Here are Athlon Sports' favorite, most important and most interesting SEC statistics you need to know about in 2014:
39-3: Nick Saban at home since 2008
Since his first year in Tuscaloosa, Nick Saban is 39-3 at home in Bryant-Denny Stadium. During that stretch, Alabama has never lost more than once at home during a season, posted three perfect records and is currently on a 10-game home winning streak. That said, Alabama was beaten at home by Texas A&M (2012), LSU (2011) and Auburn (2010) in marquee national showdowns. Saban and the Crimson Tide will host Auburn, Texas A&M, Florida and Mississippi State in 2014. For what it’s worth, Saban has an SEC-best nine-game winning streak in crossover play as well.
69.7: Alabama’s opposing completion percentage in losses
Alabama under Saban is 72-9 overall in the last six seasons, finishing ranked in the top 10 in each season. The common thread, however, among those nine losses has been the Tide’s inability to stop the pass. In nine losses over the last six years, Alabama allowed 69.7 percent passing with 12.2 yards per completion. In 72 wins, Alabama allowed just 49.8 percent passing. In the last three losses, the opposing QB has been incredibly effective. Trevor Knight completed 72.7 percent of his passes in the Sugar Bowl, Nick Marshall was good on 68.8 percent of his throws in the Iron Bowl and Johnny Manziel chucked it around at a 77.4 percent clip in the historic upset in 2012. Alabama returns one starter in the secondary this fall.
85.3%: South Carolina’s returning letterman
The Gamecocks suffered some marquee departures on both offense (Connor Shaw) and defense (Jadeveon Clowney) but, by one metric, Steve Spurrier’s bunch is the most experienced team in the nation. South Carolina lost just 10 out of 68 players who earned a letter last year, giving Spurrier 85.3 percent of his roster back intact. Are there holes to plug along the defensive line or at cornerback? Of course, but the Cocks return their entire offensive line, a star tailback and a deep linebacking corps. By comparison, Georgia ranks as the 73rd most experienced team in the nation (68.9 percent returning) while Florida is 57th (70.0) and Missouri is 111th (61.9).
466.6: Yards per game allowed in SEC play by Auburn
Folks down on The Plains don’t like the word luck when it comes to their improbable run to the SEC title last year. But the ball definitely bounced the Tigers' way last fall as Auburn went 6-1 in games decided by one score or less — with the lone defeat coming in the national title game. While Gus Malzahn’s offense was an utter juggernaut a year ago (and could actually be better this fall), this defense, statistically, had no business playing in the BCS national title game. The Tigers allowed 466.6 yards per game in SEC play in 2013, just ahead of winless Arkansas (475.3) and historically bad Texas A&M (499.1). This team allowed 32.4 points per game against Big 5 teams with a winning record, including 35.5 points per game in its final four contests. By comparison, only 10 times in the previous five seasons did an SEC team allow more than 400 yards per game in league play. One really good sign for Auburn? The Tigers led the SEC in third-down defense a year ago (33.0 percent).
27: Total TDs scored by Florida in 2013
Florida was 113th in scoring offense last year at just 18.8 points per game. The Gators managed an SEC-worst 27 total touchdowns scored. Among all Big 5 schools, only Kansas (22) and Purdue (23) reached the end zone fewer times than the traditional SEC East powerhouse. Will Muschamp’s offense was also 113th nationally in total touchdowns scored and both Navy’s Keenan Reynolds and Colorado State’s Kapri Bibbs scored more touchdowns individually (31) than the entire Florida roster. Additionally, the Gators' managed just 3.5 points per trip inside the 40-yard line, ranking 112th nationally. Muschamp better hope Kurt Roper is the answer on offense.
4.6: Losses per year for Georgia over the last five years
Despite two SEC East championships in the last three years, Mark Richt is still losing nearly five games per season in Athens. Three times in the last five years (2009, ’10, ’13) the Dawgs lost at least five times for an average of 4.6 losses per year over the last half-decade. Georgia is once again poised to make a run at Atlanta this fall but it’s hard to pick Richt to accomplish something he hasn’t done since 2002 — which is lose just once in a season. In fact, since the 13-1 SEC title run of 2002, Georgia has lost an average of 3.6 games per season. No one questions his resume — eight double-digit win seasons, only one losing campaign — but the Bulldogs have only finished the season ranked twice in five years. The fans in Athens haven’t had many lows but also haven’t had an SEC title since 2005.
22,681: Maty Mauk's high school record for career national total offense
Nick Marshall is, rightly so, the SEC’s preseason first-team quarterback. But Missouri’s new official starter could be the best passer in the league by season’s end. Mauk enters the starting lineup with as impressive a prep resume as there has ever been. He owns the national high school records for career total offense (22,681), passing yards (18,932), touchdown passes (219) and completions (1,353). Missouri was 7-1 in games in which Mauk attempted a pass last year and his brief taste of SEC action should be enough to motivate the very confident young gunslinger. The loss of some talented wide receivers is a concern but the offensive line and scheme stability are among the league’s best. Fans shouldn’t be surprised if Mauk is neck-and-neck with Marshall for the SEC’s total offense lead at season’s end.
3,701: Bo Wallace's total offense yardage in 2013
Johnny Manziel, AJ McCarron, Aaron Murray, Connor Shaw, James Franklin and Zach Mettenberger have all departed the SEC leaving a massive void under center in the nation’s top league. Marshall is the first-team option but it’s actually Ole Miss’ Wallace who is the league’s returning leader in total offense. His 3,701 yards of total offense were No. 2 last year to only Manziel and were well ahead of third place (Murray: 3,261). His 284.7 yards per game were No. 3 in the league and Wallace should be poised for his best season to date in Oxford now that he is fully healthy.
33.3: Average starting position for Vanderbilt
The Commodores average starting field position was the 33.3-yard line — good for seventh nationally and tops in the SEC. The Dores' defense was excellent at getting third-down stops and creating turnovers, giving the offense the best starting position of any team in the SEC. However, Vanderbilt’s offense didn’t capitalize on its good fortune. The offense averaged just 5.4 yards per play, ranking 80th in the nation in offensive efficiency. Derek Mason’s defense should be equally as effective and opportunistic as the previous regime, but he and coordinator Karl Dorrell will need to improve their offense’s efficiency if Vandy wants to reach a fourth straight bowl game.
15.8%: LSU's returning receiving yards
As a team, LSU caught 205 passes for 3,263 yards and 23 touchdowns last fall. Of those numbers, only 35 receptions (17.1%) and 515 yards (15.8%) return to the team. No returning player caught more than seven passes or posted more than 145 yards receiving last season. Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. combined for 136 receptions, 2,345 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2013, becoming just the third duo in SEC history to top 1,000 yards in the same season (Florida, 1995 and 2001). Both left early for the NFL along with the team’s third-leading receiver, tailback Jeremy Hill (18 receptions). These departures leave sophomore wide receiver Travin Dural (7 rec., 145 yds) and senior fullback Connor Neighbors (7 rec., 92 yds) as the team’s leading returning receivers. Needless to say, this isn’t a good year for Les Miles to be breaking in a true freshman quarterback.
1977: Last time Kentucky had a winning SEC record
Mark Stoops has the Kentucky program headed in the right direction, both on and off the field. But he is battling history in the worst way, as Kentucky hasn’t posted a winning SEC record in nearly 30 years. Four times (1993, 1998-99, 2006) the Wildcats finished 4-4 and twice (1979, ’84) they went 3-3, but Big Blue Nation hasn’t had a winning SEC season since the perfect 1977 campaign (10-1, 6-0). Despite the obvious momentum in Lexington, odds are this streak will continue in 2014.