Week one is way too early to draw firm conclusions about the defenses of the SEC, other than to say that Alabama recorded the most impressive performance in holding Big Ten "power" Michigan to two touchdowns and less than five yards per play. Schedule strength was widely variable:
Ranked, on the road: Kentucky (lost 32-14 at top 25-rated Louisville)
Ranked, neutral site: Alabama (beat Michigan 41-14 at the Jerry Dome), Auburn (lost 26-19 to Clemson in Atlanta)
Ranked, home: Vanderbilt (lost 17-13 to South Carolina)
Unranked SEC, road: South Carolina (see above)
Unranked BCS, neutral site: Tennessee (beat NC State 35-21 in Atlanta)
Unranked FBS, home: Florida (beat Bowling Green 27-14), Georgia (beat Buffalo 45-23), LSU (beat North Texas 41-14)
FCS, home: Arkansas (beat Jacksonville State 49-24), Missouri (beat SE Louisiana 62-10), Mississippi State (beat Jackson State 56-9), Ole Miss (beat Central Arkansas 49-27)
Six SEC teams had legitimate tests in their openers, and the quality fell off fast after that. Texas A&M begins this week against Florida after having its likely-challenging opener against Louisiana Tech in Shreveport postponed due to Hurricane Isaac.
I'm presenting these numbers to start some conversation and focus readers' attention on these numbers as we gauge the 2012 season.
These run defense stats exclude quarterback sacks, which we count as pass plays. LSU gave up a remarkable 76 yards rushing on 35 attempts by North Texas. Alabama, Missouri and South Carolina also yielded less than 3 yards per rush, though the quality of opposition was far from equal among them. The eye-catchers here are Auburn (48-341 by Clemson) and Mississippi State (19-125 by Jackson State). Also, it was surprising that Georgia gave up more than 200 rushing yards to Buffalo.
Rushing touchdowns allowed:
- Zero -- LSU, Mississippi State, Missouri, South Carolina.
- One -- Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn.
- Two -- Florida, Georgia, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Vanderbilt.
- Four -- Kentucky.
Vanderbilt smothered the injury-impaired South Carolina passing game, giving the Gamecocks a measly 43 net passing yards (including three sacks that lost 24 yards). Everybody knows that South Carolina had problems with the Commodores' pass attack, but it's no stunner to find Alabama and LSU on the wrong end of yards allowed per pass play. Both teams faced opponents that depend on play-action passing, which produces high yards per completion at a low rate of accuracy. Michigan completed 11-27 with three INTs, North Texas 8-21 with one pick.
Passing touchdowns allowed:
- Zero -- Florida, Kentucky, Vanderbilt.
- One -- Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Mississippi State, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee.
- Two -- Arkansas, LSU, Ole Miss.
The touchdown passes that the Razorbacks gave up to Jacksonville State were the team's biggest negative in week one. Three sloppy turnovers can be addressed, but the quality of the secondary has no quick fixes.
Missouri can enjoy its week in the limelight, having suffocated the feeble offense of SE Louisiana -- 68 plays, 223 yards, 3.3 yards per play. Horrific. Arkansas and LSU also allowed heavily schedule-influenced low numbers. Alabama, South Carolina and Vanderbilt probably have the most to crow about on defense after week one.