The Big 12’s chicken or the egg conundrum has fully engulfed SEC country: Are the offenses really that good or are the defenses really that bad?
Just a fair warning, SEC: it’s a tired debate that goes in circles. The Big 12 spent years fighting the notion that its teams didn’t play defense. In some respects, it’s still fighting it. But like most answers, the reality was/is somewhere in the middle. Big 12 defenses always should have been graded on a curve given how good the offenses were.
Much of the same can be said for the SEC and the ACC exiting Week 6 with overs on totals hitting in 13 of the 14 games played. Are the offenses that good, or are the defenses that bad? In short: yes.
How could you not look at No. 2 Alabama’s 63-48 win over Ole Miss and not be blown away by the offenses? The 1,370 total yards of offense between the two were the most in the history of a regulation SEC game. There’s first-round talent up and down Alabama’s offense, but Lane Kiffin has Ole Miss’ Xs and Os dialed up for maximum point scoring. There was some truly great football being played.
At the same time, Alabama’s defense is clearly not what it used to be. The Tide have allowed at least 42 points three times in the last eight games. Before that, Alabama had allowed at least 42 in three of its previous 65 games, per CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd. And Ole Miss’ defense? Somehow even worse.
Let’s switch to No. 21 Texas A&M’s 41-38 win over No. 4 Florida. Was that good offense? Of course. Quarterback Kyle Trask and tight end Kyle Pitts have been dominating the stat sheets through the first three games, connecting for seven touchdowns. These two guys are going to be playing in the NFL. Same with Texas A&M running back Isaiah Spiller, who had 174 yards and two touchdowns. And say what you will about Kellen Mond, but he threw some great passes against the Gators.
At the same time, Florida looked all out of sorts on defense. Bad angles, bad tackling … just a lot of bad in general. That’s something the Gators have been able to mask because they were winning. The same can’t be said for No. 17 LSU, whose defense has now been torched by Mississippi State and Missouri as part of a 1-2 start. The rebuild that the Tigers are undergoing on that side of the ball is proving to be a bigger task than many realized. New defensive coordinator Bo Pelini has had an awful start as well.
So, to answer the question. It’s both. And sometimes it’s another thing entirely. In the ACC, No. 19 Virginia Tech was without 15 players against No. 8 North Carolina in a 56-45 loss, including two starting safeties, because of COVID-19 and contact tracing. Depth charts all across the landscape are taking massive hits this year because of it.