Category Archives: Stats Geek!

S&P+ look at Georgia’s 2019 schedule

Inspired by this exercise at Roll ‘Bama Roll, I thought I’d break down Georgia’s schedule on the basis of Bill Connelly’s just-released S&P+ preseason rankings.  Here’s what you get:

  • @ Vanderbilt 53
  • Murray State [FCS]
  • Arkansas State 70
  • Notre Dame 12
  • @ Tennessee 21
  • South Carolina 18
  • Kentucky 37
  • v. Florida 6
  • Missouri 16
  • @ Auburn 8
  • Texas A&M 13
  • @ Georgia Tech 89

That works out to an average ranking of 31.18.  Alabama’s schedule averages out to 38, if you’re wondering.  (The difference is largely driven by the teams’ non-conference scheduling.  They do share four common opponents – Tennessee, South Carolina, Auburn and TAMU.)

On paper, that is no walk in the park, particularly with regard to the lengthy stretch between the Arkansas State and Georgia Tech **snicker** games.  Average ranking for those eight games?  16.38.  That’s a pretty stern gauntlet to run.  Kirby’s got his work cut out for him.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Stats Geek!

Alphabet soup for the WWL’s soul

Be still, my heart.  ESPN just released its first preseason Football Power Index, aka FPI.

Georgia is third, which is no real surprise.  Neither are the two teams ahead of Georgia.

While Clemson’s 44-16 drubbing of the Tide might have college football fans recalibrating their expectations for Nick Saban’s team, make no mistake — it’s still Clemson and Alabama and then everyone else. The difference in rating between No. 2-ranked Alabama (plus-27.6) and No. 3-ranked Georgia (plus-22.0) is the same as the Bulldogs’ advantage over 10th-ranked Oregon (plus-16.4). Clemson ranks first in offense and second in defense; Alabama is vice versa.

What is a little surprising is the rapid jump displayed by a few SEC teams.  LSU is fourth, Tennessee is 15th and Missouri is 20th.  The SEC’s lowest ranked team is Arkansas, with a still respectable 58th.  All of which leads to this:

The SEC has three of the top five teams in the country, five of the top 10 and half of the top 20!

The 10th-best SEC team (Missouri) is better than the second-best ACC team (Florida State) and the second-best Big 12 team (Texas).

The best division in football is the SEC West. The second-best division is the SEC East.

For the SEC — or any conference — this sort of depth is unprecedented. No conference in the past 15 years of FPI has had more than eight teams in the top 20 of the preseason rankings.

I only mention this because this is what all the yammering heads on ESPN and the SEC Network (PAWWWLLL!) will be talking about for the next few months leading into the season.

Add in a dash of selection committee tea leaf reading from Heather Dinich.

3. Georgia

Toughest game on schedule: Nov. 16 at Auburn

The committee will like: The crossover opponents.
The road trip to Auburn is followed by a Nov. 23 home game against Texas A&M. Back-to-back November victories against SEC West opponents could significantly boost Georgia’s résumé heading into the final week of the regular season — if the Dawgs win. Last season’s 36-16 loss to LSU was a dagger in the final picture. Georgia came close last season, but we still haven’t seen a two-loss team finish in the top four.

The committee won’t like: A September slip-up.
If Georgia is worthy of a playoff spot, it should start the season 3-0 with wins against Vanderbilt, Murray State and Arkansas State. Repeat: Murray State and Arkansas State, which is why beating Notre Dame on Sept. 21 has the potential to separate Georgia from other contenders. If Georgia loses to the Irish, though, its best nonconference win would be against rival Georgia Tech, and that would put enormous pressure on Georgia to win out.

One big question: How much will a win over Notre Dame be worth?
It depends, of course, on how the Irish fare. According to ESPN’s FPI, it’s the most difficult game on the Irish schedule, as they are No. 7 and projected to be No. 9 in offensive efficiency and No. 11 in defensive efficiency. Notre Dame helped Michigan almost all last season — and the Wolverines didn’t even win the game. Remember Miami’s claim to fame in 2017? The Hurricanes hammered Notre Dame 41-8, and it carried them in the eyes of the committee — until the Canes ended the season with two face-plants of their own. Win or lose, playing Notre Dame seems to help — as long as the Irish help themselves.

Most of that strikes me as iffy, but I do think that Auburn-TAMU set of games will weigh on the committee members’ minds based on timing, if nothing else.  Assuming ‘Bama comes out of the West again, though, I think we all expect the SECCG likely shapes up as another elimination game.

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Filed under ESPN Is The Devil, Georgia Football, Stats Geek!

Coaching ’em up, coaching ’em down

I always enjoy Bill Connelly’s peek at overachieving/underachieving coaches, mainly because he asserts something I think is an essential truth.

You can potentially distill coaching into two things: building a team that produces great stats and figuring out how to maneuver in tight games when neither team has a statistical advantage.

That really is the game, isn’t it?

Saban is the living embodiment of the first example and Tom Herman appears to be the best representative of the second, at least according to Bill’s rankings of every coach since 2005 who’s run a program for at least three seasons, which are based on “average difference is per year — actual wins vs. win expectation”.

By the way, Mark Richt ranks one step higher than Kirby Smart.  But I digress.

Bill acknowledges there is certainly some randomness involved.  That being said, there’s a fair amount of affirmation of the second type of coaching prowess when you see people like Jeff Monken and Pat Fitzgerald ranked highly.  It’s just that, because of sample size, we don’t know for sure how much credit goes to each factor.

Along those lines, here’s what he says about Tom Herman:

Texas’ fans collective response to being projected in the mid-30s in S&P+ was, shall we say, high in volume. And Herman’s presence atop the overachievers list here seems to verify that S&P+ is not well-equipped to handle a Herman team.

Maybe. But I need to see more because really, this four-year overachievement is a two-year overachievement.

Per second-order wins, his 2016 and 2017 teams should have won 15 games and won 16 instead. That’s pretty dead on. But he tops this list because of 2015 and 2018 — Houston overachieved by a whopping 3.3 wins in 2015, and Texas tacked on 1.7 more last fall.

So what’s the reality here? Has Herman, with his QB-Power-heavy third-down play-calling and his ability to craft big performances in big games while just barely skating by in the others — as if he knows his team has a finite number of good plays and deploys as few of them as possible against lesser opponents — unearthed a recipe for steady overachievement? Or is this a product of small sample sizes?

If you take to dice and roll 12 twice in four rolls, that doesn’t automatically mean you’re better than anyone else at rolling 12. But if you do it for eternity, it might mean you’ve got loaded dice. We’re just not going to know in four rolls.

If after a 20-year head coaching career, Herman has produced about 10 drastic overachievers, we’ll know. But maybe after 20 years, he’ll have still only produced the two. I hate saying “time will tell,” but…

Herman had that crazy season at Houston, where his team upset two top-five programs bookended around losses to Navy and SMU, and then proceeded to lose its last two games of the season.  Last season, his Texas team started out losing to Maryland and wound up kicking Georgia’s ass.  Maybe he’s a real overachiever, or maybe he’s just the opposite of Bob Stoops.  Time will tell.

One thing’s for sure.  It’s easier to measure the coaches who are excellent builders.

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Prelim S&P+ sez…

… it’s gonna be a wild ride this season.  For Georgia, I mean.

  • Five Six SEC teams in the top ten.  Georgia plays two of the four five not named Georgia.  (And hopefully looks to get number three in the SECCG.)
  • Three more members of the SEC East, Missouri, South Carolina and Tennessee, are in the top 21.
  • Vanderbilt is the lowest ranked team in the East, and it still came in at number 53.
  • Notre Dame and Texas A&M start out at 12 and 13, respectively.

There’s a lot of meat there.  Kirby has his work cut out for him, at least until the season’s closer.  Georgia Tech is 89th.

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Gettin’ there

From that Hall/Godfrey take on Alabama’s dominance under Saban:

Even Georgia — the school who has gone furthest in trying to mirror Alabama’s blueprint — has come up short so far. The Bulldogs hired longtime Alabama assistant Kirby Smart, who recruited Georgia’s best classes ever, built a Saban-style defense in Athens, and brought some of Saban’s control-freak tendencies over with him. For instance: Smart took part in discussions with lawmakers in Atlanta to delay responses to open records requests about the football program at one point, a move so extreme Nick Saban has never even tried it.

Georgia made the playoff championship game in Smart’s second year in Athens. The Bulldogs lost in OT after leading for almost all of the game. The two teams met again in the SEC Championship, and Georgia lost again at the end of the game, this time only surrendering a lead or a tie when Jalen Hurts scored a touchdown with one minute and four seconds on the clock. Even at full throttle, they’re still one minute and four seconds behind the University of Alabama in the race to be college football’s best.

There’s no way to erase that minute and four seconds, of course.  As far as the future goes, though, Bill Connelly hints in his four-year recruiting study that Georgia may be getting very close to leveling the playing field.

Still, something interesting stands out right up top: while Alabama’s 2019 class was absurd and historic, head coach Nick Saban has basically only tied Georgia’s Kirby Smart in terms of recruiting since Smart, Saban’s former defensive coordinator, moved to Athens. Don’t let the Dawgs’ poor 2018 finish distract you from how loaded this team is going to be moving forward.

Whoa, Nellie.

‘Bama and Georgia are essentially tied in Bill’s weighted four-year average at 99.3%.  To give you some context, at 96.9%, third place LSU is closer to number twelve Michigan than it is to either the Tide or the Dawgs.  That’s recruiting dominance and Alabama is no longer alone.

Now, all Kirby’s got to do is…

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Filed under Georgia Football, Recruiting, Stats Geek!

In the game

Bill Connelly posted his five-year S&P+ rankings here.  From a selfish standpoint, all you really need to know is his conclusion.

As always, this list reminds us that college football’s top tier is pretty defined.

Your last three national championship programs — Alabama (2015, 2017), Ohio State (2014), and Clemson (2016, 2018) — lead, followed by a team that’s made three of the last four CFPs (Oklahoma) and a team that made the national title game just 13 months ago (Georgia).

Bitch about falling short, if that’s what blows your skirt up.  But there are about 125 programs that would be more than happy to trade places with where Kirby has Georgia at today.

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How dominant was Clemson in 2018?

I’m generally fascinated by the strength of schedule debate.  It’s certainly not irrelevant, but there is a danger in overrating its importance.  The simple truth is that a great team can play a weak schedule.  The latter shouldn’t define the former, but I’ve seen plenty of cases where that’s argued.

What’s important is that a great team should dominate mediocre opposition and do it on a consistent basis.  Take a look at what Matt wrote about Clemson’s latest national championship season.

A little less than four weeks ago, Clemson won their second national title in the past three seasons (and third overall). The Tigers dominated (on the scoreboard if not in the box score) an Alabama team that many thought might be one of the best of all-time. Clemson was touted as one of the best teams in the nation all season, but with the Tide sucking most of the oxygen out of the college football ecosystem, I feel like most casual football fans didn’t realize how dominant Clemson was this (I know I didn’t realize it until I was crunching the numbers for bowl season). The Tigers did survive a few tight games in 2018, edging Texas A&M in College Station and rallying to beat their Orange adversaries in Death Valley. However, those games share a common thread: quarterback Trevor Lawrence did not both start and finish them. In games Lawrence both started and finished, the Tigers won by an average of 36 points per game, with no team coming closer than twenty points!

He concludes, “The ACC was mediocre at best in 2018, but Clemson thoroughly dominated it, and with their non-conference performance (victories against two SEC bowl teams as well as a solid Sun Belt squad) and subsequent playoff thrashing of two unbeaten heavyweights, the Tigers can make a case they are the best national champion of the new century.”  Agree or disagree?  If you disagree, how much do you hold the overall weakness of last season’s ACC against Clemson?

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Filed under ACC Football, Clemson: Auburn With A Lake, Stats Geek!