SEC at the quarter pole

[Ed. note: Bumped from the FanPosts with paragraphs added in the intro. -Year2]

At the time of this writing, every SEC team has played three games in three weeks, with no team taking its bye week yet. We know this because Alabama has not played a conference game yet, and it has been mandated by the SEC offices that each SEC team must have a bye before playing Alabama (har har).

Unfortunately, three games in three weeks for each team means that we are already a quarter of the way through the SEC regular season. Three games also seems like a perfectly arbitrary time to take a look at the teams in our conference based on their offensive and defensive yards per play (ypp) output to date.

Why yards per play? Well, it breaks down a team's yardage to the very lowest level of granularity. Not all 400-yard total offense games are created equal, and ypp helps to sort out the differences between these types of games. Yardage totals after the jump.

|  1 | Alabama           |     8.6     |     4.0     |    4.6   |
|  2 | Arkansas          |     7.7     |     4.2     |    3.5   |
|  3 | Kentucky          |     7.5     |     4.5     |    3.0   |
|  4 | Auburn            |     7.2     |     4.4     |    2.8   |
|  5 | Tennessee         |     6.0     |     4.5     |    1.5   |
|  6 | Louisiana State   |     5.3     |     4.4     |    0.9   |
|  7 | Mississippi       |     5.9     |     5.1     |    0.8   |
|  8 | South Carolina    |     5.9     |     5.2     |    0.7   |
|  9 | Mississippi State |     5.5     |     4.9     |    0.6   |
| 10 | Georgia           |     5.6     |     5.1     |    0.5   |
| 11 | Florida           |     4.9     |     4.5     |    0.4   |
| 12 | Vanderbilt        |     4.8     |     5.3     |   -0.5   |


These numbers were taken from the invaluable college football stat resource A team-by-team breakdown follows (full disclosure: I'm an Auburn fan).

1. Alabama Crimson Tide - Is there any doubt Alabama is the class of the league? Would Alabama win the NFC West? Has Nick Saban ever had as complete a team as this? (spit) You're reading the table correctly. Alabama is more than doubling their opponents' ypp output so far on the season. The difference between their offensive ypp and defensive ypp is almost equivalent to Florida's offensive ypp. The SEC is Bama's league until someone takes it from them, and that might not happen any time soon.

2. Arkansas Razorbacks - The Razorbacks have played (and beaten) two cupcakes at home and a lower-tier (to date) SEC team on the road. They own the second best offensive AND defensive ypp marks in the league thus far. Everyone knew Arkansas would score points and move the ball with Ryan Mallett running Bobby Petrino's offense, but the question surrounding this team was their defense. Through these first three (admittedly weak) games, they appear to have made real improvements on the defensive side of the ball. We'll see if they can hold the juggernaut Alabama offense in check in Fayetteville this Saturday.

3. Kentucky Wildcats - What's that old saying? Preseason results don't mean anything. I remember one season the Falcons won all four of their preseason games only to win three regular season games. Oh, that's right; college football doesn't have a preseason. Kentucky has set up its schedule to get the Joker Phillips era off to a fast start by playing two of the worst teams in the FBS subdivision and a bottom-tier Big East team. We'll see if Kentucky remains in the top 3 after a trip to Gainesville on Saturday.

4. Auburn Tigers - My Tigers have put me through back-to-back three point heart-stopping victories to go along with a pasting of a Sun Belt team to reach 3-0. Gus Malzahn's offense appears to be gaining yards by the bucketful as usual, but Ted Roof's defense (surprisingly) is currently the third-best in the SEC in ypp (tied with LSU). Auburn hosts South Carolina on Saturday in each team's toughest test to date.

5. Tennessee Volunteers - The Vols' numbers in this table are skewed by their destruction of FBS foe Tennessee-Martin, although they actually outgained Florida by a whole yard in ypp last Saturday. Tennessee gets a chance to pad their numbers further against UAB on Saturday, but wins might be scarce to come by after that game.

6. Louisiana State Tigers - Ah, the Bayou Bengals. Les Miles' team. The team that has cornered the market on winning games in which it is outgained. How does the mad hatter keep doing it? Turnovers certainly help (ask Mississippi State) and having a return man as dangerous as Patrick Peterson helps as well (ask North Carolina). A showdown with West Virginia awaits the Purple and Gold Tigers on Saturday. Noel Devine will rush for 350 yards and 4 TDs and LSU will still manage to win by 10.

7. Mississippi Rebels - Sigh. There is no way this team shouldn't be 3-0, simply based on ypp. Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli threw for a miserable 5.4 yards per pass against Vanderbilt on Saturday. Perhaps more damning for the Rebels than the outcome was the number of empty seats in the stands in Oxford. The fans have turned on Houston Nutt; is he the next SEC coach to lose his job?

8. South Carolina Gamecocks - The SEC's darling team of 2010 has a surprisingly low ypp differential. Their offense is a ball-control, run-first offense and their defense does a good job of stopping the run. Are we sure Steve Spurrier is still coaching this team? This team has the second-worst defensive ypp in the conference thus far, and that includes a game against in-state FCS team Furman. Are they due for a major fall from grace?

9. Mississippi State Bulldogs - Dan Mullen's bunch looked like world beaters against Memphis after week one, but have not duplicated that success since. Of course, Tiger High may as well be a FCS team nowadays. State's offense looked miserable against LSU on Saturday, turning the ball over five times in an ugly loss in Baton Rouge. They welcome the eastern Bulldogs in a must-win game for both teams on Saturday.

10. Georgia Bulldogs - Todd Grantham's defense has given up the third-most yards per play in the SEC. Of course, it's difficult to keep Ryan Mallett and Arkansas in check, so that number is perhaps a little misleading. I can tell you, however, that if the Dawgs stay in the bottom three of the SEC in ypp differential for the remainder of the season, Mark Richt probably will be updating his resume.

11. Florida Gators - What on earth is going on here? The Gators offense has struggled mightily in its three games. Was Tim Tebow really that essential for Urban Meyer's offensive success? It's hard to believe that a contest between the Gators and Wildcats in September would be pivotal for Florida, but the Gators better right the ship offensively if they want to be a contender in the SEC East.

12. Vanderbilt Commodores - Here are the Commodores, in their familiar place at the bottom of the SEC. This is the only team in the conference with a negative ypp differential (which still somehow equates to a win over Ole Miss). They have played three BCS conference teams (all of which went to New Year's Day bowls last season) thus far. Even so, don't expect Robbie Caldwell's bunch to make much noise in conference.

So there you have it. Yards per play seems to believe that South Carolina and Florida are overrated and Kentucky (schedule aside) and Tennessee are underrated. It will be interesting to see how this weekend's three conference matchups between 3-0 teams affects these numbers (not to mention the LSU/WVU game). Comments/questions/concerns?

A FanPost gives the opinion of the fan who writes it and that fan only. That doesn't give the opinion more or less weight than any other opinion on this blog, but the post does not necessarily reflect the view of TSK's writers.

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