Category Archives: Stats Geek!

Offseason to do list

Two stats that correlate to personal observation:

With regard to the first issue, I attribute at least some of those problems to the scheme change (with a greater emphasis on downfield throws) and the lack of time to implement it fully in practice, but, still, it’s kind of strange to see a Kirby Smart offense with that kind of shortcoming.

With regard to the second… well, let’s just say I’d like to see what that stat would look like if you took Kenny McIntosh out of the calculations.  In any event, it’s an area where JT needs better support this season.

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

More PFF on UGA

PFF ranks Georgia’s defense as the second best in the country, behind you-know-who.

Georgia’s defense is raw, but it has the potential to be among the best in the PFF College era.

The X-factors of the unit are the two new starting outside corners, Derion Kendrick and Kelee Ringo. Kendrick comes over from Clemson, where he notoriously locked up the average and above-average wide receivers of the world but struggled against talented route-runners in big moments.

In his three games against Ohio State and LSU, Kendrick gave up 286 yards and five touchdowns. But in his 21 other games, he allowed only 259 yards and one score, which are true shutdown numbers. He is still fresh to the position after switching from wide receiver just two years ago. Yet, he has the traits to be great.

Ringo, the fourth-ranked recruit in the 2020 class, didn’t play a down in Year 1 but also possesses incredible potential. He is the whole package from a physical tools standpoint. Now, he needs to put those traits into action.

The rest of the defense can confidently be projected to produce at a high level in 2021. The best player is slot corner Tykee Smith, who transferred this offseason from West Virginia. As an underclassman in 2019 and 2020, Smith recorded the third-best slot coverage grade in the FBS. He is physical with great eyes in coverage.

Another player to keep an eye on is edge defender Adam Anderson. The 2018 five-star recruit hasn’t started a game, but he’s racked up just shy of 200 pass-rush snaps in his college career, recording a 90.9 pass-rush grade, 24.5% win rate and 23.7% pressure rate.

Kirby Smart has groomed this group to routinely be in the conversation for the best in the country, and that’s going to be the case again this year.

None of that is particularly surprising to me (well, maybe except for anointing Ringo as a starting corner, but I digress), but their offensive call is.

5. GEORGIA BULLDOGS

Georgia starting quarterback JT Daniels is certainly not short of receiving threats despite losing top wide receiver George Pickens to a torn ACL in the spring. The Bulldogs added dynamic receiver Arik Gilbert, who looked like a baby version of Kyle Pitts in his 2020 true freshman season at LSU, and he joins a unit with sky-high potential. From tight end Darnell Washington, who is a physical freak at 6-foot-7 and 260 pounds with an 85-inch wingspan and impressive wheels, to wide receiver Dominick Blaylock, who looks to finally stay healthy, to track star and deep threat Arian Smith, the receiving unit is right behind Ohio State for the best in college football.

The only question is, can Daniels seize the opportunity? While he certainly did in his Georgia debut start that ended in a 95.0 PFF grade and 0.52 expected points added (EPA) per pass, his other three outings in 2020 left much to be desired. His passing grade came in below 70.0 outside of his debut game against Mississippi State, and his performance in the Peach Bowl against a good Cincinnati defense was reminiscent of his 2018 season at USC when he earned a 58.6 grade.

Daniels is in a fantastic situation, including a strong supporting cast. Now, he needs to prove he is more than a one-hit wonder. Georgia’s offense has such a high ceiling but also a lower floor than most teams on this list. The former is more than enough to place the Bulldogs’ offense at No. 5 entering 2021.

You may recall PFF ranked Daniels as merely the 23rd best quarterback in the preseason.  If QB is the most important position on the field, how in the world does a Daniels-directed offense rank so highly?  Evidently that “strong supporting cast” is doing a lot of heavy lifting for PFF.  Imagine where things go if it turns out that JT pulls his own weight.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Stats Geek!

This one’s for you: a statistical journey

I’m not a statistics guru, but I’ve always appreciated what you can glean from stats.  One reason I latched on to baseball early on was because there was so much fun to me in following all the numbers players generated.  That being said, until Bill James came along to analyze things, I didn’t appreciate there were numbers and then there were numbers.

Compared to football, baseball is a relatively easy enterprise to analyze statistically, because the bulk of the action is individualized.  Baseball is much farther along than is football in internalizing the information; analytics rule the day in modern baseball.

That isn’t to say we aren’t seeing a similar effort made for football.  But devising a statistical framework that both enlightens and affects strategies and tactics is a more difficult enterprise than is the case for baseball.  My first inkling of what you could do with stats came with Matt Hinton’s sadly missed Dr. Saturday blog, where he sought to discover the level of correlation between different metrics and wins and losses.  Although it was a somewhat crude approach, it wasn’t without its revelations.  For example, Matt was the first person who made me realize that penalties had very little effect on wins and losses.

There have been plenty of others in the years since then, like Bill Connelly and Brian Fremeau, who have added much to the framework.  I find myself convinced by some metrics, not so much by others, but I do my best to delve into the expanded body of work.

Stats at their most relevant, I think, accomplish two different things:  they provide insight into the relative quality of play and they also can be a useful tool, analytically speaking, for devising a game plan.  The former is more useful to me as a fan; the latter should be more useful for a coach.  Either way, if the data isn’t presented in a meaningful way, it’s worthless for either purpose.  As yesterday’s PFF post indicated, there is a lot of noise in the system and that encourages people to tune out the story good stats tell.

That’s why I posted the bit from the guys at Dawg Sports Live the other day.  Sure, college football is enjoyable to follow on its own terms and if you find statistics to be nothing more than a distraction to that, fine.  But, if you dismiss statistical analysis because you find it unconvincing, that’s a mistake.

And apparently some of you do feel that way, because Josh felt a need to tweet something in response to some of your comments to my post.

He provides two charts.

This first one is near and dear to my heart.  If there’s only one college football stat you choose to follow, make it yards per play.  (I’ve even made it easy to do so at the blog, as I’ve started tracking net ypp in the SEC on a weekly basis.)  As you can see from that graphic, there is a very clear correlation between net ypp and wins.

Granted, this chart is more in the weeds-y (and it would help if you listened to the linked clip to understand Josh’s data better), but it tracks two of the more important analytic buzzwords of the day, explosiveness and efficiency.  (Kirby may not geek out on the numbers, but he’s hammered steadily about Georgia’s offense needing to be more explosive for some time now.)  Where this sort of data can help with game planning and play calling is that you can use it to drill down to what works for given down and distance sets — and if you don’t believe there aren’t coaches already out there doing that to gain an edge, buddy, you’re kidding yourself.

I’m not trying to make your head spin with this stuff.  I’m just telling you to approach it with an open mind, because I can assure you I will keep referencing it here at the blog.  You’ve been warned!

[By the way, I’ve asked Josh, and he’s graciously consented, to answer any questions you might have about his work.  So feel free to query away in the comments.]

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Won’t get fooled again.

Shot(s).

Chaser.

23. GEORGIA: JT DANIELS

The JT Daniels Heisman hype may need to be tempered just a bit. Yes, he is a former five-star recruit and put together one of the best performances of the 2020 season in his debut as a Georgia Bulldog, but his outputs in the other three outings in addition to his past play are cause for concern.

As a true freshman at USC in 2018, Daniels ranked 118th at the position in PFF grade, 127th in turnover-worthy play rate and 129th in PFF Wins Above Average generated. He looked like the same player in the 2019 opener before tearing his ACL. Daniels then transferred to Georgia and didn’t see the field until Week 12 of 2020 due to both the rehab process and other players ahead of him on the depth chart, but he looked remarkably better.

Against Mississippi State that night, he earned a 95.0 PFF grade and made six big-time throws. Yet, Daniels earned just a 68.5 passing grade in his other three outings, including four turnover-worthy plays against Cincinnati in the Peach Bowl.

Daniels did look like a more polished quarterback in 2020 compared to his USC days, but any Heisman or top-five quarterback talk is still premature. While he appeared more comfortable, his pocket presence was still less than ideal, he put the ball in harm’s way and his accuracy waned despite a high completion percentage.

Until Daniels shows he can come close to replicating his outing against Mississippi State, he’s not in the top-tier quarterback conversation.

Honestly, it’s not the picking apart of his 2020 season I mind.  After all, it’s only a four-game sample size and Daniels does have some flaws in his game that need addressing.

What I do mind is how PFF has no qualms rating quarterbacks who have yet to throw a collegiate pass in anger, like Ohio State’s Stroud, and others who have limited sample sizes of their own with less to show for them, like Emory Jones, ahead of Daniels.

Eh, we’ll see how it all comes out in the wash in a few months.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Stats Geek!

A handy translator

Having trouble grokking what some of those two dollar advanced stats terms mean?  Let the guys at Dawg Sports Live enlighten you with this helpful guide:

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Meet me in the middle

We all know the current narrative about Kirby Smart.  Underachieving coach… if not this year, then when?… how long until Georgia fans put Smart on the hot seat?  Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

The essence of the narrative is that a coach who recruits like Smart does (and, hey, it’s  Georgia — really, shouldn’t any head coach recruit like that there?) ought to have more to show for his efforts than a mere three divisional titles, a conference title and a CFP semi-final win in the last four seasons.  Obviously this is a man who gets less production than he should from the talent he gathers.

So there’s little doubt that if you compiled a list of the biggest underachievers in P5 from 2017 on, comparing, say, Massey ratings with the 247Sports Composite rankings ($$) that Georgia would be among the worst offenders, right?

There they are!  Wait a minute… must have missed it… hold on.  That can’t be right.

Not only is the narrative dumb, it’s not even reality based.

If you want to see where Georgia actually falls in this metric, here you go.

There’s one last group worth addressing: the Power 5 programs that are exactly as successful as they should be. The list of programs whose four-year Massey ratings are right in line with their four-year recruiting rankings is an interesting one.

If you look at the full spectrum of Power 5 programsAlabama finished in the same spot in both rankings, obviously, as did Texas A&M and MissouriOhio StatePenn StateNotre DameClemson and Oklahoma are among the programs that have performed a tiny bit better than they should’ve been over these last four seasons, at least based on the perception of their recruiting.

And then GeorgiaLSUOregonAuburnFloridaTexas and Michigan have been a little worse, but not by much. Two of those programs paid massive sums this offseason to fire their successful head coaches in the hopes that somebody else can do better. That says plenty about the pressure at the top, doesn’t it?

By these measures, Auburn and Texas aren’t two of the worst underachievers in college football. But at schools like those, if you’re not winning at the highest level, you’re going to feel like one.

Or, in Kirby Smart’s case, made to feel like one.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Recruiting, Stats Geek!

The dog ate their computer’s homework. Or something.

How it started.

Georgia’s FPI has dropped significantly from the end of last season.  FPI also has Georgia playing 2021’s 22nd ranked strength of schedule, which, given the current state of the SEC East, seems a might bit ambitious.

I guess I could accept that, at least until I look at the two teams bracketing the Dawgs.  Texas A&M, a spot ahead of the Dawgs, has to break in a new quarterback and replace a fair amount of its offensive line.  Plus, the Aggies play in the tougher neighborhood.  And then, c’mon, Mississippi State eighth?  And closer to Georgia than Georgia is to TAMU?

Either I’m crazy, or this season is going to be.

How it’s going.

Editor’s Note: We recently discovered that our previous preseason release of the Football Power Index in April contained data and modeling errors. We have remedied the issues and are re-releasing FPI here ahead of the 2021 season. ESPN Analytics regrets the error.

Hunh.  Guess I wasn’t crazy.

Several teams were disproportionately affected by the aforementioned errors in FPI’s initial release, and we wanted to call those out. Perhaps no team generated more attention than Mississippi State from that initial release, when we (in error, we now know), ranked the Bulldogs in the top 10. The Bulldogs are No. 24 in our current release.

Again, this was the result of data and modeling errors, and the change is of no reflection on anything occurring in Starkville. Nonetheless, we feel it’s necessary to call it out given the attention the Bulldogs’ original rank received. Likewise, we’d like to note other notable teams that were also significantly affected by the errors and their resulting move since: Miami (moved up from No. 20 to No. 10), Oklahoma State (down from No. 9 to No. 19), Washington (up from No. 59 to No. 25), Utah (up from No. 57 to No. 30), UCF (up from No. 70 to No. 34), BYU (up from No. 63 to No. 38), Coastal Carolina (down from No. 35 to No. 60), Kansas State (down from No. 44 to No. 67).

Mickey’s stat department has a credibility problem, which is a strange thing to say given that Bill Connelly works there.  If ESPN has a shred of shame… eh, who am I kidding here?

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Filed under ESPN Is The Devil, Stats Geek!

Another best coaching list, with a twist

PFF’s top 20 coaches list tries a different angle:

These college football head coach rankings are a shoutout to the underdog and the unwanted, a chance to recognize those who might not be in the national spotlight but deserve their moment for clawing their programs up from the depths and steering it toward a new, compelling future.

It’s always difficult to examine coaches through the prism of wins, losses and efficiency rankings. After all, coaches who win a seemingly endless number of games aren’t necessarily good, and those who lose games aren’t necessarily bad.

The opportunity to win games was the biggest factor here. Flying above or below program expectations was the most important point when putting this list together.

Funnily enough, Saban and Swinney top the list.  But check out number three:

3. Kirby Smart, Georgia

Imagine a world in which Kirby Smart is a two-time national champion, one where his team did not blow a 10-point lead to Alabama in the fourth quarter of the 2018 championship game and then a 14-point third-quarter lead in the SEC Championship the following year.

It’s a future that Dawg fans can only dream of because Smart is still only a one-time SEC champion and zero-time national champion. It’s unfair, but it’s hard to hold two fluke comebacks against him — not that he’s totally off the hook for those two Bama losses — but he has surpassed Mark Richt’s 74% win rate with his 79% win rate in six years.

Georgia’s defense had fallen to 13th in expected points added (EPA) allowed per play in the two years before Kirby’s arrival, but he’s since straightened that out. The program ranks sixth in the same metric in the five years since he became head coach.

Gee, no mention of Justin Fields there.  I’m not sure how seriously we should take that.

By the way, Dan Mullen pops up at number five, and there’s actually some valid reasoning behind it.

It’s hard to truly describe the offensive mess that Florida found itself in before Dan Mullen arrived in Gainesville. From 2014 to 2017, the Gators offense ranked 120th in EPA per play — that is not just bad, it is horrendous.

Mullen had them up to 29th in Year 1 and 30th in Year 2, and then they exploded with an 11th-place finish in 2020. Considering those advancements were mostly made with other coaches’ recruiting classes, those numbers are as impressive as it gets. We also shouldn’t forget his sterling 60% win rate as head coach of Mississippi State, where he took over a program that had only gone 21-38 in the five previous years under Sylvester Croom.

For all his flaws — and we’ve certainly documented plenty of them here — the dude has a seriously decent offensive mind.  Just not decent enough to overcome said flaws.

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Filed under Gators, Gators..., Georgia Football, Stats Geek!

If he could do it for Nick Mullens and Brandon Weeden…

… just imagine what Todd Monken can do for JT Daniels.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Stats Geek!

Bill Connelly’s updated returning production stats, July edition

He’s updated them, based on current roster moves.

If you compare those with what he posted back in April, you’ll see that Georgia has modestly improved both its percentage (by 2%) and its ranking (from 111th to 110th).

What’s of real interest to me is how many of the national contenders are in roughly the same boat:  Clemson (104th); Alabama (123rd); Ohio State (125th).  The one exception is Oklahoma, at 73rd.

As you can see from Bill’s notes, this year is something of an anomaly when it comes to returning production, most likely caused by the increased activity in the transfer portal, as well as the NCAA’s super senior rule.  And while returning production is a component of Bill’s SP+, it’s not the only factor.  Still, this, along with a few other things, is starting to nudge me in the direction of the Sooners as national champs.

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