Say what you want about the tenets of Georgia’s 2016 offensive strategy, dude, but when it comes to third-down conversion rates, at least it’s an ethos.
Category Archives: Stats Geek!
The bad news is that Georgia finished the 2016 season ranked 68th in Bill Connelly’s S&P+ rankings.
The good news is that you can make an argument that Georgia over-performed its S&P+ ranking of 68th.
This is one of those things that is both entirely expected and yet entirely disappointing at the same time: “But as it turns out, a sideline bias in the NFL is real, and it’s spectacular.”
Then again, that’s the NFL. We all know that the SEC has long stood for the proposition that its officiating staffs are the most professional in the biz. No worries, road teams!
Okay, red zone defense may have left something to be desired, but there were bright spots on that side of the ball for Georgia during the 2016 season.
One is turnovers.
Georgia ranked 10th in the nation in turnovers gained with 27, including 15 interceptions and 12 fumbles recovered. That was the Bulldogs best national ranking in that category since 2011 and up from 43rd in 2015.
“I think our guys understand that you have to take the ball away,” defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said before a Liberty Bowl win over TCU, “so attacking the football, forcing takeaways and working to win the turnover margin is very important.”
Georgia had a plus-7 turnover margin in its eight wins and plus-one in its five losses in the first year under coach Kirby Smart.
“If you practice high-pointing the ball and ripping at the ball Monday through Friday then on Saturday it comes easy,” outside linebacker Davin Bellamy said.
Statistically speaking, there is some luck involved (primarily tied to where the ball comes loose), so we’ll have to wait and see if this was simply a random showing, or if the coaches’ emphasis on forcing takeaways is in fact paying off.
While there may be a factor with turnovers that can’t be controlled, I don’t think you can say the same thing about this area of performance.
Look who stopped the run last season. Looks like at least one lesson from Tuscaloosa took. And with the development of the defensive line, I only expect that to get better.
But maybe it’s just that most SEC offenses blew chunks this season.
Only one SEC school – Missouri, which finished rock bottom in the SEC East standings – ranked among the top 20 in the FBS in total offense. The Tigers placed 13th overall with 500.5 yards per game.
Conversely, three teams, including SEC East champion Florida, ranked outside the nation’s top 100 – among the 20 least productive units in the country.
It’s the first time since 2011 that no SEC school has made the top 10 nationally in total offense, and the first time since 2005 that no team currently in the conference has earned a top-10 offensive ranking…
… The Crimson Tide placed a fully-respectable 31st in total offense at 460.9 yards per game…
The rest of the bunch: Texas A&M (24th), Ole Miss (26th), Tennessee (40th), Auburn (43rd), Mississippi State (44th), Arkansas (54th), LSU (59th), Kentucky (61st), Georgia (87th), Vanderbilt (110th), South Carolina (115th) and – bringing up the rear – Florida (116th).
A couple of things there — one, Florida winning nine games with one of the worst offenses in the country seems nearly miraculous, and while Jim McElwain deserves kudos for pulling that off, you have to wonder how long he can manage to keep that kind of balancing act in the air.
Two, as I said in the comments, maybe we should be keeping a quiet eye on Missouri’s chances in 2017. The Tigers certainly weren’t without their flaws…
The key to Missouri’s statistical success was its passing attack with quarterback Drew Lock, which averaged more than 295 yards per game. But the reasons for Missouri’s lack of real-life success included shaky ball control (28 fumbles in 12 games), special teams miscues (only six made field goals, as well as poor kick coverage) and a woeful defense that gave up points faster than the Tigers could score them. The result: a 4-8 season.
… but there’s something to be said about being one of only two SEC East offenses that finished 2016 in the upper half of the conference standings in total offense, especially when the other, Tennessee, has lost its offensive coordinator and most of its skill position talent. (Also, notice that the East makes up the entirety of the bottom five in total offense.)
If you want to be cynical, it’s another reason to think Georgia’s chances to win the East next season aren’t awful. After all, if you can’t make headway against this…
It might surprise you to learn that by the narrowest of margins, the team turned in its best percentile performance of the season in the bowl game, but at 77%, it wasn’t exactly anything to write home about. More surprising is the discovery that the Nicholls game turned out not to be the worst performance of 2016; that honor goes instead to the Ole Miss effort (or, more accurately, lack thereof).
There aren’t many things that jump out at me, but a few items are worth mentioning: the offense, proving to be neither explosive (96th) nor efficient (82nd); situational stats showing the team lagged in the second quarter all season, but had its best showing in the fourth (does S&C deserve some credit?); and the absolutely putrid yardage numbers turned in by the kick returners (anyone who returned a kickoff out of the end zone committed return malpractice).
There’s a helluva lot to work on this offseason, in other words.
If you’re one of those folks who’ve been consoling themselves with the thought that Georgia was this close to being 10-2 in the just concluded regular season, you’re probably not going to be comforted by this Team Speed Kills post on Pythagorean expectation for the SEC in 2017.
PE, in case you’re wondering, “measures total points scored and points allowed multiplied by the number of games played to get a projected win total (Pythagorean wins)”. It took the bowl game to accomplish it, but Georgia barely finished in the black in net scoring in 2016, and based on that should have finished just shy of seven wins.
Now, the post’s author goes on to define the spread between Pythagorean and actual wins as “luck”, but I think it’s a little more nuanced than that in some cases. Good coaches can steal a win here and there; bad coaches can snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory. (I’ll leave it to you to decide where the credit lies for Georgia +1.3 win spread.)
As 2016 is in the barn, what’s of interest is what PE says for next season. As you can probably guess, our old friend regression to the mean is in play.
In short, winning more games than your Pythagorean Expectation tends to mean a team will decline the following season, while falling short of expectations tends to mean a team will improve…
… Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Tennessee may all take a step back next season, and it would likely come at the hands of resurging Vandy and Missouri teams.
Yeah, well, let’s slow down and unpack this a bit for a sec. First, play the caveat.
Pythagorean projection is just one tool for projection. It doesn’t encompasses an unlucky streak of injuries or turnover margin, or account for early departures and new coaching hires, but it’s historically been a more significant way to base future assumptions beyond simple wins and losses.
Urp. Georgia didn’t suffer an unlikely streak of injuries last season. The Dawgs finished +8 in turnover margin, tops in the SEC (with one game left for Alabama). Both of those would feed into an unfavorable regression story for next season.
On the other hand, we know the story about early departures and it’s very favorable. Georgia has already taken its lumps on the new coaching hires front, and as we saw in this Bill Connelly post, second year coaching time is usually the right time. So those factors would seem to cut against regression to the mean.
Also working in Georgia’s favor next season is yet another fairly soft schedule. Maybe things will change — they often do — but from this early vantage point, it doesn’t appear to be loaded with an abundance of ranked opponents.
The wild card, of course, is the relative talent levels of teams in the SEC East. Georgia, as I’ve already mentioned, has that quartet of returning juniors that’s unmatched by any other team in the division. Tennessee, in fact, is losing some monster talent early to the NFL draft, and there are other SEC East schools, like Florida and Missouri, also losing contributors. The other part of this is where the 2017 recruiting class wind up in a month.
Obviously, a lot can happen in a month, but right now…
… the Dawgs are lapping the divisional field. And, no, even if things held as they project, not every one of those studs would play next season, but you’d have to think Georgia’s odds of finding significant contributors in the next freshman class are better than any other East program’s, simply based on sheer numbers.
Honestly, you can say we’re looking at a half empty/half full glass for 2017, and I get your point. I still think the two biggest factors for Georgia stepping up are Jacob Eason and Kirby Smart mastering their learning curves and nobody can say for sure how that goes. But it’s not hard to argue that the program will be facing something of an uphill struggle against regression to the mean; it’ll be up to Smart to come up with enough improvement in other areas to overcome that.