Math? Nobody said there’d be math!

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.



Filed under Georgia Football, Georgia Tech Football, Stats Geek!

20 responses to “Math? Nobody said there’d be math!

  1. Bulldawg165

    TOP is overrated IMO because it’s more of a correlation with success as opposed to a causation. If a team can sustain drives then they will hold the ball longer. Further, if the defense comes up with stops then it keeps the other team from holding onto the ball longer. TOP is just a byproduct of a successful O and D.


    • Oregon is 121st in TOP. TAMU is 118th.

      TOP matters if it matters to the way a team runs its offense.


      • Cosmic Dawg

        Can you expand on this? Because I would think scoring efficiency is what matters, and all teams should run their offense to be efficient. If you have a lot of deep ball threats, it may be efficient to run two play drives. If you’re Tech, maybe it’s good to run the triple option, but aren’t there more useful metrics to gauge how well an offense is working, even one playing “small ball”?

        I tend to agree with Bulldawg – if the way a team chooses to run its offense means it must execute 15 four-yard plays to score, then its offense may use up a lot of time, but TOP is still only an effect of efficiency in that kind of offense, it’s not a goal by itself…

        Same holds true for me about “number of plays run” – another effect, not a cause, of a good offense.

        TOP only seems useful to me if it’s a goal to assist a defense that is not very deep or is easily gassed…or to attack a similar defense of your opponent.


        • Bulldawg165

          Yep. It doesn’t matter if it takes you 30 seconds or ten minutes to score, the other team’s offense still gets the ball back with a chance to tie it up. A clock eating drive really only helps at the end of the halves.


        • Maybe I’m missing something, but football has a time limit. There are only so many plays that can be run in a game. To the extent that one team can dominate TOP, it means that the opponent gets less opportunities on offense. That’s not to say that’s a burden that can’t be overcome, but it forces an opponent’s offense to be more and more efficient to stay in the game.


          • Cosmic Dawg

            So I start with this premise:

            You want to give your offense the best chance to score every drive, which means run the offense with only a single goal in mind – score points. To twist the famous Erk phrase, if you score every time, you won’t lose.

            For some offenses, this will mean a longer TOP, but for some (like A&M and Oregon), it might not. But I think scoring efficiency is the key metric, here…and you may arrive at that through YPP or some other system, but every play has to promote scoring efficiency as its only goal.

            If you change your offense to accommodate any additional goal other than scoring points, you will almost by definition be less efficient at scoring points, and you may be a good deal less efficient. Since the margins of many games are so slender, a tiny decrease in offensive efficiency in pursuit of some other goal has a good chance of costing you a tight game or two.

            But I think this is interesting – let’s say you’re just a hair better at scoring on the bomb than in a grind-it-out type run game. If your defense is out of shape or if you don’t have a deep bench, you may decide to run the ball anyway, to rest your defense up. But only if this results in an “efficiency subtraction” for your opponent greater than what you lost on offense.

            But the phrase “keep their offense off the field” does not make sense to me, as Bulldawg points out you have to give them the ball back whether you score or not, so you’d better score as often (efficiently) as possible, whether it takes you ten seconds or ten minutes. That is different than saying “keep our DEFENSE off the field”, something I understand a little better.

            I think the obvious example of ignoring the importance of scoring efficiency is when (not this year) we’ve shut down whatever is working on offense in the 2nd half when we’ve had the lead against teams who we can pass against. We’re hoping to grind clock but our efficiency drops so we punt, losing the points (and probably) TOP.

            I’m sorry to flog the horse…luckily it’s an older post and I figure nobody but you and me will ever be bored by it… 🙂


          • Cosmic Dawg

            And sorry – to directly address what you’re saying, here – as far as time goes, anything you do to your opponent you are also doing to yourself, except at the end of the halves, because you share the remaining time equally.

            So doing anything that eats clock but doesn’t help your own efficiency screws up your existing drive but also gives you less time in the game to correct it on subsequent drives.


            • I get what you’re saying here, and if both offenses are scoring at the same pace, you’re right. If I recall, one of Georgia’s recent wins against Tech came despite GT running something like 92 plays to Georgia’s 48. The Dawgs won because Murray was incredibly efficient passing the ball. But I think CPJ expects his defense to play with some ability to stop the other team and if that happens, it squeezes the opponent’s window to win. The flip side, of course, is that it leaves GT in a bad position if it’s the team that has to scramble late to overcome a deficit.


              • Cosmic Dawg

                That’s interesting – I can see that for a weaker team TOP might reduce the “evening out” effect that running a lot of series has on probabilities…so the weak team would prefer a game (theoretically) where both teams only got one drive and hope that lady luck would choose that particular drive to strike.


  2. Russ

    Good analysis. I think the key will be if our DL can disrupt their timing.


  3. Lumpdawg

    The Florida Gators want to know what playing a D-1AA team has to do with anything.


    • Cojones

      Don’t you just love the smell of The Swamp the morning after a D-1AA game?

      My FU friends and I have not mentioned that game. It’s like a dark and embarrassing secret hanging in the air.


      • W Cobb Dawg

        Then you should break the silence and remind them! And don’t forget to follow up with a reminder of the JAX results for the past 3 seasons! Then ask yourself, ‘do I really want fu friends anyway?’


        • uglydawg

          For years I have not mentioned the results of the Dawg/Nerd game..I attend church with several Nerd we have avoided the awkwardness…However….when and if the Nerds ever win it again, they will not reciprocate..and will justify their behavior by insisting Dawg fans always rub it in. It’s the GT way. I’m going to try to stay classy. They won’t because they can’t and they can’t because they ain’t.


  4. South FL Dawg

    But one always wants to keep the other team’s offense off the field.


  5. If our defense plays assignment football and doesn’t give up big plays and our offense doesn’t become a turnover machine, Dawgs win. The last 2 years we have forced them to drive the length of the field, and eventually, the drives stalls out. Fundamentally sound football is what tomorrow is all about.


    • WF dawg

      On top of that, we’ve shown a heretofore missing ability to force turnovers these past two games that bodes well for this one. Last year, Rambo’s strip and return was pivotal.


      • Totally agree – that turnover was big. Everyone forgets Tech had a penalty called on them that play, so Rambo was playing with house money on the strip because the run was coming back.