously throwing into the new voids created by all this space might not just be a trend; it might be the best strategy to use in this sport. We laughed at the Big 12 for years, but they were doing the best they could, given the circumstances. Do we start making “SEC defense is bad” jokes now, or should we wait a couple of years?

It’s already started.

7 Comments

Filed under SEC Football, Stats Geek!, Strategery And Mechanics

7 responses to “Revenge of the Big 12?

  1. biggusrickus

    Let’s calm down a little here. You have one team that has radically shifted their offensive philosophy since last season. MSU went from a run-heavy offense (by necessity given their QB) to the pass-happiest offense in the universe (their offensive split is 198-46 pass-run if you take sacks into proper account, and that leaves out scrambles). That alone probably accounts for a significant amount of the difference. In case you’re wondering, MSU’s splits were 498-346 in favor of the run last year.

    SEC offenses have been similar to what they are now for years, and looking at a three-game sample to make some kind of sweeping pronouncement is dumb, especially in a year with a bizarre offseason. Plenty of defenses have looked unprepared, and there’s been more bad tackling in the league than I’ve seen before. I’d chalk the results so far more up to that than anything.

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  2. CB

    Kentucky’s defense is giving us hope. Georgia not bad either TBD this Saturday.

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  3. ApalachDawg aux Bruxelles

    how many big 12 teams have won anything since texas shocked usc? and i don’t think i would call mack brown an air raid coach / no defense coach.
    these are the same people that said the turds in jortland would win the east and were constantly lubricating their backsides everytime kyle and kyle connected for a TD.

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  4. What I see is spread and air raid terms being used very generously with some teams.

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  5. paulwesterdawg

    If Richt hasn’t thrown his hands up and caved to Fulmer’s complaining….he could’ve been given credit for bringing the HuNH that he helped invent (and the reason we hired him) to the SEC. But he inexplicable gave up on it.

    Crazy in retrospect.

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  6. Down Island Way

    Defense wins championships….Offense lights up the score board, hc’s thinking “if i can out score you, i’ll win more than you do”…that might work in the hoops world, not at big time college football games…if you are going to spread me out, i have to defend you better (or i lose) and present problems for your qb to deal with…

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  7. dawg100

    We had “Air Georgia” with Eric Zeier by 1991.

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