For our next trick, let us turn our attention to defense. Below you will find our Slow Grind statistic.
Slow Grind is our means of measuring a team’s defensive efficiency. The object of the game is to score points. The harder you make your opponent work for his points, the more likely you’ll win the game. Makes sense, no?
In our Slow Grind analysis, we compare the number of touchdowns allowed by each team to the total number of offensive plays run against that team. Obviously, this also measure’s a team’s overall strength. A good offense limits an opponent’s time of possession. A good special teams unit hurts an opponent’s field position. Those teams that force their opponents to run the most amount of plays in order to score — causing a “slow grind” for their opponents — are ranked at the top of our standings.
Again, we used only numbers from each team’s eight SEC games.
Slow Grind Rankings
* Two defenses were far away better than the rest when it came to SEC play this year. Alabama — despite replacing at least eight starters — was still nasty. Who would expect less with Nick Saban running the show? The other great D was… Mississippi State. We’ve touted the work of Manny Diaz all year and this stat shows why. The average SEC fan would probably have a hard time naming a single player from State’s defense, yet as a unit they were excellent. Bama, folks should have seen coming… but MSU came out of nowhere. Kudos to both.
* And coming in third… South Carolina. The Cocks’ secondary has been porous at times this year, yes, but SEC foes still struggled to drive the ball consistently against Ellis Johnson’s bunch. And where’s Auburn? Waaayyyy down at 10th in the league. One defense seemed bad, the other was bad. Will that make a difference tomorrow in the Georgia Dome? Or is Cam Newton so good that he can offset even the best defenses he faces. (Ask Alabama.)
* On average, Carolina’s defense is on the field for 65 plays per contest. Auburn’s D is on the field for 64. Using their Slow Grind ratios, Carolina should allow 2.64 touchdowns tomorrow while Auburn should give up 3.60. Go back and figure that up with our Quick Strike projections and you’ve got yourself a betting guide. Probably not a good one, though.
* Florida’s and LSU’s defenses were solid, but neither lived up to expectations. Could it be that their offenses put them in bad positions way too often. Yes, it could be.
* Tennessee and Arkansas looked pretty bad on defense at times this season, but look at the plays run against them. Sure, some of that goes back to not getting off the field on third down, but some of it is also attributable to the teams’ offenses. Tennessee’s couldn’t stay on the field for much of the year. Arkansas’ would score quickly. Only Vandy’s defense played more snaps than UT’s and UA’s this season.
* Ole Miss and Kentucky had the worst squads in the SEC in 2010 in terms of defensive efficiency. Kentucky needs an infusion of talent. That’s easy to explain. But at Ole Miss, the Rebels were expected to be solid on the defensive side of the ball. And coordinator Tyrone Nix was a much sought-after guy last offseason. He didn’t forget how to coach overnight. Mississippi’s defensive woes were a head-scratcher. And a killer.