For the purposes of this story, SDS defines an explosive play as a run of at least 20 yards or a pass of at least 30 yards.

The Georgia Bulldogs have recovered nicely from a crushing loss to South Carolina last month, improving to 4-1 in 2014 with a 44-17 win over Vanderbilt between the Hedges last weekend.

As is the case with most of Vanderbilt’s opponents, Georgia absolutely steamrolled the Commodores, amassing five explosive plays on offense in the 44-point performance. The Bulldogs’ deep stable of tailbacks, led by Heisman contender Todd Gurley, added three explosive runs on the afternoon to reach 16 explosive runs for the year, which remains tops in the SEC.

Georgia also added two explosive pass plays against Vandy after recording just four in its first four games combined. That sounds great at first, but considering one of those two plays was a 50-yard pass from Gurley to Jeb Blazevich on a trick play called in the second quarter, it really isn’t all that impressive.

Starting quarterback Hutson Mason has struggled in the vertical passing game all season, and to only record one long completion against a defense that had allowed 12 in its first five games entering Saturday’s action could actually be seen as a disappointment.

Nevertheless, a performance like the one the ‘Dawgs put forth last weekend could be a great momentum booster heading into the second half of the season for a team with every opportunity to get to 11 wins, an SEC East title and a potential spot in this year’s College Football Playoff.

Team Margin Explosive Plays Explosive Plays Allowed
1. Alabama +17 23 6
2. Georgia +13 22 9
3. Texas A&M +12 26 14
T4. Kentucky +11 21 10
T4. Mississippi State +11 24 13
T6. LSU +7 25 18
T6. Auburn +7 18 11
8. Ole Miss +5 15 10
T9. Arkansas +2 13 11
T9. Missouri +2 18 16
11. Florida 0 10 10
T12. Tennessee -3 8 11
13. Vanderbilt -3 11 14
14. South Carolina -11 10 21

Texas A&M continues to lead the SEC with 26 explosive plays on offense, but it recorded just one explosive play in a 48-31 dismantling at the hands of Mississippi State last weekend. Interestingly, the play was actually a 48-yard run by Trey Williams against the SEC’s second-best run defense this season, which went against a lot of established trends entering the game.

The Aggies had recorded more explosive pass plays than anyone in the SEC prior to last weekend, while State had allowed more explosive pass plays than anyone else in the conference. For A&M to be held without a single explosive pass play for the entire game is a credit to the Bulldogs ability to rise to the occasion, and an indictment on A&M’s ability to hang with the West’s best teams on a weekly basis.

Texas A&M continues to lead the conference in explosive completions by a healthy margin, but the lack of consistency it showed with dropped passes and sloppy play last week must be a concern for Aggies fans going forward.

Tennessee entered its showdown with Florida tied for last in the SEC in explosive plays on offense, and after being held without a single long gain in a hideous 10-9 loss, it now sits alone in the cellar of the conference with just eight explosive plays through five games.

To be fair, Florida is among the best in the SEC in defending against explosive plays, and the Gators only managed one long gainer of their own against the Vols (a 32-yard run by Matt Jones), but for a team with plenty of raw potential, Tennessee must begin showing signs of improvement if it hopes to be taken seriously by the rest of the conference.


Team Explosive Plays Rushes For 20+ Passes For 30+
1. Texas A&M 26 10 16
2. LSU 25 12 13
3. Mississippi State 24 14 10
4. Alabama 23 11 12
5. Georgia 22 16 6
6. Kentucky 21 11 10
T7. Auburn 18 10 8
T7. Arkansas 18 14 4
9. Ole Miss 15 5 10
10. Missouri 13 7 6
11. Vanderbilt 11 4 7
T12. South Carolina 10 6 4
T12. Florida 10 5 5
14. Tennessee 8 3 5

It’s no surprise Kirby Smart’s Alabama defense continues to allow the fewest explosive plays in the SEC, even following a loss to Ole Miss last weekend. The Tide have surrendered just six explosive plays in five games this season, including just two explosive plays on the ground. Only one other team has held teams to fewer than 10 explosive plays this season (Georgia), and its no coincidence the Tide and ‘Dawgs have the two best positive explosive play margins in the SEC despite both sitting outside the top three in explosive plays recorded on offense.

Meanwhile, the South Carolina defense continues its woeful 2014 campaign, allowing four more explosive plays in a 45-38 loss to Kentucky, including three on the ground. LSU, another team falling short of preseason expectations this year, has allowed the second most explosive plays in the conference, which has led to a discouraging 4-2 start including an 0-2 run to open its SEC West schedule.

If Alabama, Georgia, LSU and South Carolina teach us anything this week, it’s that limiting opponents’ explosive plays is far more important to winning games than earning big gainers on offense. It will be fascinating to see whether that trend continues in the second half of the season as teams begin playing almost exclusively in SEC games.

If it does, look for a team like Alabama to recover from the loss to Ole Miss, while a team like Texas A&M might be in some trouble.


Team Explosive Plays Allowed Rushes For 20+ Passes For 30+
1. Alabama 6 2 4
2. Georgia 9 2 7
T3. Florida 10 3 7
T3. Kentucky 10 7 3
T3. Ole Miss 10 6 4
T6. Auburn 11 4 7
T6. Missouri 11 6 5
T6. Tennessee 11 7 4
9. Mississippi State 13 3 10
T10. Texas A&M 14 6 8
T10. Vanderbilt 14 8 6
12. Arkansas 16 8 8
13. LSU 18 12 6
14. South Carolina 21 12 9