Some Southeastern Conference teams are leaving defense behind in their rush for more points.
The SEC once was known for its run-first attacks and strong defenses, but now more teams are implementing up-tempo, spread and no-huddle schemes designed to give offenses as many scoring opportunities as possible.
Some early developments are startling:
– Seven SEC teams are averaging 40 or more points per game.
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– Arkansas has scored 103 points, the Razorbacks' highest total through two games since 1911.
– Six players in the Auburn-Mississippi State game had more than 100 all-purpose yards.
– The 87 combined points in South Carolina's 45-42 win over Georgia were the most in the history of the series.
Auburn coach Gene Chizik said schemes had undergone dramatic changes in the last decade as coordinators scrambled to stay ahead or just keep up.
“I think offenses have become extremely crafty,” Chizik said. “They've got new concepts and different paces in terms of speed of the game and how fast they get lined up. There's just a lot of different ideas out there offensively that have changed in the last six or seven years, really.”
More offense can mean more excitement for fans – but more headaches for coaches.
Just ask South Carolina's Steve Spurrier, who should be happy that his team is No. 10 in the nation, 2-0 overall and in the driver's seat in the Eastern Division after a win over Georgia.
But that followed a 56-37 victory over East Carolina. Seeing his team give up 79 points in two games has left Spurrier unsettled.
“I've got to coach better,” Spurrier said. “Our assistant coaches have got to coach better.
“We can't just stand around and let them lob passes up in the air and over the top of us like is happening in the last two games. We got to get in the fight and knock balls down; we got to get some guys open and hit them throwing.”
Spurrier looks around and sees other SEC teams in shootouts. No. 21 Auburn has survived a 42-38 win over Utah State and a 41-34 victory over Mississippi State.
“We can't win 56-37, 45-42 every week,” Spurrier said. “It's just hard to do. Auburn can do it – they know how to do it a lot better than we do. I guess Auburn won about two in a row like that, haven't they?”
Tennessee coach Derek Dooley would have made his run-first father, former Georgia coach Vince Dooley, proud when he said, “I'll always be a downhill, power-running team from Day 1.”
The younger Dooley seems surprised to see his Vols at 2-0 thanks to Tyler Bray's high-powered passing game.
The Vols averaged 358 yards passing and only 127 rushing while scoring more than 40 points in wins over Montana and Cincinnati. Bray passed for 405 yards and four touchdowns in the 45-23 victory over Cincinnati.
“If your throwing game is what it looked like last week, you don't need a lot of running game,” Dooley said. “But if your quarterback's getting hit, you're getting confused back there and the line's struggling to protect them, you've got to have a running game.”
Not every team has survived the high-scoring pace. Georgia is 0-2 despite totaling 63 points in two games against teams now in the top 10. Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo says the Bulldogs are committed to their new emphasis on no-huddle formations.
Georgia coach Mark Richt said defenses were wearing down late in games against the fast-paced offenses.
“I think just about everybody is going more up-tempo pace,” Richt said. “I do think people are beginning to wear defenses down a little bit by the end of the game. I think there's a little bit less resistance as the game is going on.
“Even our defense played a lot better in the first three quarters than they did in the fourth quarter. I think the same is true of South Carolina. We put 22 on the board in the fourth and they put 17 on us in the fourth. In the first quarter, our defense shut them out.”
Chizik said “a lot of great offensive coordinators in the league have taken it to the next level, really.”
“I think it's a lot attributed to guys really having different concepts offensively, the rate of speed they are running the offense, some are spreading the field,” he said.
When asked if he wished Auburn could take a less-terrifying win, quarterback Barrett Trotter said, “Not really. As long as we're winning, I don't really care.”
Spurrier delivered a more cautious warning. All offense and no defense?
“Usually that'll catch up with you after a while,” he said.