If there has been one bulwark of the SEC's claim to dominance over college football the last seven years, it has largely been defense. With the exception of Auburn's 2010 national championship win -- powered by the once-a-generation talent of Cam Newton -- most of the teams that have won the crystal football have done so largely because of their defense. Even the 2008 Florida team that featured Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin had a superb defense.
No team has embodied that trend more than Alabama, winner of three of the last four national championships. Which is why it came as something of a surprise that the Tide won its game against Texas A&M earlier this year by a 49-42 margin. Not that it was unbelievable that Johnny Manziel had some success against Alabama's defense, or that the Tide had its own high points against the suspect A&M defense. But we're not exactly used to 91-point games between potential championship contenders in the SEC.
This year is different. And it's not just the A&M game or last week's high-profile Georgia-LSU meeting. Offense in the SEC is way up this year, which might be another way of saying that defense is way down. Anecdotes are dangerous, of course; it's what generally trips up some sportscasters and coaches. But the numbers so far bear out what we've all been thinking.
These are not small differences. An extra touchdown a game and 109 added yards a game might not sound like that much, sure, but it's also not statistical noise. This appears to be a real-life trend. But what if the numbers are skewed? What if there are a few really strong offensive teams that played early this season and make the changes look more drastic than they are? Let's take a look at the 10 games that have been played so far this season that were also played last year.
Yep, it's worse. That's 128.6 extra yards a game -- basically, at least a field goal drive for each team each game. And the 13 extra points amounts to almost an extra touchdown for each team in each game. These aren't quite Big 12 numbers that we're talking about, but they're still pretty dramatically different games than the SEC is used to playing.
The suspects for this are probably as varied as you want them to be. The spread of no-huddle offenses, some of the league's better teams losing a bevy of talented defensive players to the NFL, and the Year of the SEC Quarterback that we keep hearing about. Give Johnny Manziel and Aaron Murray and others another year in their current systems, repeat that several times across the league, and you're almost bound to see a boom in offensive numbers.
But in case you were thinking that the decline of SEC defenses, or at least the rise of the SEC offenses, was some kind of meme -- it's not. Or at least it's not an unjustified meme. Yards and points are up in the SEC in 2013, though it's anyone's guess as to whether that makes another crystal football more or less likely.