So I read Michael Elkon’s “how could everybody get the SEC West wrong?” piece and suddenly it dawned on me – Georgia was simply ahead of the curve on the conference’s season of disappointment.
I mean, think about it. Here’s where Elkon’s coming from:
In the regular season, the SEC West was a perfect 28-0 in non-conference games. When the league was en route to its flawless out-of-conference performance, some numbskull was using the Simple Rating System to ask whether the division was the best since conferences started splitting in half.
Georgia, too, was an advanced stats darling. The Dawgs are fifth in Football Outsiders F/+ rankings. Seventh in regular season SRS. Sagarin has them fifth. And they’re fifth in CFBMatrix’ scoring efficiency rankings. (There are more out there, but you get the gist.)
So how is this a team that wound up not even winning its division, let alone playing for a slot in the inaugural college football playoff? Welp, I think I’m going to outsource the answer to that question to Bill Connelly, who had this to say in the wake of Georgia’s win in the Belk Bowl:
Georgia lost to South Carolina, lost badly to Florida, lost the best running back in college football midway through the season, lost the SEC East to a team it beat by 34 points on the road … and finished fifth in the F/+ rankings. And I can totally justify it. Play for play, drive for drive, the Dawgs’ brilliant moments outnumbered their mediocre ones. It’s just that quite a few of those mediocre moments happened on two specific Saturdays in Jacksonville and Columbia East. Spread out those bad moments, and you go 12-1. Or better.
Not a lot of derp, in other words, but just enough, and concentrated in just the right moments to maximize its effect. And that’s how you negate so much good coaching work that got done this season, on special teams, on turnover margin, on managing field position, on maximizing offensive skill position talent… hell, you get the idea.