The SEC is known for being a ground-based, power running conference that approaches every game with the intention of punishing the opponent’s defense and boasts the ability to wear the opponents down in the fourth quarter.
As we look into the crystal ball, these offensive power rankings are not merely based on last year’s stats but more of an overall projection of how teams will fare this season. You never know what Missouri and Texas A&M will look like, as both return some playmakers on offense, but questions abound regarding how they will fare coming from a totally different conference. It should be fun to watch the season unfold.
Here are the preseason offensive power rankings:
Top Shelf: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and LSU
The Razorbacks roll into 2012 as the top overall rated offense in the SEC. After all, they have two Heisman contenders on the same team in QB Tyler Wilson and RB Knile Davis, and Wilson has a formidable cast of receivers who either proven or are quickly developing. Alabama and Georgia both return veteran QBs who are difference-makers. Alabama could have the top offensive line in the country, and Georgia has Aaron Murray and a strong receiving corps. LSU will be breaking in a new quarterback in Zach Mettenberger, but they have four studs returning on the offensive line and firepower to spare at the skill positions. Each of these four teams looks to average well over 30 points this season.
It would be somewhat surprising if all four of these teams do not lead the SEC in scoring offense in 2012.
Next Level: South Carolina and Tennessee
Two next level offenses that could make a push to become top shelf in 2012 are South Carolina and Tennessee, but both have several questions entering the season. For Tennessee: the loss of Da’Rick Rogers hurts, as he was Tyler Bray’s go-to receiver and the leading returning receiver in the SEC, but it won’t be that big of a hit if the running game gets going this season. The Vols still have receivers Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson, and all five offensive linemen return. I’m a little more on the optimistic side about Tennessee than others. South Carolina returns a starting QB in Connor Shaw and possibly the best running back in the SEC in Marcus Lattimore, but we haven’t seen Shaw for a full year, and we are waiting to see who will emerge as his go-to receiver. But we know SC will have a strong running game.
Middle of the pack: Auburn, Florida, Mississippi State, Missouri, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt
There’s a cluster of offenses in the middle of the pack. Auburn, Florida, Mississippi State and Texas A&M will all be breaking in new starting quarterbacks, some who have experience and some who have none, and we’ll wait and see in the first few weeks how they fared early on. Missouri and James Franklin are entering the weaker East, and that bodes well for their offensive outlook in 2012. But they just have too many questions along the offensive line to really get excited about, and SEC defenses could have a field day. Vanderbilt also returns their leading rusher a year ago in Zac Stacy, an experienced quarterback and two receivers, but the Commodores will have to play a lot of inexperienced offensive linemen. That usually doesn’t bode too well against SEC defenses. All of these teams can make a jump to the next level, but each of them just has too many question marks.
Not sold yet: Ole Miss and Kentucky
The two teams everyone is not sold on yet are Ole Miss and Kentucky. Both teams will be breaking in new starting quarterbacks, although Max Smith does have experience and looks like the future for the Wildcats. But these two teams have several question marks, and I’m just not sold yet. Both teams averaged less than 20 points per game last season, and it will be tough to rise above even those numbers again this season. Hopefully for each team several, playmakers will emerge.
How would you rank these teams on offense?