OK, Dawg fans, if you want something to hang onto for Saturday’s game, here you go: if the game comes down to special teams, the statistics say Georgia more than holds its own. You may be skeptical of that when directional kickoffs and Logan Gray come to mind, but the stats don’t lie.
Florida has only punted 18 times this season. You can see the breakdown of what happened with each and every one of those here. The remarkable numbers are two returns, zero return yardage.
But that’s not the entire story. As we’re aware, Georgia leads the country in punting average. Florida ranks 71st, averaging almost 10 yards less per punt than the Dawgs. However, that advantage is significantly reduced when you factor in return yards, as Georgia yields 9.4 ypg.
That’s still not the whole deal. Look at punt return yardage and you’ll see that even with Logan Gray and Brandon James in the mix, Georgia’s been the better team. The Dawgs rank 34th nationally, at 11.86 ypg, while Florida (surprisingly) is 103rd, at barely over five yards per return.
Add it all up and it slightly favors Georgia. Were I Mark Richt, I’d try to run the numbers even more to my advantage by letting Prince Miller return every punt Saturday… but I’m not Mark Richt.
Kickoff yardage is fairly even, as Florida’s average is less than 1.5 yards per kick better than Georgia’s. Both teams have seen three kicks go out of bounds. However, the one stat that jumps out at you is that Georgia has nine touchbacks compared to Florida’s two. With Florida holding the edge in average yardage, that’s a testament to the awesomeness that is directional kicking.
Florida has an edge of about five yards on average in kickoff returns, which is a bit of a surprise considering how dynamic Boykin’s been this season. It’s not that Georgia’s bad here; it’s just that Florida is very good (8th nationally).
It’s a similar story in opponent return yardage. Florida’s kickoff team allows about five yards less per kick than does Georgia’s. The relative difference here is that Georgia is terrible in this statistical category, ranking a lowly 107th nationally.
If I’m Mark Richt and I want to better the odds, I quietly pull Jon Fabris aside before the game and suggest that he keep the directional stuff under wraps for the day… but, then again, I’m not Mark Richt.
This one’s no contest. Blair Walsh has Georgia ranked 10th nationally in field goal percentage (he’s only missed once), while Florida ranks 48th (13 of 17). Walsh is also a perfect 20 of 20 on PATs, while Florida is 28 of 30 in that department.
Caleb Sturgis has a 51-yard field goal to his credit, as well as a game winning kick this season. He’s good; it’s just that Walsh is better.
Given Walsh’s struggles in the first half of last year’s game, it would be an opportunity for redemption if Saturday’s game came down to a battle of the place kickers.