Published August 18, 2012 - 1:48pm
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After completing a statistical analysis of every single SEC game in the 2011 season, it’s quite apparent how important the line of scrimmage is in the SEC. Effectiveness in running the ball and stopping your opponent from doing the same is often the greatest predictor of who will win the game. But, we already knew this. Here are few facts that you might not know.
1. Alabama and LSU dominated the line of scrimmage in 2011
You knew this by watching the games, but when you look at the numbers you realize just how far they were from every other team in these areas.
We’re going to define the run differential as the rush yards gained minus the rush yards allowed. Alabama’s run differential was 142.31 overall and 146.67 against SEC teams. This means when Alabama played another SEC team, on average they ran for 146.67 more yards than they allowed their opponent to do. Quite a difference.
LSU is next with a differential of 112.5 yards per game overall and 103.8 against SEC teams. The next best was Georgia with 62.64 per game (82.56 against SEC teams).
When you look at both Alabama and LSU on a game-by-game basis, it’s extremely impressive what they were able to accomplish last year in dominating the line of scrimmage. LSU dominated all season-long, rushing nearly 130 more yards than they allowed their opponent to rush – this includes the entire regular season and the SECCG against Georgia. Then, they played Alabama in the BCSCG and for the first time all year gave up more yards on the ground than they were able to gain themselves – and it was brutal… LSU: 39 rush yards, Alabama: 150 rush yards.
Alabama has a similar story. They dominated all year and outgained every other opponent except Georgia Southern which we’ll throw out as an outlier. The only other game they failed to out-gain their opponent? The 9-6 OT loss to LSU where LSU outgained Alabama on the ground 148 to 96.
2. Texas A&M and Mizzou: This isn’t the Big 12
Interestingly, if you just look at overall run differential for all 12 SEC teams and add in Texas A&M and Mizzou from last year, Mizzou and Texas A&M have a better run differential than every other SEC team except Alabama and LSU.
Not to take anything away from the 2011 TAMU and Mizzou teams, but the defensive fronts in the SEC are a different animal than in the Big 12. Of course, there are personnel changes from 2011, but it’ll be interesting to see where these numbers average out against SEC defenses.
3. Tennessee’s rushing offense and defense were horrific last year, but this could change in 2012
With an average run differential of -115.13 against SEC teams in 2012, the Vols gave up over 200 yards on the ground four times and over 130 yards nine times. In addition to improving their rushing offense, the Vols, most importantly, need to step up the run defense big time.
Last year in Knoxville was a disaster, but the disaster must be put in context. A context full of injuries. While we think Tennessee’s offense can be prolific in 2012 and the offensive line could actually be a strength, the Vols will have to really improve their ability to stop the run.
Moving to a 3-4 scheme, Tennessee has a 380 lb monster at nose tackle and some nice linebackers backing him up. Phil Steele has predicted that the Vols will allow under 4 yards per carry this year. Something they haven’t done in a few years.
4. Florida’s interesting run numbers
The Gators were horrendous offensively despite some huge games on the ground against the weak defenses like Kentucky (400 yards rushing in that game). What I found interesting in looking at the 2011 numbers was how much the Florida defense gave up on the ground despite having a talented D-line. The Gator D gave up over 200 yards on the ground four times, and it wasn’t just the beasts like Alabama and LSU. Furman ran for 233 on the Gators.
You likely can attribute this to two things. First, despite having some highly touted athletes on the Gator defensive front, the talent hasn’t lined up perfectly with Muschamp’s defensive strategy which is to run the 3-4 defense. Without a nose tackle and with Ronald Powell being a slight underachiever at the BUCK position, Muschamp has been forced to move players around resulting in some guys not being in their ideal position.
Secondly, and probably more importantly, the defense got worn down all year. The Gator offense struggled mightily to move the chains repeatedly putting the tired defense back on the field. It’s no surprise that the pounding ground games of Alabama and LSU ran for 226 and 238 yards respectively against Florida. Part of helping your run defense is to have your offense maintain possession – something the Gators failed miserably at in 2011. We’ll see if the Gators can improve these areas in 2012.