Duh, It's The Defenses

By Adam Caparell - November 03, 2006

For those who subscribe to the idea that SEC offenses are struggling this year, there’s a perfectly good explanation. It’s those stacked defenses and a glut of new, relatively inexperienced QBs manning the posts at several schools, that’s bringing the conference’s offensive numbers down.

"Just looking at the defenses, I think they are better this year than they've been,” Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said.

Case in point: While seven teams rank in the top 40 nationally in scoring defense, only three teams are amongst the top 40 teams in the nation in scoring offense and rushing numbers are down for a number of teams in the conference.

Auburn, Georgia, LSU, South Carolina and Alabama are all averaging less yards per game this year than last.

“The rushing yardage, I know ours is down because we've tried to rush the ball, but we've held our running backs, some of our starters, out because of injury,” Tuberville said. “The one consistent team the last couple years has been Arkansas. That's their forte. That's what they do. But there are a lot of teams in the league who don't want to run the football. They want to throw. That's what they do and that's their philosophy."

Arkansas is rushing for 235 yards per game, good for fifth in the nation – thanks to Darren McFadden and Felix Jones – a season after they averaged 216 per game.

“They have two good backs there,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, whose Gamecocks will take on the Razorbacks Saturday, said. “For us to beat Arkansas, we have to have good things happen to us. They are a good team and probably have a legitimate gripe to being in the top 10, especially after they beat Auburn.”

Auburn, on the other hand, is averaging 161 yards per game on the ground – good for second in the conference – but a far cry from their 194 yards per game last year. Tuberville will also chalk up the decreased numbers to the new clock rules.

"I think everyone across the league is running less plays, so if you run less plays you'll have fewer yards,” Tuberville said. “Other than that we all have good defenses and it's difficult to run against them.”

Then there’s the glut of new quarterbacks inserted into starting lineups around the conference. Some teams have met the move with better results – Arkansas and Mitch Mustain – than others – Georgia and Matt Stafford and Joe Cox.

“(The defenses) had the opportunity to play against a more inexperienced group of quarterbacks this year,” Tuberville said. “We've got a lot more freshmen and young guys who haven't played.”


Boston College (-3) over Wake Forest
The question is whether QB Matt Ryan will be healthy enough in this matchup of epic proportions in the ACC. But the bigger question may be is whether Boston College can keep down the Demon Deacons running game. I’ll say yes based on the way the Eagles have put up points and held down opponents over their last four games - including that 22-3 win over VaTech - and three points sounds about right. BC by a field goal on the road.

Cal (-17) over UCLA
Cal is coming off its bye week and UCLA is just not a good team – at least not on the level of last year’s team. The Bears had a chance to heal up Marshawn Lynch and any nagging injuries. The Bruins may be the best team against the run in the conference, but they’re not going to contain Lynch for very long. Cal by a boat load at home.

Tennessee (+3.5) over LSU
I’m not really sure why LSU is favored in this one. It’s in Knoxville, in Neyland Stadium. Then you realize there’s that issue with Erik Ainge’s ankle. If he shows no signs of it affecting his play, I like Tennessee. He’s been great in the fourth quarter for Tennessee all season long, and with this game pitting the top teams in scoring offense in the SEC against each other, the winner figures to come down to a late, late score. And if either team gets ahead by more than two scores, it’s over. And LSU doesn’t win in Knoxville. Tennessee by six.

Tulsa (-3.5) over Houston
Does Tulsa have enough defense to slow the Cougars offense? Yes. Does Houston have enough defense to slow the Golden Hurricane offense? No. Tulsa gets the nod in this critical C-USA showdown because they have the total package. Kevin Kolb and the Cougars offense will scare you, but Tulsa can counter just as easily based on their balanced attack. Tulsa by a touchdown.

Texas A&M (+2) over Oklahoma
Tough one to pick. A&M has been hot lately, but Oklahoma has surprisingly not missed much of a beat without Adrian Peterson thanks to Allen Patrick. If A&M can force the Sooners into some third and longs, they stand a great chance to win this. If not, Oklahoma can still pound it and Paul Thompson has played a lot better than I thought he ever would. But A&M is the pick at home if Stephen McGee doesn’t give away the ball. Aggies eek it out.

Last Week: 4-1
Season: 34-12

Posted by Adam Caparell at 01:12 PM on November 03, 2006

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