Monday, September 28, 2015

Numbers that matter: Georgia w/ a decided edge over Alabama

OK, so we all know that statistics can be viewed, spun, etc. in any number of ways to make a point. As such, allow me to indulge myself with a couple that you maybe weren't as familiar with.

When you talk about SEC and national rankings of certain categories, the most common ones are scoring offense/defense, total offense/defense, and passing a rushing stats. That's all fine and good, and you'll likely hear how Georgia and Bama compare in these categories ad nauseum over the next few days.

With that said, the two numbers I'd like to focus on during our time here today, ladies and gentlemen, are offensive efficiency and red zone defense.

Let's start with offensive yards per play. It's a good indicator of how well an offense has its proverbial crap together, but also how adept it is at explosive plays. Generally speaking, if you have a high number in this category, you're not throwing an abundance of incomplete passes, you're not giving up a lot of sacks or TFL's, and you're not getting stuffed at the line too often.

Here, Georgia ranks 2nd in the nation (!) behind only Baylor. The Bears are light years ahead of everyone at 9.55 yards per play. The Dawgs are 2nd at 8.26, and Southern Cal rates 3rd as the only other team above 8 ypp.

Bama, conversely, comes in at a fairly pedestrian 63rd in the nation, averaging nearly 2.5 yards fewer per play than Georgia.

This is a significant difference, and demonstrates some of the struggles in consistency and big plays that Bama has encountered on the suddenly not-so-young season.

The second statistic I'd like to draw your attention to is red zone defense. Georgia ranks 9th in the nation, holding opponents to a 62.5% scoring rate. Alabama, on the other hand, allows opponents to score 81.8% of the time they get inside the 20 yard line. This is good for 65th in the country.

To be fair, this stat typically takes more than 4 games to flesh out, because 1 stop or one score will drastically change things given the small sample size, but it does go to show that the Dawgs are able to bow up when the chips are down. The Tide, on the other hand, are not just shutting people down the way they have in the past.

I'd be remiss if I didn't do a reality check. Alabama has played some tougher opponents to this point. Wisconsin is solid, and Ole Miss is above average (although we're beginning to see that they love hanging 75 on the paycheck teams, but struggle against SEC competition).

Again, the point is that Georgia is rolling out a very effective, efficient, and at times, explosive offense. The Crimson Tide have had trouble staying in rhythm. Georgia has stiffened when the opposition is driving, and the Tide have, well, meh.

There will be so much that can and will happen, so we can't know what these or any other stats will look like by Saturday night. They wouldn't bother playing the game if we did. But, if you're a Georgia fan, these two statistical areas should make you feel pretty good.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

It does NOT matter that the Dawgs haven't played "anybody" yet

Despite beating a South Carolina team coached by one of the game's best handily, Georgia found itself being leapfrogged by 1 or 2 teams in the most recent polls, depending on which one you look at.

Ole Miss, fresh off an impressive, albeit fortune-assisted victory at BD Stadium, was one of those teams.

Can you fault the pollsters? Not really. Tuscaloosa is a tough place to earn a victory, and the Crimson Tide were ranked #2 at the time. So, it stands to reason that the Rebels would jump up significantly in the polls.

The issue at hand is that we don't know how good Alabama is, just as we didn't know how bad Auburn was before a near-death experience at home against the Sisters of the Poor, followed by the debacle against LSU, just as we didn't know how good OR how bad Stanford is, and so forth.

We go through this nonsense every September, as the voters try to figure out who's who. It's not until mid October when we at least get some idea of the, wait for it, contenders and pretenders.

Look at it this way: IF (still a big "if" against Bama/Saban) Georgia beats the Crimson Tide a week from Saturday, the victory will not carry nearly as much weight as Mississippi's win over that same team did. Why? Because at that point, the Tide will have lost 2 of their last 3 (assuming a victory this week), and they will have been ranked ~#10-15 instead of #2.

Having said all that, let's turn our attention to the Dawgs themselves. Post-Vandy, it was bridge-jumping time. Post South Carolina, it was Lambert for Heisman time.

Either way, pollsters and playoff committee people alike (I'm looking at you, Condy) have nothing but box scores and SportsCenter highlights to judge.

What I want to focus on is, how did the Dawgs actually look?

You can tell a completely over-matched team from one that was outplayed and outcoached. ULM was the former. South Carolina was the latter.

It's not as though the Gamecocks were getting completely pushed around or getting torched on go routes. On the contrary. The majority of yards gained by Georgia on the ground were hard-earned. The majority of passes (the one to Reggie Davis notwithstanding) were amid reasonably to very tight coverage.

No, the lopsided victory Saturday, especially offensively, was the result of talent, execution, and a game plan that exploited weaknesses and kept South Carolina's defense off-balance all night. Spurrier has never been more dumb-founded as when, post game, he read the stat sheet indicating the Dawgs only even got to 3rd down 4 times the whole game.

I'm not here to tell you that Georgia will win the SEC and National Championships. I'm not even proposing as a matter of fact that they will not be on the losing end of a lopsided game, either. What I am telling you is that, barring injuries or illegal memorabilia signings, this team is prepared to, on a given Saturday, beat any team in the country.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

What Lambert is/will be depends on what you focus upon

Clearly, the worst of Greyson Lambert last Saturday against Vanderbilt was bad. He threw some of the sorriest passes I've seen in a major college football game (that were not interceptions, at least).

We know about the 0-fer he put up in the first half, so there's no point rehashing that as the Dawgs finish prepping for South Carolina the day after tomorrow.

The food I do want to feed you for thought is, what about the best you've seen from Lambert thus far? Does the apogee of a player count less than his lowest point? Granted, we haven't really seen any down field passing as of yet, but we have seen some precision passing. While we've seen some happy feet lead to some proverbial worm-burners, we've also seen Lambert stand tall in the pocket, deliver a strike with some zip on it, and take the hit (see: Lambert to Blazevich last Saturday).

I'll give you an example of what I'm talking about with regard to true on-field potential. By that, I'm not talking about the big body and big arm potential of someone like Jamarcus Russell or Ryan Leaf.

If you take Matt Ryan (now far from a 'young' QB in the league) and compare him to a true elite QB (Brady, Manning, or Rodgers probably comes to mind, but whoever you like), you'll find that Ryan generally stacks up pretty well for about 80% of a football game. The thing that has kept him from being mentioned in the same breath as those guys (aside from a Super Bowl win, of course) is that he seems to just disappear or have a WTF moment for about 3 or 4 offensive series. Serieses? Series. So, we know Ryan is easily capable of being elite, but he just tends to mix too much trash in with the good stuff.

All that is to ask again, being that Lambert is young and new to this Georgia offense, will the well-thrown balls and smart decisions become the norm as the season progresses, or are the one-hoppers and tap dancing in the pocket going to be a constant part of his game. If it's the former, then Richt and Schottenheimer's faith is well-placed. If it's the latter, then they'll have no choice but to give Ramsey and/or Bauta a shot at the title.

Bottom line, though, is that the operative word is still "if." The sample size is far too small at this point to draw any conclusions, but I think this Saturday's prime time contest will go a long way toward leading us to a valid one.

Monday, September 14, 2015

QB Situation May Not Be That Bad

OK, first, note the word "may."

Here's the deal. Greyson Lambert did not look sharp on Saturday. He looked downright horrible in the first half, and improved to "serviceable" in the second half.

But, before declaring the season a loss, consider a few things to bring yourselves away from the ledge.

First, I think we can all agree that, had Lambert been throwing one-hoppers and the like throughout fall camp, he wouldn't have won the job.

Second, every player is going to have a "worst" game of the season. Was Saturday Lambert's worst game? We won't know until a few months from now, but Vanderbilt did field a nice defense, and some other things didn't quite go Georgia/Lambert's way, so it went beyond just bad throws.

Third, and this is the thing I'm most concerned with, but hopefully can be fixed...Lambert was not put in a position to be successful early on.

Without having re-watched the game (so please excuse any mis-remembrances), it appeared that just about every offensive series was run-run-pass. Basically, you're giving your QB (who needs reps) one opportunity to throw the ball before sitting back down and waiting for his offense to get back on the field. In other words, complete this one pass...or else.

No, Georgia should not get too far away from its bread and butter on offense; Chubb, Michel, et. al. However, Schottenheimer needs to give Lambert some easy throws on first and second downs from time to time. It's a lot easier to get into a rhythm if you know you can check down for a 3 or 4 yard gain without having to punt on the next down. It's a lot more of a confidence-saver to know that missing a throw doesn't mean having to sit back down and look at formation/game photos for the next 5-10 minutes.

Ultimately, Saturday's game was never truly in doubt. Perhaps very briefly, but only as much as a 17 point victory can really be. And, although one pass "should" have been picked off, Lambert (and Ramsey) are not turning the ball over.

So, before you ready the nooses, planks, cyanide capsules, etc., keep in mind that it's early, and things can definitely be fixed.

Let's hope they are.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

We'll NEVER learn, will we?

I couldn't count on all fingers and toes the number of superlatives, iron-clad predictions, assessments, or otherwise factually-stated opinions that have been bandied about after just one weekend of college football.

Josh Rosen is the single greatest true freshman QB that's ever played. 

Ohio State will win every game this season easily. Zeke Elliott, Cardale Jones, and Braxton Miller will finish 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in some order for the Heisman this year. 

Auburn's defense has arrived under Muschamp. 

Texas A&M's defense has arrived under Chavis.

Georgia still can't throw the ball down field. 

I know why you did it. 8+ months of no football. 1 weekend's worth of games to fill 88.2 hours of talk radio in every city in America. I get it. 

Look, nobody's here telling you that any or all of these aren't accurate statements (side note: Coaches, it's pronounced 'ack-yer-ut,' not 'ack-er-ut'). 

Ohio State is a terrific team with a cupcake, nay, a cream puff schedule. Josh Rosen looked like the greatest true freshman QB ever, and on and on. 

All I'm  saying is, dial it back a notch, you talking heads and gun-jumping fans. 

Remember, if we went by such observations after week 1 last year, Ohio State doesn't finish in the Top 25, and Georgia wins the National Championship. Let's hope both those things happen this year, actually.