Bill Connelly breaks down last season’s top running backs’ statistical performances by eleven different categories. Care to guess how many times a Georgia player’s name crops up? Let’s just say it’s not a good number for a team that was supposedly built around the running game and leave it at that.
Category Archives: Stats Geek!
Over at The Power Rank, Ed Feng ranks the top 25 college football programs in order of the talent they’ve accumulated over the past four seasons, based on Rivals’ recruiting rankings. Georgia comes out fifth.
Kirby Smart has shown he can recruit, as he got the 9th and 3rd ranked class in 2016 and 2017 respectively. But can he turn this talent into a SEC champion? The offense declined dramatically in his first year as coach, perhaps because he played a true freshman at quarterback.
I’m not sure I’d describe the offensive decline from ’15 to ’16 as dramatic, but that’s a subject for another post.
What I do find interesting about Feng’s post is first what DawgNation’s Brandon Adams concludes from it. Calling it a crucial advantage over everyone on its 2017 schedule, Adams notes that “Georgia has a more talented roster than any of its opponents this season, and a higher ranking based on recruiting ratings than all but four teams in the country.”
That’s fine as far as it goes, but the other thing I caught from Feng’s rankings is grounds for some caution. Georgia plays six teams in the regular season that appear in Feng’s top 25. They’ll be facing plenty of talent themselves, in other words.
It’s nice to have more talent than the other guys on any given Saturday, but over the course of the season, with injuries and the ups and downs that are inevitable as the season progresses, there are going to be plenty of times when a talent advantage — and that’s even before we get to analyzing how big that advantage may be against a particular opponent — means less. Georgia’s track record from last season had more examples of that than we liked.
It’s a long slog, in other words, and talent won’t always get you where you need to go. Can Smart’s team step it up and carry through in games when it isn’t out-talenting someone?
One other thing about that ESPN spring FPI set of rankings:
Teams on the rise
There are four teams in the top 25 in the spring football version of Preseason FPI that are at least 20 spots higher than their ranking at the end of last season.
… Georgia is up to No. 13 after finishing outside the top 40 in 2016. The Bulldogs return 17 starters, tied for the most in the SEC, and added the No. 3 recruiting class.
It’s another sign that it’ll be hard to make the case for 2017 being a second throwaway year for Kirby Smart. ESPN’s not buying in.
Bill Connelly takes a stab at analyzing last year’s quarterbacks data.
Out of pure curiosity, I wanted to play with the data by creating some rough player types. I set up three categories based on each player’s passes-to-rushes ratio. If it was 7.0 or greater (meaning 7 passes/sacks to every intentional rush), you’re a statue. If it’s between 3.5 and 7, you’re a dual-threat. If it’s below 3.5, you’re a runner.
Of the 240 or so quarterbacks with at least 45 combined rushes and pass attempts*, that breaks them into three groups of about 70-90 each. It doesn’t really do us any good to compare a Washington State quarterback to an Army quarterback, but comparing them in this way allows us to compare apples to apples to some degree.
* 45 combined rushes and passes is a pretty low bar, and it results in a few odd categorizations — if you were a backup and mostly played in blowouts, you might have rushed more than you would have otherwise given more snaps. But let’s go with this. This is my first stab at it.
Once each player was categorized, I decided to play with percentiles within each category. I looked at percentiles for completion rate, yards per completion, interception rate, and sack rate, and for non-statues, I added highlight yards per opportunity and opportunity rate.
So basically, within each player type, I looked at your efficiency, explosiveness, and ability to avoid disaster.
You won’t be surprised to find that Baker Mayfield had a ridiculous season. But of more interest to us locals is what the data says about Jacob Eason. As the header indicates, the data is none too kind.
Your proverbial work in progress, in other words. It’s not all about him, of course. We all know he needs more help from the line, but the other stat that jumps out is yards per attempt, which has been in a steady decline since Aaron Murray’s stellar 2012 season. From cfbstats.com, here’s the sad story.
- 2012 (Murray): 10.1
- 2013 (Murray): 8.9
- 2014 (Mason): 7.8
- 2015 (Lambert): 7.7
- 2016 (Eason): 6.6
It’s pretty telling that Murray’s 2013, a year in which he played a good chunk of the season without a receiving corps beyond Conley, managed to be better at peeling off passing yardage on a per-play basis than any succeeding offense.
Eason’s drop off is comparatively severe, no doubt, and some of it is fueled by his having the only sub-60% completion percentage during that five-year stretch. How much of that is on a green kid not doing a particularly good job seeing the field, how much is on his receivers and how much is on the blocking not giving him time is something someone would need a lot of time to determine — good think Kirby’s got analysts out the wazoo for that — but it’s clear there’s a lot of work ahead for everyone associated with Georgia’s passing game.
Phil Steele will be the first to tell you that returning starts on the offensive line is a big deal.
There’s always an exception to every such rule, though. Let Patrick Garbin explain.
Next, I wanted to see if there was a correlation between a Bulldogs squad’s offensive line starts entering a season and its winning percentage at the end of the campaign. Therefore, I used the trusty correlation coefficient measurement. A few times before, I’ve used/explained this quantity, ranging from -1 to +1, like how there is a strong relationship between Rivals’ team recruiting rankings and how a team performs in terms of their final placement in the AP Poll, a moderate relationship between Georgia’s time of possession and winning percentage, and a near-strong relationship between the average Rivals rating of Georgia’s starters from 2008 through 2015 and the winning percentage of each respective team.
Yet, as far as offensive line career starts and winning percentage, there’s no positive relationship at all. In fact, there’s a moderate negative relationship of -0.318. For instance, take a look at the table above. Georgia’s top four seasons of career offensive line starts returning yielded an average record of just 8 wins and 5 losses, whereas the bottom four remarkably wound up with an average record of 11 wins and 2.5 losses.
So, as far as a good indicator over the last 27 years in terms of how a Georgia team will perform, “a returning offensive line” has not necessarily equated to wins for the Bulldogs. In fact, if anything, the opposite has been the case.
Gee, why am I not surprised?
The more interesting question is how Georgia has managed to buck Steele’s trend. Bad line coaching? Good enough offensive scheming to offset substandard line play? Knowshon Moreno, Todd Gurley and Nick Chubb?
Honestly, I have no idea. I just hope they’re not wasting their time with Coach Pittman and a great recruiting class.
David Ching suggests that if LSU wants to run down Alabama, it’s going to have to abandon Les Miles’ pound and ground approach on offense.
… One, the conservative offensive strategy the Tigers brought into several recent Alabama losses produced historically poor results. Two, despite its overall recruiting success, LSU has not signed and developed sufficient talent at particular position groups (namely quarterback), widening the gap between the two programs when they have met head-to-head.
What’s standing in their way: LSU fans’ hope is that the coaching change from the Les Miles-Cam Cameron era to Ed Orgeron, offensive coordinator Matt Canada and a reworked offensive staff will be the spark that the Tigers’ offense needed. Miles’ philosophy generally produced winning results in recent years, but not enough to contend for the big prizes that his position demanded. Orgeron knows that modernizing the offense, specifically by moving away from the plodding rushing attack that bogged down in some of LSU’s biggest games, will be the key to his success. That’s where Canada comes in. The only 2016 Broyles Award finalist who coached offense, Canada posted big numbers last season at Pittsburgh and has built a solid reputation for developing quarterbacks and drawing up inventive offensive schemes…
This is interesting to a Georgia fan for a couple of reasons. First, Canada succeeded Jim Chaney at Pitt when Chaney answered Kirby’s call to Athens. Second, if this is indeed LSU’s cue to abandon its heavy run first approach on offense, it’s worth noting some relevant statistical details from last season.
Without looking, where do you think LSU finished in the conference in rushing attempts? Nah, not even close. The Tigers were 12th in the SEC in 2016. (By comparison, Georgia was 4th.) It turned out, though, that LSU was really good when it ran the ball, as it finished first in yards per carry, which was good for third nationally, at 6.09. (Georgia, with Chubb and Michel, was an anemic ninth in the SEC.)
Now, LSU was a mediocre seventh in passer rating, so there’s certainly room for improvement there. Whether Canada figures out a way to preserve the good in the run game while juicing up LSU’s passing attack would seem to be the big question. One big area for improvement would seem to be just running more plays in general, as the Tigers were a horrid 125th last season in total plays. That went a long way towards negating a very good yards per play average (13th nationally, tied with — wait for it — Pitt). LSU was tops in the conference in that regard.
So if there’s a big jump in LSU’s offense, it may simply come as a result of Canada squeezing more snaps out of each game as opposed to some radical restructuring of offensive philosophy. Sometimes being a genius can be as easy as not trying to do too much.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the Dawgs have something of a different issue. Georgia was 58th nationally in plays run, but 86th in yards per play. There is no fresh eye coming in to call plays, either. If things are to improve, it’s going to have to start and go a long way with personnel getting better in the existing scheme. Will they is Georgia’s big question.
It will be interesting, to say the least, to see where the two stack up when all is said and done in 2017.
This is one helluva stat.
Florida has had 10 different starting quarterbacks since Tebow left after 2009. None has passed for 2,500 yards or even thrown more than 12 touchdowns in a single season.
Holy crap. And for those of you who think Boom’s offense represented some sort of nadir, I’ve got news for you.
The Gators need to upgrade at quarterback to lift an offense that has ranged from pedestrian to abysmal in McElwain’s first two seasons. In ’15 and ’16, Florida ranked 104th in the nation in offensive points per drive. The Gators ranked No. 102 in the nation in yards per play in 2015 and dropped to No. 105 last season.
Yet despite offenses for which anemic would almost be a compliment, the Gators are the two-time defending division champs. Jeez, Dawgs, they’re flat out stealing from you. Doesn’t that angry up the blood, even a little?