If you buy Kirby’s argument ($$), that’s certainly true for Georgia’s offense.
… That all depends on what your definition of balance is. And here’s the key: Georgia, by its own definition, has already been balanced for most of the past two years. Even if the numbers would say otherwise.
Nobody rushed the ball in the SEC more than Georgia last year (567) or the year before (670). That’s skewed a bit because of the blowouts; when Georgia played more close games in Smart’s first year, the Bulldogs had the fourth-most rushes in the league (533).
But if you take just the first three quarters of games last year, Georgia was still run-heavy: Excluding the fourth quarter last season, Georgia ran the ball on 59 percent of its offensive plays and passed on 41 percent, making it one of the 30 most run-heavy teams in the FBS in the first three quarters. According to Sports Info Solutions, Georgia ranked 29th in highest run-play percentage, with Kentucky (64 percent) and Mississippi State (61 percent) the only SEC teams who ran it more in the first three quarters.
For comparison’s sake, the FBS average is to run it 55 percent of the time over the first three quarters.
Call it boredom, call it curiosity, but I decided to take a look at some numbers. During Smart’s first three seasons, here are the average offensive plays per game run:
- 2016: 70.69
- 2017: 65
- 2018: 65.93
Overall, that averages out to a tick over 67 plays per game. 55% of that number is about 37. So, what is Georgia’s won-loss record over that time in games when the offense threw the ball at least 30 times?
- 2016: 3-3
- 2017: 0-1
- 2018: 1-3
Believe it or not, my point here isn’t to make a causation argument, or even one of correlation. (For one thing, Seth is right to note that Georgia had to pass more in Smart’s first season than in the following two because it played more close games in 2016.) Rather, it’s to note the obvious: this is how Georgia is built. It’s Smart’s philosophy. It’s how Georgia’s recruited.
Most relevantly, it’s worked. In the last two seasons, the Dawgs are 23-1 when they throw less than 30 times a game. (They only threw it 29 times in the debacle at Auburn.) Sure, there’s not much doubt they could throw the ball with success more, as Fromm has a number of games with passer ratings north of 200, but there’s something to be said about a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach.
Kirby feels balanced.