Category Archives: Stats Geek!

The biggest thing that’s gotta get fixed

Georgia’s defensive stats declined pretty much across the board from 2015 to 2016, but the Dawgs still managed to finish a credible sixteenth nationally in total defense this season.  Unfortunately, where the rubber meets the road — scoring defense — the story isn’t as good, as Georgia ranks 39th, a major drop from 2015’s eighth place finish.

The blame for the tumble doesn’t lie with turnovers forced, where the defense improved from 22 (43rd nationally) in 2015 to 25, which was tenth best this season.  And some of it can be chalked up to a steady decline in field position efficiency.  Brian Fremeau’s FEI field position rankings over Georgia’s past three seasons are 4th, 31st and 53rd.  Special teams and offense are both contributors there, and it’s not hard to think of examples that made life harder for the defense throughout this season.

But that all pales by comparison with the biggest sore spot, red zone defense.  Georgia is next to last in the country in opponent’s red zone conversion percentage, but even that doesn’t give you the true flavor of how poorly things have gone this year.  Check out Georgia’s percentage over the past nine seasons:

  • 2008:  80.43%
  • 2009:  82.93%
  • 2010:  80.58%
  • 2011:  90.63%
  • 2012:  73.91%
  • 2013:  85.42%
  • 2014:  77.50%
  • 2015:  67.65%
  • 2016:  94.59%

That’s right.  As bad as you thought Willie Martinez was at the end of his run — and you weren’t wrong about that — and as bad as you thought Grantham’s defense was his last season in Athens, both of them were more competent at keeping the other team from scoring once inside Georgia’s twenty-yard line than Smart and Tucker have been capable of preventing this season.

It’s an understatement to say that has to be addressed if Georgia is going to be a better team next season.  I have no idea if the obscene drop from ’15 to ’16 was a product of scheme or personnel (both, most likely), but, then again, I’m not the guys being paid to figure that kind of stuff out.  What I do know is that going from first to last in the SEC in an important defensive stat like that ain’t gonna cut it over the long haul.

The tough thing is that it’s not reasonable to expect a complete reversal of fortune in one season.  That being said, a return to at least middle of the road respectability is close to a necessity if next year’s defense is going to be a factor in making the program competitive.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Stats Geek!

Today, in maybe, possibly giving too much credit

I thought going into the season that Jim Chaney’s good work at Pittsburgh last season with Nathan Peterman, who, when I saw him play for Tennessee, may have been the worst quarterback in the SEC, would bode well for Jacob Eason’s future.

Welp, take a look at Peterman’s passer ratings over his four-year career:

  • 2013:  42.53
  • 2014:  70.58
  • 2015:  138.57
  • 2016:  161.23

Chaney made Peterman into an average passer, which is to his credit.  But this year’s quarterbacks coach at Pitt made him into an excellent one.

Eason, by the way, finished 2016 with a 118.21 passer rating.  That’s the lowest such mark notched by a Georgia starting quarterback since Matthew Stafford’s freshman season.  There’s an obvious similarity to note there, and this isn’t to say that there won’t be improvement in 2017.  But I do now wonder if there’s a ceiling with Chaney that there might not be with another position coach.  Time will tell.

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Why Georgia’s 2016 season is a disappointment.

Listening to Kevin Butler and Jeff Dantzler after the game describe this year as a “throwaway season” was infuriating to me as a season ticket holder.  But in the cold light of day afterwards, the worst part about that description may be that I’m not sure it’s even accurate.

To me, throwaway season implies that Smart had a plan to use this year as a learning experience to build on towards better times.  That gets back to something I said before the season started, namely, that I would judge his first year as a head coach not so much on wins and losses as I would perceived progress.  As far as that goes, unfortunately, it’s hard to see much of that as we sit here after a mediocre 2016 regular season.

Take, for example, Bill Connelly’s advanced stats percentile performances for the year.

  • North Carolina:  91%
  • Nicholls:  11%
  • Missouri:  83%
  • Ole Miss:  32%
  • Tennessee:  87%
  • South Carolina:  30%
  • Vanderbilt:  33%
  • Florida: 23%
  • Kentucky: 40%
  • Auburn:  35%
  • ULL:  25%
  • Georgia Tech:  19%

That is not the pattern you’d expect to see from a team getting better as the season progressed.  It is, rather, the pattern you’d expect to see from a team that made a habit out of playing down to the level of its opponent… or worse.  That it couldn’t offer an above average performance in a single game out of its last seven is disturbing if you’re looking for a sign of things coming together.

Ordinarily, crappy bowl games mean little to me, other than as a final three-and-a-half hour entertainment to cap off another football season.  This time, though, there’s something more to keep an eye on, simply because this coaching staff has some serious work to do and it can’t start soon enough (or at least soon after a quick burst of recruiting during the week leading up to the SECCG).  If the bowl game proves to be another mediocre slog topping off a throwaway year, I dread hearing what kind of label Butler and Dantzler come up with to slap on 2017.

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“It’s not like we don’t practice it, I can tell you that.”

North Carolina didn’t have an interception against Georgia in their opener.  Nine games later, the Tar Heels still don’t have one.

The Tar Heels have played 10 games. They have two games left in the regular season. And here in mid-November, more than three months after the start of preseason practice, UNC is still seeking its first interception.

The Tar Heels’ interception-less streak might be the most bizarre statistic of the college football season. Among the 128 teams that play at the FBS level – formerly known as Division I-A – UNC is the only team in the country without an interception.

Every other team has at least three interceptions. One-hundred and eight teams – including every other team in the state, and in the ACC – has intercepted at least five passes…

That’s about as unusual as you might expect.

If you’re wondering about the history, and about the last time an FBS team went an entire season without intercepting pass, then, well – you’re not alone. Jeff Williams, an NCAA official who is in charge of the official NCAA football record book, couldn’t identify when it last happened, or if it has happened.

Williams spent part of Tuesday searching through the NCAA’s statistical archives. He looked through records for every season between 1989 and 2016, and he couldn’t find an instance of a team finishing a season without an interception. Records before 1989, he wrote an email, do not include every FBS team – only the leaders in a statistical category in that given season.

“I have to believe it has happened before,” Williams wrote, “but clearly it hasn’t happened in the last 25 (plus) years. I think it’s safe to say that every FBS team since at least 1991 has had at least one interception during the season.”

This week they’re playing a triple option team that’s attempted less than 100 passes all season, so the odds aren’t good the run will end.

The strangest part of this is that they weren’t bad at all last season with picks, and several of those players returned this year.

Just last season, they intercepted 17 passes, which ranked tied for 14th nationally. Players who accounted for more than half of those interceptions returned, including M.J. Stewart, the cornerback who led UNC with four interceptions last season…

College football.  Go figure.

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Malzahn’s Kryptonite

Danielson made a big deal out of Kirby Smart’s experience defending Malzahn’s offense, but in reality, Saturday was more of a continuation of Georgia’s good work than merely that.

Of the six games in which Auburn has failed to register at least 300 yards of total offense under coach Gus Malzahn have come against Georgia. The Bulldogs held the Tigers to their puniest output in Malzahn’s tenure at 164 yards in a 13-7 victory over Auburn on Saturday. Georgia was the first team to hold Malzahn’s Tigers to fewer than 300 yards during their 2014 visit to Sanford Stadium, when Auburn gained 292 yards in a 34-7 loss. In 2015, Georgia held Auburn to 275 yards in the Bulldogs’ 20-13 victory. LSU and Alabama limited the Tigers to 260 yards last season, which had been Auburn’s low under Malzahn until Saturday’s game. Georgia held Auburn without a first down in the second half on Saturday.

Not so tough without that rabbit’s foot.

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

Only somewhat historic, but enjoyable nonetheless

Any measure that puts you on a top ten list with Reggie Ball for passing futility in a game against Georgia is a good one in my book, so my congrats go out to you, Sean White.

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Georgia ain’t played S&P+, PAWWWLLL.

Bill Connelly’s advanced stats profile isn’t convinced Georgia turned a corner Saturday night.  Take a look at the team’s percentile performance in its last four games:

  • Vanderbilt:  28%
  • Florida:  44%
  • Kentucky:  46%
  • Auburn:  44%

Not exactly the dramatic uptick you were expecting.

According to Bill’s numbers, the defense did play one of its best games of the season (duh), but the offense didn’t fare nearly as well.  On the other hand, it was the worst showing of 2016 by Auburn’s offense, although, oddly enough, the Tigers’ defense actually scored out higher than Georgia’s did.  I guess I need more time to process the information.

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