Watching Louisville shred Florida's mighty SEC defense last night made me curious: Just how dominant have the SEC defenses been so far this bowl season? Let's take a look at the scores put up against SEC teams so far...
Louisville 33 vs Florida
Nebraska 31 vs Georgia
Michigan 28 vs South Carolina
Northwestern 34 vs Mississippi St
Clemson 25 vs LSU
NC State 24 vs Vandy
That's a total of 175 points in 6 games for an average of more than 29 points per game that SEC defenses are giving up. Keep in mind that this is also against 3 B1G teams, 2 ACC teams, and a Big East team. The SEC still has 3 bowl games left so this isn't a complete sample yet (Texas A&M has to play Oklahoma; Ole Miss plays Pittsburgh; and of course Alabama vs Notre Dame on Monday).
I then took a look at the average points per game that each of these teams scored and their national rank in points per game:
Louisville - 31.2ppg - 49th nationally, scored 33
Nebraska - 34.8 ppg - 28th nationally, scored 31
Michigan - 29.8 ppg - 57th nationally, scored 28
Northwestern - 31.7 ppg - 42nd nationally, scored 34
Clemson - 41 ppg - 6th nationally, scored 25
NC State - 28.1 ppg - 70th nationally, scored 24
These 6 teams for the season average 32.7 ppg. They scored 29 ppg on average in their bowl games. So the SEC teams held these teams to a combined ~4ppg less than they average. Each of these teams playing against SEC defenses, with the exception of Clemson, scored +/- 4 points of their average. This should be interpretted as they scored nearly as many points against SEC defenses as they did playing against their normal B1G, ACC, Big East foes.
One step further, let's look at the average points given up this year by these 6 SEC teams:
Florida - 12.9 ppg, gave up 33
LSU - 16.9 ppg, gave up 25
South Carolina - 17.4 ppg, gave up 28
Vanderbilt - 18.3 ppg, gave up 24
Georgia - 18.8 ppg, gave up 31
Mississippi State - 22.4 ppg, gave up 34
Each of these SEC defenses gave up more points than they averaged nationally, despite playing against offenses that are in theory worse than the mighty SEC teams they play each week. In fact, all combined, these teams on average gave up 11 more points per game in their bowl games than they did on the season.
Someone may argue that teams like Mississippi state or Vandy are not necessarily known for their dominant defensive efforts but remember an argument that SEC proponents make is the amazing depth of the league and that they are such a talented conference top to bottom. Furthermore, the teams that everyone sees as elite SEC defenses (Florida, Georgia, LSU) gave up 20, 12, and 8 more points than they average respectively.
Looking specifically at the B1G vs SEC matchups:
Nebraska, averaging about 35 ppg, scored 31 on an SEC defense that averages giving up about 19. Or 4 less than Nebraska averages but 12 more than Georgia averages
Michigan, averaging about 30 ppg, scored 28 on an SEC defense that averages giving up about 17. Or 2 less than Michigan averages but 11 more than South Carolina averages
Northwestern, averaging about 32 ppg, scored 34 on an SEC defense that averages giving up about 22. Or 2 more than NW averages and 12 more than Mississippi state averages.
Certainly when it boils down to it the biggest thing that matters is wins and losses. The SEC is 3-3 in these games. I hope I've showed that a deeper look at some statistics reveals that perhaps the SEC speed/talent advantage is perhaps not as large as some in the media may have us believe.