We're halfway through the regular season (sad face), and that means we've accumulated enough time and games for stats to start meaning something. If you need a refresher on what ATVSQBPI is, start here and then go here. Important reminder: QBPI does not attempt to measure how good you are, only how productive you've been. With that said, here's a look around the SEC at what's going on so far.
***Disclaimer*** I emailed Poseur a couple days ago to see if he wanted the numbers if he was going to do a column, but the 48-hr window of Reasonable Response has expired, so now the commoners are rising up. He likes punk music, he should be into that sort of thing.
What jumps out at a glance is how boom-or-bust the SEC is so far. I've been following these numbers for a few years and have occasionally written about them, and most of the performances so far are underwhelming. That could be a function of defense, but more on that later. Via our adjusted ypp metric, here's how the QBs have done so far this season overall. (Sorry for the uniform color. Only free charts I found online that didn't want me to sign up and create an account.)
As you can see, there's a couple guys who are in that "very good" range and one guy who is in Holy ****! territory.
But starting at home, Burrow's average ypp isn't really much different than LSU quarterbacks of the past several years, but the eye test tells us something different, right? Here's where it helps to reiterate the formula is not measuring how good you are, but how productive. The cognitive dissonance here likely lies in the fact that Burrow hasn't gotten as much help from his WRs and line as you'd like, despite being a step up in reading a defense, decision-making, routes he's comfortable with, etc. Somewhat randomly, I played with the numbers and assigned Burrow 12 more catches of 12 yards (since over 6 games, off the top of my head I can remember about that many drops of 10 or more yards), and simply adding that much upped his score to a more respectable 7.64. The O-line troubles are well documented with injuries and inexperience. And the biggest problem Burrow's average has is he has a major outlier...last week against Florida is really dragging him down. He scored an absolutely miserable 2.8, which except for Drew Lock's almost-as-bad outing against South Carolina and Wilson's tough day in College Station, is over twice as bad as the day had by any other QB in the league. Hopefully that remains an outlier as Florida's defense is as nasty as there is (and my personal belief/hope that the O-line will not struggle that much again).
Clearly Bama's Tagovailoa, Fromm at UGA, and Ta'amu at Ole Miss are the class of the league. Everybody else is struggling to be average or is outright bad. But before we pat those first three on the back, let's move into QB vs. P5 competition, because frankly nobody cares about numbers padded by Southwest Baghdad's School of Dentistry For Nuns. P5 only:
So...umm....Tua Tagovailoa actually moves UP by over a yard. Okay, the caveat to Tua's insane 16.58 is that Alabama has played some truly wretched defenses. Louisville is the 93rd defense in the nation in ypg allowed, Arkansas is 83rd, and Texas A&M and Ole Miss are the worst defenses in the SEC. The caveat to the caveat is it's fricking 16.58. That's good against air. I tracked Baylor and OU's QBs a few years ago, Big 12 guys who really broke our scale, and they didn't score this high. Tua completes over 75% of his passes for a raw 14.8 ypa. He's thrown only 101 passes, often leaving games very early, and has still thrown for 1495 yards through six games. He's on pace to break the 3000 yard mark with just over 200 passes thrown. He also gets a boost in the formula for not having thrown a single INT (RIP, Joe Burrow stat). He also had his own outlier this past weekend, scoring a mind-boggling 26.31 against Arkansas. Quality of defense be damned, the kid is great, there's no way around it. I didn't even bother posting Jalen Hurts' numbers, but he's not exactly bad either. The rich have gotten richer.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Jordan Ta'amu sets himself apart as a bit of a pretender, plummeting from a 9.7 overall to only a 5.46 against P5 competition. Basically, Ta'amu is a bully, beating the hell out of the weak sisters of the poor, but he can't handle it when somebody punches back. Fromm predictably drops a bit in P5, but he still nets a more-than-respectable 9.86, which is actually very good for an SEC qb as far as I've seen the past few years. Buckle up LSU defense, Tua and Fromm are two of your next three assignments to stop. Good luck.
Burrow sits with A&M's Mond in the category of guys who kinda are what they are, regardless of competition. Burrow drops a hair in P5 play, but only barely. Mond drops less than .8 of a yard....statistically significant, but small. Pretty much everybody else goes into the fairly predictable category of dropping in that ~ 1-2 yard range vs. P5, except for Kentucky's Wilson, who actually has upped his game a small amount against legit competition. Overall, these are not good numbers for the league. These QBs are almost universally struggling.
Up in Muh-ZUR-eh, Drew Lock needs help. He and his line might be awesome, but he's sporting a 52% completion rate for only 800 yards and only 3 TDs to go with it, along with 4 INTs. Missouri needs more from him, and if he is the real deal, he and the staff have to find a way to capitalize on the pieces they have and squeeze more blood from that turnip. Nick Fitzgerald is completely underwhelming as a passer, but makes a decent living on the ground. When the Cowbell offense balls out, nobody should say they got beat by a dual threat QB, because he's not. He's a running threat with little help to offer through the air. Stidham is also struggling, probably due to a revamped O-line, but his throwing numbers are marginal and he's a complete non-factor as a scrambler. Franks.....meh. His completion % is low and his ypa are bad but not awful....he's not a guy who should have much success against a legit defense. And he scored a fairly poor 5.39 against LSU, meaning Franks was not LSU's problem on Saturday. A far bigger problem was Burrow's aforementioned 2.8 showing. Other than Fromm, the rest of the SEC East QBs kinda suck, and I'm not inclined to waste much digital ink on them. The raw numbers behind the chart are exactly what you'd expect....they have crappy completion %, bad ypa, and while they're not racking up INTs they're barely throwing TDs, collectively. Ugh. The only thing specifically worth mentioning is Bentley's days at USC may be done as backup Michael Scarnecchia may no longer be the backup, passing the eye-test nicely in Bentley's absence last weekend. It's not a given that Muschamp will move on from Bentley, but given Bentley's struggles to date and the Scarnecchia's recent showing, he probably should.
Moving on to defense, this is probably a first for me. In only a 5-6 game sample (some teams have had a bye week already) the stats are not yet totally meaningful, but this is the first time I remember so many teams hovering down near the coveted 4.0 mark. Here's the adjusted defensive ypp allowed by the SEC defenses:
LSU sports a respectable 4.23 mark, while Clanga just barely edges them at 4.11, close behind Alabama at 4.05, but the bigger story is there are four other defenses that are down in the 3's. In my time looking at this stuff, I can tell you it's not often that LSU could sport a 4.23 and still only be the 7th best defense in the league. When's the last time Alabama was the 5th best defense at any point in the season? Hasn't happened in any of my looks into it. Auburn, Florida, Georgia and Kentucky all sport sub-4 defenses. The SEC: Defense Lives Here.
Florida leads the pack with a really, really good 3.26 mark. That's about the ypp allowed by UGA's defense last season, for comparison (if memory serves). Burrow's abysmal week 6 outing starts to make more sense in this context, although UF almost certainly is benefiting from a pretty lame schedule thus far. The second best defense belongs to Auburn, who scores an envious 3.71 ypp allowed. Kentucky isn't far behind at 3.91.
LSU shows up pretty good in every category here, but not the best in any category, and that's probably what lands them in the middle of the pack. I mean, 4.23 is pretty good. Strictly in run defense, TEXAS A&M is better than LSU. But they're kinda miserable against the pass and now A&M has paid Jimbo Fisher roughly a bazillion dollars to ￼thus far field the worst overall defense in the conference. In case you forgot to lolz, TAMU is a worse defensive team so far than Vandy and Tennessee. What is worth noting about A&M is they have played both Alabama and Clemson so far, both teams who can tote the rock, and A&M's run D still shows up stout. Besides Pass Defense, the other thing that's killing Aggie is they've recovered ZERO fumbles. LSU is actually 4th in run defense ypp, behind Clanga (barely), Texas A&M and Missouri, and surprisingly ahead of teams like Auburn, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. If it were total yards I'd say it could be a function of teams falling behind Alabama and Georgia quickly and somewhat abandoning the run. But this is just ypp, and so far on the ground LSU and TAMU have been better. Go figure. Florida may improve in that category by virtue of having CeCe Jefferson and David Reese back for the season.
Looking inside the numbers, one glaring stat that helps put UF on top is they have recovered an amazing 11 fumbles. If you lose the ball, that defense is getting it. Arkansas and Ole Miss are the next closest teams, who have recovered 7 a piece, for perspective. LSU's pass defense is not bad, but it's a bit pedestrian by their standards, and a bit average for the league to push them down the defensive rankings. They allow a nice completion % but they need to get the ypa down. When teams do complete a pass on LSU, the Tigers give up too much. A better pass rush probably makes this a spectacular defense on paper, but the secondary helps out by having gathered a very nice 8 INTs so far. Kentucky and Auburn do a little bit of everything well to sit behind the Gators as the #2 and #3 defenses. Alabama is still very good, but aren't doing anything as well as previous versions, but they have snagged a spectacular 10 INTs on the year, which helps them out. UGA would probably like to see their 59% completion percentage allowed drop closer to the 50% mark, but they're still plenty good enough in other areas to be the 4th best D in the conference.
So are the defenses this good or are the quarterbacks that bad? Or both. Hard to say, and these numbers will certainly shift as more games fill out the stat sheet, but for the moment, unless you're Alabama or Georgia, teams are probably in for a lot of defensive slug-fests. LSU's work is certainly cut out for them over the next 3 games against UGA, Clanga, and Bama, as the league's 4th, 6th, and 5th defenses come to town, respectively, along with two of them sporting the conference's two best quarterbacks by a mile. The good news for LSU's offense is it may be that they have already played the two toughest defenses they're going to see. I'll kinda believe it when I see it as far as Bama goes--I don't trust those guys not to go on a tear and finish with the SEC's best defense--but that's how it sits so far.