Dec 3, 2011; Atlanta, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs cornerback Brandon Boykin (2) breaks up a pass intended for LSU Tigers wide receiver Rueben Randle (2) during the first half of the 2011 SEC championship game at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

SEC Championship Game: Georgia Will Lose. This is Why.

With the Alabama Crimson Tide and Georgia Bulldogs sitting at No. 2 and 3 in the polls, the SEC Championship game is once again a play-in game to the BCS Championship.

At first glance the teams playing on Saturday look very similar. Georgia and Alabama are both quality SEC teams known for their defense. However, when we look closely at what these teams have done this year, real differences in these two defenses start to emerge.

Common opponents

Georgia and Alabama have shared five common opponents this season, and we can learn a lot from this. First, we see that Georgia’s defense allowed 50 more points to the same five teams than did Alabama.  Most of this is due to the huge discrepancy in Georgia’s game against Tennessee versus Alabama’s win over the same Tennessee squad.

The Georgia vs. Tennessee game was a shootout. The Bulldogs allowed Tennessee 478 total yards of offense, 26 first downs and 44 points. It was this impressive performance against the vaunted Georgia defense, that led many analysts to say that Tennessee’s high-powered offense would be a real test to the young Alabama secondary. However, when the Third Saturday in October rolled around, the results were not as predicted.  Alabama held the Volunteers to 282 yards, 11 first downs, and 13 points.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              (click any chart to enlarge)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            As you can see from these charts, Alabama controlled their game against the Volunteers to a much larger degree than did the Bulldogs. But one game doesn’t make a season or a team. So let’s dig deeper and look at worst wins and worst losses.

Wins and losses

Georgia’s worst – and only – loss was to 10-2 South Carolina at Williams-Brice Stadium. Georgia lost in a 35-7 blowout, with the only Georgia score coming with six minutes left in the game and outcome already decided.

Alabama’s only loss was at home to 10-2 Texas A&M. The Aggies got out to  a 20-point lead, only to have Alabama scratch and claw its way back.  The Tide lost by five points in a 29-24 loss.

Georgia’s worst win came over 2-10 Kentucky. The Bulldogs beat the Wildcats by five points and allowed 329 yards of offense. Let me restate this for emphasis, Georgia gave up 329 yards of offense to 2-10 Kentucky. Georgia ended up winning the game in the fourth quarter 29-24.

Alabama’s worst win, statistically speaking, was over 10-2 LSU. The Crimson Tide allowed 435 yards and won by three in a 21-17 victory.

All of these games could be chalked up to being off days by good teams, but the difference in competition, and the score, is important to note.

Level of competition

There is a difference in the level of competition as well.  The Congrove Computer Rankings put Alabama at 15 in strength of schedule, while Georgia sits at 27.  Alabama’s Division 1 competition has gone 69-62 this year, while Georgia’s has gone 63-68.  Put another way, Georgia has done less against less.

Defensive rankings

The overall statistical rankings of the two defenses show a stark contrast as well. Alabama is ranked first in the nation in points allowed per game, whereas Georgia is ranked 14th. Alabama is also tops in the nation in yards allowed per game, while Georgia is 18th. Alabama is ranked second in the nation in rushing yards allowed per game; Georgia is ranked 46th.

In conclusion

The Georgia defense is good, but they are not great. They have done less against lesser opponents than their Alabama counterparts. Bacarri Rambo and the other Georgia players can talk about how much more talented they are than Alabama all they want. The numbers simply do not support their claims.

Analysts such as Tim Brando and Mark Schlabach, who are picking the Bulldogs to beat Alabama say they are doing so because “UGA is hot right now.” Again the numbers do not support their claims. The Georgia defense gave up 426 yards and 26 first downs to lowly ACC patsy Georgia Tech this past weekend. I don’t care how long Tim Brando has “been in this business,” no amount of wishful thinking among the media talking heads will create a disadvantage for the Crimson Tide. The statistics don’t bear it out.

Statistics and analysis seem to favor the Crimson Tide, so Georgia (and their backers) have to hope that statistics take a back seat to the intangibles once the actual game is kicked off.

Georgia players have certainly talked a good game prior to this meeting, but Mark Richt has been notorious for allowing hype and visuals to overshadow execution in big games. Alabama’s last meeting with the Bulldogs was the so-called Blackout game, which ended in disaster for the Dawgs. If Richt and his Bulldogs are hoping for swag to overcome substance, they should prepare to pack their bags for the Capitol One Bowl.

Tags: Alabama Crimson Tide Football Georgia Bulldogs

  • Jay Ivey

    On common opponents: against Tennessee, UGA had just gotten it’s 4 starters back from suspension. Among these, I believe, were two safeties, including 2011 All-American Bacarri Rambo. So it’s no wonder that Tyler Bray was able to hang a ton of points on the Dawgs in that game. Look at the scores AFTER the starters came back: Ole Miss and Auburn. Both held Auburn to 0, and UGA held Ole Miss to 4 points fewer than Bama.

    On wins/losses: both Bama and UGA have played 2 true quality opponents. Both won 1, lost 1. While UGA’s loss is far worse, their win is far more impressive (a brilliant defensive performance against UF, the team with the best resume in college football vs. Bama’s lucky squeak over an LSU team who outplayed them). Pretty even there I’d say.

    On schedule difficulty: those assessments of schedule difficulty don’t hold up now that we’ve gotten into the season. Last year the west was wayyyy tougher than the east, but that’s simply not true this year. UGA dodged Bama, LSU, and A&M, but Bama dodged UGA, SC, and UF. Look at the BCS rankings and performances of these teams, and you’ll see that it’s comprable.

    The performance against Kentucky is probably the best evidence here against UGA. Their inability to stop the run there looks worrying coming into the Bama game. However, that was before the UF game where the defense really gelled. Besides that scare, the Rushing Yards allowed per game stats are totally skewed against UGA because we played the two best tripple options in the country. Those teams will put up huge numbers on anyone, even if you stop them from scoring. Ask Bama’s 2011 championship team who had a better defense than THIS Bama. Georgia Southern hung more yards on them than they did on UGA this year.

    In short, this is a much closer match-up than the analysis here suggests. Should be a classic this Saturday.

    • Bandit Ref

      So your argument boils down to: Tennessee was because we had our best players back. The ACC team and the D2 team are really really good. It’s really impressive we barely beat UF, even though they gave us 6 turnovers. All really solid points. What’s the reasoning behind the Kentucky game? It’s all a big trick by Mark Richt to fool everyone into thinking UGA sucks?

      • Jay Ivey

        Sure, I’ll bite:

        Granted, this was unclear in my comment, but is it much of a surprise that our defense didn’t play well when we had a significantly different lineup every single week up to and including UT and guys like Commings and Rambo who hadn’t had enough practice reps? Considering this game is the only real example to support the “shared schedule argument,” that stuff is important contextual info.

        I flat out said GT was a mediocre team. Decent tripple options rack up inflated rushing stats. Besides the fact that everyone knows that, the stats I mentioned (GT’s rushing rank and GS’s yards on Bama last year) support that conclusively. Not to mention the other top rushing teams in the country are mediocre teams that run tripple options.

        And as to Kentucky, did you not see where I said “this is good evidence and is worrying”?

        I’m not saying that UGA doesn’t have issues that Bama will exploit. I’m saying this article puts forward lazy, shallow analyses that need context.

  • Jay Ivey

    Yeah, in retrospect, given the way you characterizes UGA’s performance against GA Tech as struggling against a “lowly patsy”…that indicates to me that you’re not digging into the stats very deeply at all in this analysis.

    Of course GA Tech is mediocre. But their tripple option has still given them the number 4 rushing offense in the country. You can’t stop that scheme from gaining yards, but UGA stopped them from scoring a single TD (before the starters left the game). How is that not a brilliant performance?

  • disqus_k7BjOH7Emc

    this dude is clearly one of those bama fans who has his head up his butt so far and thanks that the season should have ended after bama lost to a&m. This makes him a complete idiot who knows nothing about football except maybe jumping on a bandwagon

    • Bandit Ref

      I am crushed by this eloquent and well thought out rebuttal, you are obviously a former member of the UGA debate team.