With a month already gone in the 2016 season, the narratives for each SEC team are starting to come into focus.
Today we’ll look at one statistic that best explains where each team sits as we push into October. Here is the SEC West:
Alabama: 46.5 ppg scored. Everybody thought that Nick Saban’s defense would be ridiculous, and everybody was right. Alabama is at or near the top of the SEC in every meaningful defensive statistic. What we didn’t know was how a rebuilt offense would perform, but the Crimson Tide has had no problem there thus far. They sit first in the SEC and eighth nationally in scoring (46.5 points per game), in no small part due to the stellar play of true freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts (30th nationally in Total Quarterback Rating at 72.1).
Arkansas: 78.7 QBR. Arkansas posted an impressive 3-1 record in September despite breaking in new skill talent all across the offense. First-time starting quarterback Austin Allen’s play was a question mark entering the season, but he has performed well. He sits 20th nationally and second in the conference in adjusted QBR (78.7), leads the league with a 66.9 completion percentage and is one of two SEC quarterbacks with at least two passing touchdowns in each game (Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly is the other).
Auburn: 18.8 ppg allowed. Auburn is tied for 28th in the FBS and sixth in the SEC by allowing 18.8 points per game. Doesn’t sound so hot, right? Well, consider that Auburn’s two losses came to unbeaten teams that are averaging 43 (Texas A&M) and 33.5 (Clemson) points a game and that last Saturday’s 18-13 win came against an LSU club that last year ripped up Auburn’s defense for 45 points and 485 yards. Auburn is furthering the rapid development that occurred in the second half of last season under Will Muschamp, and that has made Gus Malzahn’s team a formidable opponent.
LSU: 147.8 passing ypg. LSU’s offense has largely been Leonard Fournette-or-bust for the last season and a half, which is largely the reason Les Miles and Cam Cameron are no longer employed. Miles’ promises to develop a more effective passing game did not come to fruition in September, with the Tigers ranking last in the SEC and 119th nationally with 147.8 passing yards per game. The Tigers’ 54.5 completion percentage ranks 103rd.
Mississippi State: 1-for-5. The narrative about Mississippi State’s season would be a bit different right now if not for its season-opening loss to South Alabama. State drove into South Alabama territory on all five of its second-half drives but scored just once (a 48-yard Westin Graves field goal), opening the door for the Jaguars to rally for a 21-20 win with a late touchdown. Beat the Jaguars and the Bulldogs are 3-1 now instead of 2-2, with the lone loss coming despite an impressive second-half rally at LSU.
Ole Miss: Blown three-touchdown leads. Ole Miss has led by at least three touchdowns in every game. That’s what makes it so unfathomable that the Rebels are 2-2. Only a handful of teams have overcome three-touchdown deficits this year, and two of them came against the Rebels: Florida State and Alabama. The Rebels led FSU 28-6 in the opener before getting outscored 39-6 the rest of the way and falling 45-34. Two weeks later, they had top-ranked Alabama in a 24-3 hole before the Crimson Tide roared back with a 45-6 scoring run en route to a 48-43 win.
Texas A&M: 269.3 rushing ypg. Nobody would have projected Texas A&M as the SEC’s top rushing team before the season, but that’s where the unbeaten Aggies sit through one month of action. Their average of 269.3 yards a game is 10th nationally and 100 yards better than their per-game average in 2015. Further, their average of 7 yards per carry is third nationally and 1.4 better than the next-closest SEC team, Alabama.