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SEC Offenses in Decline?

There's been a lot of talk about SEC offenses having lost some steam this year, so I thought I would take a look at two teams--Florida and Georgia--and see how their offenses compare to last year. These two teams are interesting test cases because their offenses have both ostensibly failed to live up to expectations. I'm interested in seeing whether or not the offenses are really worse or if there are other reasonable expectations for that perception. I may look at other interesting teams, such as Auburn, later on.

Florida Gators

The Gators have played three games so far this season, and their opponents have been Hawai'i, Miami, and Tennessee. They are averaging 37.3 PPG, a number that is enhanced by the 56 they scored against Hawai'i.

Florida is averaging a total of 331.3 total YPG, with 167.7 coming in the air and 163.7 on the ground. That may seem to be a balanced attack, but in fact the Gators have tended to make their opponents choose their poison: they ran it against the Warriors, threw it against the Canes, and mixed it up against the Vols.

Now let's look at Florida's first three games from last year, when the Gators went after Western Kentucky, Troy, and the Vols. The Gators averaged a whopping 55.7 PPG during that span! They also averaged an incredible 521.3 YGP, with 286.7 in the air and 244.7 on the ground.

Why the drop off this year? Well, Gator apologists would probably be quick to point out that the Gators have played a tougher schedule so far this year, trading one of 2007's cupcakes for Miami, a team with a fairly talented defense. Another issue that would explain the Gators low total yards (243) against the Vols this year would be that they gained a lot of yardage on great kick returns. This kept Tebow and Co. off the field and unable to put up numbers.

However, at the same time I think it would be fair to argue that opposing coordinators have figured out Florida's offense to a certain degree. Last year, teams like Ole Miss, Auburn, UGA, and Michigan each provided blueprints for how to slow down the Gators by pressuring Tebow. Other coaches have had all summer to scheme against Florida, and while the Gators have still been effective, Urban Meyer has yet to get his Gators back to the form they had last year when they totally dismantled the Vols.

So, I would say that Florida's drop-off results from a combination of stronger opposition and new approaches to stopping Meyer's offense.

See my discussion of Georgia after the jump.

Georgia Bulldogs

The Dawgs offense was never as prolific as Florida's; it doesn't have to be, because the Dawgs have a better defense (or at least they did last year, as Florida seems to have gotten better in this regard in 2008). That said, I think people expected more from the Dawgs this year.

The Dawgs have played four teams so far: Georgia Southern, Central Michigan, South Carolina, and Arizona State. They are averaging 35.5 PPG and 450 YPG. 260.75 YPG come in the air and on the ground, 189.25 on the ground. All of these numbers are heavily, heavily inflated by the cupcake blowouts; the Red and Black gained less than 300 yards against both South Carolina, while gaining over 500 against GSU and CMU.

Last year, the Dawgs played Oklahoma State, South Carolina, Western Carolina, and Alabama in their first four games. They averaged 29.5 PPG and 366.25 YPG, with 226.25 YPG in the air and 140.5 on the ground.

The Dawgs, then, have actually improved their output this year. However, scheduling is a huge factor here. Georgia took on three BCS teams in their first four games in 2007, whereas they've only taken on two in 2008.

Moreover, there seems to be a general consensus with the national media that dubbed Georgia the best team in the land during preseason that the Dawgs are not holding up their end of the bargain on offense. This is a team that ran roughshod over Auburn's powerful defense late in 2007. They've failed to regenerate that sort of offensive power so far this year, only managing 14 and 27 points in their two big games thus far this season. Granted, South Carolina has a pretty solid defense and both games were played in hostile road environments.

Still, though, I'd say it's safe to say that UGA hasn't produced like we thought they would. They still have a great offense that, combined with a solid defense, could lead them to a national title. But they haven't been the amazing team they were a year ago.