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July 7, 2010

Get the Ball, Part II

The Bulldogs force a turnover in 2009 - a rare occurrence indeed the last two seasons.

The problem in yielding as many points as the Bulldogs' defense did the last two seasons wasn't necessarily that Georgia allowed the opposition to consistently move up and down the field, but rather being inefficient in other aspects of defensive play: penalties, the opposition's field position, and above all, forcing turnovers.

In 2008-2009 combined, Georgia's defense allowed only 325.7 yards per game (6th in SEC) but 25.2 points per game (10th in SEC). Listed is the SEC ranked by yards yielded per game (first parenthesis) followed by the ranking according to points allowed per contest (second parenthesis):

(1) Alabama (2)
(2) Florida (1)
(3) Tennessee (4)
(4) South Carolina (6)
(5) Ole Miss (3)
(6) Georgia (10)
(7) LSU (5)
(8) Vanderbilt (7)
(9) Kentucky (8)
(10) Miss. State (11)
(11) Auburn (9)
(12) Arkansas (12)

It would be expected that rankings for yards yielded and points allowed would nearly parallel one another since, for the most part, the two go hand in hand. And for 11 of the conference's 12 teams, the rankings are similar. The one exception is Georgia, and the primary reason for the discrepancy between rankings was the Bulldogs' inability to force turnovers.

A year ago, I posted that in order for Georgia to be successful in the 2009 season, it would have to force many more turnovers than the Bulldogs did in 2008 (16).  Last season, Georgia would actually gain less (12) and the Dawgs recorded their worst season in 13 years.

Some quick math reveals that Georgia has forced only 28 turnovers the last two seasons combined.  To give you an idea of how inconceivably low that total is, consider:

* From 2002 through 2007, Georgia averaged 27 turnovers gained per season.

* The 1.08 turnovers forced per game in 2008-2009 is by far the lowest two-season average in UGA history since official statistics began being kept 64 years ago.  Notably, four of the Bulldogs' five lowest two-year turnover averages since 1946 have transpired during the last six seasons:  

1.08 (2008-2009)
1.62 (2007-2008)
1.77 (2003-2004)
1.84 (2004-2005)
1.86 (1995-1996)

* The 1.08 turnovers forced by the Bulldogs ranked dead last (tied with Fresno State) of the 120 teams in the FBS.

Excluding Georgia, there were only 10 other FBS teams who forced only 35 turnovers or less in 2008-2009.  These teams combined for a record of just 74-171 (.302) while just one of the 10 (Fresno State) had a winning record.  The fact the Bulldogs registered an 18-8 (.692) mark during 2008-2009 while forcing just 28 turnovers reveals how proficient the Bulldogs were in other facets of the game aside from gaining turnovers.  

Georgia's lack of gaining turnovers could translate to a reversal of fortune in the near future.

I am one who believes in the law of averages.  If the Bulldogs forced an average of 27 turnovers per year over a six-season span, only to gain 16 and 12 respectively in consecutive seasons, a forthcoming increase in forced turnovers is due to occur and soon.

Of course, the law of averages isn't a certainty with everything related to Bulldog football.  Case in point: Georgia's results against Florida the last two decades.

Some in the media feel that a weakness for Georgia in 2010, along with a new defensive coordinator and scheme, will be the fact the Bulldogs were atrocious on defense last year.  The defense wasn't exactly "atrocious," as the Orlando Sentinel labels it.  As I've described, it primarily just had a really difficult time forcing turnovers.

I feel the new 3-4 scheme coached by an aggressive, fiery defensive coordinator in Todd Grantham should alone improve the Bulldogs on the defensive side of the ball compared to the previous two seasons.  Nevertheless, the Georgia defense will need to exhibit something we haven't seen from it since 2007 - getting the ball.

So, I'll try this again...

In order for Georgia to be successful in the 2010 campaign, it will need to force many more turnovers than it did in 2008 and 2009.

This time around, I believe the Bulldogs can finally reverse their recent and hindering lack of turnovers trend.


Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for doing your research on this topic.

Do you know the numbers for 1980? We may have led the nation in positive turnover numbers that year.

Anonymous said...

Georgia forced 44 turnovers in 1980in 11 regular-season games; 48 if you include the bowl game (far cry from 16 and 12) and 49 the year before in '79 (which led the nation). And, you're right, GA's +2.1 turnover margin in '80 was best in football, tied with Ohio State. Thanks for reading and your comments.

Anonymous said...

Great research and wonderful blog! Keep up the good work...
An Old Dawg

Anonymous said...

Your blogs are always based on research leading to insightful comments. I not only learn so much but experience my enjoyment in the process. Keep up the excellent work!