Category Archives: Stats Geek!

What do you get when you cross advanced stats with the GTP comments section?

Why, Bill Connelly’s Georgia preview, of course.  I mean, tell me this doesn’t sound familiar:

Georgia blew it last year. Badly.

Mark Richt’s Bulldogs spent most of the last two months playing at an absurdly high level. They crushed Missouri in Columbia, then bolted out to a huge lead and hit cruise control in Little Rock against Arkansas. They laughed at any sort of upset bid Kentucky thought it could make in Lexington, then made the most of a revenge attempt against Auburn. And in the Belk Bowl, they shoved Louisville around like a set of 11 rag dolls.

Combined with a season-opening pasting of Clemson, Georgia had the distinction of being one of the most frequently awesome teams in the country, despite losing surefire Heisman candidate Todd Gurley pretty early.

This frequently awesome team also got thumped by Florida, 38-20, thereby blowing the SEC East.

Hell, it might have been the most befuddling result of 2014. A team that allowed 443 combined rushing yards against Missouri, Louisville, Clemson, Tennessee and Arkansas, gave up 418 to Florida. Florida! A team that otherwise rushed for 167 per game!

If you keep nodding vigorously, it makes it harder to read the rest of his post.

The thing is, Bill keeps coming back to the same perspective most of us have about Georgia in 2015.  The Dawgs should win the SEC East, but do you really want to bet the ranch on that happening?  Even if most of the arguments against Georgia aren’t that strong when you look at them?

All of these are possible. But Georgia’s odds of winning a division title are as strong as almost anybody’s in the country. Let’s go ahead and walk through some rebuttals.

But Tennessee’s been recruiting so well for two years. So has Georgia. For more than two years. Tennessee peaked with a No. 4 ranking in this year’s 247Sports Composite. Georgia’s recruiting average over the last five years ranks sixth.

But Georgia has to play at Tennessee. True. Auburn, too. And Tennessee has to play at Alabama, Missouri, and Florida. In this year’s Football Outsiders Almanac 2015 (college-only version available for only $6 in PDF form), Georgia’s projected conference strength of schedule ranks 20th in the country; Tennessee’s ranks ninth.

But Missouri’s won back-to-back East titles. True. And the Tigers’ conference SOS ranks only 35th. But no one’s won an SEC division three times in a row in nearly 20 years (Florida, 1994-96), and the Tigers’ defensive line, such a strength in recent years, is rebuilding.

But the Dawgs choke every year. No, they really don’t.

  • 2005: Won it
  • 2006: Lost out to a better team, eventual national champion Florida
  • 2007: Blew it with a dumb loss to South Carolina
  • 2008: Lost out to a better team, eventual national champion Florida
  • 2009-10: Weren’t good enough to blow anything
  • 2011-12: Won it
  • 2013: Lost out to a better team, Missouri
  • 2014: Blew it with a dumb loss to Florida

Georgia has been the best team in the East five times in the last 10 seasons and has won the East three times. I realize that means they should have won five times, but I’ll take those odds.

And Bill doesn’t even mention there that Georgia’s done more than okay on the road in Auburn over the last decade.  But you get his drift.

The bottom line is that Bill is a stats guy.  And the stats shriek pretty loudly in Georgia’s favor.

I get that picking Georgia makes you nervous. And maybe it should. But even with a new quarterback and offensive coordinator, the Dawgs are the second-surest thing in the SEC behind Alabama. And considering they play in the weaker of the two divisions, maybe that makes them the surest, period.

The Football Outsiders Almanac 2015 projects the Dawgs fourth overall — ahead of Baylor, Auburn, Michigan State, Notre Dame, and other national favorites — and gives them a 77 percent chance of 6-2 or better in the SEC. For other teams in the East, those are 45 percent (Missouri), 14 percent (Tennessee), 12 percent (South Carolina), and 2 percent (Florida).

Tennessee, et al, might be capable of a run. Georgia simply is.

But Florida… but Florida.

Again, if you want to doubt the Dawgs because of this game, I can’t stop you. I have minimal explanation for it.

In the end, it’s not that Georgia isn’t without its share of flaws.  It’s that Georgia is less flawed than any team in this season’s SEC East.

Georgia has enough legitimate questions to make you doubt. The quarterback situation has not sorted itself out yet, the new offensive coordinator isn’t the slam dunk that Pruitt appeared to be a year ago, and the run defense was downright bad at times last fall.

Still, the other East contenders have at least as many concerns and lower upside. Tennessee’s offensive line isn’t guaranteed to improve, and there are serious depth concerns throughout. Missouri is starting from scratch at receiver and on the defensive line. Florida barely has enough offensive linemen to fill a two-deep and has the same quarterback questions as the Dawgs, with fewer potential answers.

You have to go out farther on a limb to pick some other contender to take the East for the third season in a row.  Which isn’t nearly the same thing as saying that can’t happen again.

… just because they blew it last year doesn’t mean they will do it each year. Remind yourself of that, even as visions of Kelvin Taylor running wild fill your head.

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves if we tried.


Filed under Georgia Football, Stats Geek!

“The running game is arithmetic.”

In kind of a weird coincidence, two articles on the resurgence of the running game in college football popped up yesterday, this one from Dennis Dodd and another from Andrea Adelson.

Both share some common themes, for instance, the role a running quarterback plays in changing the numbers game.  Adelson quotes Rich Rodriguez.

When Rodriguez first started implementing the spread as an assistant 27 years ago, it was with throwing more in mind. But as the offense evolved, he found himself spreading more to run. The reason? A simple numbers game.

“We felt you had to have less good blocks to have a successful run than if you put everybody in there tight,” Rodriguez explained. “If we got two or three blocks at the point of attack, and the rest of the guys get run over slowly, we’ve got a chance — as opposed to having to make five or six blocks. So that was our reasoning behind spreading to run. And having the quarterback with a threat to run makes defenses play all 11 guys instead of playing 11 on 10.”

And that’s the gist of Dodd’s piece.

Average quarterback rush yards has nearly doubled in the last decade, according to research compiled by SportSource Analytics. Quarterback yards per carry are up 53 percent (1.83 in 2005, 2.83 in 2014).

Rushing yards gained by quarterbacks accounted for more than 15 percent of the national rushing yardage total last year. That’s up from 10.5 percent a decade ago.

It’s no secret why.

“The advent of the spread and the quarterback being a viable runner,” explained Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. “As a former defensive coordinator, that’s your biggest nightmare — a quarterback who can hurt you both ways.”

In that defensive coordinator parlance, an offense that features a running quarterback is called a “plus one.” Simply put, the defense has to account for 11 players, instead of 10. Down through the ages, that hasn’t necessarily been the case. In the last 10-15 years with advent of spread offenses, it’s been the norm.

You can tell from the flavor of both of those quotes that the rise of the spread is another common theme.  And, again, it’s hard to argue with the numbers.

Defenses have been struggling to catch up. Over the past three seasons, running backs have averaged 5.1 yards per carry — higher than any point since 2004. According to ESPN Stats & Information, teams faced an average of 6.8 defenders in the box last season, a number that has been slowly dropping since the average was 7.0 in 2011.

Hmmm… that stat rings a bell from somewhere.  Oh, yeah.

Note that Georgia and Arkansas, two unabashed pro-style offenses with power running attacks, sit well above that 6.8 DITB average.  They’re obviously not playing that numbers game the way Rodriguez does.  But what’s interesting is that there’s another common point to Adelson’s and Dodd’s pieces – Nick Chubb.  And of course, Chubb doesn’t run from a spread attack.  So what’s he doing there?  Adelson has an explanation that I can buy into about that:

Traditional power run teams might be dwindling, but some coaches believe they have benefited from the spread too. With more defensive schemes predicated on slowing down the spread, players are not accustomed to playing downhill, power run teams.

Virginia assistant Chris Beatty worked at Wisconsin last year and watched Melvin Gordon run for 2,587 yards — the second-highest total in NCAA history. Gordon is a rare talent in his own right, but defenses not only struggled to tackle him, they struggled to defend the right gaps.

“It’s harder and harder on defenses, and I think an advantage for us at Wisconsin was everybody’s geared to stop the spread now,” Beatty said. “We were one of a handful of teams that runs a pro-style offense, so it creates an issue personnel-wise for defenses — how do they want to be? For us with Melvin Gordon, it was hard for people to match up.”

As I’ve said plenty of times, there is value in being contrary.


Filed under Stats Geek!, Strategery And Mechanics

I think they’re gonna need a bigger rabbit’s foot.

Give Bill Connelly a little credit.  As more and more people keep rushing to the exit door labelled “Auburn, playoffs bound“, Bill takes a more measured tack in describing Auburn’s prospects.

Auburn allowed more than 40 points per game in its five losses, and Malzahn elected to replace coordinator Ellis Johnson with Muschamp, the former Florida head coach. Muschamp’s Gator defenses were stout, and now he doesn’t have to worry about that pesky “managing the offense, too” thing.

With the way Malzahn has been recruiting, it’s easy to connect these dots. Malzahn offense (which should be prolific no matter who’s in uniform) plus Muschamp defense (angry and aggressive no matter what) plus star athletes equals success. And that makes sense.

But I do wonder if we’re rushing things. Malzahn and Muschamp should be able to create a high baseline, but with turnover on offense and potential depth issues on defense, are we really sure this team is better than Bama?

There are good reasons to ask that question:  (1) lots of turnover on the offensive side of the ball (depending on whether Williams returns to Gus’ good graces in time, they could be down to four returning starters); (2) depth issues on defense; and (3) speaking of Muschamp defense…

One other interesting variable: Muschamp vs. tempo. As Florida’s head coach, he employed a plodding offense that seemed like it was designed to buy time for the defense. Now he will be working opposite one of the most potent offenses in the country. His defense will be on the field more, which could create the need for more depth … which he might not have until 2016.

And in the end, that’s how you get to talking about karma and mojo in trying to analyze Auburn’s 2015.

It’s not impossible to see a top-five caliber Auburn running the table, easing by LSU and Arkansas on the road and finishing with home wins (probably dramatically) over UGA and Bama.

I’m struggling to picture that. While I’m not a betting man, I would have long ago learned not to bet on Auburn regardless. They turn when you think they’re going to twist, zag when most teams would zig.

But a team with normal karmic ebbs and flows, ranking somewhere in the top 10 or 15, would probably lose at least a couple of games here. In fact, despite a No. 11 projection, the Football Outsiders Almanac 2015 (college-only version available for only $6 in PDF form) gives the Tigers only a 15 percent chance of finishing 10-2 or better. And no, mojo is not one of the projection factors.

It’s worked for Malzahn before, so who am I to say it won’t again?  But I think I’ll wait and see first before I rush to the exit.

(By the way, one thing about Bill’s stats that’s starting to drive me crazy is the way Georgia keeps popping up as the team that administered the worst beat down on an opponent’s 2014 schedule.  First Mizzou, now Auburn.  Sheesh, guys… how could you lose to Florida?)


Filed under Auburn's Cast of Thousands, Stats Geek!

Feelings, nothing more than feelings

Barry Alvarez believes stats serve a purpose in his role as a member of the selection committee.  They exist to help support his personal feelings about a team.

“We found that the statistical and analytic side of the stats that we were charting supported what he was seeing, that yep, [Mississippi State] is a really productive team and a team that’s going to win a lot of games and beat good teams,” he said. “It was very validating for him to come up with his opinion of a team early on and then have the statistical and empirical data match that or validate that.”

How fortunate for the statistics – and Barry.  Because nobody wants to walk into the room armed with little more than a smile and a ‘Well, here’s what I’m seeing, these are my opinions,’ line for the others.

That being said, you think Alvarez would have come to a different conclusion if he couldn’t find any stats in support for it?  Me neither.


Filed under BCS/Playoffs, Stats Geek!

The further adventures of run the damned ball

The next time somebody suggests all you need to do to stop Georgia’s offense is load the box and dare the quarterback to throw, hit ’em with this:

That is a pretty friggin’ impressive stat right there, peeps.


Filed under Georgia Football, Stats Geek!

ESPN’s inescapable logic

The one regular season game ESPN’s FPI projects Georgia to lose?

Georgia’s chances to win each game
09.05 vs. Louisiana-Monroe: 98.6%
09.12 @ Vanderbilt: 82.0%
09.19 vs. South Carolina: 84.9%
09.26 vs. Southern: 99.9%
10.03 vs. Alabama:
10.10 @ Tennessee: 49.0%*
10.17 vs Missouri: 79.2%
10.31 Florida (Jacksonville): 71.8%
11.07 vs. Kentucky: 88.4%
11.14 @ Auburn: 53.9%
11.21 vs. Georgia Southern: 92.6%
11.28 @ Georgia Tech: 63.4%

How come?  You can probably guess the reason.

SHARON KATZ, ESPN Stats & Info: FPI sees that the Vols return an SEC-high 18 starters and have signed back-to-back top-five classes, which will pay dividends.

Well, not so much against Alabama.

Tennessee’s chances to win each game
09.05 vs. Bowling Green: 93.7%
09.12 vs. Oklahoma: 58.9%
09.19 vs. Western Carolina: 99.8%
09.26 @ Florida: 58.4%
10.03 vs. Arkansas: 54.2%
10.10 vs. Georgia: 51%
10.24 @Alabama: 31.9%*
10.31 @Kentucky: 73.9%
11.07 vs. South Carolina: 80.7%
11.14 vs. North Texas: 98%
11.21 @Missouri: 60.1%
11.28 vs. Vanderbilt: 87.2%

So Georgia is a slight favorite against the Tide and a slight-er underdog against Tennessee, which is a huge dog against Alabama. Got it.

I think they need to put ESPN’s computer on the selection committee.  It’ll fit right in.


Filed under Because Nothing Sucks Like A Big Orange, Georgia Football, Stats Geek!

The Pruitt effect, ctd.

Our old friend David Hale posted something on Twitter you may find of interest:

True, as some of the FSU fans note in response, the ‘Noles lost a boat load of talent when Pruitt changed jobs.  But that doesn’t change the improvement he worked at Georgia last season.  And talk about losing talent in the secondary…


Filed under Georgia Football, Stats Geek!