The SEC East is bad, and offense is almost completely to blame. Obviously, the conference often gets typecast as strong defensively, which is true – to an extent. Watching the games this season, it becomes obvious it’s not that simple.
Games have been slow and lacked action in the East. Vanderbilt has been given last-chance opportunities in several games, but its offense can’t move the ball downfield. South Carolina’s has been better with Jake Bentley, but it hasn’t been much better.
At some point, we have to confront just how bad the conference has been with the ball in its hands. With all the different offenses and play styles, it can be hard to compare different teams and contextualize just how bad things are. But when looking at the numbers, it paints a grim picture. The entire division needs a facelift.
Raw numbers hate the SEC East
This metric isn’t necessarily the best way to evaluate it, but we’ll start there. Only one SEC East team ranks in the top half of the nation in total offense – we’ll get to that team later. The other six teams average out at a hefty 96.8, with South Carolina at 120 and Vanderbilt at 125. Keep in mind, there are only 128 teams in all of college football. Score-wise, Tennessee sneaks in and becomes a second team in the top 50, but the rest of the conference is just as bad.
Efficiency metrics don’t like the East, either
Luckily, we have advanced efficiency stats that can help us compare different teams playing different competition and with different philosophies. It doesn’t matter. The SEC East still averages out at an average 82.7, averaging in the bottom third of all of college football, either Power 5 or Group of 5. That means, on average, the SEC East’s offenses rank behind Virginia, Minnesota, Hawaii and Central Michigan. Remember, these are opponent adjusted.
Missouri is the SEC East’s best offense
Maybe the worst offense in the entire Power 5 last season has made strides, including natural improvement from Drew Lock and a jolt from running back Damarea Crockett. Of course, Missouri is also the worst team in the conference. When the Tigers went against two of the elite defenses in the conference, LSU and Florida, Mizzou mustered only 314 yards per game, well below its season average of 487 yards per game. Efficiency numbers have them middle of the road, which is still better than the rest of the division.
Quarterback play has been abysmal
Who is the best quarterback in the SEC East? More likely than not, the answer is Josh Dobbs. Of course, it is also well documented that Dobbs’ inconsistent passing downfield has hamstrung Tennessee. Four of the top-5-rated quarterbacks in the SEC are from the West. Three of the bottom four are from the East: Luke Del Rio, Jacob Eason and Kyle Shurmur. There is not a single SEC East player who is completing 60 percent of his passes, which by extension only has three wide receivers in the SEC’s top 10 this season.
Postseason awards might prove the divide
At the halfway point of the season, I put together the Midseason All-SEC team. Only one SEC East player appeared on the entire offense: Vanderbilt RB Ralph Webb. Even he is now on the borderline of first team, after Auburn RB Kamryn Pettway and Arkansas RB Rawleigh Williams surpassed him on the SEC’s rushing list. If that happens, there’s a real chance the SEC East could get left off the All-SEC First Team offense at the end of the season. It would be the first time that has happened since the SEC split into divisions in 1992. Granted, at least one player probably sneaks onto the team, and there will be a few on the second team, but the fact that we even can have this conversation is concerning.