“… and I think it depends on how you define ‘good.’”

DawgOutWest asks the musical question,

With Georgia returning nine starters off of the country’s number one defense in 2019, how insanely good should we expect Georgia’s defense to be in 2020?”

His take is that we should expect some regression, for two reasons.

The only SEC teams that didn’t have their starting quarterback go down last year were Texas A&M, Auburn, Georgia and LSU. Georgia’s defense was incredible last year, but facing backup quarterbacks does help the numbers. That being said, there’s a bigger reason why I think Georgia will give up more points and yards in 2020 than they did in 2019, and that reason is Todd Monken.

Monken left the Browns because they didn’t give him full control over play calling. Logic says that he was promised creative control over the offense when he left the NFL and took a job in the college ranks.

If you look at Monken’s history, there are some formational similarities, but he appears to be the type of coach who lets personnel dictate scheme. Some folks have labeled Monken as an Air Raid offensive coordinator. That’s not correct, but it is definitely fair to say that he is a pass-first play caller.

What’s also clear is that Monken offenses score points. That’s good. It will make Georgia a healthier and more well-rounded football program to have an offense that is more capable of explosive plays than the one in 2019 was. So what does this have to do with the defense?

Well first off, explosive plays create more possessions in games. Georgia ranked 18th in average time of possession in 2019. The Dawgs struggled to get chunk plays through the air, especially after Lawerence Cager was lost for the season due to injury. When the team scored touchdowns they did it on long drives.

Another effect of Georgia’s offensive woes last season was that the Dawgs didn’t build big leads very often. That means teams tended to stay in their base offensive packages and run the gameplan that they came into the game with. If Monken’s offense is as successful as I expect in 2020, you will see more games where teams scrap their plans in the third quarter and run full no-huddle air-raid attacks in an attempt to lengthen the game. That is another factor that would leave to more possessions and more yards given up by the defense.

With regard to his first point, true, but we don’t know to what extent that will play out in 2020.  Given the circumstances, it’s not unreasonable to expect some teams having to turn to their backup quarterbacks this season.  What we do know, though, is that Georgia won’t see Joe Burrow this season. Thank Gawd.

Screenshot_2020-07-28 seth galina on Twitter 51% of Joe Burrow's throws went to the middle of the field last season (15 yar[...]

I, for one, will not miss that guy.  But I digress.

The more important point is the second one he raises.  Monken’s track record running college offenses does in fact suggest that Georgia will run more plays than it had previously under Chaney and Coley.  Here’s their record of offensive plays per game:

  • 2016:  70.7
  • 2017:  65
  • 2018:  65.9
  • 2019:  67.1

And here’s Monken’s (first two seasons at Oklahoma State, last three at Southern Miss):

  • 2011:  75.9
  • 2012:  78
  • 2013:  68
  • 2014:  71.5
  • 2015:  73.8

That looks like roughly five more plays per game.

That’s only half the story, of course.  The other half is how many plays Georgia’s opponents ran.

  • 2016:  64.3
  • 2017:  63.6
  • 2018:  62.9
  • 2019:  62.2

For what it’s worth, I took a look at OSU’s numbers for 2011 and 2012.  Both seasons saw their opponents run more plays per game (83.8 and 79.5, respectively) than the Cowboys did.  How much of that reflects Monken’s success on offense and how much reflects how bad OSU’s defenses were those two seasons, I couldn’t say.  (Not to mention Big 12’s gonna Big 12.)

If I had to guess, though, I’d expect that if Monken is able to improve Georgia’s offense, Georgia’s run defense numbers will be at least as stout as they were in 2019.  As for the pass defense, it will be tested more, but it will be in circumstances where the Dawgs have made the opposing offense more one-dimensional.  Which brings up another point:

In the lead up to the 2019 season, we read article after article about how Kirby Smart was preaching “havoc rate.” Havoc rate is measured by the percentage of plays that a defense creates a turnover, tackle for loss or a sack. Despite leading the NCAA in team defense, Georgia only averaged just over one turnover a game last year. Every other team in the Top 14 averaged at least 1.5 turnovers a game. The Dawgs also ranked just 83rd in the NCAA with only 1.8 sacks per a game.

Havoc, baby.  No way to know how that plays out, but it does lead me to the weirdest stat I came across in researching this post:  your national leader in turnover margin in the 2011 season.

Needless to say, I’m curious to see what’s coming.


Filed under Georgia Football, Stats Geek!, Strategery And Mechanics

22 responses to ““… and I think it depends on how you define ‘good.’”

  1. Ran A

    Good Lord…

    It’s easy to write articles like this. If your wrong, nobody remembers, because everybody else expects Georgia to be just as dominant as last year. If your right – you tout how smart you were.

    Throw UF out of that mix. If their starter had not gone down, there were at least two more losses in the mix. Auburn? Nix should be better, but that entire offense is really-really young. Bama is going to be really good – 3 Seniors on the O-Line, Harris returned at RB – solid at receiver.

    Georgia rotates on defense like no other team in college football and the as good as the starters are – there are guys who will be in back up roles that are as good or better – just not experienced. In short – on that side of the ball – Georgia now reloads (as long as they have a solid recruiting year at inside linebacker this year). 🙂

    Then add to it, the Senator’s points about Monk and the fact that Georgia should score more points and I think you will see a VERY aggressive Georgia defense the entire year.

    The only thing that can stop that defense is COVID-19

    Liked by 1 person

    • willypmd

      Yeah, that guy took as pessimistic a view of offensive improvement as you could get.

      Couldn’t you make the opposite argument that explosive offense forces your opponent to do things out of character for their offense leading to more havoc and more predictable play calling?

      Example one: see LSU last year, where a relatively average and injury plagued SEC defense was aided by an explosive offense that forced opposing teams into trying to match the scoring of LSU.

      Also watch the SEC championship last year where we played a high risk/high reward out of character offensive game plan because Smart knew we couldn’t score 17 points and win.

      I don’t see why that wouldn’t apply to UGA this year if Monken is successful


      • That “relatively average and injury plagued SEC defense” finished 20th in SP+.

        Liked by 1 person

        • willypmd

          They were 6th in the SEC in defensive S&P behind UGA, Bama, UF, Auburn, and Tennessee.

          They finished a few spots ahead of A&M, so yes I think that validates that they are in fact an average SEC defense.

          They were also injury plagued.


          • Ah. So you meant it as a compliment.


            • willypmd

              No, I meant they were average for the SEC and were carried by an elite offense.

              The author seemed to imply that having an improved offense might negatively affect a defense.

              I posited that it’s equally likely that an elite offense aids the defense.

              I gave LSU as an example where they had a lot of injuries and were relatively average, but were aided by having an offense that could score at will.

              I’m specifically thinking of the Ole Miss and UGA games where both teams had to change their offensive philosophy because of LSU’s ability to score. Ole Miss in the 4th quarter as they were running out of time, UGA from the start.

              Maybe if LSU’s offense was bad they would have slowed the game more and it benefited the defense statistically, but wouldn’t defensive S&P attempt to correct for that? That’s an honest question, I don’t know the methodology.

              I guess I’m just not understanding what I got wrong here or what the counter argument is?

              I still think LSU was a pretty average SEC defense last year that could have been worse if teams could have stayed two dimensional for the entire game.

              I still think having an explosive offense would likely improve your defense, especially in advanced stats that eliminate garbage time.


              • I think we’re arguing semantics, to some extent. “Relatively average” is doing a lot of work there. The SEC, at least the top half of it, was a very good defensive conference last season.

                LSU finished in the top 15th percentile nationally in defensive SP+. There’s only so much spinning you can do with that.


      • Jack Burton

        That average SEC defense had a ton of guys drafted too with a few more first rounders not draft eligible yet. Maybe avg statistically, but that Tiger defense was FULL of talent.

        Liked by 1 person

        • willypmd

          I’m not sure I understand your point.

          UGA’s offense had a lot of talent including high draft picks, but was statistically average for the SEC.

          I think I’d choose a less talented but more productive offense that scored more points if I had to choose.

          I predict that’s what we would get this year with Monken, paired with an elite offense.

          Liked by 1 person

      • Your 2nd paragraph….yes. basic theory is jumping up on pts forces your opponent into more pasing/more risk. But it’s gonna be depend on the time in the game and how well your opponent Is moving the ball or thinks Is moving the ball. Scoreboard makes you nervous. Something that Kirby was really solid on in the rose bow. Kept grinding kept grinding. But that’s pretty rare


  2. Normaltown Mike

    I’ll be curious to see how Kirby handles the O being on the field for quick bursts and [if?] his D getting winded.

    If we see Monken and Kirby come to blows on the sidelines, we might interpret that as Kirby interfering with the pace.


    • W Cobb Dawg

      I’ll believe a Kirby-coached D will ‘get winded’ when I see it. On the contrary, I’d argue we already substitute ad nauseum. There’s just sooo much talent and depth.

      A good player like Divaad Wilson walks away because he realizes the ridiculous talent here prevents him from showcasing his ability. Same can be said of Brenton Cox, though he was a bit of a malcontent when he got bumped to 3rd string. Our trash, for lack of a better word, is treasure for other teams.


    • ugafidelis

      I think we saw that a gracious plenty last year.


  3. Junkyardawg41

    I am going to reference the Auburn effect as to why a better offense leads to worse defense. Kirby was willing to trade yards for time —- and unfortunately points. However, if UGA gets out to a lead under Monken, I would fully expect a similar approach.


  4. W Cobb Dawg

    So to summarize: An offense that scores more points automatically means their defense gives up more points, therefore making the games just as competitive as they were when we scored fewer points.

    So the logical conclusion is that we shouldn’t try to score more points for the sake of making our defensive stats less impressive. Got it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a bad article.


      • CarolinaDawg

        The only thing bad is this take.

        The article says it changes how the defense plays, and effects the game flow. The article that the Senator linked to explains that Georgia was the #1 total defense in the country last year despite forcing less turnovers than anyone in the Top 15 and ranking 83rd in sacks. It goes into explain that Georgia’s D was as dominant as they were because they missed fewer tackles than anyone in the country.

        The hypothesis is that having Monken on board will create more points and bigger leads sooner in the game, thus forcing teams to try and lengthen the game and pass more. More plays in a game means there will probably be more yards given up and possibly more points in garbage time. That would likely cause Georgia to lose their perch atop the total defense rankings.

        However, that scenario leads to more opportunities for pinning the ears back and more passes forced into coverage. The author is saying he believes the UGA D will be BETTER and force more havoc plays which is better for the team. The point is that UGA should be happy to trade some regression in certain defensive stats for more points on offense and more havoc on defense, which would if it happens will give the offense more opportunities with a short field.

        The guy thinks the defense will he better, and is saying ignore the ypg and ppg stats in favor of big plays in big situations.


        • It’s a bad post. It’s a really bad post when you write a comment explaining it in defense on another blog, using another author’s information to boot. And you sound like your the posts buddy or something (if not the writer)with more bad writing, talking down like your on high. Hell Derek doesn’t even talk like this in an exchange. Your word choice is weird. Not “I liked it bc of x” …highly defensive, and condescending on a bad post.


        • Oh, maybe check out, I dunno, some other comments. Im not unique. The fact you choose my 4 words seems very specific. It’s a bad post. Your comment is like explaining a bad joke. The only thing bad is your lame attempted insult, followed by too many words having to man splain a bad post. I would have sad it’s a horrible post, but I tried to tone it down.


          • 100dollarhandshakes

            Just because a joke flies over your head doesn’t mean it isn’t good, and similarly, just because you are unable or unwilling to digest all of the points of an article doesn’t make it bad.


            • Nothing went over my head. I’m very literate and it’s not hard to digest. You’ve made it personal. It’s a bad article, I’m not a minority on that either. Maybe dont get your panties in a wad if you think it’s so great, and I’m so dumb. Take care, your on the no contact list. I find it hilarious it bothers you so much, probably the writer. Very personal, very upset, picked my one comment amongst others, keep making alts though. Lol. Cheers.


      • 100dollarhandshakes

        So which article was bad? The Senator’s or the original author’s?

        And I liked the post because it makes sense from a statistic and game control perspective. What did you dislike about it?