ATHENS — Kirby Smart said he doesn’t have the answer for why scoring is up in the SEC, and he’s reluctant to share his opinion.
Smart said last week that football can get “sloppy” when teams use tempo, but on the most recent SEC Coaches Teleconference he reeled in his comments.
“I have my opinions, I try to keep them to myself,” Smart said. “They are more reflective of how I feel about our team and our program and not the entire SEC.”
Alabama put up 41 points and 564 total yards on the Bulldogs’ previously No. 1 ranked defense, including Mac Jones’ 24-of-32 passing performance for 417 yards.
By contrast, 2019 SEC and College Football Playoff national champion LSU had 481 yards of total offense and Joe Burrow was 28-of-38 passing for 349 yards in the Tigers’ 37-10 victory.
Indeed, even Oklahoma’s souped-up 2017 offensive with Baker Mayfield didn’t equal the Tide’s output in the CFP Rose Bowl overtime affair. Mayfield was 23-of-35 passing for 285 yards for those Sooners, who finished with 531 total yards in the double-overtime postseason classic.
The 45-14 loss to Ole Miss in 2016 had previously represented the most porous regular-season defensive performance, the Rebels totaling 510 yards with Chad Kelly 18-of-24 passing for 282 yards and rushing for 53 yards on 4 carries.
One would need to go back to 2014 to find the last time a Smart-coached defense gave up more yardage, and that came in a 55-44 Alabama win over Auburn. Coach Gus Malzahn and the Tigers totaled 630 yards in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
To find the last Georgia defense that gave up that many yards one needs to go back one season earlier, when then-first-year Auburn coach Malzahn had an offense put 566 yards on a Mark Richt-coached Bulldogs team in a 43-38 Tigers’ win at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Teams are scoring in the 40s with regularity this season, it seems, but Smart doesn’t want to take any credit away from offensive coaches or players.
“I don’t think using no spring and less fall as an excuse is really fair, because the offenses didn’t have that time either,” Smart said. “People would argue that offenses can go out and on air and run their plays, and defense you need someone to react to, you need someone to tackle to get better.
“I really just don’t think the defenses in the SEC are as good as they were, in terms of the personnel of people playing on them. You look at them and there were some really good defenses, I thought, that lost some good players and are trying to replace those guys.”
That’s not necessarily the case for Georgia, which returned 8 of 11 starters and 80 percent of the production from a unit that led the nation in scoring defense and rushing defense last season, and ranked No. 3 in total defense and No. 8 in pass efficiency defense.
The 2020 Bulldogs have some work to do to match last year’s unit now, as they’ve fallen in the national rankings after the blowout loss to the Tide.
Georgia in the national defensive rankings, 2020:
2nd Rushing defense (65.5)
14th Total defense (381.5)
14th Scoring defense (19.5)
26th Pass efficiency defense (124.4).
“When we execute pretty well, we do pretty well,” Smart said, pinning the Alabama loss on level of play.
“It doesn’t cause alarm for me because I know that we got good players, kids that care. It bothers them. We have to do a really good job of helping them in other ways”.
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