A sure sign that things have gone terribly, terribly awry in this corner of the woods: the number one passing offense in the SEC is--hold on to your biscuits here--Vanderbilt.
The "warre of all againste alle", as Hobbes might have phrased it, has yielded the triumph of the small, at least in an offensive sense. Pat Forde's on it. The West Coast Moonbat squad is on it, initiating another round of their favorite pasttime and giving plenty of fuel for their outrage--constant outrage we say!--at people's inability to see the acuity of their punditry.
You know a corpse is really drawing flies, though, when the AJC's Terence Moore gets a column in about it where he pulls his patented finishing move: saying the right thing for all the wrong reasons. The reason the SEC keeps scores in the R. Kelly range (look! racism! right there!), according to Terence's source Bill Curry, is the additive effect of years of cheating and the negative impact it's had on recruiting ball players from parents suspicious of snake-oil salesmen coaches paying players under the table.
Again, here's Moore with a belabored but accurate point: the SEC is not only overrated, but genuinely down this year. Sure. No debate there. A look at the stats and draft picks over the past few years=QEDMF. Again, Jay Cutler is your passing leader. Something is horribly awry in the cosmos when that has become fact.
Today's topic: how to breathe life into a dead horse.
Enter the sketchy, "wanna buy six pounds of shrimp from the back of my car?" line of explanation: cheating has weakened the appeal of the conference. There's no causality in Curry's explanation that cheating or the implication thereof deters quality recruits from attending a school, and no evidence to support it.
In fact, a school's reputation for lax academics and...umm, shall we say a "catered" lifestyle for athletes seems to attract athletes rather than repel them. Ohio State continuously pulls in huge recruiting classes. Ditto for Tennessee, Georgia, Florida State, Miami, Alabama, and other schools tainted either with the lash of past violations or the lingering stink of them.
So Moore makes an argument he can't support--just another Mustache Wednesday in Atlanta, GA, so far. But what is the root of the offensive drought and the downturn in the SEC's fortunes as a whole? Our argument assumes certain givens: that offense occupies a little more space on the brain's hard drive than defense, and that when coaches need a certain amount of time to implement their systems, after which they'll hit a maximum period of effectiveness before trailing back down to average once opponents adjust and counter-plan accordingly. In other words, a bell curve applies to the implementation of offense. If you disagree with any of these, please feel free to go back to watching "The View" and read no further.
The most important factor in exaggerated stats at either the low or high ends of the spectrum: turnover and flux in the coaching ranks. The SEC's senior coach is Phil Fulmer in his 14th year and may be on the downside of his effectiveness, as the Vols have been on a slide of sorts for the past three years--and maybe longer than that on the offensive side of the ball, if you believe some Vol fans. Take a look around the conference, and there's not a lot of deep experience: the other two graybeards are Mark Richt, only in his fifth year as a head coach anywhere, and Tommy Tuberville. Everyon else in in their first few years at their school, including three first-year coaches at Ole Miss, Florida, and LSU.
The numbers: average years tenure of coaches in conference:
Big 12: 5.9
Big Ten: 9.17
So when CFR says this:
In reality, a lot of teams with a handful of good athletes and superior coaching are leveling the playing field with an antiquated SEC full of great athletes, but most of them on just six teams, most of them with crusty coaches who are slowly but surely starting to get lapped.
...he's talking out of his college football resourceful ass. The problem is having a bundle of n00bs in a conference that, when jostled, reverts to a traditional pattern of defense and conservatism. The Pac-10, however, is even worse for coaching turnover, and the result seems to bolster another cliche's validity: when the going gets tough in the Pac-10, the going means throwing.
So the classic stereotypes hold true: no one plays d in the Pac-10, and no one plays offense in the SEC. Cue the numbers: there's certainly support for that here, since the two conferences with the shortest average coaching tenures both trend dramatically to one side of the ball. Pac-10 offenses have averaged, as a conference, 34 points and 443.6 yds a game; SEC offenses have bottomed out at 23.7 ppg/356.6 ypg, a huge discrepancy by any measure.
Defensively, the inversion of the dynamic continues: SEC defenses give up an average of 19.3 points a game while surrendering 327 yds a game, while Pac-10 teams go 28 pts/407.8 ypg on the same stats.
Compare the Pac-10/SEC coaching results, where coaches seem to enjoy the average tenure of a mayfly, to the results from the Big Ten and ACC, where coaches' tenures are over twice as long as in either the Pac-10 or SEC.
Offense: the Big Ten puts out 31.5 ppg/431 ypg, while the ACC puts out 25.7 ppg/361.9 ypg.
Defense: Big Ten, 25.9 ppg/396.7 ypg. ACC: 21 ppg/320.6 ypg
The correlation here being this: instability through the ranks seems to lead to imbalance in the game, with the old regional stereotypes holding true that when things get hectic in the coaching carousel, the SEC runs for the low scores and the Pac-10 starts running theirs up. For parity, the hoary old men of the Big Ten and ACC provide a much more competitive product. Let the AARP rejoice.
Joe Pa: old as shit and loving it.