The last time these teams met, the Bulldogs were a 7.5 favorite over the Crimson Tide. One bad SECCG loss and some semifinal defenestrations later, and you still get a favored Bulldogs team going into Monday Night’s contest in Indianapolis.
Georgia: -3.5 (-105) O/U 52.0 (U -105)
But is that right? Still?
Just a few short weeks ago, I did the advanced stats analysis for the SEC Title game (Bama +7.5), and concluded that the wrong team was favored; that Alabama should win, and represented a better bet, even if not.
Some of that has changed with the addition of another game to the schedule and the recursive who-beat-who that trickles down a 14-game slate. And we’ll certainly cover that in a few days when we get to the bottom line. But, to get there, we’re taking a different tack this week.
What happens, analytically speaking, when you play yourself?
In Georgia’s case, with those allegedly run-first defensive-minded Bulldogs, you get some very interesting results: Georgia’s offense is their best unit; not the defense.
Let’s see why, and we’ll keep a running tally.
TL; DR: If these units were matched up against one another, 1s on 1s, Georgia’s “offensive” team would win 31-26; with a 71% chance of winning S/U.
Play Efficiency: On a per-play basis, adjusted for opponent (here, the Dawgs), Georgia has the 2nd most efficient offense in the country. UGA’s defense is no slouch, but it is just a smidge worse (3rd overall) than the UGA offense. And, over the course of a game, would be worth a .96-point advantage to the offense. UGA O +.96
Drive Efficiency: The UGA offense is the 5th most efficient in the country in terms of converting drives; and here they face the No. 1 efficiency defense. But, the effect is much smaller than a per-play advantage. What does being the No. 1 get you vs. a Top 5 offense? Exactly 1/10 of a point. UGA O +.86
Explosiveness: This one is a bit different. UGA has the No. 1 explosive offense in the country, and when matched against UGA’s defense overall, would be worth .88 points to the final margin. However, the Bulldogs have the 2nd most efficient defense at stopping explosive plays. And, when matched against UGA’s offense, earns them back another .47 points. But, like play efficiency, this inures to the offense’s benefit to the tune of .41 points. UGA O +1.27
Rush Efficiency: This is where the UGA defense has the most advantage. Despite UGA being 6th in rush efficiency offense; UGA’s run D is 1st. That is good for a .32-point advantage UGA O +.95
Pass Efficiency: Again, another highly efficient UGA offense (6th) vs. the No. 1 group in the country. And, as with the rush efficiency, gains the defense .32 points back. UGA O +.63
Negative Drive Efficiency: UGA doesn’t have many negative drives (3rd overall). And the Dawgs force plenty of negative drives themselves (6th). But, a better offense — one that doesn’t get behind the chains — is far more meaningful to the bottom line in a multivariate sense. Just those three spots? They’re worth .87 to the offensive ledger. UGA O +1.5
Turnover Margin: This one is a wash. Against ranked teams, the Dawgs have forced 4 TOs and turned it over 4 times, for a TOM of 0.00, so we still sit at UGA O +1.5
Conversions: When contrasted, UGA’s 3rd down defense is just slight better than the offensive conversions, with the variance accounting for a take-back of .14 to the defensive side. But, on 4th down, the UGA offense has been outstanding. Based on an average conversion-attempted of 2.7 per game, you can count on the UGA offense to keep at least one drive alive. And just this one drive means the world: it accounts for an additional 1.72 points. Wow. UGA O +2.22
Penalties: Georgia’s defense commits an average of 2.1 more penalties per contest than its offense does. Based on season-long data, each additional +1 penalty adds about 1.14 points to the opponents score. And that matters a ton. There’s a reason coaches despise penalties. On offense, they kill drives. On defense, they keep opponents on the field. Contrasting their penalty rate then, the UGA defense will keep UGA’s offense on the field long enough to convert and add +2.39 points to the offense’s final margin.
Georgia Offense by 5.61 points over Georgia’s defense, projected score 31-26.
What are our takeaways here? There are three, really.
- You must be able to convert on 3rd and 4th downs.
- Efficient offenses that don’t get behind the chains on a per-play basis will always trump efficient defense.
- Playing smart football, without self-inflicted wounds, often can and does determine who wins ball games when the teams are so evenly matched.
We’ll be back tomorrow with Alabama vs. Alabama. I can bet you know who’s going to win that matchup.
Go forth lads and lasses to profit and a fat bank. You can also check out plenty more at our SuperGroup.