Wednesday, April 15, 2009

SEC Review: 2005-2008

In addition to the SDPI posts, another offseason interest of mine has been to look at how each IA conference has shaken out since 2005. I chose 2005 as the starting point because that was the year the ACC expanded to 12 teams, the Big East added 3 new members and booted Temple, Conference USA added a championship game, the Mountain West added TCU, the WAC looted the Sun Belt after several of its members joined Conference USA, and the Sun Belt added 2 independents from Florida (FAU and FIU). Since 2005, there has only been one change in any IA conference. That was the expansion of the MAC by a single team with the addition of Temple. And one final note, each of the statistics posted here are for conference games only (championship games excluded). Since each school plays a vastly different non-conference schedule, this offers a better standard of comparison. So far we've looked at all the BCS conferences save one. Now its time to turn our attention to the SEC, God's gift to college football. Here are the cummlative SEC standings since 2005.No big surprises here. The team with multiple conference (and national) championships comes out on top. The other conference winners (LSU and Georgia) are tied for second. I don't know if this is parity, or just a trait of a good conference, but every team in the SEC has finished at least 4-4 or better in conference play once in the past four seasons. In addition, every team except Florida and Georgia has also finished with a losing record in conference play at least once.

Now here is each team's home record in conference play since 2005.Once again, Florida finished at the top of the conference. The Gators two home losses in the past four seasons have come by three points (Auburn 2007) and one point (Ole Miss 2008). Surprisingly, only half the league's teams have a winning record at home. There have been only six undefeated home seasons in the past four years (a total of 48 team seasons). They are in chronological order: Auburn 2005, Florida 2005, Florida 2006, LSU 2006, Tennessee 2007, and Alabama 2008. To put that in perspective, there have been nearly as many winless home seasons (four) in that same time span: Mississippi State 2006, South Carolina 2006, Vanderbilt 2006, and Ole Miss 2007. The biggest disparity between home and road performance belongs to the Florida Gators. They have the best home record in the conference at 12-2, but are a more mortal 9-5 on the road for a difference of three games. Amazingly, half the league is as good or better on the road over the past four seasons. Auburn and LSU have the same home and road records, Arkansas and South Carolina are a game better on the road, Vanderbilt is two games better on the road, and Georgia is three games better outside the hedges.

Now here is how homefield advantage shakes out in the SEC (in conference play only) with respect to the nation at large (with rank out of the 11 IA conferences in parentheses).As you can see, homefield advantage has meant next to nothing in the SEC over the past four seasons. Home teams have won about 51% of the time, meaning its accounted for a little more than what we would expect from a coin flip.

Next up is how each SEC team stacks up offensively for each season. This is the ranking of yards per game in conference play.The first question you must be dying to ask is: What the heck happened to Auburn? After leading the conference in offense in 2005, the Tigers looked to be set up for a nice little run. Quarterback Brandon Cox had two years of eligibility remaining, Kenny Irons had another year of eligbility at running back, and his backup Brad Lester had just finished his freshman season. The 2006 team also had four senior offensive linemen, three of them returning starters. However, the Tigers did lose their top three receivers from the 2005 team. Irons and Lester declined somewhat running the ball, but Cox actually improved his quarterback rating slightly in 2006. Then in 2007, the bottom fell out. Lester ceded his starting job to Ben Tate, and both posted decent numbers, but Cox turned in the worst performance of his career as a senior, throwing nearly as many interceptions (13) as he had in his previous two years as a starter (17). The Tigers got frustrated, hired Tony Franklin to run the spread, got frustrated again, canned the spread and Tony Franklin, fired one of the most successful head coaches in school history, and hired a proven failure as a head coach. Auburn fans, your team jumped the shark when Brandon Cox forgot how to play quarterback. Urban Meyer's impact at Florida has been quite profound to put it mildly. After treading water for two seasons while he installed his spread option, the Gators have been humming right along with the league's best offense two years running. Arkansas has consistently been in the top half of the league in offense despite switching from a run based attack featuring elite athletes Darren McFadden and Felix Jones to a passing team featuring...Casey Dick? If not for Ole Miss in 2006, the Mississippi State Bulldogs would have the worst offense in the SEC four years running. The Ol' Ball Coach has not exactly breathed life into the Gamecock offense. South Carolina has finished in the top half of the conference in offense only once in four seasons. A quick glance at Vanderbilt's offensive rankings will clue you in as to when they had a first round draft pick under center.

And finally, here are the defensive rankings for each team. This is yards allowed per game in conference play.Think Bo Pelini may know a thing or two about defense? LSU was either first or second in defense during his three seasons in Baton Rouge. After he left, the Tigers dropped procipitously. The new defensive coordinator for LSU is former Tennessee defensive coordinator John Chavis. Chavis appears to alternate very good defenses with very bad ones, at least over the past four seasons at Tennessee. As Mississippi State was to offense, so Kentucky is to defense. If not for the best efforts of Ole Miss and Tennessee in 2007, the Wildcats would own the league's worst defense four years runnings. Alabama has been the most consistent defense, finishing in the top four each of the past four years.

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