The landscape around the SEC has looked different the last couple of seasons. Headlined by two programs winning each division that didn’t even make bowl games the year prior, defense took a back seat for really the second year in a row in 2013.
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Perhaps the biggest factor in the rise of SEC offense has been the veteran quarterbacks playing at an elite level, but with Aaron Murray, Johnny Manziel and Connor Shaw, among others, now gone, how will this affect the offensive numbers? It’ll be fun finding out.
As expected, the Aggies were the SEC’s most explosive offense last season, with SEC Champion Auburn right behind them. Missouri, Alabama and Georgia rounded out the top five, and Ole Miss was just on the outside looking in.
Can the top five offenses from last year duplicate their 2013 numbers? Let’s dive in.
1. Texas A&M Aggies
2013 total offense: 538.4
2013 scoring offense: 44.2
2013 yards per play: 7.34
Johnny Manziel’s gone. Mike Evans is gone. Jake Matthews is gone. That’s the bad news. The good news is that Kevin Sumlin’s offenses always put up big numbers. From Oklahoma to Houston to Texas A&M, Sumlin’s spread attacks are conducive for explosive and crooked numbers. The strength of the Aggies lies in the four-deep backfield and veteran offensive line, anchored by left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi. That’s the backbone, and it will allow either Kyle Allen or Kenny Hill to develop as a passer.
The receivers are loaded with talented pass catchers who could be game changers, and they just need some experience. Ricky Seals-Jones and Speedy Noil are two freshmen who should make Aggie fans giddy. Malcome Kennedy is the veteran of the group, and fans should be excited to see LaQuvionte Gonzalez, too. I do think the offense will put up better numbers than expected, but they likely won’t duplicate 2013’s numbers.
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2. Auburn Tigers
2013 total offense: 501.3
2013 scoring offense: 39.5
2013 yards per play: 6.92
Of all five offenses listed, Auburn returns the lone starting quarterback in Nick Marshall. Yes, the SEC’s Player of the Year Tre Mason will be playing on Sundays, but there’s quality depth to replace him with Cameron Artis-Payne, Corey Grant and Peyton Barber. And Auburn’s offensive line is loaded and ready to push around defensive linemen, led by senior center Reese Dismukes. The Tigers averaged over 328 yards per game rushing last season.
Auburn fans should be stoked about the passing game. With another year to develop, Marshall’s game should improve. Sammie Coates returns, and the Tigers added the top JUCO player in D’haquille Williams, who could be a monster. Early indications say that with Gus Malzahn as the X-Factor, Auburn’s offense should pace the SEC.
3. Missouri Tigers
2013 total offense: 490.7
2013 scoring offense: 39.1
2013 yards per play: 6.59
Mizzou surprised everyone by slicing and dicing up SEC defenses. Quarterback James Franklin, running back Henry Josey and receivers Dorial Green-Beckham, L’Damian Washington and Marcus Lucas are all gone. Of Mizzou’s 31 receiving touchdowns last season, just four return. On the bright side, the Tigers return a veteran offensive line, an emerging playmaker in Maty Mauk and a deep backfield led by Marcus Murphy and Russell Hansbrough. The roster is full of receivers, but we’ll have to wait to see which ones emerge aside from Bud Sasser and Jimmie Hunt.
Can the Tigers score nearly 40 points per game and rack up over 490 yards per game…again?
4. Alabama Crimson Tide
2013 total offense: 454.1
2013 scoring offense: 38.2
2013 yards per play: 7.15
Alabama’s 2013 offense was boringly effective. With AJ McCarron gone, FSU transfer Jacob Coker is the likely replacement. The backfield is loaded with TJ Yeldon, Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake, and the receiving corps is too, headlined by Amari Cooper. So, that leaves the offensive line, one of the more underachieving units Alabama had in 2013. Without Cyrus Kouandjio and Anthony Steen, we shouldn’t assume this unit will just skip a beat. Progress and improvement have to be made, and protection has to be much better than last season.
Even with an average offensive line, the Tide’s offense is still dangerous, with skill players everywhere. But it all comes back to pass protection and effective quarterback play.
5. Georgia Bulldogs
2013 total offense: 484.2
2013 scoring offense: 36.7
2013 yards per play: 6.66
With record-setting quarterback Aaron Murray graduated, senior Hutson Mason now officially takes the reins of a loaded offense overall, although he started the final two games. The Bulldogs have one of the country’s deepest running back corps with Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, even before they welcome in new five-star backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. The receiving cast is one of the best the conference has to offer with Michael Bennett, Chris Conley, Justin Scott-Wesley and Malcolm Mitchell, among others. There’s a nice mix of possession receivers and game-breakers.
The biggest question remains the offensive line. The Bulldogs lose three starters, including left tackle Kenarious Gates. John Theus is expected to slide over to left tackle, and the emergence of guard Greg Pyke was the story of spring practice. David Andrews returns to anchor the group as the veteran center.
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