So I picked up my copy of Steele’s 2010 Preview yesterday. As per my usual routine, I wade through it looking for some weird insights about Georgia and as usual, Phil doesn’t let me down.
First of all, you need to know that he is incredibly bullish on Georgia’s offense this season. He projects the Dawgs to have the eighth-most prolific scoring offense in D-1, leading the SEC with 37.4 ppg (which is good, because he also sees the defense yielding a still-way-too-much 22.4 ppg). So where is this coming from, you may ask?
To get an idea, take a look at this chart I put together of certain stats Steele compiled from the results of all 2009 in-conference games.
Team Off. YPP Rank Def. YPP Rank TO Marg. ST TDs Alabama 14.1 6 25.5 1 9 0 Arkansas 13.1 2 14.4 7 12 0 Auburn 15.1 8 12.4 11 1 1 Florida 13.6 5 19.6 2 6 1 Georgia 12.3 1 12 12 -12 2 Kentucky 13.5 4 14.2 8 0 0 LSU 13.3 3 17.5 3 4 2 Ole Miss 17.2 10 14.5 6 -13 1 MSU 15.2 9 12.4 11 -6 1 S. Carolina 19.3 11 13.5 10 -6 0 Tennessee 14.6 7 15.4 5 6 0 Vanderbilt 26.4 12 16.2 4 1 1
Steele makes a very big deal out of yards per point (YPP). You can read a breakdown of it here. Essentially, it’s a measure of offensive and defensive efficiency – the lower a team’s offensive YPP is, the more efficient it is at scoring and the higher a team’s defensive YPP is, the better it is at making its opponents less efficient on offense. Last year the average YPP for a D-1 team was 15.65 and the median was 14.38.
So, yeah, what you’re seeing in that chart is that Georgia was by far the most efficient scorer in SEC games last season, despite (1) having a QB that hemorrhaged interceptions; (2) didn’t settle on its best running backs rotation until mid-season; (3) shuffled offensive linemen for much of the year; and (4) lost its most dynamic playmaker for the last few games.
Like it or not, these pesky stats keep suggesting that Mike Bobo can coach a little.
Now there are a few things to point out here. As you can see from the last column in the chart, I also added special teams scores (via cfbstats.com), since those are counted in the overall scoring numbers and don’t involve offensive plays. Georgia did lead in SEC games with two of those, but six other schools scored touchdowns on special teams, so I don’t believe those had a dramatic impact on the YPP rankings. I didn’t count defensive scores because Steele doesn’t track those, but I think it’s safe to say that based on turnover margin Georgia wouldn’t be getting any breaks there either.
But it’s turnover margin that really makes Georgia’s 2009 offensive YPP so remarkable. Ordinarily teams with a low offensive YPP raise a red flag for Steele. As he says on page 299 of the Preview, “(t)eams that had an extremely low ypp the previous year usually have a weaker record the next season.” Since 1990, teams with a YPP less than 13.56 have a 67.2% chance of compiling a weaker or same record in the next year. But then he goes on to note that the probabilities aren’t as dominant as they are for teams with a high offensive ypp to improve “… because there are some teams like USC that benefit from turnovers on a yearly basis, keeping their ypp low.”
Good turnover margin = lower offensive YPP. Bad turnover margin = higher offensive YPP. Georgia was 11th in TO margin in SEC games last year, yet still led the conference in scoring efficiency. What does that suggest if Richt and Bobo manage to find a way to stop the bleeding? Steele seems to be pointing at a boatload of scoring for the men in red and black; we’ll soon see if he’s on to something here.