Tyler does some more digging at cfbstats.com (I always love it when somebody else does the heavy lifting), and uses stats to paint a pretty accurate portrait of Georgia’s defense five games into the season.
Because when you look at the stats, there is nothing in them, besides the points per game, that make me freak out, and that isn’t terrible. We are thoroughly average.
And even the points per game are an improvement over last season.
… We are bend, but don’t break. Then we run out of field. Throw in the four rushing TDs we’ve given up, opponents are scoring touch downs on about one of every four plays from inside our red zone. This is reflected in our S&P defensive ratings being ranked 52nd.
Basically, this is VanGorder ball, without the All-American players. BVG’s defense worked, like all great defenses do, because it could consistently generate a four-man pass rush. That’s not something the current defense is capable of providing.
One last thing: we are abysmal, last in the nation, defending the pass when teams are 3rd and 4-6 yards. The line: 11-15, 9 of those for first downs, a 243.60 passer rating, and 5 of our 7 passing plays allowing 30+ yards. All other third down situations and we are average or better. Again, not sure what I can take away from that, but it is something to think about going forward when we see 3rd down and 5.
I think everyone can visualize what’s happening in those situations. The rush can’t get to the quarterback and there’s probably an ILB in pass coverage.
I don’t want to make this sound overly bleak. It’s not. In fact, you can make a good argument that the stats show Georgia is making the best it can out of its talent. Pruitt’s philosophy makes sense in context. And that context is (1) Georgia is scoring points at a high clip; (2) Georgia is being extremely careful holding on to the football; and (3) while punting average is mediocre, Georgia’s punt coverage is outstanding.
What that indicates is Mark Richt’s team is doing a fantastic job managing field position. That’s a sign of good coaching.
But it’s also a sign of how narrow the margins are for Georgia. Tennessee was close because the Dawgs didn’t have much of a field position advantage throughout the game (consider what they did when Tennessee was pushed back on its side of the field, though). Georgia enjoyed advantages in field position and turnover margin in Columbia, but inconsistent defensive play, a questionable holding call that reversed a Gurley touchdown and two missed field goals combined for a close loss.
The formula is there for winning ball. It’s just a matter of whether the Dawgs can hold it together enough when it matters.