Welcome To The New SEC, Where Offense Reigns Supreme

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This season has been all about change as we enter a new era of college football. The realignment talk has settled down from the past few years as some conferences are bigger than ever and some smaller. The BCS has been eliminated in favor of the top four teams in the nation competing in a playoff system that will be determined by a now-12 member committee. And yet one thing remains constant: The SEC is still the best conference in the land.

But this isn’t your grandparent’s SEC. Maybe it has the same feel and the same excitement, but one thing is clear: Something this year is different. Three SEC teams are currently in the Top 4 in the playoff committee’s brain trust, with a few scattered throughout the Top 25. The SEC West division itself is better than some of the Power 5 conferences. There is a lot of parity in the conference right now. But why is that the case?

The SEC has been all about speed, namely speedy defenses. If the current playoff system were instituted during the SEC’s seven-season BCS National Championship streak, four of the seven seasons would have two SEC teams in the playoffs, based on the final week of the BCS standings.

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Look at each of the teams that won the national championship during the SEC’s monster streak. Florida allowed an average 13.5 and 12.9 points in it’s 2006 and 2008 championship seasons, respectively. LSU had 19.9 points in their 2007 season, while Alabama, in its 2009, 2011 and 2012 seasons, had averaged 11.7, 8.2 and 10.9. Auburn allowed the most in 2010 with 24.1 points per game during the streak.

All of those add up to a whopping 14.4 points.

While the top teams in the conference are still maintaining a healthy defense, it’s the other side of the ball that’s gaining the headlines this season.

While the offenses are getting better in the SEC, they shouldn’t be viewed like a Big-12 or Big-10 offense, where it’s the only statement those conferences offer. The SEC offers both power and speed in its style of offense, in addition to defenses that will simply choke opponents. That’s all a result from the great recruiting the SEC has enjoyed over the years. That’s where the change is happening in the SEC.

I know it’s blasphemy to use “SEC” and “change” in the same sentence. It’s all about tradition, I get that. But it wasn’t until Week 10 that I realized that the SEC is changing and evolving.

Take Auburn and Ole Miss’s big game this weekend. Bo Wallace has been the story of Mississippi this season, really coming into his own and being the quarterback he was always supposed to be. He was still subject to having the bad game every so often (see LSU in Week 9), but this is by far his best performance of his career.

It was supposed to be the true test of Hugh Freeze’s “Landshark” defense. The defense, before this game, swallowed opponents, allowing no more than 20 points. They gave up 35 against Auburn and couldn’t seem to capitalize on some of the biggest opportunities it had when the Tigers were getting penalized left and right. It was the biggest example of why SEC defense alone cannot win football games.

Alabama is one of the biggest examples of this change in the conference. A new quarterback in Blake Sims took over the reigns of the Alabama offense. The story before the season was a defense that was set to bust records. Then Lane Kiffin came into town. The result? A new Alabama offense that was built for Blake Sims and his specific skill set.

Nick Saban has been really hands-off this season on his offense, letting Kiffin call the plays from the sideline, something uncharacteristic for Saban.

Finally, witness the rebirth of the Mississippi State Bulldogs. It’s been a very long time since “Cowbell Nation” has had this much success in the SEC. And why is this team so successful, so suddenly? Head Coach Dan Mullen has helped build a foundation over the years and given quarterback Dak Prescott exactly what he needs to be successful.

Last week, the Bulldogs struggled mightily against a visually-improving Arkansas squad. In the end, it was Dak Prescott’s 69 yard pass early in the fourth quarter that ended up being the difference for the Bulldogs and they escaped with a  17-10 victory. They have Tennessee-Martin this week before they face Alabama in Bryant-Denny Stadium in what will likely be one of the games to help determine the SEC West. Dak Prescott is playing in his prime now and he’s only going to get better from here.

So the offense is stealing headlines this season in the SEC. This evolution in the new era of college football can only help improve the performance in the SEC. It’s obvious that this change in thinking hasn’t slowed down the biggest, baddest conference in the land and it that won’t change for quite some time. Next year, all teams have to schedule a Power 5 opponent every year. That will only help bolster the conference and show why the SEC is the nation’s top conference.