While the SEC is home to the top defenses year after year in college football, the league also features high-flying offenses that put crooked numbers in the stat sheets and on the scoreboard. And three of those teams – Alabama, Georgia and Texas A&M – all return star-studded talent.
So, which SEC East offense will be the best in 2013?
Georgia may be the obvious pick, but we all saw what happened to the Bulldogs’ defense in 2012, when they finished as underachievers. Could the offense have the same letdown?
There are way too many variables right now that we have to see play out during the season, but let’s take a look at the ceiling of each SEC East offense.
Last year’s offense: 12th in SEC
Why they could be the division’s best: Florida’s offensive line will be vastly improved, along with a more experienced and calmer Jeff Driskel. Quarterbacks make their biggest jump as a starter from year one to two, and some receivers will finally emerge, including freshmen, who can create separation. We know Florida will have a strong running game, and the overall offense will take a big step forward from offseason work.
Why they won’t be the division’s best: The running game aside, Florida needs too much help at receiver to be the East’s most explosive offense. Driskel may not make the progression everyone hopes, and currently, there are no go-to playmakers on offense, period. Also, the offense is also too conservative to be the East’s best.
Last year’s offense: 3rd in SEC
Why they could be the division’s best: Georgia may have the best quarterback in the SEC in Aaron Murray, and the league’s best running back in Todd Gurley. Murray has five receivers to choose from, and the entire offensive line returns intact. The Bulldogs should score 40-plus points per game in 2013.
Why they won’t be the division’s best: The offensive line is slightly unsettled and was shuffled during spring, and it remains the biggest question mark heading into 2013. Star receiver Malcolm Mitchell and Michael Bennett both are recovering from surgery and certainly are question marks until they see game action. If it’s not Mitchell, who will stretch the field for Georgia?
Last year’s offense: 13th in SEC
Why they could be the division’s best: Neal Brown’s offense was electric at Texas Tech. They led the Big 12 in passing yardage, and Brown has three quarterbacks to choose from, along with four running backs who will all see carries, to make the Wildcats much better in 2013. The Air Raid offense has proven to come out of nowhere in years past. Will that prove true in 2013?
Why they won’t be the division’s best: While the offense will improve, the depth at receiver needed to run the Air Raid offense just isn’t there. The Cats have at the most four receivers who are difference makers, and it will take a few years of recruiting to build up the one position needed the catch 40-plus passes per game.
Last year’s offense: 11th in SEC
Why they could be the division’s best: Josh Henson takes over the reigns of the Mizzou offense, and a change in coordinators could be what kick starts last year’s struggling offense. A healthy Missouri offense could surprise the SEC East in 2013, led by a much better season by James Franklin, who happens to get running back Henry Josey back from injury. The Tigers will feature a strong receiving cast, too, headlined by Baby Lebron: Dorial Green-Beckham.
Why they won’t be the division’s best: Mizzou’s lack of offensive depth was exposed in 2012. How much more depth do they have this season? Also, former OC David Yost was handcuffed by all the injuries, and Missouri just may not have the talent to compete against the good SEC defenses yet. Besides, Franklin hasn’t proven anything in the SEC yet, and there’s a ton of pressure on Gary Pinkel this season.
South Carolina Gamecocks
Last year’s offense: 9th in SEC
Why they could be the division’s best: There’s nothing sexy about Carolina’s offense. It’s not high-flying and it doesn’t score 40 points per game, but it’s extremely balanced and productive. The two-quarterback monster adds to the running back tandem of Mike Davis and Brandon Wilds. Carolina’s offense will be much better than advertised, despite being Lattimore-less.
Why they won’t be the division’s best: One of the biggest question marks regarding the Carolina offense falls at receiver. Bruce Ellington is back, but outside of Ellington and Damiere Byrd there are questions. Carolina’s offensive line also allowed the second most sacks of any unit in the SEC last season, and that’s another major area of concern heading into 2013.
Last year’s offense: 2nd in SEC
Why they could be the division’s best: Tennessee could have the best offensive line in the entire conference, and both running backs return, along with rapidly rising newcomer Alden Hill. The lack of a passing game will be overshadowed by one of the better running games in the SEC.
Why they won’t be the division’s best: Losing the big three of Tyler Bray, Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter is way too much talent to have the best offense in the division, and we haven’t even mentioned productive Zach Rogers yet. Yeah, I love the offensive line, but the passing game has way too many question marks right now.
Last year’s offense: 8th in SEC
Why they could be the division’s best: First-year Vandy starter at QB, Austyn Carta-Samuels, has previous starting experience at Wyoming and has a mess of talent around him in 2013. The offensive line is very solid, along with two of the best receivers in the league in Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd. RB Zac Stacy leaves a void, but Brian Kimbrow, Wesley Tate and Jerron Seymour will help fill the chasm collectively.
Why they won’t be the division’s best: Stacy was the team’s heart and soul at running back and has led the overachieving Commodores the last couple years. The Commodores are in great position to shock the East this season, but with Vandy, there’s always a talent gap question that shows up in certain games. Can this offense beat a top SEC defense? That’s what I want to see.
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