7 SEC teams increased their scoring in 2017. Which teams will score more in 2018?
Nothing stays the same in college football. Not the roster. Not the staff. Not the opponents. Not the location. Nothing.
So why would we expect teams to score at the same rate they did in 2017?
Last season, seven teams averaged more points than they did in 2016. Seven teams averaged fewer. Some of the differences were slim, others drastic.
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What will 2018 hold? Here are the 8 teams with the best chance to increase their scoring this fall.
Let’s start with the biggest no-brainer on the list.
From the resume to the new recruits to the promises, everything about Dan Mullen suggests Florida fans have seen the last of boring ball.
You won’t remember this, but Mullen inherited a Mississippi State offense that averaged 15.3 points per game in 2008. That total was last in the SEC and No. 116 out of 119 nationally.
In his first year, the Bulldogs’ scoring average jumped 10 points to 25.6.
Anything less than that from this Gators offense will be deemed a disappointment.
Don’t mistake this as a proclamation that the Vols will fix all that ailed them in 2017. It’s just that the Vols have athletes and the bar is so low.
Quarterback play is king and there’s no way Jeremy Pruitt knows exactly what he has. But motivation is a critical intangible, one the Vols increasingly lacked as last season played out. Pruitt can at least count on an inspired effort throughout Year 1.
The cross-over schedule doesn’t help — nobody in the East faces a tougher West slate than playing (at) Auburn and Alabama, in back-to-back weeks no less — but the rest is manageable. West Virginia is more apt to score 50 than hold a team to single digits.
Vandy’s offense is oft-maligned, but did you know the Commodores have increased their scoring average each of the past two seasons? Last year, they did so despite having to play Alabama.
That won’t be the case in 2018. The cross-over slate is friendly, and swapping Notre Dame for 2017 opponent Kansas State is a wash.
The biggest reason to think the Dores might approach 28 points per game is senior QB Kyle Shurmur, who set Vandy’s single-season record with 26 TD passes last year.
Sense a trend? So far, the top four candidates are from the SEC East.
The upset talk has started, and any hope South Carolina has of unseating Georgia in the East hinges on the Gamecocks’ ability to find the end zone more often than either of Will Muschamp’s first two seasons in Columbia.
They made strides last season. And in fairness, they were a different offense after Deebo Samuel was lost for the season midway through Game 3. Jake Bentley was a different quarterback after that, too.
They’ll miss chain-mover Hayden Hurst, but Bryan Edwards and Samuel are as good a 1-2 receiving combo as any in the East.
The potential to top 30 points is there, so long as Samuel remains healthy.
The bar is high. Georgia finished third in the SEC in scoring (35.4) points per game in 2017, but that schedule included a trip to Notre Dame, two games against Auburn and two Playoff games.
The Playoff games are not a guarantee and the nonconference schedule is softer than Steph Curry’s jumper.
The Dawgs obviously are rebuilding their backfield, and Jake Fromm lost a valuable weapon in Javon Wims. But where 5-stars were lost, 5-stars still appear and fully converted receiver Mecole Hardman is a star in waiting.
Compassion for the outmanned — not really a strong suit among college football coaches — is about the only way the Dawgs don’t approach 40 points per game this season.
Dan Mullen left Mississippi State, but he didn’t leave the program empty-handed. Far from it.
The defense is loaded, which means more opportunities for a similarly-stacked offense that averaged 32.0 points per game last season.
Record-setting QB Nick Fitzgerald returns, along with 1,000-yard rusher Aeris Williams.
Joe Moorhead didn’t make Saquon Barkley, but he expanded his playbook to take advantage of everything Barkley could do. On a team that doesn’t have an established go-to receiver returning, all the more opportunity to find ways to get the ball to Williams in space.
Schemes matter. In terms of going from one offensive-minded head coach to another, it’s hard to do much better than what Mississippi State did.
By now, you’re probably wondering, where is Chad Morris and Arkansas? I think Morris is a fantastic offensive mind, and his schemes eventually will lead to points, but the Hogs are behind the count in terms of personnel, starting at quarterback.
So, check back in 2019 for a real surge in Fayetteville.
There won’t be a learning curve in College Station.
Texas A&M didn’t fire Kevin Sumlin because he couldn’t recruit, couldn’t score or didn’t. The Aggies fired him because he didn’t win enough. There’s a huge difference.
Comparing the first-year coaches, Jimbo Fisher and Moorhead walked into the best quarterback situations possible. Fisher has two proven, young talents with different skill-sets. He could design packages for both.
The Aggies averaged 32.7 points per game last season. That was with Christian Kirk and Damion Ratley, who combined for 1,700 receiving yards and 16 TD catches. That was with Keith Ford, who ran for a team-high 12 TDs. They’re all gone. That’s a lot of production to replace.
It’s a little bit of a leap of faith in Fisher to think they’ll score more, but it’s a realistic possibility given his history.
Another year, another offensive coordinator. Maybe another quarterback.
It won’t matter. Alabama has proven over the past six years that it can score this way, that way or another way. It can change gears, often during the course of a game.
Even though the scoring average dropped by a point to 37.1 in 2017, the offense was actually responsible for more points than in 2016, when the defense and special teams scored 15 touchdowns.
Alabama has topped 35 points per game for six consecutive years.
There’s too much talent and too many playmakers for that streak to end this year. It’s more likely they top 40 for the first time under Nick Saban.