“Why can’t we?”

This is a fascinating mash up.

Saban’s the GOAT and he’s got the rings to prove it.  His change in philosophy there is cited as gospel now as to how you have to win championships.

So maybe I should duck when I ask this, but, what if Kirby’s right?  What if it’s still possible to win playing elite defense?

Now, Georgia’s only played a half season so far, but so far the results support Smart’s premise.

The No. 1-ranked Dawgs have given up 33 points in six games, all wins. Nobody’s scored more than 13 on Georgia, and two have scored nothing at all. Georgia’s defense has given up two touchdowns, the same amount it has scored, and also added a safety. The Bulldogs’ 5.5 points allowed per game would be the fewest of the century, ahead of 2011 Bama’s 8.15. (Lest anyone think it’s strictly a result of an early season schedule, Georgia’s points allowed per game drop to 5.2 against Power 5 teams only, compared with 7.8 for Alabama a decade ago.) By yards allowed per play, for which ESPN’s Stats & Information Group has data going back to 2004, Georgia’s 3.56 is just behind 2011 Bama’s 3.32 and 2004 North Carolina State’s 3.47. In expected offensive points allowed per play, Georgia’s -0.35 figure leads 2011 Bama’s -0.33 for first place since at least 2004.

With regard to that last stat, one little secret:  playing elite defense means playing winning football, as this chart indicates.

Obviously, it’s a long way between now and January, but, for the sake of argument, let’s say Georgia’s success holds up all the way through to the end.  What’s the lesson to be learned from that?  I suspect some would dismiss it as a mere outlier, the exception that proves Saban’s rule.

Others, I’m sure, will point to this:

The most important area in which Smart has copied Saban is recruiting. Alabama was a singular recruiting force for most of Saban’s tenure, signing up the country’s No. 1 class every year from 2011 to 2017, according to the industry-consensus 247Sports Composite Team Rankings. The Tide are still mega-elite, and in 2021 they signed the highest-rated class in the history of recruiting rankings. Over the past half-decade, though, the Dawgs have joined the Tide in the highest tier of player acquisition. In 2016, Smart’s first year, Georgia had the sixth-most-talented roster among Football Bowl Subdivision teams, based on the recruiting ratings of its players in 247Sports’ Team Talent Composite. Smart signed up a couple of No. 1 classes of his own in 2018 and 2020, and by 2020, Georgia had narrowly passed Bama in its player ratings. In 2021, the Tide and Dawgs are basically tied at the top.

Well, duh.  How is that any different than recruiting elite offenses?  None of the teams that have successfully competed for CFP titles have been slouches on the recruiting trail.  You’re not gonna win anything without having enough Jimmies and Joes first.

Like it or not for some, if Georgia grabs the brass ring, some of it has to be attributed to coaching philosophy and scheme.

Georgia’s defense is built for its time, and it shows on game days, too. With the nickel base defense all the rage now, the Dawgs line up with at least five defensive backs on the field on 68 percent of their snaps. Stopping the pass is where a defense butters its bread. A hint of that is that pass defense accounts for 76.2 percent of Georgia’s total defensive EPA so far, compared to 58.6 percent of Bama’s in 2011.

Watch enough of Georgia (it doesn’t take much), and you’ll see moments where the Bulldogs’ discipline and creativity mix with their talent to make opponents look bad.

If it happens, the offseason debate should be as fascinating as that Saban-Smart mash up.  Along those lines, I have to give some credit to Stewart Mandel for having an open mind about it in his Mailbag today ($$):

We know offenses have taken over college football, and scoring at will (exaggerating a bit) is a DNA trait of the last several national champions. So realistically, can Georgia ride a defense to a championship, or is it a matter of time before the Dawgs meet their match on offense? — Kraig B, Atlanta

It’s true: The last national champion to rank lower than No. 3 nationally in offense was 2017 Alabama, and even that Jalen Hurts-led team ranked No. 13 (6.6 YPP). But Georgia’s defense so far is the most dominant the sport has seen in many years. The Dawgs are allowing a ridiculous 5.5 points per game. No team has allowed fewer than 10 points per game over an entire season since 2011 Alabama (8.8), whose defensive coordinator was one Kirby Smart. Georgia is also allowing the fewest yards per play (3.6) and lowest opposing passer rating (85.2) since that 2011 Alabama team. I did not think it was possible to put up those kind of numbers against today’s college offenses.

With a defense that dominant, Georgia doesn’t need to have an elite offense. It’ll presumably need to score some points if it runs into Alabama, or in a Playoff game against Ohio State (48.5 points) or Oklahoma (41.2). But there’s something many may be slow to recognize about this year’s Georgia team: So far, they’ve been capable of doing just that.

Even accounting for that 10-3 win over Clemson in Week 1, Georgia ranks No. 12 nationally in scoring offense (39.8)…

I completely get why there’s a “believe it when I see it” vibe around the nation’s No. 1 team. We’ve been fooled by Smart’s teams before. But you know who could care less about curses and narratives? Vegas. It’s pretty telling that Georgia is a massive 23.5-point favorite against No. 11 Kentucky. That’s a level of respect you usually only see for Alabama in some of its big SEC games. It tells me the oddsmakers don’t have the slightest concerns about UGA’s offense. I’m with them.

32 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football, Nick Saban Rules, Strategery And Mechanics

32 responses to ““Why can’t we?”

  1. gotthepicture

    You may want to check out these 2 videos from College Football Nerds for added perspective: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mVeEgd4Fngw

    Not saying I 100% agree, but they also give context to how and where Georgia is elite.

    Like

  2. munsonlarryfkajim

    It goes without saying I’d like nothing more than to make it to the promised land this year. But to do it with the GDOAT (greatest defense of all time) and a few walk ons and 3 stars scattered around the field? Pure nirvana to push back on the “Kirby can’t coach, he can only recruit” idiots out there. This guy is the real deal, not a copycat. I don’t care what happens the rest of the year.

    Heck, this blog might implode if we find ourselves in the fortunate position of taking the air out of it in the fourth quarter of a December/January game. And succeeding. Kirby might give a FTMFs to some of the fans around here after the game

    Liked by 2 people

    • rigger92

      I think this season may shape up a lot like ‘17 where the coaches just have to cater to what they’ve got personnel wise. Our #1 WR’s being out, QB1 out, Arik gone, #1 RG? Out.

      I also think that CKS intended to have an offense just as overpowering as this defense has shown this season which still aligns with what Nick is ranting about.

      It’s been out of necessity that CKS is riding the D as far as they will take us and having an O that is doing as well as it has been is just a bonus.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. 3rdandGrantham

    Can somebody please explain to me why a pick six against UAB counts against the defense? Just as sacks counts against your rushing totals instead of passing totals, some things from a statistical perspective make absolutely no sense.

    As it stands, officially our defense gave up seven points UAB. Absurd. Davis, Smith, Wyatt, and co. had absolutely nothing to do with those points. I know I’m complaining about trivial things and all, but just one of those little things that bugs me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mp

      I agree that the pick 6 shouldn’t count but I din’t think there’s any way to exclude it from the points the team has allowed. But I think the key stat people should focus on is the defense has given up 2 TD’s (USC and Aub) and the first team defense has given up only 1.

      Like

    • Sweet D

      I’ll give it a whirl. I believe they are referring to the one TD given up against SC (garbage time) and the one given up to auburn. The UAB pick 6 is not being considered.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Gaskilldawg

        The UAB pick six is counted in the 5.5 points per game calculation. 5.5 points per game times 6 game is 33 points. Teams have kicked 4 fgs against us. That totals 12 points. 33 minus 12 equals 21 points to be accounted for. The SC TD is 7. The AU TD added to that is 14. The only other source for the 33 points is the UAB pick 6.

        Like

  4. sniffer

    Over the last 2-3 years there have been a lot of statements made here that said something like “2021 is our year”. The top recruiting classes were building on each other and the belief that our day was approaching has now come. When we closed our Munson-eye, it was possible to see this season happening. I don’t know if we win it all this year but it is the season we’ve been looking ahead to with anticipation.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Down Island Way

      Don’t forget the student athletes that came back for 2021 (coulda gone to the next level) the staff having time together, Coach Cochran stepping away and Boom stepping into the on field position, lotta shit could have gone sideways, CKS keeps it all grounded…just keep choppin…

      Liked by 2 people

  5. 81Dog

    Lots of things run in cycles. In the early 70s, the wishbone/veer triple options were the rage. The defenses caught up, offenses changed. What if…. defense has caught up again? Someone call The Watcher, maybe Kirby got hold of the Infinity Stones. 🙂

    Like

  6. ApalachDawg aux Bruxelles

    just stay focused on “we ain’t played no-body”

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I don’t think the question is whether elite defense can still win championships. The question is whether you can still play elite defense in today’s game.

    So far so good, but like you said let’s see what happens when our defense goes against an elite offense.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. beatarmy92

    The blueprint is pretty simple really: assemble 10+ NFL players to play D for ya.

    This reminds me of an old Tiger Woods commercial where he’s giving a golf lesson on fairway bunkers. His pro tip: just take out your 3W and hit the ball three feet from the pin. Easy Peasy!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Lol. Looking at those chart, I’m reminded of something I will take to my grave: 2008 USC would have made Tebow cry. Maybe Carroll’s 2nd best team during his run there.
    Lost a weird ass Thursday night game in Corvallis, and bet they breaks off of everyone else they played.

    Urban’s 2006 and 2008 title teams might have won in the CFP era, but idk.

    That is one thing that we can say more confidently with the playoff: the best team is much more likely to win the NV than in the BCS/coalition setup.

    Like

    • biggusrickus

      The same could be said of Florida, that they lost a weird game and beat the brakes off everyone else. Same with the Oklahoma team they beat for the national title. Florida was loaded in 2008. There were a bunch of thugs and at least one murderer on the team, but they could play football. I doubt they would have lost to anyone in that national title game.

      Like

  10. godawgs1701

    So here’s the thing – we’re built to do both. It’s true that we haven’t played against an offense that’s designed to just carpet bomb you with 40 yard touchdown passes and jet sweeps like Ole Miss or Alabama. We may see more of that when we play Florida and Tennessee and certainly when (if?) Alabama gets to the SEC title game. But Georgia brought in Todd Monken to make sure that we can score with those teams when the need arises. We are scoring big time and we have shown an ability to be explosive even without half of our receiving corps and without the quarterback with the physical talents who can run the full playbook. We hope to have those guys back soon.

    So – even if Kirby isn’t right and you can’t go 15-0 solely on the strength of defense, we have built an offense for that eventuality, too. Let’s go.

    Liked by 2 people

    • iusedtopostasmikecooley

      Wait a minute? I don’t understand your comparing Florida’s offense to Alabama and Ole Miss’s. Why is there this dogged insistence that Florida is a really good team? Are people still under the spell of their moral victory game? It’s weird.

      Liked by 1 person

      • godawgs1701

        Florida wants to throw the ball. Certainly they’re not as good at it as last year, but if you want to look at the offenses we’ve played and the offenses that we’re going to play… who are the teams that are likely to challenge a secondary? Florida and Tennessee are the only ones that I really see. Maybe Auburn if Nix would have had time to stand in? I’m not saying Florida is on Ole Miss or Alabama’s level, just that they are at least similar in what they’d like to do.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. biggusrickus

    Georgia’s defense is great, but I do wonder what a defense like Georgia’s will do against a team with an elite passing game in this day and age. They won’t play one until Alabama, and even Alabama isn’t all that explosive. Ohio State’s is the only offense I’ve seen that would worry me a little. Which leads to the question of how good Georgia’s offense can be when it’s healthy? Imagine a healthy Daniels and a full complement of receivers? Based on what I’ve seen so far, they should be able to field an elite passing game themselves.

    Liked by 2 people

    • godawgs1701

      Tennessee is going to give us a taste of what it’s going to be like. Those guys have figured out how to pass the ball.

      Liked by 1 person

      • biggusrickus

        Maybe. I want to see what they do against teams who aren’t East bottom dwellers first.

        Liked by 2 people

        • godawgs1701

          Oh, they aren’t quite Alabama or Ole Miss on offense, I don’t think. I just think that they’re going to be able to give us a little preview of what defending Alabama’s air attack will look like. More so than Florida will, I think.

          Liked by 2 people

      • Biggen

        See I’m not sold on them. Their first 6 games were against basically nobody except Pitt which they lost.

        They could easily lose 5 or 6 games on the backend of their schedule.

        Like

  12. theotherdoug

    I don’t think Saban has turned his back on a stifling defense is part of a championship team. Instead he realized he had to have an explosive offense because sometimes your D isn’t going to be able to keep them under 30.

    UGA’s defense hasn’t played an explosive offense yet, so they might still need to be able to put up a lot of points. Also, I think Kirby and Monken have an explosive offense this year when enough guys get healthy or the young guys get enough reps.

    Like

  13. Gaskilldawg

    It depends upon perspective. UGA as a team has given up 33 points, regardless of how scored.
    My assumption as to why cfbstats.com does not have a category of “points a defense has allowed an offense to score” category is that it would take a lot of time to review all 120 teams’ game to determine how many points allowed were scored by opposing offenses or opposing special teams. It can be done but cfbstats.com likes to have data updated by early Sunday morning.

    Like

  14. UGA beating Bama and especially UGA winning the MNC will mark the official end of the Saban era. The other SEC coaches are all younger. NIL is available to all and Saban’s staff has so much turnover that he and they just won’t be as relatable to kids as in the past. Last Spring Saban mocked everyone by showing his recruiting pitch was just flashing the trophies. Not sure that will keep working if he’s not collecting them anymore.

    Note I started this post with an implied “if”.

    Like

  15. unionjackgin

    One stat from the 538 piece on the defense that jumped out at me:

    “One example is that Georgia is blitzing on 18.8 percent of opponent dropbacks, its lowest rate under Smart, but is getting sacks on 12.1 percent of dropbacks — the highest rate under Smart.”

    When I see the media, pundits,etc. alll say that the Dawg defense hasn’t played an elite offense, I am curious to know what they think our defensive coaching staff will do if a team stats to move the ball & score points. The stat above tells me that the defense is playing at this level without exposing the defense to risky play calls. In a game where a team like UF, UT or Alabama starts to put up yards & points, I would expect the coaching staff will change up the calls to bring more pressure.

    Liked by 1 person

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