JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Nebraska won't see him on Wednesday, but Georgia senior Aaron Murray finished his career with more passing yards than any quarterback in Southeastern Conference history.
NU will see tailback Todd Gurley, who last season joined Herschel Walker as the only true freshmen in Georgia history to run for 1,000 yards.
It also will take on a Bulldog offense that ranks No. 16 in passing offense, No. 17 in total offense and No. 18 in scoring among Football Bowl Subdivision teams. And yet four other SEC teams still scored more than Georgia this season.
That's the SEC of late. An SEC that has changed, at least statistically, since Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini was the defensive coordinator at Louisiana State from 2005 through 2007.
“There definitely was a time there where I never would have thought that,” said Georgia assistant coach Will Friend, a Bulldogs graduate assistant a decade ago and Alabama offensive lineman in the 1990s.
“There's maybe more scoring a little bit everywhere now. I think defenses have to play the whole field a little more than maybe they used to. And this year our league had a lot of good quarterbacks.”
Back in 2006, the SEC had three teams that averaged 28 or more points a game (four in 2005, six in 2007). There were nine of them in 2013 heading into bowl games, and six of those were at 37-plus points a game.
Pelini on Sunday said he isn't necessarily surprised by it as Nebraska prepares for its Gator Bowl matchup with Georgia, which heads into New Year's Day averaging 38.2 points, 489.8 total yards and 313.8 passing yards per game.
“There were some games even when I was there that got to be high scoring,” said Pelini, who left LSU after the 2007 season to become head coach at NU. “There were athletes. Every week's a little bit different. But just look across the country and the way the style of the game's gone, the way the rules play into things a little bit, and there's more points being scored.”
Nebraska is preparing for an SEC opponent in its bowl game for the third consecutive year. Murray lit up the Huskers for 427 passing yards and five touchdowns as Georgia scored 45 points a year ago in the Capital One Bowl, and South Carolina put up 30 on NU in the same game the year before.
The SEC no doubt added scoring punch in 2012 when it added Texas A&M and Missouri from the offensive-minded Big 12. The Aggies currently rank No. 5 nationally in scoring, with the Tigers at No. 15.
Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo then points out several other potential factors for what has been happening on scoreboards around the league:
Ľ In addition to Murray (out with a knee injury), the list of senior quarterbacks across the SEC included AJ McCarron at Alabama, Zach Mettenberger at LSU, James Franklin at Missouri and Connor Shaw at South Carolina. Among the underclassmen was 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M.
Ľ More and more teams are going to no-huddle or up-tempo offenses and simply generating more snaps, “so you're going to get more yards and more opportunities to score, which makes it tough on the defense.”
Ľ The SEC teams lost a total of 35 defensive players to the NFL draft last April, including seven from Georgia. “So,” Bobo said, “a lot of young players are having to play defensively, and going against those senior quarterbacks and more plays.”
Bobo agreed with Friend that he probably wouldn't have seen a season coming like 2013, in which nine teams are averaging more than 425 total yards a game and eight are allowing 375 yards or more. It was all punctuated by Auburn and Missouri combining for 1,211 yards in the SEC championship game, which Auburn won 59-42.
As recently as 2011, there were just two SEC offenses putting up 425 total yards a game (Arkansas, Alabama).
“I do still believe that this league is pretty good defensively,” said Bobo, a former Georgia quarterback who has been on the Bulldogs' staff since 2001 and offensive coordinator since '07. “(But) we are going to score a few more points because of everybody's offense, and I just think there's a lot of youth defensively.
“I think it's going to come full circle, and I think next year it could change.”
Pelini said there hasn't been any sudden adjustment in preparing for SEC offenses. Every team is going to change some, depending on coaching staff and philosophy.
“But there's always going to be some similarities and the things that you see with SEC football,” Pelini said. “I've always said that SEC football teams are usually good up front, on both sides of the football. Everyone wants to talk about the speed — and obviously they've got good athletes — but there's athleticism up front.
“At the end of the day, you better be good up front if you want to win championships.”
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