I’m not willing to go this far yet, but I will say that I’m very much heartened by the improvement the Georgia defense has shown with its third-down play. I don’t think it’s a mirage resulting from playing weak offenses the last two weeks, either.
The Broncos and Gamecocks combined to convert 8 of 26 third-down opportunities, and those could be the top two offenses the Bulldogs face all season.
Not too shabby there. The Dawgs followed that up with a combined 6 for 30 performance against Coastal Carolina and Ole Miss, which leaves them ranked fifth nationally in a performance category where they stunk the joint up last season. And that improvement may be paying one unexpected dividend.
One stat Richt has tracked is time of possession, where his Bulldogs rank third in the SEC at 32:27 a game. He wasn’t expecting Georgia to fare overly well in that category because of its no-huddle offense, but the defense’s success on third down has resulted in more offensive plays and possessions.
Last year, Mississippi State converted its third-down plays against Georgia at a sickening 7-13 rate (along with a 1-1 conversion on fourth down). That was the best conversion percentage against any D-1 opponent the Bulldogs saw in 2010. Needless to say, there can’t be a repeat of that for Georgia to win tomorrow.