Interesting notion from Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer about what he considers to be the most relevant way to track a defense’s prowess:
Like many coaches these days, Spencer doesn’t pay much attention to total yardage stats. He feels like the most apt barometer to measure a defense’s worth is points per possession. It’s not something the NCAA keeps tabs on officially. Brian Fremeau (@bcfremeau), a writer for Football Outsiders, does chart such advanced stats. Michigan ranks No. 1 in the points-allowed-per-possession stat at 0.83, followed by Alabama, Wisconsin, Clemson and Boston College. Spencer’s defense is a respectable No. 31.
Well, you know what comes next, right? To the Statmobile!
If you click on the link in that quoted passage, start by reading Brian’s definitions:
Points Per Drive data are a function of all offensive possessions in FBS vs. FBS games in the given season, excluding first-half clock kills and end-of-game garbage drives and scores. Teams are ranked by net points scored per drive (NPD), the difference between points scored per offensive drive (OPD) and points allowed per opponent offensive drive (DPD). Points per value drive for the offense (OVD) opponent offenses (DVD) are calculated on possessions that begin on the offense’s own side of midfield and reach at least the opponent’s 30-yard line. Points per long drive for the offense (OLD) and opponent offenses (DLD) are calculated on possessions that begin inside the offense’s own 20-yard line.
You want to familiarize yourself with those terms before you read how they illuminate Georgia’s season to date.
Georgia is a mediocre 49th in net points per drive, which is an accurate reflection of a 4-3 record against FBS opponents. It’s the breakdown between the offensive and defensive sides that’s the eye opener.
On offense, Georgia is 94th in points scored per drive, 116th in points scored per drive that reach the opponent’s 30-yard line (hey there, red zone offense!) and 57th in drives that begin inside their own 20.
It’s quite the opposite story for the defense: 22nd in points allowed per drive; 14th in points allowed per drive that reaches Georgia’s 30-yard line; 5th in points allowed per drive starting inside the opponent’s 20. In other words, the Dawgs’ defense is plenty good when it’s allowed to do its job of keeping points off the board. It’s just not being given the circumstances to do so. Constantly losing the field position battle – Georgia has fallen in Brian’s FEI field position rankings from first last season to 87th in 2015 – is killing this team.
Explaining this season doesn’t take a degree in rocket science. You can see it in the stats. You can see it in the stands.