I think that if you wanted to distill all the pundit wisdom about the SECCG matchup into its purest bare essentials, you could do it in six words: Georgia is good. Alabama is better.
The stats don’t argue with that assessment, either. Take this, for example.
Like I said, Georgia is good but Alabama is better.
That being said, I’m here to make the case that maybe Georgia is in stronger shape than it’s being given credit for. With the 12-game perspective we have now, I’d suggest looking at Georgia through the LSU game and Georgia post-LSU to evaluate what the Dawgs will put on the field Saturday.
In other words, if you ask this Georgia team “what have you done for me lately?”, the answer is going to be “a lot”, particularly on offense.
For example, in the month of November,
- Jake Fromm has the second-highest passer rating in the country.
- Georgia’s offense has the highest passer rating in the country.
- Georgia’s offense is third in plays of 20+ yards.
- Georgia’s defense is ninth in plays of 20+ yards.
The Dawgs are ranked ahead of the Tide in all four statistical categories.
You can find areas where though Georgia doesn’t rank ahead of ‘Bama, at least it’s showing significant improvement, like these:
- Georgia’s defense, which was once at the bottom of tackles for loss, is a middle of the pack 72nd.
- Similarly for sacks, Georgia’s defense is 36th nationally.
Groo provides one more example of note.
But the level of play we’ve seen from the Georgia offense over the past month has been extraordinary. Georgia’s success rate of 72.4% against UMass was tops nationally last week, but it’s easy to shrug that off due to the quality of competition. Tech is no great shakes on defense, but Georgia was able to follow up a 72% success rate with a 68% success rate – the best in the nation for the second straight week…
Success rate is a measure of a team’s ability to stay ahead of the chains…
Forget about imposing your will, staying ahead of the chains is really what Georgia wants to do on offense every time it plays. That the Dawgs have been better at that than any other team in the country over the past two weeks is more than decent evidence of the validity of Groo’s header. Georgia very much appears to be peaking at the right time.
Is that in and of itself enough to take down Saban and Company? Beats me; it’s not like I’m planning to put any money down on the game. But it’s certainly enough to make me believe the pundits’ take isn’t the whole story.
UPDATE: I’m not gonna say great minds think alike in this instance, because Bill Connelly is sharper than I am, but he has some similar fodder for the discussion.
In almost every regard, Georgia offensive coordinator Jim Chaney has had a fantastic year.
After losing stalwart running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, No. 1 receiver Javon Wims, and all-conference left tackle Isaiah Wynn, the Dawgs have actually improved from 14th to third in Off. S&P+, a remarkable accomplishment.
Plus, for the second straight year, the Georgia offense has responded to a loss with near-perfection.
- Last year, the Bulldogs lost 40-17 to Auburn but averaged 41 points per game and 7.9 yards per play over their next four games to reach the National Championship.
- This time, they got smoked by LSU, 36-16, and responded with … 42 points per game and 7.8 yards per play over five games.
In their five-game streak, the Dawgs have looked the part of a national title contender. Per the Football Study Hall college football stat profiles, their average S&P+ percentile performance in that span has been 93 percent, their average post-game win expectancy 98 percent.
Alabama’s averages over that same span have been almost identical: S&P+ percentile average of 94 percent, average post-game win expectancy of 100.
There’s a but, though, and it’s a pretty big one.
The closer you get to the goal line, the more it changes your options. How has Georgia dealt with that so far?
- In open play (snaps between the offense’s 10 and the defense’s 30), Georgia’s success rate is 54.1 percent, third in FBS.
- Between the opponent’s 21 and 30, Georgia’s success rate is 48.8 percent, 19th.
- Between the opponent’s 11 and 20, Georgia’s success rate is 46 percent, 26th.
- Inside the opponent’s 10, Georgia’s success rate is 40 percent, 116th.
- Inside the opponent’s 3, Georgia’s success rate is 28.6 percent, 129th.
As the goal line nears, UGA changes from one of the country’s best offenses to one of the worst.
Yikes, I say. Even worse, according to Bill, “(t)he Dawgs’ overall performance has improved down the stretch, but the red zone offense has gotten worse…”. Yikes, squared.
It’s nice that Georgia has the better kicking game, but you aren’t going to beat Alabama trading field goals with touchdowns.
One thing I disagree with Bill about is that he lays the blame for Georgia’s red zone woes on Chaney’s shoulders alone. I think Mr. Impose Your Will has to share a little of that. That being said, Bill is spot on when he says Georgia sorely needs a dose of creativity in the red zone. Let’s hope the coaches are thinking along the same lines.