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September 20, 2010

Relapse vs. the Ranked

I instantly became a big fan and supporter of Mark Richt when he first arrived in Athens 10 years ago, primarily because I knew he was a better alternative than the guy that was before him.

Nevertheless, as we are all fully aware, under Richt's guidance, the Bulldogs' on-field performance has significantly slipped the past two-plus seasons, beginning in 2008.

The continuing fall from grace became even more evident to me with Georgia's 31-24 loss to Arkansas on Saturday - the Bulldogs' second defeat to a ranked opponent in as many games.

Now, I'm nowhere near siding with the collection of grown (and I use that term loosely) men I witnessed Saturday, chanting "Fire Mark Richt!" outside the stadium following the setback.  Notwithstanding, whether it's coaching, a deficiency in talent/recruiting, lack of team discipline, or some of each, Richt's Bulldogs, unlike before, simply have had a difficult time since 2008 defeating reputable, "good" teams, like in the case of Arkansas. 

What was once commonplace has become seemingly a rarity.

In Richt's first seven seasons, Georgia recorded an impressive 24-13 mark against teams ranked (entering the game) in the AP Poll, including a perfect 5-0 in BOTH 2002 and 2007.

I'd be willing to bet that was one of the best - probably top five or so - records against the ranked in all of college football during the same time period.  Of all SEC teams, it was in fact second best, only behind LSU:

LSU, 26-13
2) Georgia, 24-13
Auburn, 19-11
Florida, 22-18
Tennessee, 15-19
Alabama, 10-22
South Carolina, 9-22
Arkansas, 9-24
Ole Miss, 5-20
Miss. State, 3-24
Kentucky, 3-26
Vanderbilt, 2-24

However, since the start of the 2008 season, the Bulldogs are only 4-8 versus ranked teams.  To make matters slightly worse, four of the eight losses came at home AND facing an underdog, while only one of Georgia's four victories could be considered an "upset" (Georgia Tech, 2009).

The SEC vs. AP-ranked teams from 2008 through last Saturday:

Florida, 8-1
Alabama, 10-2
Ole Miss, 5-3
LSU, 4-6
T-5) Georgia, 4-8
T-5) South Carolina, 3-6
Arkansas, 3-7
Vanderbilt, 2-8
Miss. State, 2-10
Auburn, 1-6
Tennessee, 1-9
Kentucky, 0-6

I believe a team's record against ranked opponents over an extended period of time can be an adequate indicator of success, or lack thereof, especially when compared to a previous or succeeding era or regime.

We've all heard of those who somewhat degrade the Vince Dooley era, declaring that if Herschel Walker and the early 1980s are omitted, the coach's career at Georgia is merely average.  Such critics seem to forget, aren't aware of, and/or weren't around during the decade and a half leading up to Dooley's arrival. 

After tying 11th-ranked North Carolina in 1950, under Coach Wally Butts and later Johnny Griffith, the Bulldogs were a dismal 2-25-1 against AP-ranked teams through 1963.  Only a year later under Dooley, Georgia upset No. 9 Florida and for the next 10 games versus ranked opponents,  remarkably went undefeated (8-0-2) through the 1968 regular season.

Talk about improving a football program...  The Bulldogs' prompt advancement was especially extraordinary considering it came under the direction of an unproven coach in his 30s, who turned around a program that had been steadily deteriorating since the late 1940s.

In 25 seasons at Georgia, Dooley was a respectable 33-32-4 against ranked teams.  Ray Goff followed that up with a Miss. State, Kentucky, or Vanderbilt-like 4-21-1 versus the ranked.  The Jim Donnan era was certainly a step up from Goff; however, Donnan's inability to defeat reputable opponents was one of the main reasons for his firing. 

Against ranked opposition, Donnan was 7-13, an even better record than Richt's recent 4-8 under the same circumstances

Of late, it seems like football at Georgia has gone back 10-to-15 years ago, reverting to a time when defeating a good team was a treat instead of the norm.

Will Richt get things turned back around at Georgia?  Maybe...hopefully.

Until then, they're right back where they started from in 2001, when Donnan's Dogs seemed to annually settle as the third- or fourth-best squad in the SEC East instead of the former Richt teams, who, not long ago, defended their position as a top, if not the best, team in the entire conference.   

6 comments:

Deanna said...

And for all the crowing (mine included) about how the SEC is the most powerful conference, with the exception of Florida and Alabama, those records against ranked opponents don't look very good over the past few years. (But I suppose some of those losses are to other SEC teams.)

Anonymous said...

Wait a darn minute! I was one of those guys outside Sanford... Patrick, How Big 'a Boy Are Ya?

Anonymous said...

Patrick,

That is a lot of work.

I do not understand this type of analysis, however sir.

Take this season for example, Georgia was a ranked team - just barely but ranked. South Carolina gets credit beating a ranked team and Arky does not. Arky did it at our house.

Do the same analysis and do it on something meaningful, such as vs Top 10 Final AP Poll teams and against Top 25 Final AP Poll teams.

17-19 before this season is what Coach Richt is against Top 25 Final AP Poll teams. 1 would suspect that he is now 17-21.

3-8 before this season is what Coach Richt is against Top 10 Final AP Poll teams.

We have won 3 games since Coach Richt got here, none in any bowl game. He knocked the lid off this program he said in 2001 beating # 4 Final AP Poll vols but lost 4 games 2001. He beat # 6 LSU in 2005 SEC Championship Game but lost 3 games 2005. He beat # 9 Auburn in 2006 but lost 4 games 2006.

In the meantime, Coach Richt has lost 8 games in the previous 9 years to teams who even with their win over us were not ranked in the Top 25 Final AP Poll.

We have NOT beat the good teams in this 10-year regime, and we have LOST to bad teams in this 10-year regime.

In addition, after 2005, we are # 2 All-Time in the Fulmer Cup Standings for Arrests / Suspensions and after 2005 are 10-11 vs SEC East teams when there really only was 1 opponent for us.

It means nothing where they were ranked when the game was played. It matters how good that opponent ACTUALLY is that season when it is all said and done. It is entirely too easy to look up the Final AP Poll Top 10 and Top 25 and compare it to the schedules that season.

2006 the season was over for us early on. 2007 the same. 2008 again. 2009 as well. 2010 the same. We lost 4 but beat # 9 Auburn in 2006. We beat no one in 2007, while also losing to a poor vols' team and lost to unranked South Carolina a team that did not even play in a bowl game. We beat no one in 2008 and lost to every good team we played giving up 29, 31 and 42 consecutive points in the only 3 games we played in 2008. We lost 5 games but beat # 13 Georgia tek 2009. We have played 2 teams who will end up ranked probably in 2010 and lost both.

This 2nd half of this Coach Richt Era has been NO FUN AT ALL.

Patrick Garbin said...

Anon 2:49,

It certainly appears you know your stuff and did your fair share of work as well. I agree with you that where an opponent ranks at the end of a season is certainly important AND that the tail end of the Richt era has been no fun. However, I obviously disagree that my analysis is not “meaningful,” as you stated.

First, look at any media guide, preview periodical/website, etc., and when a school’s results “vs. Ranked Teams” is listed/mentioned, it is almost always referring to the ranking of when the actual game was played, not a ranking from the end of a season. So, it appears I’m not the only one that feels “gametime” rankings are relevant.

In 1965, Coach Dooley’s Bulldogs defeated a Michigan team that was defending Rose Bowl champions; Dooley considers it one of his biggest wins during his tenure. That same Michigan team finished its season with only a 4-6 record and nowhere near being ranked; however, it was ranked 7th in the nation when facing Georgia. Thus, it is considered a memorable win over, at the time of the game, a reputable opponent.

Two years ago, Georgia defeated a 5-1 and 11th-ranked LSU team. At the time, didn’t you consider it a big win over a worthy opponent? Who knew the Tigers would finish the regular season unranked and with just a 7-5 record…

If asked, “Who were the best teams in the SEC from 2001-2007?” I think most would agree that Georgia and LSU were at the top, followed by Auburn and Florida. “How about since 2008?” Hands down, it’s Florida and Alabama with no one else remotely close.

With that being said, look at the two sets of standings in my post. The teams’ records versus gametime ranked teams clearly reflect the overall success of the SEC schools during the respective time periods.

It certainly matters how good an opponent ACTUALLY is that season when all is said and done; however, there is also clear evidence that where a team was ranked when the game was played means at least SOMETHING, if not a lot.

Thanks for reading and posting.
--
Patrick

Anonymous said...

Patrick...
I thought your analysis was excellent and extremely meaningful.
Your approach toward answering the questions raised has unquestionable merit.
Old Dawg

Anonymous said...

Anonymous--

You guys chanting "Fire Coach Richt" and booing/leaving early on Saturday do more to hurt this program than you can ever imagine. If I am a recruit and I attended Saturday's game and witnessed the way certain segments of our fanbase act...you think I am going to be impressed? Then I go home and watch the atmosphere that was at Auburn on Saturday night...the lunatic fringe in our fanbase (and I know they exist everywhere) needs to chill out. Let the season play out. We are 3 games in...