When the dust settles on this very disappointing season and we’ve all had some time to absorb and reflect on things, I believe the key factor we’ll wind up pointing to is turnover margin.
As David Hale demonstrated in this excellent post, Georgia’s TO margin in 2009 is bad. Epicly bad, as he wrote. As you can see from his charts, it’s almost impossible for a program to wind up with a winning record when its propensity for giving up the ball is in the territory Georgia occupies this year. That 7-5 record seems even more remarkable when you consider the quality of Georgia’s 2009 strength of schedule.
And here’s some more food for thought to chew on over this winter – a statistical breakdown of the SEC’s top nine starting quarterbacks (based on yardage) in conference games over at MrSEC.com. Take a look at how Joe Cox shapes up in that group:
QUARTERBACKS VS SEC OPPONENTS ONLY
Quarterback School C-A-I Yards TD Pct. YPPA R. Mallett Ark 139-272-5 2189 16 51.1 8.04 S. Garcia SC 167-305-7 2105 11 54.7 6.90 J. Cox Ga 130-215-11 1806 17 60.4 8.40 J. Crompton Tenn 137-243-6 1686 14 56.4 6.93 J. Snead Miss 119-227-15 1605 10 52.4 7.07 G. McElroy Ala 128-216-3 1484 11 59.2 6.87 J. Jefferson LSU 131-211-4 1464 9 62.1 6.93 T. Tebow Fla 103-159-4 1305 7 64.7 8.25 C. Todd Aub 109-196-5 1292 6 55.6 6.59
As Pennington notes:
* If you take away his interceptions — and you can’t — Georgia’s Cox had one of the best seasons in the SEC. His YPPA was the best in the league (aided by AJ Green) and his completion percentage was very good. Ironically, it seems that when Cox would miss, he would miss right into the arms of an opposing defensive back. But his season from a purely statistical standpoint was actually a pretty good one.
If by “pretty good” he means stellar as to completion percentage (3rd), passing yardage (3rd), touchdowns (1st) and yards per attempt (1st) and abysmal with regard to interceptions (8th), he’s right.
Again, at the time I read this quote from Mark Richt,
“I think that as I look back I’ve never had a season where the turnover ration was just so poor,” Richt said. “I think if you just take that one thing and make it just break even, we’d probably win two or three more games without changing one thing. But you can’t do that, and there’s definitely some things we need to correct…”
I took it as little more than wistful excuse making, but the more you look at the team’s statistics, the more credible that observation is. If nothing else, it ought to be a top priority for the next defensive coordinator in Athens. As well as for the next starting quarterback.
Next year’s mantra: regression to the mean, baby! It may not be as catchy as “Finish the Drill”, but it’s got potential.