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Shootouts not shutouts early norm in SEC

Associated Press Modified: October 3, 2012 at 4:47 pm •  Published: October 3, 2012

The defensive-minded Southeastern Conference is generating headlines more for shootouts than shutouts.

The league that has won six straight national titles largely on the backs of powerful defenses had two teams combine for 1,000 yards Saturday afternoon. Then it happened again.

Texas A&M racked up 716 yards and 58 points in a rout of Arkansas, which piled up 515 yards. Then Georgia and Tennessee got into a new-fashioned shootout, combining for 1,038 yards in the Bulldogs' 51-44 victory.

Mississippi coach Hugh Freeze can hardly believe the gaudy numbers.

This is the SEC.

"I was shocked to see that Georgia-Tennessee score," Freeze said. "I grew up watching all those games, and usually you thought 21-17 was high. But my, how things have changed."

They have, indeed. Some SEC teams, and plenty of games, are bucking the conference's defensive tradition.

Through five weeks, SEC defenses have already surrendered 50-plus points four times, one more than all of last season. It's only happened on average 3.4 times over the past 10 seasons.

The Razorbacks have been the victims twice, including a 52-0 loss to Alabama.

The average yards allowed per game in the SEC has risen from 320.8 last season to 344.9 in 2012.

Not everyone welcomes the trend.

Powerful teams like No. 1 Alabama, No. 4 LSU, No. 6 South Carolina and No. 10 Florida are still getting it done old-school with stingy defense to go with solid offenses. Those teams and high-scoring Texas A&M all have top 10 scoring defenses nationally. No. 20 Mississippi State (13th) is only a few spots behind.

Then there are teams like No. 5 Georgia and Tennessee.

The Bulldogs rank 46th in scoring defense, a huge falloff from the other Top 25 teams. Tennessee's defense is giving up nearly 30 points a game, 81st nationally. Both have prolific offenses and star quarterbacks, though.

Don't expect the Crimson Tide to follow suit.

Alabama coach Nick Saban's allegiance lies with the defense. He said there should be tweaks to just how fast uptempo offenses should be allowed to go.

After giving up two extended drives to Ole Miss's no-huddle attack, Saban said having defenses on the field for extended periods with no chance to substitute creates fatigue and potential injury issues.

"At some point in time, we should look at how fast we allow the game to go in terms of player safety," Saban said.

He references West Virginia's 70-63 win over Baylor in the Big 12, which made Georgia-Tennessee look like a defensive struggle.

"It's obviously created a tremendous advantage for the offense when teams are scoring 70 points and are averaging 49.5 points a game when people are doing those types of things," Saban said. "More and more people are going to do it. I just think there's got to be some sense of fairness in terms of asking, Is this what we want football to be?"

Missouri wide receiver T.J. Moe responded via Twitter: "Sure is."

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