Franz Beard's Thoughts of the Day Jan. 6

A few thoughts to jump start your Tuesday morning...

The lack of outstanding quarterback play had a lot to do with the SEC taking a step back in 2014, but equally at fault was the lack of dominating defenses. LSU had the league’s top rated defense (#9 nationally) and seven SEC teams ranked in the top 50 (LSU, #10 Arkansas, #12 Alabama, #13 Ole Miss, #15 Florida, #18 Georgia, #23 Missouri, #36 Tennessee), but top to bottom, the league numbers were way down.

Nothing highlighted the SEC’s down year for defense quite like the bowl games. While Arkansas was doing a lock down job on Texas (59 yards and seven points), and both Missouri and Georgia held opponents to fewer than 400 yards and 20 points, the rest of the league had its problems highlighted by Alabama (allowed 42 points and 437 yards to Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl), Mississippi State (allowed 49 points and 577 yards to Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl); Ole Miss (allowed 423 yards and 42 points to TCU in the Cotton Bowl), Auburn (allowed 34 points and 521 yards to Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl) and LSU (allowed 34 points and 449 yards to Notre Dame in the Music City Bowl).

Here is a look at the last three years of SEC defenses:

FLORIDA (Treading Water)

2012: The Gators had one of the best defensive units in the entire country as only one team (Kentucky, 159) ran for more than 150 yards and no team threw for more than 266. The Gators forced 30 turnovers and had 30 sacks.

Total defense: 286.7 yards per game (94.54 rushing; 192.2 passing)
Yards per play allowed: 4.35
Points allowed: 14.5
Sacks: 30

2013: The year of the injury had plenty to do with Florida’s 4-8 record. Before the injuries took their toll, the Gators had allowed more than 300 yards in only one of their first six games.

Total defense: 316.7 yards per game (142.42 rushing; 171.8 passing)
Yards per play allowed: 5.3
Points allowed: 21.1
Sacks: 19

2014: While the yardage per game was higher than 2013, the yards per play was only 4.55. Sacks were up (30) as were turnovers forced (30). Eight of 13 opponents were held to 306 or fewer yards.

Total defense: 329.8 yards per game (116.17 rushing; 213.6 passing)
Yards per play allowed: 4.55
Points allowed: 21.1
Sacks: 30

ALABAMA (Trending Down)

2012: This was a national championship defense that only allowed more than 20 points only twice all season. Alabama posted four shutouts and held 10 opponents to 14 or fewer points.

Total defense: 250 yards per game (76.36 rushing; 173.6 passing)
Yards per play allowed: 4.18
Points allowed: 10.9
Sacks: 35

2013: Alabama gave up 42 points and 628 yards in game two then held eight of the next nine opponents to 284 or fewer. Alabama gave up 34 points to Auburn in the last regular season game and 45 to Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.

Total defense: 286.5 yards per game (106.23 rushing; 180.3 passing)
Yards per play allowed: 4.83
Points allowed: 13.9
Sacks: 22

2014: The Alabama defense gave up 428 yards to Mississippi State, 630 to Auburn and 537 to Ohio State. Auburn (44) and Ohio State (42) both broke the 40-point barrier. This was the first year since 2007 when Alabama allowed more than 300 yards per game.

Total defense: 328.4 yards per game (102.43 rushing; 226 passing)
Yards per play allowed: 4.87
Points allowed: 18.4
Sacks: 31

ARKANSAS (Trending Up)

Total defense: 420.2 (124.08 rushing; 285.8 passing)
Yards per play allowed: 6.08
Points allowed: 30.4
Sacks: 31

Total defense: 357.2 yards per game (178.42 rushing; 235 passing)
Yards per play allowed: 6.09
Points allowed: 30.8
Sacks: 28

Total defense: 323.4 yards per game (114.62 rushing; 208.8 passing)
Yards per play allowed: 5.12
Points allowed: 19.2
Sacks: 24

AUBURN (Treading Water)

2012: Gene Chizik’s last team was not only challenged offensively, but the Tigers had problems getting opponents off the field (see 0-63 vs. Texas A&M; 0-48 vs. Georgia; 0-49 vs. Alabama).

Total defense: 420.5 yards per game (197.58 rushing; 222.9 passing)
Yards per play allowed: 5.99
Points allowed: 28.3
Sacks: 22

2013: Auburn made it to the national championship game by outscoring opponents. In the national championship game, the Auburn defense was helpless in the final two minutes when Florida State drove the field for the winning touchdown.

Total defense: 420.7 yards per game (163 rushing; 257.7 passing)
Yards per play allowed: 5.96
Points allowed: 24.7
Sacks: 32

2014: Auburn fired Ellis Johnson as defensive coordinator after a season in which the last six SEC opponents scored at least 31 points and Wisconsin ran for 400 yards and beat the Tigers in overtime.

Total defense: 398.8 yards per game (168.7 rushing; 230.1 passing)
Yards per play allowed: 5.67
Points allowed: 26.7
Sacks: 21

GEORGIA (Trending Up)

2012: Georgia had issues stopping the run as three of the last four opponents ran for more than 300 yards and eight opponents had at least 197 on the ground. Georgia might have beaten Alabama in the SEC Championship game if it could have stopped the Crimson Tide from running the ball (350 yards).

Total defense: 357.8 yards per game (182.14 rushing; 175.6 passing)
Yards per play allowed: 5.18
Points allowed: 19.6
Sacks: 32

2013: Georgia gave up at least 30 points in half its games and held only three opponents to fewer than 200 passing yards.

Total defense: 375.5 yards per game (148.15 rushing; 227.4 passing)
Yards per play allowed: 5.41
Points allowed: 29.0
Sacks: 33

2014: Progress was made under new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt although there were issues stopping teams on the ground (Florida ran for 418 and Georgia Tech ran for 399).

Total defense: 337.2 yards per game (166.85 rushing; 170.4 passing)
Yards per play allowed: 4.84
Points allowed: 20.7
Sacks: 28

KENTUCKY (Treading Water)

2012: The defense was bad enough to give up 38 to offensively challenged Florida and 40 to Vanderbilt with its bad offense.

Total defense: 391.4 yards per game (161.67 rushing; 229.8 passing)
Yards per play allowed: 5.54
Points allowed: 31.0
Sacks: 26

2013: Ten of the 12 opponents scored at least three offensive touchdowns and six of the 12 ran for at lest 216 yards.

Total defense: 427.2 yards per game (197.33 rushing; 229.8 passing)
Yards per play allowed: 6.26
Points allowed: 31.2
Sacks: 23

2014: At the midway point, Kentucky was 5-1 and giving up less than 20 points per game. In the last six games – all losses – the Wildcats gave up more than 40 points five times. Three opponents ran for 303 or more yards.

Total defense: 406.9 yards per game (191.17 rushing; 215.58 passing)
Yards per play allowed: 5.5
Points allowed: 31.3
Sacks: 27

LSU (Trending Up)

2012: In a season in which the Tigers were 12 points away from a perfect record, the defense came up with 33 turnovers.

Total defense: 374.2 yards per game (101.62 rushing; 206 passing)
Yards per play allowed: 4.46
Points allowed: 17.5
Sacks: 35

2013: Eight of the 15 touchdown passes allowed by the LSU defense came in the three losses. Four opponents managed less than 100 rushing yards.

Total defense: 340.7 yards per game (143.23 rushing; 197.5 passing)
Yards per play allowed: 5.08
Points allowed: 22.0
Sacks: 27

2014: Despite a two-deep in which 17 of the top 22 were either freshmen or sophomores, LSU finished as the top defensive statistically in the SEC.

Total defense: 316.8 yards per game (152.69 rushing; 164.2 passing)
Yards per play allowed: 4.87
Points allowed: 17.5
Sacks: 19


2012: The Bulldogs lost five of their last six games, giving up at least 34 points in each of the losses. Although the Bulldogs limped in at 8-5 they forced 34 turnovers (19 picks, 15 fumbles).

Total defense: 381.9 yards per game (165.62 rushing; 221.8 passing)
Yards per play allowed: 5.49
Points allowed: 23.3
Sacks: 18

2013: The Bulldogs got bowl eligible by playing fundamentally sound defense the last three games in which they gave up 11.3 points and 264 yards per game.

Total defense: 349.3 yards per game (144.15 rushing; 205.2 passing)
Yards per play allowed: 5.45
Points allowed: 23.0
Sacks: 20

2014: Opponents managed only 19 red zone touchdowns but they did gash the Bulldogs for more than 500 yards on five occasions. Five opponents passed for at least 327 yards.

Total defense: 424.4 yards per game (151.54 rushing; 272.8 passing)
Yards per play allowed: 5.65
Points allowed: 21.7
Sacks: 37

MISSOURI (Trending Up)

2012: This was the Tigers’ first run through the SEC and it was somewhat of a disaster. The Tigers gave up 40 or more points in four of their eight SEC games.

Total defense: 390.7 yards per game (138.50 rushing; 241.4 passing)
Yards per play allowed: 5.50
Points allowed: 28.4
Sacks: 21

2013: The Tigers went 12-2, won the SEC East, and had a terrifying pass rush led by SEC Defensive Player of the Year, Michael Sam, who had 11.5 of Mizzou’s 41 sacks. The Tigers came up with 32 turnovers.

Total defense: 417.9 yards per game (152.93 rushing; 264.9 passing)
Yards per play allowed: 5.42
Points allowed: 23.1
Sacks: 41

2014: Missouri won the SEC East for a second straight year using the same formula, a fierce pass rush led by SEC Defensive Player of the Year Shane Ray who had 13 sacks, and Markus Golden, who came up with 10.

Total defense: 345.9 yards per game (133.21 rushing; 212.7 passing)
Yards per play allowed: 4.82
Points allowed: 21.1
Sacks: 42

OLE MISS (Trending Up)

2012: If the Ole Miss offense hadn’t kept putting the defense in bad situations, this would have been an outstanding unit in 2012. The Rebels forced 28 turnovers and got to the quarterback 38 times.

Total defense: 375.8 yards per game (129.31 rushing; 246.5 passing)
Yards per play allowed: 5.37
Points allowed: 27.6
Sacks: 38

2013: The Rebels were improved but way too young up front. In four of their five losses, they gave up more than 241 yards rushing.

Total defense: 370.5 yards per game (154.92 rushing; 215.5 passing)
Yards per play allowed: 5.25
Points allowed: 23.7
Sacks: 19

2014: Until the injuries took their toll on a thin two-deep, Ole Miss had the best defense in the SEC and one of the best in the entire country. The Rebels picked off 22 passes. Opponents managed only 4.67 yards per play.

Total defense: 329 yards per game (136.92 rushing; 192.1 passing)
Yards per play allowed: 4.67
Points allowed: 16.0
Sacks: 28

South Carolina (Trending Down)

2012: With the leftovers from Ellis Johnson’s defense, the Gamecocks won 11 games and had one of the top defenses in the nation that got to quarterbacks 43 times and held six opponents to less than 300 yards.

Total defense: 315.5 yards per game (120.69 rushing yards; 194.8 passing)
Yards per play allowed: 4.65
Points allowed: 18.2
Sacks: 43

2013: The Gamecocks gave up nearly one full yard per play more than 2012, but they were still effective enough to help win 11 games.

Total defense: 350 yards per game (153.85; 196.2 passing)
Yards per play allowed: 5.46
Points allowed: 20.3
Sacks: 25

2014: This was the year of the defensive meltdown. The Gamecocks gave up more than 200 rushing yards per game, only got to the quarterback 14 times and forced only four turnovers in the six losses.

Total defense: 432.7 yards per game (212.23 rushing; 220.5 passing)
Yards per play allowed: 5.37
Points allowed: 30.4
Sacks: 14

TENNESSEE (Trending Up)

2012: The Vols were the worst defense in the SEC in Derek Dooley’s last year as head coach.

Total defense: 475.9 yards per game (188.83 rushing; 282.5 passing)
Yards per play allowed: 6.13
Points allowed: 35.7
Sacks: 17

2013: In Butch Jones’ first year at the helm, there was noticeable improvement in every area.

Total defense: 418.4 yards per game (207.33 rushing; 211.1 passing)
Yards per play allowed: 6.07
Points allowed: 29.0
Sacks: 18

2014: The Vols started one of the youngest defenses in the country and showed major improvement in nearly every area. They cut more than 60 yards off their rushing yards allowed per game, got to the quarterback 35 times and allowed five points fewer per game.

Total defense: 364.6 yards per game (146.38 rushing; 196.2 passing)
Yards per play allowed: 5.31
Points allowed: 24.2
Sacks: 35

TEXAS A&M (Trending Down)

2012: The Aggies actually played very good defense in the only two games they lost. They held the Gators to 307 yards and 20 points and LSU to 316 and 24 points. The rush defense got worse as the season moved along but they were so good offensively that it didn’t matter.

Total defense: 390.2 yards per game (139.54 rushing; 250.7 passing)
Yards per play allowed: 5.22
Points allowed: 21.8
Sacks: 31

2013: The Aggies had a championship offense. Too bad their defense was horrendous. In the four games they lost, they gave up at least 234 rushing yards and at least 193 passing yards. The Aggies gave up an average of 39 points in the four losses.

Total defense: 475.8 yards per game (222.31 rushing; 253.5 passing)
Yards per play allowed: 5.38
Points allowed: 32.2
Sacks: 21

2014: Three years of a defense that was as effective as a sieve brought the end to the Mark Snyder era as the defensive coordinator. The Aggies biggest problem was stopping the run. Seven teams ran for at least 240 yards and three straight opponents in November got at least 335.

Total defense: 455.4 yards per game (216 rushing; 234.8 passing)
Yards per play allowed: 5.91
Points allowed: 28.1
Sacks: 35

VANDERBILT (Trending Down)

2012: This was the best defense Bob Shoop put on the field during the James Franklin era. The Commodores got stops, sacked the quarterback and gave the offense the ball in good field position.

Total defense: 333.9 yards per game (142.15 rushing; 191.8 passing)
Yards per play allowed: 4.75
Points allowed: 18.7
Sacks: 31

2013: Shoop’s defense got to the quarterback and forced 30 turnovers (12 fumbles, 18 picks) and did a good job of getting third down stops.

Total defense: 354.8 yards per game (147.85 rushing; 206.9 passing)
Yards per play allowed: 5.07
Points allowed: 24.6
Sacks: 28

2014: Derek Mason came to Vandy from Stanford with a reputation for putting together lock down defenses. The Commodores took steps backward in nearly every category. Some of the reversal could be attributed to youth but the Commodores will have to show great improvement in 2015 for that theory to pass.

Total defense: 402.1 yards per game (183.75 rushing; 218.3 passing) Yards per play allowed: 5.72
Points allowed: 33.3
Sacks: 20


Do you think the downward trend for SEC defenses was an aberration or a sign of things to come in the league?


I get in these moods when I have to tune everything out and turn on Van Morrison, which happened Monday afternoon. I’ve been listening to his music ever since I first heard “Brown Eyed Girl” on WNOE in New Orleans while I was playing tennis on the courts beside the McComb High School gym. What I’ve discovered through the years is that Van has a song for nearly every one of my moods. This is “Bright Side of the Road” from his 1979 album “Into the Music.” This song was also part of the soundtrack to the movie “Michael” which starred John Travolta, William Hurt and Andie MacDowell.

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