This isn’t your grandfather’s SEC.
For a conference traditionally known for its hard-nosed defense, the 2013 SEC title game featured absolutely none of it. Instead, both teams lit up the scoreboard at will on Saturday, with Auburn eventually topping Missouri, 59-42.
The 101 combined points are an SEC title-game record.
In fact, before Saturday, only three teams had scored more than 40 points in the game since the conference’s first title tilt back in 1992. Furthermore, only once have both participants combined for more than 70 points.
As CBS Sports' Tony Barnhart noted, this is something the SEC had yet to see:
On Saturday, Auburn racked up 677 yards of total offense—including 545 on the ground—while conceding 534 yards on defense.
It all adds up to make the Tigers one of the most unlikeliest SEC champions in quite some time:
|SEC Champions Since 2002|
|Year||SEC Champ||Scoring Defense (PPG)||Total Defense (YPG)|
As you can see, Auburn is no stranger to breaking the mold in the SEC.
This season, the rest of the conference has followed suit.
Entering Week 15, eight of the SEC’s 14 teams ranked inside the top 40 in total offense. Of that group, four ranked inside the top 20—Texas A&M (4), Auburn (15), Georgia (16) and Missouri (17).
In comparison, the conference finished with only five teams ranked inside the top 40 and two inside the top 20 in 2012. It was even worse in 2011, with just three and zero, respectively.
Conversely, the defense has been on the decline.
This year, six of the SEC’s 14 teams rank inside the top 40 in total defense. Four of those are in the top 20, while only two are situated in the top 10.
Go back to 2011, and eight of the SEC’s 12 teams—Missouri and Texas A&M were in the Big 12 at the time—ranked inside the top 40. Six of those teams finished in the top 20 and were among the top 10—that includes four inside the top five.
That’s not just a coincidence. It’s a telling sign that the SEC has deserted its “defense wins championships” attitude and jumped on the offensive bandwagon.
How else can you explain Auburn’s improbable 34-28 victory over Alabama on Nov. 30?
Entering that game, the Tide hadn’t allowed a single player to rush for more than 80 yards since Week 1. The Tigers had two—running back Tre Mason (164 yards) and quarterback Nick Marshall (97 yards).
From the opening weekend, the SEC has produced high-octane showdowns.
This season, the conference has seen 13 games that featured both teams putting up more than 30 points each. That happened just six times in 2012 and five in 2011.
Suddenly, a conference that was largely considered “boring” in years past is now one of the most exciting in the country.
But most of all, it's helped bolster the campaign for Auburn's inclusion in the BCS title game.
"We're the SEC champ," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said via Sporting News' Matt Hayes. "I believe we won it the last seven years. We play the toughest schedule of any of the teams there, and we're playing our best football. A lot of teams aren't getting better each week. This team is."
A couple years ago, a team built like this would be lucky enough to finish above .500, let alone win the SEC title.
Who could have seen this one coming?
All stats and rankings used in this article are courtesy of NCAA.com.
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