July 5, 2018 9:19:42 AM
Every day from 99 days out (May 25) until kickoff, I'll put up a post telling you how many days until kickoff and breaking down something about the upcoming season related to that number.
Today, since we are 58 days away from kickoff, we take a look at: Penn State's two years under Moorhead combined for 58 passes of 30 yards or more. Let's compare that to MSU's history, some of the better passing attacks in America and how that ability plays in the SEC.
The only SEC teams that can compete with that number are Missouri (57), Texas A&M (57) and Ole Miss (55). Clearly, explosive passing of this nature is kind of rare in the SEC, and the culprit is up for debate: maybe it's the less-than-elite quarterback play from top to bottom, as has been a narrative around the SEC in recent years, or maybe it's the excellent pass rushers and defensive backs in the conference that make it a more defensive league than most.
When you expand this to a national scope, the first thing you have to do is throw out the Big 12 pretty much entirely. We already outlined how impressive it is to have 58 such passes over two seasons, but in the Big 12 environment, Oklahoma State had 45 just last year; Oklahoma and West Virginia weren't far behind with 43 and 38, respectively. When you filter them out and get into some normal football teams, let's take Memphis for instance, they had 59 over the last two years and were clearly one of the nation's best: 25 such passes in 2016 ranked tied for 26th in the nation and 34 of them ranked tied for fifth last year. That tells me Moorhead's offenses were among the best in this regard outside of the Big 12.
Now, on how that ability translates to the SEC? It's nice to have it, but you clearly need more than that. Ole Miss, Missouri and Texas A&M were top three in the conference in passes of 30 yards or more last year and none of them finished with more than seven wins; of the five SEC teams that finished 2016 ranked in the top 25, only one of them (Alabama) was top five in the SEC in this category. Explosive plays through the air are nice, but you clearly need more to get to the heights that Joe Moorhead has set for himself.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson