The SEC’s most penalized teams in the last five years


Penalties drive both coaches and fans nuts. They’re drive killers and momentum lynchers. However, if you think the volume of penalties can change the outcome of a game, just wait until the refs start tossing players at their discretion for ‘targeting’ on personal fouls in 2013.

Personal foul penalties like taunting, late hits and roughing the passer are equally frustrating and sometimes worrisome for coaches.

The SEC has some of the most penalized teams in the country year after year. Some of it has to due to the lack of discipline, while much of it has to do with the massive, loud stadiums teams clash in weekly. Or could there be a conspiracy?

Let’s take a look at last five years in penalty rankings from

Rank Team G Pen Pen. Yds Pen./G Yards/G
1 Alabama 69 295 2,444 4.28 35.42
2 Kentucky 63 313 2,739 4.97 43.48
3 Miss State 63 334 2,742 5.30 43.52
4 Ole Miss 63 348 2,988 5.52 47.43
5 Tennessee 62 356 2,819 5.74 45.47
6 Vanderbilt 63 356 2,846 5.65 45.17
7 S Carolina 66 374 3,076 5.67 46.61
8 Auburn 64 400 3,437 6.25 53.70
9 Arkansas 63 421 3,215 6.68 51.03
10 LSU 66 425 3,340 6.44 50.61
11 Georgia 67 467 3,774 6.97 56.33
12 Florida 67 503 3,987 7.51 59.51
Missouri* 12 67 519 5.58 43.25
Texas A&M* 13 80 735 6.15 56.54

*Based on 2012 results

  • Is it a surprise that Alabama has committed the least number of penalties four of the last five years? Nick Saban commands discipline, but so does Will Muschamp. Does Saban own SEC refs, too? Some would attest he does.
  • Florida is continually the most penalized team in the SEC. In fact, the Gators finished last or second to last five of the last six years among conference members. Does it have something to do with the heat and humidity, or is it because the lack of discipline? Some of it has to do with the noise at The Swamp, but then again, Bryant-Denny Stadium can be just as loud and humid.
  • Just in the last five years, Florida has committed 503 penalties in 67 games (7.5 per game) for a total of 3,987 yards (59.51 yards per game). Florida also has not finished in the top 100 in the last five years in penalties committed and has averaged over 100 penalties each year, compared to Alabama’s average of 59.
  • Similarly, Georgia has been one of the most penalized teams in addition to Florida. The Bulldogs have committed 467 penalties in 67 games (6.97 per game) for a total of 3,774 yards (56.33 yards per game).

Photo Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports



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  • Weird. You don’t say Alabama has the least penalized team! The only team under 300 total penalties and only average 4.28 per game. Does everyone else by the fact that Bama never gets called for any holding calls in any game? It’s truly amazing.

    • Alabama gets called for holding about once per game. What is truly amazing is that Alabama is that much better coached than the rest of the league.

  • I understand that it is natural for fans to feel as though their team is unfairly penalized and that claims of bias are almost invariably going to be met with disbelief if not outright glee by fans of other teams. That being said, we Gators find it rather odd that in the last 20 years UF has had 4 different coaches, has had multiple turnovers of personnel and run multiple different schemes on Offense as well as Defense and yet ALWAYS manages to be the most penalized over any 5 year stretch. If its the coaches teaching undisciplined football, did Steve Spurrier stop teaching undisciplined football when he took the South Carolina job? Ron Zook when he took the Illinois job? Did Urban Meyer know how to teach disciplined football at Utah, then suddenly forget when he took the UF job, then remember again when he took the Ohio State job? None of those teams were particularly heavily penalized….yet UF was during their tenures. Is it because UF has won a lot and teams that win a lot draw more penalties? If that’s the case, why has that not held true for LSU and Alabama which have won a lot lately? It didn’t hold true for Tennessee in the 90’s either. It can’t be something particular about players from the state of Florida either since they litter the rosters of every SEC team.

    So its not the coaches, its not the schemes,and its not the players. The article questioned whether or not it was “the heat”. We suspect there is something else at work here.. I’m open to hearing any other rational explanations for this 20+ year trend………

  • It’s *interesting* that of the ‘traditional’ top 4 SEC teams (Alabama, LSU, Florida, Georgia), 1 is the least penalized and the other 3 are the most penalized…

  • Well, isn’t that funny that Florida is last on the list. I could have told you that without looking at it. you can count on UF’s teams to continually set the bar for the worst penalized team. Muschamp couldn’t figure it out all last year. It was horrible at times, the undisciplined, yet talented, players. The personal foul hits on defense extended drives for teams. Texas A&M’s first drive comes to mind, along with Jon Bostic’s hit on Louisville’s QB.
    It’s also not surprising that Bama has committed the least. They get away with holding like nobodies business.

  • People blame everything possible when they see Bama at the top of a list…instead of understanding the type of excellence that the entire coaching staff demands from their players (not just Saban). The jealousy in these kind of posts is worse than the Anti-SEC posts on other football sites. Muschamp is doing exactly what Urban did, taking in quality talent and then letting them do whatever they please, on and off the field. If you actually think any coach has refs on a “pay roll” you’re an idiot.

    • I did some research on this subject.
      The Muschamp regime
      Last year UF was #122 out of 124 teams
      in 2011 UF was #116 out of 120 teams

      What about the Meyer regime?
      in 2010 UF was #111 out of 120 teams
      in 2009 UF was #85 out of 120 teams
      in 2008 UF was #110 out of 120 teams
      in 2007 UF was #114 out of 120 teams
      in 2006 UF was #118 out of 119 teams
      in 2005 UF was #109 out of 119 teams

      What about the Zook regime?
      In 2004 UF was #111 out of 117 teams
      in 2003 UF was #82 out of 117 teams

      and UF was the most penalized team in the league every year under Spurrier.

      Odd that the coaches, players and schemes can all change multiple times and yet one thing remains constant. Equally odd that those coaches’ other teams are not penalized nearly as much…..

      • Maybe it’s not the coaches or the schemes… But it’s just the thugs that Florida recruits year after year.

        It’d be interesting to see how Saban ranked while at LSU since they seem to be consistent high ranking offenders.

  • Yeah okay…did anyone watch the FL vs UofL Bowl game?? The one where us SEC fans thought was a joke…and FL would blow them out?? Did you see how undisciplined the FL players were…and how after they started getting their butts kicked, they started resorting to the ‘me’ concept instead of the T-E-A-M concept…and were getting penalties for punching other players?? It was freaking embarrassing as an SEC fan! UofL totally outclassed and outplayed FL in that game and completely deserved to win…and was a PERFECT example of the chart above!

  • Ain’t it funny! When Little Nicky was at LSU, the Tigers were the most penalized team in all of college football almost every year he was there. Gee, I guess that year with the Dolphins must’ve done at least one thing besides make him richer!
    People who think we’re imagining an Alabamer bias need only look at the SEC scheduling each year.
    I’m still trying to figure out how they played LSU in the rematch and didn’t have a single penalty called on them.
    Geaux Tigers!

    • With one glaring exception, the six least penalized teams are the SEC cellar dwellars over the last five years, and vice versa. If you throw out the Bama data point and do a linear regression of penalties vs winning records you’d get a R squared damn close to 1. In other words, winning is highly correlated to penalization.

      Why then is one team such a dramitic statistical outlier? The only theory that holds water is referee bias – a plurality of refs subconsciencly pulling for their favorite team. The closer a team gets to beating a given refs favorite team, the more the opponent gets penalized. Where are most of the refs from Jon?

  • I guess UK can only blame the lack of talent. Surprising they are #2 here…

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