Placing too much credence in statistical averages is always an iffy proposition, and it's particularly dicey this early in the season. But nevermind that.
The stats of some SEC teams are plainly inflated right now because they have played only creampuffs. For example, Florida is really good, but don't look for them to continue rolling up 643 yards and 59 points per game (though they may do just that again this weekend vs. Tennessee).
Other teams' stats may be deflated now compared to what they'll be later in the season due to having played only "quality" opponents - I'm thinking Georgia here, but even this is ambiguous because the quality" of their two opponents - Okla. St. & S. Carolina - remains an open question. Interestingly - or perhaps I should say "not surprisingly" given their Saturday night track meet - both Georgia & South Carolina appear to have suffered statistically from playing each other.
Finally, three SEC teams - Ole Miss, Arkansas & Kentucky - had early bye weeks, so their season numbers reflect only stats from their opening weekend games. While we Rebel fans think we have a better team than we saw in Memphis, the fact is that we can't yet prove that by the stats. The same is true of Arkansas & Kentucky.
The numbers, then, probably lie. But even with all the caveats, some interesting points emerge from the cumulative SEC stats through the second week of play. Having parsed those numbers, I offer a few of the pearls:
1. Georgia may, in fact, really suck.
At a minimum, these Bulldogs have some explaining to do. For starters, Georgia, despite all the points it hung on the ‘Cocks, is dead last in total offense (282.5 ypg), 11th in scoring offense (25.5, second onlyto SC’s 22.0), dead last in scoring defense (giving up 30.5 ppg), 11th in total defense (yielding 367 ypg, second only to MSU’s 391.5), 12th in rushing offense (101), 10th in rushing defense (143 ypg, ahead of No. 11 Ole Miss (150)). Georgia’s pass defense is 12th (224), its passing efficiency is 10th (126.7, ahead of only SC and Vandy), last in pass defense efficiency (121.1), 10th in sacks (2). And Georgia’s not saved by its kicking game – its respectable 3rd in kickoff returns is offset by its 10th place in punt returns; it is no. 2 in punting average (44.1) but is 10th in kickoff coverage. Ominously, Georgia ranks dead last in average first downs produced (16 – and 5 of those are by penalty) and last in opponent’s first downs allowed (21.5). For crying out loud, Georgia’s opponents are 4 out of 5 on 4th down conversions! Not surprisingly, Georgia is last in time of possession (25:58) and is last in turnover margin – one of only two SEC teams with a negative number (-5).
The silver lining for Georgia, if any, is that it’s early yet, plus they have played two BCS teams. If I didn’t hate MSU more I might have said that Georgia sucks, big time, and that MSU probably sucks. But . . .
2. Mississippi State does, in fact, suck. Big time.
It may be early, but we’ve seen enough. I don’t need to run through the litany, because you are Rebel fans and you already know that State sucks. Suffice it to say these Bullies allowed 390 yards on the ground against Auburn. Thank God they only played 60 minutes. But I would be remiss if I failed to mention that State far-and-away leads the SEC in . . .Penalties: 22 penalties in 2 games for a total of 241 yds! State’s penalty yards per game – 120.5 – is light years ahead [below?] runner-up & No. 11 Georgia (83 ypg).
So Bulldogs, repeat after me:
3. LSU really is struggling.
LSU is the only SEC team other than Georgia to have actually played two BCS teams in the first two weeks – but they get no sympathy for playing last year’s PAC 10 doormat and Vandy. And that fact won’t help Les Miles with the Tiger faithful if things don’t improve, and I mean quickly. LSU is 10th in scoring offense (27 ppg), 11th in total offense (323.5 ypg), 10th in total defense (344), 9th in rushing offense (163), 9th in rushing defense (139.5), 10th in first downs gained (19), 10th in first downs allowed (18.5), dead last in opponents’ third down conversions – a whopping 15 allowed out of 34 attempts, giving their opponents a 44.1% success rate. But guess what, Gonzo - this, too, is a Top 10 team.
We wuz robbed!
4. While Tennessee sucks, its defense is pretty good - unfortunately for the Vols it's not good enough.
Really, I could just give you QB Crompton’s stats against UCLA: 13-26 for 93 yards, 3 picks, no TDs – and a 4th interception was nullified by a penalty. The offense is at least as hapless as we anticipated – but even offsetting the Vols’ Week 1 trouncing of W. KY with its loss to almost-as-bad UCLA, Tennessee’s defensive numbers still shine: No. 1 in total defense (134.5 ypg), a respectable 5th in scoring defense (only 13 ppg), No. 1 in pass defense (75 ypg), No. 2 in rushing defense (59.5), No. 3 in sacks (7), No. 1 in first downs allowed (9 per game), No. 2 in opponents’ 3rd down coversions (4/25, 16%). Otherwise, the Vols’ numbers are plain mediocre. But they are 10/10 on PATs!
All in all, I must still say, Big Orange -
Bonus: as the Orlando Sentinel reasonably asked yesterday, "can Vols' Lane Kiffin coach?"
5. South Carolina's defense was outstanding against a bad NC State team, but apparently missed the bus to Athens.
After all, Georgia put 41 on the scoreboard against them – and it nearly wasn’t enough. That outing dragged them down to 10th in scoring defense (22 ppg), despite holding the Wolfpack to 3 paltry points. Spurrier’s biggest problem is that his team also gives up 22 points per game – dead last in the SEC. And the Gamecocks are 10th in total offense (343.5 ypg), 11th in rushing offense (111), 11th in passing efficiency (113.8), 11th in pass defense efficiency (117.8), 12th in sacks allowed (5), tied with Vandy for 9th in 3rd down conversions (34.4 %), 11th in opponents’ 3rd down conversions (43.5%,thanks to Georgia), 9th in penalties. But the Cocks are an impressive 5 out of 7 in 4th down conversions!
6. Despite its sluggish start against Fla. Int'l Vo-Tech, Alabama is indeed strong.
Just as I don’t need to explain why State sucks hard, you’ve seen enough of Alabama to know the Tide is for real – and I’m getting tired. Alabama is 2nd in total defense (184.5), No. 1 in rushing defense, allowing a mere 32.5 ypg on the ground, No. 1 in sacks (10). Something you might have overlooked, however, is that Saban’s team is dead last in kickoff coverage in the SEC – 59.9 yards per kick and a measly 33.2 net average, meaning that Tiffin’s not kicking very far or high and Bama’s opponents are getting some decent kickoff returns against them as a result. As a matter of fact, each of Alabama's opponents have taken one of Mr. Tiffin's gifts to the house. Which brings me to . . .
7. Ole Miss may have the best kickoff specialist in the conference in the "Boomer".
Actually, if we’d seen Boomer kick more than one game this one would be a no-brainer. As it stands, Ole Miss is No. 2 in the conference, behind only Arkansas [don't go & get the big head just yet, Gonzo], in kickoff net average (48.8). But what really blows me away is the generation of touchbacks. In one game (8 kicks), Boomer has 3 TBs (37.5%); there have been 147 kickoffs by SEC kickers through two weeks of play, with only 8 TBs (5.4%) – and, as noted, 3 of those 8 belong to Boomer, who is thus accountable for 37.5% of all SEC touchbacks, even though he’s only had half as many games as most conference kickers.
An anomaly? Maybe, but I don’t think so. And while I know great kickoffs alone can never win games, it sure does make winning easier.
My other favorite kicker.