Category Archives: SEC Football

Talent will up and out.

I touched on this yesterday, but David Ching nicely fleshes out how the postseason talent drain in the SEC East is shaping up in this post.  Go down his list and it’s apparent that Florida and Tennessee are taking the biggest hits in the division and that Georgia, while not going completely unscathed, comes off looking a lot healthier by comparison.

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Filed under Georgia Football, SEC Football

They say it’s a defensive conference.

But maybe it’s just that most SEC offenses blew chunks this season.

Only one SEC school – Missouri, which finished rock bottom in the SEC East standings – ranked among the top 20 in the FBS in total offense. The Tigers placed 13th overall with 500.5 yards per game.

Conversely, three teams, including SEC East champion Florida, ranked outside the nation’s top 100 – among the 20 least productive units in the country.

It’s the first time since 2011 that no SEC school has made the top 10 nationally in total offense, and the first time since 2005 that no team currently in the conference has earned a top-10 offensive ranking…

… The Crimson Tide placed a fully-respectable 31st in total offense at 460.9 yards per game…

The rest of the bunch: Texas A&M (24th), Ole Miss (26th), Tennessee (40th), Auburn (43rd), Mississippi State (44th), Arkansas (54th), LSU (59th), Kentucky (61st), Georgia (87th), Vanderbilt (110th), South Carolina (115th) and – bringing up the rear – Florida (116th).

Jeez.

A couple of things there — one, Florida winning nine games with one of the worst offenses in the country seems nearly miraculous, and while Jim McElwain deserves kudos for pulling that off, you have to wonder how long he can manage to keep that kind of balancing act in the air.

Two, as I said in the comments, maybe we should be keeping a quiet eye on Missouri’s chances in 2017.  The Tigers certainly weren’t without their flaws…

The key to Missouri’s statistical success was its passing attack with quarterback Drew Lock, which averaged more than 295 yards per game. But the reasons for Missouri’s lack of real-life success included shaky ball control (28 fumbles in 12 games), special teams miscues (only six made field goals, as well as poor kick coverage) and a woeful defense that gave up points faster than the Tigers could score them. The result: a 4-8 season.

… but there’s something to be said about being one of only two SEC East offenses that finished 2016 in the upper half of the conference standings in total offense, especially when the other, Tennessee, has lost its offensive coordinator and most of its skill position talent.  (Also, notice that the East makes up the entirety of the bottom five in total offense.)

If you want to be cynical, it’s another reason to think Georgia’s chances to win the East next season aren’t awful.  After all, if you can’t make headway against this…

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Filed under SEC Football, Stats Geek!

Pythagoras ain’t played Alabama, PAWWWLLL.

If you’re one of those folks who’ve been consoling themselves with the thought that Georgia was this close to being 10-2 in the just concluded regular season, you’re probably not going to be comforted by this Team Speed Kills post on Pythagorean expectation for the SEC in 2017.

PE, in case you’re wondering, “measures total points scored and points allowed multiplied by the number of games played to get a projected win total (Pythagorean wins)”.  It took the bowl game to accomplish it, but Georgia barely finished in the black in net scoring in 2016, and based on that should have finished just shy of seven wins.

Now, the post’s author goes on to define the spread between Pythagorean and actual wins as “luck”, but I think it’s a little more nuanced than that in some cases.  Good coaches can steal a win here and there; bad coaches can snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory.  (I’ll leave it to you to decide where the credit lies for Georgia +1.3 win spread.)

As 2016 is in the barn, what’s of interest is what PE says for next season.  As you can probably guess, our old friend regression to the mean is in play.

In short, winning more games than your Pythagorean Expectation tends to mean a team will decline the following season, while falling short of expectations tends to mean a team will improve…

… Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Tennessee may all take a step back next season, and it would likely come at the hands of resurging Vandy and Missouri teams.

Yeah, well, let’s slow down and unpack this a bit for a sec.  First, play the caveat.

Pythagorean projection is just one tool for projection. It doesn’t encompasses an unlucky streak of injuries or turnover margin, or account for early departures and new coaching hires, but it’s historically been a more significant way to base future assumptions beyond simple wins and losses.

Urp.  Georgia didn’t suffer an unlikely streak of injuries last season.  The Dawgs finished +8 in turnover margin, tops in the SEC (with one game left for Alabama).   Both of those would feed into an unfavorable regression story for next season.

On the other hand, we know the story about early departures and it’s very favorable.  Georgia has already taken its lumps on the new coaching hires front, and as we saw in this Bill Connelly post, second year coaching time is usually the right time.  So those factors would seem to cut against regression to the mean.

Also working in Georgia’s favor next season is yet another fairly soft schedule.  Maybe things will change — they often do — but from this early vantage point, it doesn’t appear to be loaded with an abundance of ranked opponents.

The wild card, of course, is the relative talent levels of teams in the SEC East.  Georgia, as I’ve already mentioned, has that quartet of returning juniors that’s unmatched by any other team in the division.  Tennessee, in fact, is losing some monster talent early to the NFL draft, and there are other SEC East schools, like Florida and Missouri, also losing contributors.  The other part of this is where the 2017 recruiting class wind up in a month.

Obviously, a lot can happen in a month, but right now…

… the Dawgs are lapping the divisional field.  And, no, even if things held as they project, not every one of those studs would play next season, but you’d have to think Georgia’s odds of finding significant contributors in the next freshman class are better than any other East program’s, simply based on sheer numbers.

Honestly, you can say we’re looking at a half empty/half full glass for 2017, and I get your point.  I still think the two biggest factors for Georgia stepping up are Jacob Eason and Kirby Smart mastering their learning curves and nobody can say for sure how that goes.  But it’s not hard to argue that the program will be facing something of an uphill struggle against regression to the mean; it’ll be up to Smart to come up with enough improvement in other areas to overcome that.

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Filed under Georgia Football, SEC Football, Stats Geek!

When you’re your own Second Chance U

Mississippi State finally gets around to dismissing a player after his third arrest in a month.

Man, bowl prep must have been a real distraction, Coach Mullen.

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Filed under Crime and Punishment, SEC Football

Mike Slive’s mixed legacy

In noting the decline of the SEC over the past few seasons, Bill Connelly wonders if that can be attributed to a run of boring coach hires.  With all due respect to Brother Bill, I’d like to suggest another culprit:  the conference is more mediocre lately because it has more mediocre teams than before.

If you stayed up last night, you learned that in losing to Kansas State, Texas A&M managed to finish 8-5 for the third straight season.  The Aggies’ cumulative conference record over that period is 11-13.  Subtract Johnny Manziel from the equation and this program has been the poster child for mediocrity during its time in its new home.  Kevin Sumlin, by the way, makes a cool $5 million a year for that kind of production.

Then there’s the SEC East’s contribution, Missouri.  To their credit, the Tigers have a pair of division titles to their name, thanks to Georgia imploding due to injuries in 2013 and just imploding generally on the field in Jacksonville the next year.  (The luster of those finishes was substantially dimmed by consecutive blow outs in the conference championship games.)  Hard times have followed in the two seasons since then, as Mizzou has failed to reach bowl eligibility in either and has a whopping total of two conference wins to its name over that time.

To put it mildly, neither has brought much in the way of prowess to the table of late.  (Don’t waste your time pointing to other sports besides football, because it was football alone that was the reason for their invitations to join the conference’s party.)  Add to that a disregard for geography, tradition and conference scheduling —  remember, Dawg fans, we’ve got two more Presidential election cycles to go through before setting foot in College Station, Texas — and it’s not much of a leap to conclude that conference expansion has been largely unsuccessful, at least by the metric of maintaining what’s been special about the SEC.

Largely ain’t the same thing as totally, though.  And in one spectacular way, conference expansion has been everything Mike Slive and the people who hired him thought it would be.  It gave Slive the lever to overturn the conference’s existing broadcast contracts, which had fallen behind the times and were eclipsed by bigger deals like the Big Ten Network, and allow for the creation of the cash cow that is the SEC Network.  For them, that’s what’s special about the conference.

In the end, it’s what’s in the eyes of the university presidents that matters.  So when it comes time to write Slive’s epitaph, it’ll be a simple one.  Mike Slive always made money for his partners.

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Filed under SEC Football

Jeez, Freeze.

I’m no fan of the man, but as cringeworthy as the comment is, I almost hope this is a misunderstanding.

Calloway told reporters during the Under Armour Combine Media Day earlier this week about how Freeze is describing the investigation with recruits.

Q: We’ve heard a lot about negative recruiting at Ole Miss with the NCAA thing going on, what has Ole Miss said to you about that?

“Well, Coach Freeze told me when you’re that big and out there with faith in Christ, he’s like, ‘What do you expect? Jesus got nailed to the cross.’ So, he was just telling me sometimes things like that happen, but that’s never going to change how he’s going to treat his players and take care of them. Even if — I don’t know if he really did make the mistake, doing what he did or not — but I can just tell he’s a good person, great person. I know they’re looking at maybe a bowl suspension [for 2017]. I don’t know what they’re gonna do. But I don’t think that’ll affect anything as far as how he treats his players and stuff like that.”

Oy.

Crucified by the NCAA?  Seriously?  Does that even sell on the recruiting trail?  If it were my kid and Hugh Freeze walked in the door saying that, I’d really wonder what was going on inside his head.

*************************************************************************

UPDATE:

So I guess the difference between Jesus and Hugh Freeze is that the former never had any trouble being understood.

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Filed under Recruiting, SEC Football, The NCAA

The biggest reason for having a conference?

Sharing the wealth.

Nearly four months after the conclusion of the 2014 football season, South Carolina athletics director Ray Tanner received a letter from the SEC accompanied by a check for $729,343.70.

It was the Gamecocks’ share of bowl revenue from the conference, which had compiled slices of each member team’s bowl takes and distributed them throughout the league. It allowed USC to make a small profit off its Independence Bowl appearance, which had initially cost the school over $1 million in expenses. The same process will likely keep the Gamecocks in the black as they head to Thursday’s Birmingham Bowl against South Florida.

Although exact figures for the Birmingham Bowl are not yet known, within the SEC bowl structure the game is on the same tier as the Independence Bowl, in which the Gamecocks defeated Miami to close the 2014 campaign. A review of USC’s expenses for that trip shows the significant amount it takes to send a team and support personnel to even a mid-level bowl, and how conference revenue sharing ensures against losing money on the trip.

It’s just something else to keep in the back of your mind as college football continues the process of rearranging the postseason in the era of playoff expansion.

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Filed under It's Just Bidness, SEC Football