Mo’ sco’

Bud Elliott revisits a subject he posted about before, the scoring increase we saw from the SEC this past season.  To start with, he notes a strange pair of stats:  points were up 16 percent from 2019 to 2020, but yards per play only increased by about 4 percent year over year.

To explain the anomaly, he looks at a few factors.

  • Pick-sixes per game and per-pass doubled.
  • Part of the reason interceptions and pick-sixes are up is the SEC is throwing more.
  • Increased red zone scoring.
  • Teams played faster.
  • All four new head coaches were offensive-minded and embraced pace.

You know what didn’t add to scoring?

Interestingly, explosive plays did not increase.

The rate of 20-, 30-, 40-, and 50-yard plays per game stayed almost exactly the same year over year. And on a per-play basis, explosive plays are actually down slightly. So the idea that teams are bombing it over the top more, or breaking more explosive plays, is simply not true.

Efficiency on first down was a big part of the SEC’s offensive success. Fewer teams senselessly run the ball into the line on first down when the defense expects it. They are more competent than ever when it comes to throwing the ball around on early downs.

Sure, there are a few manball lessons to take away from all that.  (And questions:  greater red zone scoring efficiency in a spread era cuts against what we thought you have to do to be able to score close in.  How is that happening?) But I’m interested in pace and how it affects the number of plays an offense runs.  Here’s more from Bud:

Teams in the SEC are operating at a quicker pace than they were in 2019. In 2019, teams ran 67.1 plays per game. In 2020, the number rose to 69.6.

Points per play is also up in the league, but with each team running about three more plays per game each, increased pace alone accounted for about 2.2 more points per game than it did last year. Pace is a big factor in this. And of course, if teams are throwing more, that means more incompletions, which stops the clock more as well.

Looking back at this post, Georgia’s ppg average was essentially at league average in plays per game in 2019, and slightly below average in 2020.  (It was at the median, in that it was eighth in plays per game.)

Georgia finished fifth in the conference in offensive yards per play in 2020, and, as we saw, did so on an upwards trend.  (In December and January games, the Dawgs led the conference in offensive ypp.)  If you’re improving your ypp number, then running more plays would seem to be advantageous.  And that would also be a byproduct, as Bud mentions, of your defense forcing more incompletions and interceptions.

Neither of which were particularly strong suits for Georgia’s defense last season.   Georgia was eighth in SEC defensive completion percentage and tied for seventh in interceptions.  Focusing on havoc is good, but havoc is only a means to an end.

I guess what I’m saying is that there is more than one way to skin this particular cat and in Georgia’s case, there appears to be a way to do it that fits in with Kirby Smart’s overall approach.  The catch may be that with an inexperienced secondary and a new position coach, using the defense to help the offense (okay, maybe that’s a bit of a new thing for Kirbs) may be a tough order in 2021.


Filed under Georgia Football, SEC Football, Stats Geek!

12 responses to “Mo’ sco’

  1. Granthams Replacement

    The league explosive play total were flat but UGAs were not. I believe Kirby will scheme more like 2018 (keep everything in front of the DBs) while relying on a deep talented DL to pressure QBs. The QBs in the SEC are inexperienced or not good. Forcing them have sustained drives makes sense. The strategy is like basketball, defenses job it to get a few stops to win 51-42 vs 20-17.


    • Yeah. Rose Bowl type games seem more realistic where even elite Ds give up points and yards but still make big plays to help determine the outcome. Or.. don’t make any big plays like the 2020 Bama game.


  2. Explosive plays may be flat across the league but I wonder what was the explosive rates of the offenses that had more than a pulse. Bama and Florida had explosive plays consistently (different ways to get there). At season’s end, Georgia was explosive. I didn’t watch enough of A&M but it felt like they were the plodders this year. Ole Miss and LSU had their moments. Auburn’s offense regressed. The bottom of the league (at least those I saw) seemed to be really bad at creating explosive plays.

    Did others see what I thought I saw?


  3. Hogbody Spradlin

    I wonder how the defensive numbers break down with and without Daniels? OTOH there’s probably good data that the defense held its ground until Bama and Florida, and the dike sort of broke in those two games and first half of Mississippi State, then got back the mojo.


  4. Down Island Way

    Understanding CKS is the head focus guy of UGA football, 2021 will be another step of “The Process” in which Kirbs pays attention to all things “D”, all things “Special Teams” and all things “O”, but lets the madman in the box upstairs steer that offensive machine….until UGA has leads of 24-32 points on the opposition and “Manball” rises from the ashes…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. benco04

    Wonder what those numbers would’ve been if teams had gotten their cupcake games. More explosive? Less? More runs due to blowouts and talent gaps? A wash?


  6. Ozam

    One JT stepped onto the stage Georgia’s explosiveness EXPLODED! The 2017 team was explosive, but it’s been a long time since we’ve had an uber dangerous vertical passing game.


  7. Tony BarnFart

    I’d love to see pace also expressed as a percentage of the total used/unused play clock during non-garbage time play. Does the average increase/decrease in plays per game tell the whole story about how much real pace pressure an offense is attempting to put on a defense from a philosophical standpoint when both (i) the other team’s offensive style and (ii) garbage time affect your # of plays but don’t really speak much (IMO) to what your offense is really doing when it has the ball with the outcome in doubt.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. ASEF

    Coaches are control freaks.

    Great coaches are extreme control freaks.

    Kirby’s emotional preference has been controlling games with his defense and clock-killing offenses. That’s been hard for him to let go.

    And the surest path to letting go of that is watching his defense, loaded with 5 stars, get toasted again and again when the opposing talent is on par. In retrospect, it seems kind of obvious. When the talent and coaching are roughly equal, and the rules clearly favor the offense, guess which one has the better odds?

    I think a lot of SEC programs are working through that learning curve, which explains a lot of the above.

    Big increase in pick 6s? Way more inexperienced QBs taking their lumps and learning the hard way – as well as playing from behind. “Playing to lose by less” still has its moments, but it’s no longer an ethos.

    Havoc? That’s kind of depends on the opponent. Against, say, Leach, who is getting the ball out fast and short, conventional havoc isn’t going to help you. Alabama? Jones was too good at recognizing pressure and moving in the pocket – and the sheer quantity of playmakers at his disposal meant he always had mismatches to exploit.

    There was a great video review by Matt Wyatt identifying a play where a Georgia LB initially engaged the TE, then had an unimpeded path to Jones. Jones took a big hit from him, but Jones got the ball out for a big gain. Great design, good execution by an elite athlete on the defensive side. The difference between a big gain and maybe a sack-fumble was all of about half a second. Went into the explosive column for Alabama and a missed havoc opportunity for Georgia.

    Against a less experienced or more skittish QB, that’s a havoc stat.

    I’m really curious to see what Kirby does with game pressure coming from the offensive side of the ball, when opponents know they have to keep up in points per possession and the number of possible possessions starts to dwindle. How does he deploy his defense with a lead and the opposing coach knowing Kirby’s offense is probably good for (x points per drive multiplied by probably number of remaining drives)?

    Going to be fascinating to watch.

    Liked by 2 people