Numbers and statistics are unquestionably a huge part of the game. Any game, for that matter.
Some like to keep it simple and use the ol' eyeball test, while others fall on the sabermetric side of things. In the football world, that means total offense, total defense and points scored versus points per play and defensive efficiency ratings. Rational and logical arguments can be made for the legitimacy and relevance of both sides of the stats spectrum.
With that in mind, Athlon Sports brings the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from another stellar season of SEC college football:
3: SEC coaches to win the league in their first season
Gus Malzahn became the third head coach in SEC history, and the first in the championship game era, to win a conference crown in his first trip through the league, thanks to an impressive showing against Mizzou. Malzahn joined Bernie Moore, who led LSU to a 9-2 record in 1935, and John Vaught, who led Ole Miss to a 9-2 record in '47, as first-year coaches to win SEC titles. Malzahn took a winless SEC team that averaged 305.0 yards per game on offense — 118th in the nation — and turned them into SEC champions in one offseason, and now the Tigers will play for the BCS National Championship in Pasadena against Florida State.
0: Completions, passing yards for Georgia Southern in a win over Florida
No lower-division team has ever beaten Florida, and the 26-20 loss to Georgia Southern in Week 13 guaranteed Will Muschamp would suffer the school's first losing season since 1979. What's more painful, the Eagles didn't even complete a pass. Georgia Southern didn't connect on any of their three total passing attempts, but the option team was able to run the ball at will. The 429 yards allowed on the ground were the most by a Florida team since Tommie Frazier and Nebraska rolled up 524 in the national championship showdown of 1995. Florida missed a bowl game for the first time since 1990.
3-11: Aaron Murray’s record against Top 15 ranked teams
Aaron Murray was a great player who will go down in history as one of the SEC’s best. But he struggled to win big games against big-time competition, winning just three times in 14 chances against Top 15 teams. He lost to Arkansas (No. 12) and Auburn (No. 2) in 2010 as a freshman and Boise State (No. 5), South Carolina (No. 12), LSU (No. 1) and Michigan State (No. 12) as a sophomore in '11. He lost to South Carolina (No. 6) and Alabama (No. 1) a year ago in '12. And this fall, Murray lost to Clemson (No. 8) as well as Auburn (No. 7), both with varying degrees of heart break. His three wins were over Florida (No. 3) as a junior and South Carolina (No. 6) and LSU (No. 6) this fall. Murray had an extraordinary career at Georgia, starting all but his final game due to a torn ACL and becoming just the third QB in school history to beat Florida three years in a row. No one in SEC history has more completions (921), passing yards (13,166), passing touchdowns (121) and total offense (13,554) than Murray. Yet, the championship eluded the Dawgs' great signal-caller.
257 and 3,616: Jordan Matthews' SEC records for receptions and yards
Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews is the most productive wide receiver in SEC history and it’s not really close. He caught an SEC single-season record 107 passes this season for 1,334 yards. No SEC player in history has caught more passes or more yards than Matthews' 257 career receptions and 3,616 career yards. He finished with 22 career receiving touchdowns — nine behind Chris Doering’s SEC record of 31. More importantly, the list of what this Commodores team accomplished is long and distinguished. The Dores beat Florida in the Swamp for the first time since 1945, beat Florida and Georgia in the same season for the first time in program history and won eight games in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1927-28.
4: School-record consecutive bowl games for Mississippi State
In the bigger SEC picture, fans in Starkville would like to see their Bulldogs compete at a higher level. Alabama, Auburn and LSU have national titles, Texas A&M has a Heisman Trophy and Ole Miss appears poised for big things under Hugh Freeze. But Hail Staters need to be careful what they wish for. With a fourth win in the critical Egg Bowl, Dan Mullen led Mississippi State to a fourth consecutive bowl game for the first time in school history. The Bulldogs may not be competing for national titles but Mullen has done things in Starkville no other coach in school history has accomplished.
4: SEC teams to average more than 7.0 yards per play
Four also is the number of SEC teams to average more than 7.0 yards per play in 2013. Texas A&M led the league at 7.29 yards per play with LSU (7.19), Alabama (7.08) and Auburn (7.03) nipping at their heels. Only eight teams nationally accomplished the feat as only Florida State, Oregon, Baylor and Ohio State also picking up more than seven yards per play. Additionally, only 13 teams nationally averaged more than 6.7 yards per play this fall and the SEC had six of those. Georgia (6.81) and Missouri (6.74) gave the SEC six of the top 13 teams in offensive efficiency. Auburn, who was eighth nationally this fall in yards per play was 90th a year ago at 5.27 ypp.
9: SEC teams that allowed more than 400 yards of offense in conference play
Over a five-year span between 2008-12, only 10 SEC teams allowed at least 400 yards of offense in conference play for a season. In 2013, nine SEC teams accomplished this unflattering statistic and a tenth, LSU, allowed 399.4 yards per game. Alabama (306.9), Florida (308.6) and South Carolina (346.8) were the only three teams to allow fewer than 350 yards per game in SEC play. Between 2008-12, 29 SEC teams allowed less than 350 yards per game in conference. This is a function of excellent coaching and elite quarterbacks. With Aaron Murray, Johnny Manziel, James Franklin, Connor Shaw, AJ McCarron and Zach Mettenberger moving on this season, fans can expect a return to normalcy in 2014.
3: SEC receiver tandems to top 1,000 yards in the same year
Only three times in SEC history has a team had two 1,000-yard pass-catchers on the same team. LSU's Odell Beckham Jr. (1,117 yards) and Jarvis Landry (1,172 yards) became just the third set of wideouts to reach the milestone this fall. In fact, the Tigers became just the second SEC team to boast such a duo as only Florida had accomplished the feat prior to 2013. Steve Spurrier did it with Chris Doering and Ike Hilliard in 1995 and again in 2001 with Jabar Gaffney and Reche Caldwell. What's more impressive is how much of the load these two Bayou Bengals have carried this fall. These two have accounted for 132 of LSU's 198 completions, 2,289 of the 3,181 yards and 18 of the Tigers' 23 receiving touchdowns.
101: SEC championship game record for total points
The mighty SEC saw little to no defense in Atlanta on Dec. 7. Auburn (28) and Mizzou (27) set an SEC Championship Game record with 55 first-half points. The game ended with a record 101 total points scored — 26 more than the previous mark (75) set in 1996 by Florida and Alabama. Auburn also set an SEC title game record with 676 yards of offense, 544 yards rushing and 59 points. Tre Mason carried the load with an SEC title game-record 46 carries, an SEC championship-record 304 yards and, you guessed it, an SEC title game-record four touchdowns in the win. The previous record for yards was set by Auburn with 589 in 2010. Missouri entered this game ranked No. 2 in the SEC in rushing defense (119.1 ypg) but saw that mark rise to 151.8 after the carnage in the Georgia Dome. All in all, Auburn set 16 SEC title game records on Saturday. Gus Malzahn was relentless in his play calling as he rode his zone-read triple option to an SEC championship in just his first season as a head coach in the nation's toughest league.
1-6: Johnny Manziel’s record against ranked SEC teams
Assuming Manziel enters the 2014 NFL Draft, Manziel finished his career with an 18-6 overall record as a starter. Manziel was a perfect 8-0 in non-conference play and just 10-6 in SEC play. He was just 4-4 at home at Kyle Field in two seasons in the SEC, losing to Florida and LSU in 2012 and Alabama and Auburn in '13. The four home wins came against Arkansas, Missouri, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State — of which, only Vandy had a winning overall record. Most importantly, Manziel was 1-6 against SEC teams that finished the year ranked. He went 0-4 against four ranked teams this fall and was 1-2 in his Heisman campaign of 2012 with his lone win over a ranked SEC foe coming in Tuscaloosa over Alabama.
235: Total combined tackles for Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera
Georgia boasted the No. 8-rated total defense in the SEC at 381.3 yards per game and the No. 11-rated scoring defense at 29.4 points per game. This might be why it claims the SEC’s top two tacklers in 2013. While Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins get most of the acclaim, Ramik Wilson quietly led the SEC in tackles with 128 stops and 10.7 per game. Teammate Amarlo Herrera was second in the league with 107 total stops and 8.9 per game. All four linebackers could be back for Todd Grantham and what should be an improved Dawgs defense in 2014.
9: Consecutive losses by Arkansas
Bret Bielema took over in Fayetteville and likely didn’t realize exactly how dire the situation he was stepping into actually was. In Week 10, Arkansas lost six straight games for the first time since 1990 and then proceeded to finish the season on a program-record nine-game losing streak. The 0-8 SEC record was the first winless SEC record since joining the league in 1992 and the Hogs finished with nine losses for the first time in program history. Only five times have the Razorbacks lost eight or more games and two of them have come in the last two seasons.