To say that 2013 was a banner year for SEC offenses would be an understatement.
Senior quarterbacks, the increased popularity in hurry-up offenses and creative offensive systems that limit the impact of defensive schemes transformed the SEC into an offensive league.
Three teams—Texas A&M, Auburn and Missouri—moved in to the SEC's all-time top 10 for total offense, with A&M (538.4 YPG) and Auburn (501.3 YPG) topping the 500-yards per game mark.
|SEC All-Time Single-Season YPG Records|
|1. Texas A&M||2012||558.5|
|2. Texas A&M||2013||538.4|
|CFBStats.com/SEC Media Guide|
Eight of the 14 SEC teams averaged more than 450 yards per game, and veteran quarterbacks were a big reason why.
Of the eight teams that averaged more than 450 yards last season, seven of them were led by veteran quarterbacks with at least one year of previous starting experience. Things have changed a bit, though. Six of those seven quarterbacks are gone, leaving the SEC's most potent offenses looking for answers under center.
|SEC's Top 8 Offenses From 2013|
|1. Texas A&M||538.4||Johnny Manziel|
|2. Auburn||501.3||Nick Marshall|
|3. Missouri||490.7||James Franklin|
|4. Georgia||484.2||Aaron Murray|
|5. Ole Miss||473.3||Bo Wallace|
|6. Alabama||454.1||AJ McCarron|
|7. LSU||453.3||Zach Mettenberger|
|8. South Carolina||452.3||Connor Shaw|
|Highlighted teams will have new QBs in 2014|
Will those programs suddenly forget how to move the football? No.
Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin has proven that he can and will adapt his offense to a quarterback's specific skills, Missouri's offense is a machine and Georgia still has plenty of pieces to be successful as long as new starter Hutson Mason doesn't make mistakes.
But they won't be as efficient either.
The 2013 season was a banner year for offense because it was a perfect storm of innovative coaches pushing the limits with veteran quarterbacks who have the ability to help push.
As a whole, the conference will take a step back in 2014. But there will be exceptions.
Auburn will only get better with time and a quarterback in Nick Marshall who will benefit immensely from an entire offseason to work in head coach Gus Malzahn's offense, Texas A&M has a boat load of weapons around either Kenny Hill or Kyle Allen at quarterback and Missouri's transition to Maty Mauk won't be too bumpy thanks to the experience he got when James Franklin went out with a shoulder injury in 2013.
But the other programs will revert to a more old-school brand of football, at least initially.
Despite hiring Lane Kiffin to coordinate Alabama's offense, head coach Nick Saban still has T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry and a stable of elite running backs for the new quarterback to hand off to. Kiffin may have struggled as a head coach, but even he knows that getting the ball into the hands of his play-making tailbacks is a good idea.
Georgia's offense is and always has been predicated on establishing the running game, and that won't change in 2014. Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall return, and even if Mason is effective at quarterback, he won't be as effective as Aaron Murray. With those running backs and what should be an improved defense under Jeremy Pruitt, he won't need to be.
LSU will have a new quarterback, new feature running back and has to replace two 1,000-yard receivers. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron was fantastic in his first season in Baton Rouge, but has a massive rebuilding job on his hands to keep the offensive momentum going in the right direction.
It will only be a temporary step back though.
The coaching talent and diversity in the SEC will continue to push the conference into a new era. Under the current rules that force a defense to worry about simply lining up properly in hurry-up situations rather than scheming against the offense, it's only a matter of time until 500 yards per game becomes what the 400-home run club is in Major League Baseball now.
That time won't be next season though.
*Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All stats courtesy of CFBStats.com.
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