Is This the SEC's Most Exciting Season in a While?

Scott Cunningham

It sure feels that way.

So far, the SEC season has been full of excitement. It started off with a 39-35 barn burner between Ole Miss and Vanderbilt. Several of the feature games have been thrillers, from Bama's 48-42 win over Texas A&M to Georgia's close wins over LSU (44-41) and Tennessee (34-31 in OT).

Is this the most exciting SEC season in a while? It depends on how you define it.

If you like offense, then it sure is. It's too early to do a comprehensive look at the stats, but for right now, points and yards are way up over previous years. The first half of the "defense wins championships" cliché is that offense sells tickets, meaning that gaudy box scores grab people's attention. People have noticed the SEC this year, to say the least.

Another way to look at it is how prevalent close games are. I mentioned a few notable close games in the first paragraph, and it feels like there have been quite a few. Are there more close games this year than in the past?

From 2002-12, 38.8% of games in regular season SEC play were close. "Close", here, I define as having a final margin of seven or fewer points. As a quick sanity check, ask yourself which was the least exciting recent SEC season. It's 2011, right? Well, only 27.1% of conference games were close that year, easily the lowest rate in the span.

Here is how things work out from 2002 through Week 6 of 2013:

Year Close Pct.
2002 37.5%
2003 33.3%
2004 39.6%
2005 39.6%
2006 54.2%
2007 43.8%
2008 50.0%
2009 35.4%
2010 33.3%
2011 27.1%
2012 33.9%
2013 35.3%

As it turns out, the occurrence of close games is not up this year versus the recent past. Less than half of the conference's games have happened yet, so there's plenty of time for that number to change. However if 2013 has been significantly different from the trend, the rate of close games has been down, not up.

I really do think that the heightened feeling of excitement comes more from the offensive explosions, although the fact that three of the four SEC on CBS games have been close really helps too. Plus, there have been a number of close non-conference games like Georgia-Clemson, Florida-Miami (FL), South Carolina-UCF, Arkansas-Rutgers Washington State-Auburn, and Western Kentucky-Tennessee. No one is just blowing everyone out every week.

We'll see where this goes. Maybe the points will get old after a while. Maybe the CBS games will stop being close every time. Maybe someone, or couple of someones, will lock up a division title really early. I hope not. I'm all for excitement, and I think we're in for some more this weekend.

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