Which SEC teams were best at converting 3rd-and-short?
Not all rushing offenses are created equal. Especially when the chains are pulled tight and the referee holds up two fingers — or the index finger and thumb — toward a sideline camera. Will they go for it? Do you bring in the heavy package?
For perspective, LSU led the SEC in rushing last season, but was 10th in short-yardage third-down conversions.
LSU’s largely one-dimensional offense had a lot to do with that plunging number. The Tigers were last in the SEC in passes attempted last season with just 277, or 23.1 per game.
Against Alabama, those passing issues were part of the reason the Tigers only got two third-and-short opportunities all game. Their lone rushing touchdown came on Leonard Fournette’s 1-yard run on second down, however.
Auburn had the most attempts (51) on 3rd-and-3 or less, and the Tigers also converted five touchdowns to lead the SEC. Mississippi State and Alabama tied for second with four TDs each, while Arkansas, Tennessee and Vanderbilt had three.
Nearly opposite LSU in overall rushing versus short yardage, Mississippi State was 12th in rushing overall, but second in short-yardage situations. For a spread offense, the Bulldogs showed plenty of balance with 427 rushing attempts compared to 500 passing attempts. Credit Dak Prescott (pictured) for that.
That team up north in the Magnolia state had plenty of chances to avoid short yardage situations as the Rebels led the SEC in yards per play at 7.1, but on third- and fourth down, especially with a 3 yards or less to go, Ole Miss was 115th in the country.
There are some numbers that go against conventional wisdom.
One was Arkansas’ beefy offensive line produced a conversion rate just over half, which was just ninth in the league.
How about the defending national champion? The Crimson Tide was ninth in the SEC in third-down conversions last season, but better than average — at 62 percent — when that tough yard was needed.
None tougher than when Derrick Henry scored the eventual title winning points on 3rd-and-goal from the 1 against Clemson in the national championship game.