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November 2, 2010

It's not just a "Georgia-Florida Thing"

During the current, long losing spell in football to Florida, I've often offered my opinion to people - those believing the Dogs are cursed in Jacksonville and the Gators have some sort of major psychological advantage over Georgia - it's not that our team is hexed, unlucky, or doesn't necessarily play up to its potential whenever matched with Florida.

The Gators have simply been that much better than the Bulldogs for the last two-plus decades.

As we've all been reminded, the Bulldogs are now 3-18 versus the Gators since 1990, but what many don't realize is that Georgia was underdogs entering 17 of the 21 games.  In other words, according to the experts in Vegas, the Dogs were to supposed to have lost nearly each of the 21 meetings.   

The Bulldogs playing the underdog role in Jacksonville included this past Saturday.  Georgia was actually a two- to three-point favorite for much of the week.  Suddenly, an hour or so before kickoff, the line started dropping, and by game time, it was Florida who was favored by a point.

At that moment, I mentioned to my wife what Lee Corso has insinuated before on GameDay regarding late steam on line movement: Somebody somewhere knows something [to move a line that quickly in favor of the other team]. 

I have understood for years, and many blog comments and emails have reminded me, that Florida being a one-point favorite over Georgia doesn't literally mean Vegas thought the Gators would win by a single point.  Rather, for most games, the line is set to have an equal amount of wagered money on both sides.

However, if Florida, or any team, is favored, whether by one or 100 points, to defeat another, then the Gators should or are expected for all intents and purposes to defeat the other team by roughly that many points. 

Since 1990, considering all 21 Georgia-Florida meetings, the Gators have been a little less than an 11-point favorite over the Bulldogs on average.  During that same period, Florida's average margin of victory over Georgia (considering all games - wins and losses) is 14.5 points.

When playing the Bulldogs since '90, on average, one could say the Gators have been approximately 3.5 points better than what was expected from them.

The following is Georgia's record/point spread/scoring data against its five biggest rivals since 1990.  Listed after each opponent is the following muddled information:
  • Georgia's actual record versus the opponent beginning with '90
  • The number of those games the Bulldogs were favored/the underdog
  • Georgia's average point spread/its average scoring margin (the difference between scoring margin and point spread in parenthesis)
GEORGIA TECH: 15-5, 13/7, 2.9-pt favorite/+8.8 margin (+5.9 difference) 
AUBURN: 11-9, 13/7, Avg. spread exactly even/+0.6 margin (+0.6 difference)
S. CAROLINA: 13-6, 17/2, 6.7-pt favorite/+6.1 margin (-0.6 difference) 
FLORIDA: 3-18, 4/17, 10.9-pt underdog/-14.5 margin (-3.6 difference)   
TENNESSEE: 7-12, 10/9, 0.7-pt underdog/-5.4 margin (-4.7 difference) 

Confused?  In short, more so than against the Gators, it appears to me Georgia has been more disappointing, in terms of what was expected, versus South Carolina and Tennessee.  The Bulldogs have been favored in 17 games versus the Gamecocks but have won just 13.  Against the Vols, Georgia has been favored in 10, winning just seven, with an average difference between the point spread and scoring margin of nearly five in favor of Tennessee.

How does Georgia's lack of success against Florida stack up against the Gators' other rivals over the last 20+ seasons?  The following is the same data but for Florida against its rivals since 1990:

LSU: 15-6, 18/3, 9.6-pt favorite/+14.1 margin (+4.5 difference)
S. CAROLINA: 17-1, 18/0, 17.2-pt favorite/+21.1 margin (+4.0 difference)
FLORIDA ST.: 10-11-1, 10/12, 1.3-pt favorite/+4.9 margin (+3.6 difference)
GEORGIA: 18-3, 17/4, 10.9-pt favorite/+14.5 margin (+3.6 difference)
TENNESSEE: 15-6, 17/4, 5.1-pt underdog/+6.6 margin (+1.5 difference)

In regard to its non-favorable difference in average point spread and scoring margin, Georgia is not alone in its lack of success against Florida.  Besides when facing Tennessee, the Gators have a positive difference of more than 3.5 points than all of its biggest rivals.

Let me stress that I realize point spreads, scoring margins, and their differences aren't the end-all, be-all indicators in determining a team's success, or lack thereof, against the opposition over a period of time.  I know that the aforementioned data might be considered a bit of a stretch...  

However, I do feel the above analysis does support, even if the slightest, what I've said for the last several years regarding Georgia's lack of success in the Florida series:

Georgia's problem isn't that it suddenly doesn't play well when facing the Gators.  For the most part, the Bulldogs, like most any team playing Florida, plain and simply haven't been as good as the Gators, whether during those games or leading up to them. 


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Anonymous said...

Good post, Pat. A lot of confusing numbers but definitely an indicator that the Dogs don't suddenly wilt when they play in Jax. I'd be more concerned with Auburn-SC-Tenn: favored to win a combined 40, only to win 31. Thanks Goof, Donnan, and Richt!