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January 19, 2010

Dogs in Hog Index

Houston, Weston, and the rest of the Dogs' "Hogs" were the fifth-best defensive line in the SEC in '09, according to the Hog Index. (Photo: Manning of ABH)

I recently discovered online the defensive "Hog Index"—a statistical measurement of an NFL team's defensive line created by The Cold Hard Football Facts.  A couple weeks ago, The New York Times N.F.L. Blog did a feature on the index.

Figuring a team's placement in the defensive Hog Index is rather simple: calculate the team's yards per carry allowed, its percentage of "negative pass plays" (interceptions + sacks/opponents' pass plays), and the opposition's success rate on third down.  For each of the three factors, rank the team among the other squads, add up the three rankings for a total rank, and the team with the lowest number has the best defensive line statistically speaking, according to the index.

According to the creator's website and linked blog entry, the index has been "a huge indicator" of a team's overall success since it was introduced in 2007.  For instance, the NFL team with the better DHI (defensive Hog Index) during the 2007-2008 playoffs had a 20-2 record while the teams with the best DHI (2007- Giants, 2008- Steelers) each won the Super Bowl.

Green Bay, who had the best DHI in 2009, was knocked out of the playoffs in the first round.  However, the Packers did at least make the postseason and had one of the league's best defenses.

Wondering if the index could also apply to college football, I figured the SEC's DHI for this past season.  I was especially interested in seeing where Georgia ranked among the 12 schools since the Bulldogs' defensive line was considered by most the best of Georgia's defensive units compared to its linebacking corps and secondary.

The SEC defensive Hog Index for 2009:

Note: Sacks are not figured into rushing statistics in the NFL but are at the collegiate level.  Since sacks are considered in the DHI's second factor, the negative pass play percentage (NPP%), I subtracted sacks and sack yardage from each team's defensive rushing totals.  In addition, for the NPP%, the number of passing plays was calculated by adding the number of opponents' pass attempts and the number of times they were sacked.

Ranked first and second, Alabama and Florida were head and shoulders above the rest of the 10 schools in the index.  This is certainly fitting since they were, by far, the two best teams in the SEC in 2009.  Ole Miss, who finished third in the index, was arguably the third-best team in the conference.

Ranking in the top half of all three categories, Mississippi State coming in at fourth was somewhat of a surprise.  While our Georgia Bulldogs, according to the DHI, had the fifth-best defensive line in the SEC, despite ranking third-worst in the conference in third-down defense.

Tennessee ranking next-to-last overall in the index was another surprise, especially since the Volunteers ranked in the upper half of the SEC in total defense (5th) and scoring defense (6th).  Of the index's three factors, Tennessee ranked last in the conference in two of them (yards per carry allowed and NPP%). 

Can someone tell me again how on earth Georgia's offense only scored a field goal against the Vols and could only penetrate as far as their 34-yard line?

As far as next season, I believe Georgia made a great hire in new DC Todd Grantham and I like the fact he'll be switching to a 3-4 scheme.  However, the loss of defensive tackles Jeff Owens, Geno Atkins, and Kade Weston is definitely a concern for the defensive line in 2010. 

Somehow, maybe the fiery and hard-nosed Grantham can actually help improve Georgia's defensive "Hogs" next year from their fifth-place finish in the DHI. 

Remember, "defense wins championships," especially, as the DHI has proved at the NFL and collegiate levels, the defensive line.

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