The Southeastern Conference has always been about defense-first football, with the occasional dominating offense exerting their will, but rarely. Those offenses are very much the exception to the rule, rather than the rule. Due to a combination of factors, SEC football so far in 2013 is starting to resemble the MACtion of the Mid-American Conference teams that light up the artificial turf on national television early in the week than the traditional SEC, that depending on your allegiances, you either love or love to hate.
The country’s college football fans were first treated to this brave new era of explosive football in the SEC a week ago when Johnny Manziel and the Texas A&M Aggies went toe-to-toe with the Alabama Crimson Tide on national television in primetime, combining for 1,196 yards of total offense and 91 points in a 49-42 Alabama victory that went right down to the wire. SEC purists and those fixated on the conference’s defense-first ethos attributed this high-scoring affair to two units that weren’t what they once were for different reasons.
A&M didn’t play several starters in the early-going this fall due to disciplinary reasons, while the Crimson Tide don’t have the level of star power on the defensive side of the ball which they’ve had in their past two title runs. Sure, this is an element, but it’s illogical and impossible to recognize that quarterbacks and skill players in the conference are starting to be on an equal par with their defensive counterparts where they never quite have before.
This new Greatest Show on Turf, er, grass, continued earlier on Saturday with the Georgia Bulldogs and LSU Tigers combining 943 yards of total offense and 85 points in another last-second Georgia 44-41 victory, capped by a touchdown pass from Heisman Trophy candidate Aaron Murray to sophomore wideout Justin Scott-Wesley. Neither team’s defense — once among the most vaunted in the country — could establish any type of control on the line of scrimmage. The offensive lines dominated, in large part.
Both Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger had nice, clean pockets to throw out of for the entirety and took advantage of it, showcasing their talents in front of a rabid crowd in Athens and one on television which certainly included some interested NFL scouts.
When Monday morning rolls around and conversations are had at water coolers across the South the narrative will likely surround it being a down year for SEC defenses across the board. While this is an element of the truth, it’s not the entire truth.
Maybe the SEC is taking a cue from the Big 12 in ways they wouldn’t readily admit.
Kris Hughes is a Senior Writer and Business Analyst for Rant Sports.