The SEC is known for its defense. But let’s not forget about the players on the other side of the ball this year.
The SEC is home to the 2012 Heisman winner in Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, while Georgia and Alabama both averaged over 32 points a game in conference contests last year.
Considering all three teams rank among the best offenses in the nation, which team takes the title as the best in the SEC?
Is it Texas A&M with Manziel at the controls? Is it Georgia with its balanced offensive approach? Or is it Alabama?
The 2013 college football season is still over 100 days away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.
Athlon Sports’ college football top 25 countdown for 2013 is officially underway. To provide some insight into the selections and rankings for 2013, Athlon’s editors will be debating some of the hottest topics from the preseason throughout May.
Georgia ranks as Athlon's No. 4 team in the 2013 Top 25 countdown.
Will Georgia Have the SEC's Best Offense in 2013?
Jon Cooper, lead writer and editor Saturday Down South, (@JonSDS)
What constitutes the greatest offense? Is it scoring offense, total offense or yards per play? Once you decide what truly makes the best offense, you can decide whether Georgia should start as the No. 1 offense in the SEC. Texas A&M owned two of the three categories. Oh, and they’re returning some kid named Johnny Manziel.
With the Bulldogs returning 10 starters off last year’s offense that shelled out over 467 yards per game and scored nearly 39 points per game, Georgia is in a terrific spot to be crowned as the SEC’s best offense. With Aaron Murray, Todd Gurley, Malcolm Mitchell, Keith Marshall and all five returning offensive linemen, how could you bet against Georgia as the most electrifying offense in the SEC?
There’s no debating Georgia has the best offense in the SEC East, and the Bulldogs should certainly be the most balanced offense in the SEC. I’m not sold they are the ‘best’ offense, but they certainly could become just that throughout 2013.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
This question is supposed to make me say, “No way, Texas A&M has the best offense in the SEC.” I’m going to go against my first impulse and say Georgia will have the best offense in the SEC. The Bulldogs were right up there with Texas A&M last season in everything but wow factor and Heismans won. Both topped seven yards per play as the top two teams in the nation in that category. Texas A&M converted a ridiculous 54 percent of its third downs in SEC play. Georgia turned three-quarters of its red zone attempts into touchdowns against SEC defenses. But I’ll give the nod to Georgia for its balance. The Bulldogs have a top-flight quarterback and two elite running backs. I like Ben Malena, but Johnny Manziel is so overwhelming in the A&M offense. Drop the average quarterback on either team, and I’d give Georgia the edge. And in the year ahead, I’d give the nod to the Georgia offensive line over Texas A&M with Luke Joeckel off to the NFL. Like I said, the knee-jerk pick is A&M, but the safe bet is Georgia.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
This is a great question, and like many debates, beauty may lie in the eye of the beholder. If you want to run 100 plays per game and spread the field, say, like Kevin Sumlin, Hugh Freeze or Dan Mullen, then Georgia's personnel may not be the best in the SEC. However, National Championships are won — even with Cam Newton and Tim Tebow under center — with a dominate offensive line and power running game. In that mold, Georgia and Alabama are the top two offenses in the league with Texas A&M a close No. 3. No one in the nation has a more talented roster than Alabama and Georgia's starting line-up returns nearly intact while Johnny Manziel loses five offensive starters, including all-time greats Luke Joeckel and Ryan Swope. Both the Dawgs and the Tide have a deep and talented skill corps, an All-American signal caller and an extremely gifted offensive line. But while Bama's O-line has plenty of upside and potential, Georgia gets the nod as all five starters return up front. Manziel and the Aggies should lead the SEC in total offense and scoring offense once again in 2013 but that doesn't necessarily make them the best.
Certainly, defense played a huge role in both Alabama's and Georgia's success last year, but there is a reason these two met in the SEC Championship game. Being able to line-up and overpower defenses like Florida and LSU was how the Tide and Dawgs made it to Atlanta and I don't see any reason why that will change this fall. I will take a dominate, physical, balanced pro-style attack over a one-man spread offense any day of the week — even one captained by the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. Georgia may boast the most complete, most talented pro-style attack in the nation and the only thing that will stop Mark Richt's squad this year won't be a Heisman winning spread offense, it will be a Heisman winning defensive line — like the one in Columbia, S.C.
John Pennington, MrSEC.com, (@MrSEC)
On paper, there are two SEC offenses that appear ready-made to put up points with ease in 2013 -- Georgia (with most everyone back) and Texas A&M (with magician Johnny Manziel back behind center).
We'll give the nod to Georgia because they return more starters on the offensive line, always a key in the Southeastern Conference. Granted, the line struggled this spring -- only two players have been locked in as starters so far -- but the Dawgs go six or seven deep up front. If O-line coach Will Friend can find the right combination, look out. The same group of players helped UGA finish third in the SEC in rushing last season and second in passing. In other words, there's enough talent to succeed as long as all the right buttons are pushed.
At the skill positions, the Bulldogs look strong. Veteran quarterback Aaron Murray ranks among the top three quarterbacks in the SEC. Running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall return for Year Two of The "Gurshall" Show. And while both Malcolm Mitchell and Michael Bennett will have to bounce back from knee injuries -- an increase in dropped balls could be a mental side effect -- UGA still has more than enough weapons around Murray to succeed. On paper.
Barring problems with injuries and attitudes, Georgia should burn out some scoreboard bulbs this fall.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Considering the returning skill players at Georgia, Texas A&M and Alabama, there is simply no wrong way to answer this question.
The Bulldogs return eight starters on offense, including all five on the line and Malcolm Mitchell is slated to spend all season at receiver instead of sharing his practice time with the defensive backs. Quarterback Aaron Murray is in his fourth year as the starter, and the running back combination of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall could be the best in the nation.
While there’s a strong case to be made for Georgia, I can’t disagree with anyone who picks Texas A&M or Alabama. After all, the Aggies return the reigning Heisman winner in quarterback Johnny Manziel, along with one of the deepest running back corps in the nation. Texas A&M’s offense averaged 546.3 yards per game in SEC play – just over 100 more than Alabama (ranked No. 2 in the SEC last season). The Aggies held a slight edge in scoring, generating 39.1 points a game.
So what does it all mean? All three teams are very, very good on offense. But I have to give the nod to Georgia, especially with all five starters back on the offensive line and the emergence of tight end Arthur Lynch. Texas A&M and Alabama will be outstanding, but the rest of the SEC may close the gap on the Aggies’ offense with a full offseason to study Johnny Manziel. And the Crimson Tide lost three starters from one of the best offensive lines in recent memory, so there will be some transition at the beginning of the season.
In the SEC East? Yes. But in the entire SEC? As much as I like Georgia and think the Bulldogs will be one of the top teams in the country powered by its offense led by quarterback Aaron Murray, I think both Alabama and Texas A&M have more complete offenses. Georgia can match up with anyone in the country at its skill positions - quarterback, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends. The offensive line, however, is still somewhat of a work in progress.
On the other hand, in the SEC West you've got Alabama and Texas A&M, who are led by a two-time national champion and reigning Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback, respectively. Both the Crimson Tide and Aggies also have talented backfields and All-American-caliber wide receivers. The difference between the two West teams and Georgia is in the offensive line. Nick Saban has put together one of the nation's best offensive lines for several years in a row. For proof, look no further than the three NFL draft picks in April, including two first-rounders in Chance Warmack (10th overall) and D.J. Fluker (11th). Not to be outdone, Texas A&M had Luke Joeckel go second overall and his replacement, Jake Matthews, could follow suit in 2014.
Even though they aren't considered playmakers, the offensive line is critical to the unit's success, as evidenced by Alabama's recent national title run and the record-breaking numbers Texas A&M posted on offense last season, it's first in the SEC. To that end, I think Georgia lags a little behind their two peers when you look at overall offensive talent and depth. Because of Alabama's consistent recruiting success and ability to churn out NFL-ready offensive linemen, not to mention AJ McCarron, the Crimson Tide's field general who I think doesn't get enough credit, I would cast my vote for the current BMOC in the FBS when it comes to the best offense in the SEC. No (ahem) offense there Johnny Football.
Related College Football Content
Texas A&M or LSU: Which Team Finishes Higher in the SEC West?
Georgia, Florida or South Carolina: Who Will Win the SEC East in 2013?
Will Missouri Make a Bowl Game in 2013?
Ranking the SEC Running Backs for 2013
Ranking the SEC Quarterbacks for 2013
Will Tennessee Make a Bowl in 2013?
Ole Miss or Mississippi State: Who Wins More SEC Games in 2013?
College Football's Top 50 Running Backs of the BCS Era
College Football's Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era
College Football's Top 50 Wide Receivers of the BCS Era