This past week Lincoln Riley sent a shot across the bow of the football powerhouse SEC conference. In an interview with Danny Kannel he said, “But you go through Georgia’s defense, which as a top five ranked defense, going into the Rose Bowl, you go throw them in the Big 12 every year, they’re not going to be a top five defense. It’s just probably not going to happen. The challenges that you face, the style of offenses that you face it’s definitely a little bit different.”
Is Riley attempting a shameless boast of his conference over the SEC or is there truth in what he is saying. Let’s look at the numbers.
Last season Georgia only faced two offenses that finished the season inside the top 25 NCAA rankings for total offense. The two games were in the Rose Bowl against Oklahoma and in SEC play against Missouri. In those two games, the Bulldogs gave us 28 points and 48 points in each of those wins. Inside of conference play Georgia only had to play one top 25 offense all year. Undoubably, playing weak or mediocre offense makes a good defense like Georgia’s look even more dominant. Some of the weak offensive numbers can be attributed to the run first mentality of the SEC.
In contrast, the top defense in the Big 12 was TCU and they faced four teams in conference alone that ranked inside the top 25 of total offense. In fact, both the number one and number two ranked offenses in the nation were both inside the Big 12 with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. TCU had to contend with Big 12 offenses that averaged 32.3 points a game.
The numbers back up Riley’s claim and show that while Georgia did have a really good defense last year it was helped by a conference without much offensive firepower. This is not to say that Oklahoma or anyone in the Big 12 was a better team than Georgia last season. It just goes to show that end of the year totals can be skewed based on the type of football played in each conference.