As college football offenses speed up to accrue as many plays as possible per game, the debate about tempo has gained prominence over the past year with Alabama coach Nick Saban even questioning player safety as teams are hustling to run another play as quickly as possible.
Now, Oklahoma State offensive lineman Parker Graham has jumped into the schism between fast and slow, saying that SEC defenses aren't conditioned enough to handle uptempo playcalling like the Cowboys employ.
Oklahoma State plays Mississippi State in the season opener.
"You know, I just think that the SEC is blown a little bit out of proportion," Graham said. "There's a lot of great players down there and it's a heavily recruited area, but at the same time we play really fast offense here and sometimes those SEC defenses lose their breath against it. They have big guys but they aren't very well conditioned. We're gonna play our best ball and see what happens."
Graham's right about his own offense. Per College Football Study Hall, the Cowboys ran the eighth-most plays per minute last season at 2.85. However, he's taking the SEC stereotype that has emerged from comments from Saban and new Arkansas coach Bret Bielema a little too far.
Of the top 60 teams in offensive tempo last season, five were from the Big 12, including Baylor in fifth. However, that group included six teams from the SEC, with Georgia just outside in 61st. And at the bottom of the list, each conference had two outside the top 100. (Alabama was 117th out of 120, so Saban gets credit for practicing what he preaches.)
Plus, new Auburn coach Gus Malzahn has promised to go as fast as possible. "SEC speed" doesn't just refer to 40 yard dashes any longer.
The backlash to the praise heaped upon the conference with the last seven national titles is understandable, and it's almost as common as that praise itself. But it's a fallacy for Graham, or anyone else, to think that the SEC is still full of plodding offenses that give defenses ample time to make substitutions and catch their breath. We will see what happens August 31, but OSU's playcalling speed is just one of several fast offenses Mississippi State has been preparing for.
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