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November 16, 2010

Third-Down Defense Dilemma

Another third-down attempt by the opposition, another conversion, and in the end, another Bulldog loss.

A major, if not, the most glaring, issue with the Bulldogs' struggles this season is, as I heard a Georgia fan declare Saturday night, "Why the Hell can't our defense get off the freakin' field?!?"

Now, I don't have the answer, nor the freakin' solution, but I do know the more third downs you allow the opponent to convert, the more time its offense is going to spend on a football field.

Georgia's third-down woes on defense have been reported for some time...Two months ago, I posted how South Carolina's 9 of 14 third-down rate against the Dawgs was a Georgia "low point" in 13 seasons.

Subsequently, the Bulldogs would allow Kentucky to convert 9 of 15 third downs just five games later and a startling 10 of 14 at Auburn last Saturday.

How bad is Georgia's third-down defense?  The Bulldogs have allowed the opposition to convert 62 of 150 (41.33) third downs, ranking in the bottom third of the FBS and dead last in the SEC.

Since Georgia started keeping third-down statistics in 1979, the 41.33 conversion percentage is currently the team's fifth-worst in 32 seasons:  

1993- 55.5
1994- 44.6
1979- 42.6
1990- 41.7
2010- 41.3

Besides a lowly third-down defensive conversion rate, what do all five seasons above have in common?  Each year's team record hovered around .500 or worse.

Notably, the sixth-worst rate surprisingly belongs to the 1982 team (41.1 percent), who finished the regular season a perfect 11-0 and played for a national title.  The difference, however, is the '82 SEC champs forced 4.2 turnovers per game (and had Herschel Walker). 

Out of interest, I broke down this season's defensive third-down rate by yards to go:

Third and 1 or 2: 22 of 29 (75.9)
Third and 3 to 7: 14 of 42 (33.3)
Third and 8 to 10: 12 of 32 (37.5)
Third and 11 to 15: 9 of 25 (36.0)
Third and greater than 15: 1 of 9 (11.1)

What immediately strikes me is not only have the Bulldogs' foes been more successful on 3rd down and 8 to 10 yards to go when compared to 3rd and 3 to 7, but the opposition is also converting a better rate on 3rd down and 11 to 15 yards than 3rd and 3 to 7 yards to go.  That surely cannot be the norm.  Of course, this year's squad is far from...

Let me add, the season's opponents have either run the ball nearly at will on Georgia's defense or hardly at all.  Although the Bulldogs have held six opponents to 70 yards rushing or less, five opponents have rushed for 166 or more (remarkably, no team has gained between 71 and 165).

In averaging 227 rushing yards per game against the Dawgs, a solid 4.6 yards-per-rush average, and three touchdowns via the run, those five running opponents - South Carolina, Miss. State, Colorado, Florida, and Auburn -converted a combined 52.9 percent of their third downs.  Most detrimental, Georgia was winless against these five running teams.

In case you weren't aware, Georgia Tech is also a running team; in fact, the very best one, ranking first in the nation with 319.2 rushing yards per game.

This open week might not have come at a better time for Georgia, particularly its defense, who will need the extra days to hopefully discover how to get off the freakin' field against the Yellow Jackets.


Anonymous said...

Great, now I have an extra week to worry about stopping the GT ground game. I thought the D had been good vs the run and lacking against the pass, now it just seems they are just lacking.

AthensHomerDawg said...

..and Air Force is number 2 and Nevada number 3.And none of them is in the top 20. Tech falls to number 47 in total offense and that ties them with Ole Miss. Their D is not in the top 50. I say bring them on!

Anonymous said...

You are a "homer," huh? Ask Oklahoma how well Air Force can run the ball. Them and Nevada wouldd run all over us. we might win but they'd gash our defense. Grantham should have better production next season and beyond. Terry

AthensHomerDawg said...

So your "Terry" huh? Nice when girls get interested in Georgia football. Air Force went on a 14 point run in the 4th qt after Oklahoma went on a 17 point scoring tear in the 3rd. Oklahoma got complacent and took their foot over Air Forces neck. Kinda like the Georgia/Kentucky game this year. Georgia's rushing D ranks at 25.... the D is susceptable to a running qb.... Air Force qb is a pocket passer. Oh ....I asked Oklahoma about their rushing D... a strong number 5o in the country rank...
just sayin'