Let’s face it: as the Chinese saying goes, we live in interesting times. The coaching upheaval engulfing the SEC right now starkly contrasts with the island of stability in Athens, Georgia, yet there’s no doubt that the status of the composition of Mark Richt’s staff will remain a hot topic of conversation for the Dawgnation during the upcoming months (for two measured examples of that, you need go no further than Dawg Sports and these posts from MaconDawg and Kyle King).
Me? I’m a blogger. I have no special contacts inside the program; I’m not even a close observer like David Hale or the other beat writers who blog. So while I can observe the symptoms pretty much like anyone else who’s passionate about the program, I don’t feel particularly qualified in prescribing a cure other than in the most banal terms. So, yeah, while I’m sure that Mark Richt would heartily agree with me that a pass rushing defensive end would be nice and that it would be terrific if Georgia cut back on the number of kickoffs that go out of bounds, in the end, I lack the insight into the inner workings of the program to say with confidence what would work. Besides, it’s not like he’s asking for my advice.
So what I think I’ll settle for over the next few months is looking at snippets of data and comments from the coaches and players to see what went right and what went wrong this season, with the hope that, kind of like a mosaic, maybe once I’ve assembled enough pieces, it’ll be possible to step back and see a bigger picture of how the program looks.
With that in mind, here’s something to mull over. I came across a system for ranking college football teams at LawPundit that is based on the concept of net average yards per play of offense over defense. It’s a little more complicated than that – he tweaks the base number with strength of schedule and won/loss records – but the gist of it is that the better the net, the more dominant the team. (You can see his Week 14 rankings here and a more detailed statistical breakdown of the top twenty teams here.)
His analysis led me back to where I go most of the time for stats, the invaluable cfbstats.com. Here are a few numbers to chew on:
- Average yards per play (offense). Georgia ranks a staggering ninth in the country, at 6.8 ypp. That’s Big XII country, folks. Indeed, Georgia is right up there with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Texas. The only SEC team with a better number is Florida.
- Total yards per game (offense). Georgia ranks 21st nationally, which isn’t bad, but isn’t close to where the top Big XII schools rank. The reason for the disparity in these first two categories is that the Dawgs are a woeful 92nd in the country in the number of plays run on offense. That adds up to a lot of yardage not being gained. Texas, for example, runs almost nine more plays a game on offense than does Georgia, so that while its average yards per play is less, its total yardage is over forty yards a game more.
- Average yards per play (defense). Georgia is a little better than average in this department (5.1 yards/play), ranking 43rd nationally. That’s tied with Mississippi State for ninth best in the SEC. Interestingly enough, that number would tie for the best in the Big XII, with Oklahoma.
- Total yards per game (defense). At 318.3 yards per game, the Dawgs rank 27th nationally. That’s seventh best in the SEC and considerably better than the Big XII’s best, Texas, which gives up almost 340 yards per game. Again, some of that is related to number of plays defended, where Georgia is 20th in the country.
So what, if anything, does that tell us?
First of all, injuries or not, there’s a lot of talent on the offensive side of the ball for Georgia. And Bobo’s done a pretty good job harnessing that talent on a per play basis. The big knock would seem to be that he didn’t squeeze as much out of the offense as he could have, but whether that’s by design or whether it’s a bug in the system, I couldn’t say.
The reason I’m willing to give some credence to the argument that it’s by design is because the Dawgs didn’t have to defend as many plays as most teams, either. Slowing the game down may have been a deliberate attempt by the coaches to protect the defense.
There are two x-factors with this analysis – turnovers and penalties. In both cases, Georgia is far worse than average. It ranks 72nd nationally in turnover margin (look carefully and you’ll see that no top 10 team is ranked lower than Georgia) and 115th in penalty yardage (Southern Cal is worse, yay!). That probably translates into more short fields for opponents with less net yardage and fewer plays run for Georgia.
Let me know in the comments what conclusions you draw from this.