Expectations for the opener: your guess is as good as mine.

Bill Connelly’s updated his preseason S&P+ rankings.

This time around, my major tweak was in looking more closely at offensive and defensive trends instead of full-team trends as a whole. Instead of using a weighted five-year history figure for the team, I tinkered with the proper weights for offense and defense. It’s the same with returning starters — attrition affects the units differently.

Using eight years of returning starter data, bouncing it off of S&P+, and using some general regression, I was able to derive the following:

Returning Starters Proj. Change in Off. S&P+ Proj. Change in Def. S&P+
1 -21.3% -10.1%
2 -16.1% -8.4%
3 -11.5% -6.6%
4 -7.4% -4.6%
5 -3.9% -2.6%
6 -0.8% -0.5%
7 +1.7% +1.8%
8 +3.7% +4.1%
9 +5.2% +6.5%
10 +6.2% +9.0%
11 +6.7% +11.7%

Inexperience matters more on offense than on defense, while experience makes more of a difference on defense, if that makes sense. Let’s put that another way: returning almost no starters will hurt an offense more than a defense, while returning 10 starters helps a defense more than an offense. And returning 5-8 starters affects each unit pretty much equally.

The reason I bring this up is Georgia’s season opener.

  • Yes, Clemson fifth. I’ve removed draft points from the equation for now, simply because I don’t like the way I do it and don’t think it has much of a positive effect, so losing Sammy Watkins will look like simply losing a starter. But the major positive impact for Clemson comes from experience on defense; the Tigers have improved by quite a bit over the last couple of years, and they return a relatively experienced unit in 2014. They’re one of only three teams projected in the top 15 on both offense and defense. (The other two are pretty obvious.) You don’t have to actually believe the Tigers are a top-5 team if you don’t want, but you might want to set the bar a little higher than you were thinking.

Now, Georgia did alright against that defense on the road last season (35 points, 545 yards total offense), despite losing Malcolm Mitchell for the season and Todd Gurley for over a quarter’s worth of action.  And Bill’s analysis doesn’t take into account a starting defensive lineman and reserve defensive back being suspended for the first game.  But it does suggest that Georgia’s strength may be going up against Clemson’s.

Yeah, Georgia’s defense is in a state of flux, to put it mildly.  But don’t forget Harvey-Clemons didn’t play in last season’s opener.  And that as far as impact goes, Clemson’s departures on offense far outstrip Georgia’s departures.  (There’s also the possibility that Pruitt has a better idea how to defend Clemson’s offense than Grantham did.)

At this point, it’s a lot harder to put a finger on what to expect than what we thought going into last season.


Filed under Clemson: Auburn With A Lake, Georgia Football, Stats Geek!

8 responses to “Expectations for the opener: your guess is as good as mine.

  1. IMO, JHC was one of the most overrated players to play at Georgia. I never gave a thought to missing him at all. We’ll be much better at Star this year.

    This is a tough opener, because we don’t have a recent track record of playing well in tough openers. But I’m glad we’re playing it. This game is a good test to see where we are and how much change has actually taken root (not necessarily by winning, we could lose the game and still have a positive answer to that question. But if we play a solid game, we’ll almost certainly win).

    And it’ll certainly be interesting to see how we go about defending Clemson.


  2. sniffer

    I’m not going to get into the game breakdown or rosters now. Don’t really care. Like most (I think), I just want to see a Bulldog squad play their hearts out, play with energy and passion. I want to be a proud Dawg, win or lose.


  3. CannonDawg

    The data tells me that Georgia wins 27-17. Clear as can be. Go Dawgs.


  4. The other Doug

    Subtracting Boyd and adding Stoudt is a big drop at QB. They might be able to make up for it with a strong RBs and OL, but that helps UGA.

    It’s early, but right now I think our DBs should shut them down. If they can’t, then we are in serious do do.


  5. Macallanlover

    Bill is always pretty good at analysis, I just think number of starters is not as significant as who those starters are and what position they play. At this point I won’t try to project a game before summer camp and not even knowing the starters but UGA shoulda/coulda won that game in Death Valley last August. And that was with a totally amped crowd. With UGA at home and Clem’s Son starting a new QB on the road, I think the Dawgs could have an edge. A night time start would turn that atmosphere edge to our advantage this season. The 8:00 time slot and Game Day last season might have been the difference, although having Mitchell and Gurley all game would have overcome it. We really need to win this opener with the Cocks coming up next in Columbia.


  6. I agree with the last paragraph of Bill’s post, these are at least good points to start the discussions. I feel good about our matchup with Clemson this year though. I picked them to win last year simply because I thought the teams were pretty much dead even, and homefield advantage would likely be the difference (which it was, that crowd definitely rattled our guys at times. The injuries were big, no doubt, but there’s no denying the impact the crowd had).

    This year I just don’t see how we lose to them unless Mason has a dumpster fire of a game. Their D will be better than ours but our O should be much better than theirs. And I feel like the margin between the two offenses is greater than the margin between the two defenses.

    That being said, I don’t think CJP has a magic sauce on how to beat Clemson…..unless you count having the best Jimmies & Joes in the country as your special sauce. And unfortunately he had to leave that sauce in Tallahassee. Clemson just had one of those games where everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Everything from fumbling on the first drive of the game, to Boyd throwing an interception when FSU only had 10 men on the field. Sure, FSU deserves credit for some of it, but when you throw a pick against a 10 man D, that’s a screwup by the offense, not a great play by the defense. If those two teams played each other 10 times, FSU probably still wins 8 of them, but I think only one ends in a blowout and that happened to be the one. Kinda like how we imploded against the ‘Cocks 2 years ago. But hopefully our guys at least play a little more fundamentally sound.

    I really think we win against them this year by 2 touchdowns. A lot can happen between now and then to change my opinion, but that’s where I stand now.