Category Archives: Phil Steele Makes My Eyes Water

Steele on Georgia, 2019 edition

Okay, time to dig into my initial impressions on Phil Steele’s take on this year’s model of Georgia football.  I hinted at some of it yesterday — overall, it’s quite positive (third in his power ratings; fourth in his rankings once scheduling is factored in), but a little lackluster in comparison to Alabama and Clemson.

To illustrate, here’s how the three shape up in his unit position rankings:

QUARTERBACKS

  • Clemson 1st
  • Alabama 2nd
  • Georgia 9th

RUNNING BACKS

  • Georgia 2nd
  • Clemson 3rd
  • Alabama 4th

RECEIVERS

  • Alabama 1st
  • Clemson 2nd
  • Georgia 25th (and that’s counting Holloman)

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Georgia 2nd
  • Clemson 3rd
  • Alabama 6th

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • Alabama 3rd
  • Clemson 5th
  • Georgia 17th

LINEBACKERS

  • Alabama 1st
  • Georgia 6th
  • Clemson 14th

DEFENSIVE BACKS

  • Alabama 3rd
  • Clemson 7th
  • Georgia 16th

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • Alabama 18th
  • Georgia 20th
  • Clemson outside top 57

In areas where Georgia is best, the other two are generally close behind.  But there are significant gaps at several positions where the Dawgs lag behind the other two.

All of this, it should be said, is extremely relative.  Georgia is ranked in his top twenty-five at every unit position, which is nothing to sneer at.  In fact, it reinforces a point I made a while back when I was debating Allen Kenney and Ian Boyd about Lincoln Riley’s comment about Georgia, namely that Kirby’s built his team to excel by making sure that there are no true weak links.

This is nicely illustrated with Steele’s SEC unit comparison chart.

IMG_0346

The Dawgs may not be the best in the conference at everything, but they’re no worse than above-average in any category.  There is no other team on that chart, including Alabama, that can make the same claim.  (Don’t miss his coach rankings for Georgia and Florida, by the way.  But I digress.)

Coming from someone who watched Mark Richt fail to manage to field consistent units from year to year, that’s not damning with faint praise, either.  In fact, it’s hard to do.  Even Alabama during its current run has had seasons fall short because of poor special teams play.

The problem is that in the context of the 2019 season, Georgia’s high level of consistency may not be enough.  For one thing, it appears that Saban’s team can make the same claim, except at an even higher level.

None of this is etched in stone, of course.  But I don’t think it’s unfair to state at this point in the preseason that Georgia has some work to do in order to catch Alabama and Clemson by the time the postseason rolls around.

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Steelemas, 2019

The preview mag hits the newsstands today.  I’ll grab a copy on my way home, but in the meantime, here’s a peek at his strength of schedule rankings.

Screenshot_2019-06-25 Twitter

That is three SEC teams in the top four, six in the top ten and nine in the top twenty.  At 51, Kentucky has the softest ranking.  Alabama clocks in at a towering 44th, but we all know Saban could use the help.  (To be fair, ‘Bama hasn’t played ‘Bama.)

Tough neighborhood.

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So much winning

Welcome to Phil Steele’s stat of the day.

Before some of you start, three of those Georgia home losses came in 2016.

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Steele’s SEC bowl projections

Still waiting on the preview mag, but stuff is already dribbling out like this:

Tennessee becoming bowl eligible is a bit of a bummer, but Florida in Memphis for the holidays?  Man, Dan Mullen’s genius rep would take a hit over that one.

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Steele previews Steele’s Preview

The mag isn’t in the stores quite yet, but Phil Steele is already out there on the promo trail.  If you’re a Georgia fan, sounds like he’s calling for more of the same.

Meanwhile, the Georgia Bulldogs will crash the party as the SEC second invitee.

“SEC Country is OK with it, but the rest of the country is like, ‘Oh my goodness,’ but I’m picking two SEC teams this year. When you look at Georgia, they are loaded both offensively and defensively. They’re a better team than they were last year. And last year, they gave Alabama everything they wanted in the SEC Championship Game.

“I think you have an undefeated Georgia and an undefeated Alabama battling for the SEC title game. I still think the loser makes the playoffs.”

Steele picks ‘Bama to avenge last year’s defeat to Clemson in the national title game.  Sigh.

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Phil Steele and average performance

Phil Steele looks at every team in the country — because that’s what Steele does — and measures its offensive and defensive performance in the context of where it sits in the opponent’s season.

A couple years ago during the season I was wondering how certain offensive and defensive performances that a team had vs a particular opponent stacked up on how the other opponents fared against that team. Not every performance as far as yards gained and given up is created equal due to the quality of opponent played. So to the right of the net yards and points columns, you will see an offensive vs foe and defensive vs foe numbers. The first # is what that performance ranked compared to every other team their opponent allowed throughout the year (#1 being the best, with #12 being the worst since most teams play 12 games) while the second column contains the number of yards positive or negative against their opponent’s average.

I have broke down the offensive and defensive averages and in today’s blog I took all those averages (both offense and defense) and combined them to come up with the most impressive teams in the country compared to how they fared against their opponent. Here is a ranking of all 130 teams and how they did. This list does take out Garbage yards that may occur during overtime and/or blowout wins/losses.

As far as it goes, then, that’s a relatively neutral method of analysis, relative because not all schedules are equal.  Dominating a lineup of MAC opponents isn’t the same as doing so in the ACC or Pac-12.

Still, it makes for an interesting top twenty in certain ways.

Screenshot_2019-02-22 College Football Offensive and Defensive YPG vs Opponents avg thru the National Championship – Phil S[...]

More confirmation, as if we needed any, that Clemson and Alabama were the two best teams last season.  Georgia’s fourth is no real surprise, either.  Nor is Oklahoma’s defense, or Ohio State’s, to a lesser extent.

That Mississippi State defense, though… I knew it was good, but not that dominant.

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Allow me to retort, Danny.

Phil Steele has an interesting stat up today.

TAMU is a bit of an eye-opener there.  If you go to the linked piece, you’ll find that the Aggies are pretty balanced in that regard, 19th offensively and 12th defensively.  (By comparison, Georgia is 14th and 26th, respectively.)  Jimbo looks like he can still coach a little.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering about the methodology, Steele removes garbage yards that may occur during overtime and/or blowout wins/losses.

Anyways, Central Florida?  Glad you asked.  Steele has UCF ranked 29th.  The breakdown is 8th on offense and 91st on defense, where it’s actually 20 yards worse than opponents’ average.  So much for that whole “just like Oklahoma” argument.  (FYI, Oklahoma isn’t great defensively, but at least it’s holding opponents below their season average.)

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Steele’s preseason top 25

It’s not his power poll(s).  It’s his stab at the reality of college football rankings.

“My preseason rankings are not my power rankings,” Steele writes. “These rankings take into account the totality of the circumstances that I feel each team will face in the 2018 season — schedule strength, foes’ schedules (coming off byes), experience edges at the start of the year and so forth.

“My Top 40 is where I project teams to finish in the final rankings and have always done quite well. These rankings reflect not only talent, but the strength of schedule and how each team should finish the season. Over the past five years, 244 of the 274 teams that I have listed in my top rankings have made it to bowl eligibility and that is a solid 89 percent.”

Okay, now that we’ve got that settled, here’s how they look:

1. Alabama
2. Clemson
3. Ohio State
4. Washington
5. Georgia
6. Wisconsin
7. Miami
8. Notre Dame
9. Oklahoma
10. Texas
11. Michigan
12. Penn State
13. Michigan State
14. Boise State
15. Stanford
16. USC
17. Florida
18. Florida State
19. Auburn
20. TCU
21. Mississippi State
22. Utah
23. Boston College
24. Oregon
25. Arkansas State

Yeah, while the top five seem pretty standard, there are a few eyebrow raisers farther on down the list, starting with Texas popping in at number ten.  And how about Florida being ranked ahead of Auburn?  Not to mention Arkansas State being ranked ahead of nine SEC teams?  Ouchy ouch.

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Your daily dose of Steele, and more

There’s a metric Steele created that tracks how a college team’s personnel losses to the NFL draft affect its record the following season:

Over the past 21 years, teams that accumulated more points than the previous year and accumulated…

12 or more points – weaker or same record 282 of 377 (74.8%)

24 or more points – weaker or same record 78 of 96 (81.3%)

35 or more points – weaker or same record 20 of 26 (76.9%)

Points are based on the round a player is drafted in — seven for the first, six for the second, etc.

Anyway, and I’m pretty sure you know where this is headed, number three on his 2018 points lost list is Georgia, with 31.  On its face, then, that would indicate Georgia has only a one-in-five chance of improving on its 2017 record.  Danger, Will Robinson!

20% ain’t nothing, though.  It’s worth noting that Alabama tops that list, with an astounding 44 points, and I don’t see Phil Steele shoveling dirt on the Tide’s grave this year.  Quite the contrary, in fact.

And that is the important corollary here.  Over time, depth, or, more accurately, talented depth, trumps departures.  With that in mind, read David Wunderlich’s post at Gator Country comparing Florida’s talent levels at each position to those of Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

In any event, Georgia has an enormous talent lead on the rest of its division. It pulled ahead in that respect thanks to its blockbuster 2018 signing class, so it’s an advantage that should prove durable for a few years.

It’s even more stark if we just look at the number of players with each given star rating on the rosters.

Team 5-Stars 4-Stars 3-Stars 2-Stars
Florida 2 34 42 2
Georgia 13 48 24 1
South Carolina 0 23 53 6
Tennessee 1 34 47 2

Florida and Tennessee combined only have ten more blue chip 4-star and 5-star players (71) than Georgia has by itself (61). That 2018 class again figures large here, as nearly half (14) of the top 30 players on UGA’s roster by the Composite are freshmen.

The SEC lives in a Jimmies-and-Joes world.  The 2018 NFL draft doesn’t change that.

In all, though, Georgia is and should be the heavy favorite in the division because it’s way out in front in the talent department and showed itself to be well-coached enough on its trip to the national title game a year ago. Mullen just signed Florida’s best class by average recruit rank since 2013, but it’s going to take multiple years of doing even better than that to catch up.

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Today’s dose of Steele

Steele ranks units not just nationally, but also by conference.  His SEC rankings for Georgia:

  • QB 1
  • RB 2
  • Rec 2
  • OL 1
  • DL 4
  • LB 3
  • DB 3
  • ST 1

Alabama ranks first in six categories (tied with Georgia at QB and OL), which is tops for the conference.  However, there’s more variation in the Tide’s rankings, as Steele ranks their receivers sixth and special teams seventh.

All in all, it’s another indication Steele perceives the gap is shrinking between the top to two programs in the SEC.

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