The AJ-C surveys the stats for Georgia and Georgia Tech and concludes that the “numbers suggest close game”. Eh, maybe.
The paper is hanging a lot on the fact that Tech sits at a lofty 16th nationally in total defense – hey, Ted Roof’s on the Broyles watch list! – but that ranking is a trifle misleading in that the Jackets have faced not one, but two 1-AA offenses this season. Now that’s not totally their fault, as they had to deal with a last-minute scheduling hole created by conference expansion, but it’s still the hand they’ve played this season.
So guess what happens when you look at the total defense rankings against only D-1 opponents? Georgia Tech drops to a still solid, but less impressive 29th.
But even that doesn’t tell the real story. The real story is that Tech’s defense has been on the field for fewer plays than all but one team in the country. That’s because Georgia Tech’s offense does a very good job keeping the defense on the sidelines. This brings me to something that drives me crazy, people who argue that time of possession is a meaningless stat. It’s not meaningless if dominating it is part of a team’s philosophy, which is clearly the case with the Jackets.
And it’s a big deal when you look at how defenses rank in the context of yards per play. Georgia Tech is decidedly mediocre by the standards of that metric, at 5.81, which ranks 77th nationally. How do I know that’s mediocre? Because Georgia is 66th, at 5.55 ypp.
The offensive story is a little more lopsided, perhaps surprisingly. Despite all the injuries which have plagued them, the Dawgs still rank 14th nationally in total offense against D-1 teams; generating about seventy yards less per game, Georgia Tech ranks 56th. It’s not explained by the number of plays each offense has run – Georgia is 68th and Tech is 105th, but GT has played one less game against FBS teams than Georgia, so when you average it out, the Jackets have run about one play per game more than Georgia. It’s chalked up to offensive yards per play, as the 10th-ranked Dawgs average an entire yard per play more than Georgia Tech.
All of which suggests rather loudly to me that the biggest key to Saturday’s game is Georgia Tech keeping Georgia’s offense off the field as much as possible.