Predicting the top 5 scoring offenses in the SEC
Last season, for the first time since 2011, no team in the SEC averaged 40 points per game. Alabama led the conference in scoring for the first time since 1989 at 38.8.
But this season, with 12 of the 14 SEC teams returning their starting quarterback, could be one of the highest-scoring seasons the league has ever seen.
How high-scoring could it get? Alabama could end up averaging the same PPG as last season and not crack the top 5 in the SEC.
Here is a prediction for the league’s top 5 this year:
5. South Carolina (last season: 20.8 PPG – last in SEC)
How is it possible to go from the worst offense in the SEC to one of the best? Well, 10 starters are returning on offense for the Gamecocks, including a pair of sophomore stars in the making — quarterback Jake Bentley and running back Rico Dowdle.
Also back are the team’s top five in receptions last season, as well as four starters on the line.
Before Bentley took over at quarterback, South Carolina averaged 14 PPG. In the seven games with Bentley, the Gamecocks nearly doubled that output (26.6 PPG). So it’s not unrealistic to expect them to continue that momentum and average at least 30 PPG this season.
4. Georgia (last season: 24.5 PPG – 11th in SEC)
Georgia could have the best defense in the SEC this season. But the Bulldogs should also be potent on offense.
Seven starters on offense return for the Bulldogs, including sophomore quarterback Jacob Eason. As a true freshman, Eason performed as expected, with ups and downs. He threw for 2,430 yards and had twice as many TD passes (16) as interceptions (8).
But the running backs might have Georgia fans even more excited. Nick Chubb (1,130 rush yards, 8 TDs) and Sony Michel (840 rush yards, 4 TDs) are back. If healthy, this could be the best running back combo in the SEC.
Only two starters on the offensive line return, and the Bulldogs do lose their leading receiver from a season ago (Isaiah McKenzie). But if Eason improves in his second season as the starter, and Chubb and Michel stay healthy, this could be one of the best offenses in the conference.
3. Texas A&M (last season: 34.8 PPG – 3rd in SEC)
When it comes to the Aggies, the formula is simple: offense, offense, offense. In five seasons under head coach Kevin Sumlin, the Aggies have finished in the top 5 in the SEC in scoring four times, twice leading the conference (2012, 2013).
Quarterback is an issue following the departure of Trevor Knight. But whether it’s senior Jake Hubenak, redshirt freshman Nick Starkel or true freshman Kellen Mond, the starting QB will not lack for weapons.
Running back Trayveon Williams was a 1,000-yard rusher as a true freshman last season (1,057 yards, 6.8 per carry), and three line starters return.
But perhaps the key to Texas A&M maintaining its reputation as one of the best offenses in the nation is junior wide receiver Christian Kirk. Last season Kirk caught 83 passes for 928 yards and 9 TDs. Kirk also scored three times on punt returns, which led the SEC.
If the Aggies make the right call at quarterback, they have a chance to once again be the top-scoring team in the SEC.
2. Missouri (last season: 31.4 PPG – 5th in SEC)
Missouri managed just four wins in Barry Odom’s first season as the Tigers’ head coach. But despite the 4-8 record, offense was not much of an issue. The Tigers not only were fifth in the conference in scoring but led the SEC in total offense (500.5 YPG).
And back for 2017 are 10 starters on offense, including junior QB Drew Lock and all five starters on the line. Also back are running back Damarea Crockett (1,062 rush yards in ’16) and WR J’Mon Moore (1,012 rec yards in ’16), making the Tigers the only team in the SEC that returns a 3,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yd rusher and a 1,000-yard receiver.
It remains to be seen whether the Tigers can improve on their four wins from last season, since only five starters return from a defense that was 12th in the SEC in points per game allowed. But Missouri’s offense might be able to outscore opponents better than ever this season.
1. Auburn (last season: 31.2 PPG – 6th in SEC)
Gus Malzahn might have his best offense ever, which is obviously saying a lot. Much of that optimism for Tigers fans centers on how well former Baylor quarterback Jarrett Stidham handles the role of starting quarterback in the SEC.
As a true freshman with Baylor in 2015, Stidham completed 68.8 percent of his attempts with 12 TDs and only 2 interceptions before an injury ended his season. Now that he is in an Auburn uniform, he could have as big an impact as any newcomer in the SEC.
Also returning for the Tigers is the SEC’s leader in rushing yards per game, junior Kamryn Pettway (122.4 YPG in 10 games). Three offensive line starters are back, as are two starters at wide receiver and tight end Chandler Cox.
If Stidham works out as the Auburn coaching staff hopes, this team should average 40 points a game.