We’re a third of the way into the SEC season, with four games down. And already the preseason projections are toppled like a house of cards. One reason that SEC football is so beloved is the unpredictability factor. Highly touted guys have been down, new names have popped up. And after a month of football, here are 10 surprising numbers/stats from SEC football.
Number of coaches fired: Is it more surprising that it’s only one, or that Les Miles was the one?
Number of SEC teams averaging 40+ points per game: The SEC has historically been a defensive league, and this year, with a few exceptions, was not expected to be much different. But a month in, there are at least four offensive juggernauts in the league, with 40+ point per game scorers being Alabama, Missouri, Texas A&M, and Ole Miss.
It’s early and the bulk of conference play remains. Last year, only Ole Miss topped 40 — barely. The Rebels averaged 40.8.
Points per game for the LSU offense in 2016: Lest it seem to be a fluke for the Tigers to be 13th in the SEC in scoring, they’re also 12th in offense (339.5 yards per game). Somehow, with all-everything RB Leonard Fournette and third team all-SEC preseason QB Brandon Harris, Cam Cameron’s offense turned into an albatross around Les Miles’s neck — to an almost historic extent.
Yards passing by Missouri QB Drew Lock: The big-armed sophomore was expected to be improved, and Mizzou fans talked a bold game about new offensive coordinator Josh Heupel. But after four games, Lock has backed up the talk. He is on pace to break Mizzou’s single-season passing record and the SEC’s single-season passing record (Tim Couch’s 4,275 yards in 1998).
In large part based off of that success, the Tigers are competing not only for a bowl bid, but to end up in the upper half of the East.
QB rating of Arkansas QB Austin Allen: Allen, the junior QB who inherited the Razorbacks’ starting job from his brother Brandon, was expected to be a step-down in production. Instead, Austin’s stats are very close to those his brother produced, and buoyed by that production and a big year from running back Rawleigh Williams III, the Razorbacks have surprised a bit in the West.
Rushing yards for the SEC’s leading rusher: That number isn’t so much surprising. It’s just that the leader rusher is Nick — no, wait … it’s Leonard — no, no, that’s wrong. It’s Vanderbilt’s Ralph Webb.
The SEC’s running back studs have been slowed—Chubb is 4th in yardage, Fournette is 6th, and Tennessee’s Jalen Hurd is outside the top 10. The top three rushers have been Webb, Kentucky’s Boom Williams, and Arkansas’s Williams III. While none of the three are unheard of, few if any expected them to outperform the SEC’s semi-buried Heisman candidates.
Rushing yards per game for the top rushing team in the SEC: Speaking of surprising, it’s not a shock that the Texas A&M offense has helped propel them to legitimate contender status in the SEC West. But it has been a bit surprising that the run game — led by RB Trayveon Williams and his 9.7 yards per carry — has paved the way. For the first time, Kevin Sumlin is running a truly balanced offense, and QB Trevor Knight has benefited and will continue to benefit from same.
Longest run of the year for Tennessee RB Jalen Hurd: The Vols are a complicated team. They looked awful in edging past Appalachian State, badly flawed in creeping past Ohio, pretty good in front of 140,000 or so in Bristol against Virginia Tech, and then went from putrid to superb in minutes against Florida. And Hurd, expected to be one of the foremost weapons, has been average.
But Tennessee is 4-0, and the next three weeks will tell the ultimate tale of their season. Their odds will be much better if Hurd can crack some big play runs that have been missing so far.
Number of yards by which Missouri receiver J’Mon Moore surpassed his first two seasons’ receiving totals: In four games of 2016, no less. Moore is probably the surprise player of the year in the SEC.
Not only wasn’t he all-conference, his two year totals of 31 catches for 383 yards and three scores made some wonder if he’d even end up starting for Mizzou. But in four games of 2016, he has amassed 26 grabs for 434 yards and six scores. He leads the conference in all three categories (tied with Ole Miss’s Evan Engram in number of catches). Moore’s career plans have probably gone from something like CPA to the NFL.
Sacks by LSU linebacker Arden Key: Key, unlike Moore, isn’t really a surprise, but seven sacks in a third of a season is the pace that Alabama’s Derrick Thomas set years ago in destroying the record book on sacks. That said, the NCAA didn’t track sacks until 2000, so 15 is the “official” SEC record (Mississippi State’s Willie Evans in 2005). More recently, Jonathan Allen’s 12 sacks led the SEC in 2015. Key is over halfway to Allen’s total with more than two-thirds of his season remaining. The official record is in grave danger.
Source: Saturday Down South