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December 3, 2010

The Dogs' Sub-Par Hogs

I know, a win is a win, particularly when it's over your in-state rival and clinches a bowl birth in the process.  However, Tech provided proof once again: If you can run the football, especially with a quarterback who can run, you can simply gash Georgia's defense, perhaps achieving rushing success that seems nearly beyond the bounds of possibility. 

The Jackets rolled up 411 rushing yards on 77 carries on the Bulldogs, earning 32 first downs in the process, all while making our defense - particularly the line - look extremely inferior and shoddy.

I remembered I posted roughly a year ago a piece on the defensive Hog Index - a statistical measurement of an NFL team's defensive line.  I tweaked it a little to be more appropriate for the college game and applied it to the entire 2009 season for the SEC.  According to it, Georgia had the fifth-best defensive line in the SEC a year ago.

Concluding with Tech, after witnessing half of our opponents this season run on the Dogs seemingly at will, I was anxious (but almost terrified) to figure this past regular-season's index results for the conference.  

After this season's performance by Grantham's defense, specifically its three Hogs up front, there was no doubt in my mind Georgia's defensive line was one of the SEC's worst, at least, according to the index.

I decided to do a little more tweaking of the index from last season, including just games played against BCS conference teams.  For Georgia, patsies Louisiana-Lafayette and Idaho State were excluded.  

Following each team below is its respective four rankings amongst the 12 conference members:
  • Yards per rush allowed (sacks omitted)
  • Negative pass play percentage (sacks + interceptions/opponent pass attempts + sacks)
  • Third-down percentage defense
  • Total average ranking of the three measurements
LSU (6, 1, 2) - 3.0
ALABAMA (4, 5, 4) - 4.3
ARKANSAS (10, 2, 1) - 4.3
FLORIDA (1, 3, 9) - 4.3
MISS. STATE (3, 7, 3) - 4.3
S. CAROLINA (2, 6, 7) - 5.0
GEORGIA (5, 4, 12) - 7.0
AUBURN (7, 9, 6) - 7.3
OLE MISS (12, 10, 5) - 9.0
TENNESSEE (9, 8, 11) - 9.3
VANDERBILT (8, 12, 8) - 9.3
KENTUCKY (11, 11, 10) - 10.7

For the 2010 regular season, LSU's Hogs rank rather comfortably atop the conference, followed by a four-team log jam at second place and South Carolina a close fifth.  The Bulldogs are a distant but surprising seventh ahead of maybe the best team in college football in Auburn.   

As one would expect, for the most part, the worst teams normally rank towards the bottom of the index, the better teams towards the top; each of the SEC's top six this season is a lock for or could very well play in a January bowl.

What stands out regarding Georgia's index measurements is that the defense, comparatively speaking, has been somewhat respectable in yards allowed per rush (4.53) and percentage of negative pass plays by the opposition (11.16 percent); only three teams - Florida, LSU, S. Carolina - had a better combined ranking of those two elements of the index.

What hurts the Dogs is their inability to stop teams on third down, allowing an unfathomable 48.12 third-down conversion rate to their 10 BCS opponents this season.  By comparison, Tennessee - next-to-last in defensive third-down conversion - is nearly an entire four percent (44.35) better than Georgia. 

Arkansas, who may allow a third-from-worst 5.11 yards per rush, is yielding a third-down rate of just 33.30 percent (and the Hogs appear headed for a BCS bowl).

This all relates to my assessment of this team for much of the season: Georgia's primary on-field issue is its run defense against adequate or better rushing teams, primarily the Bulldogs' failure to stop these teams on third down and get off the field.

Thank goodness its defense has been able to force to a few turnovers this season (unlike in 2008 and 2009) or Georgia would have certainly lost last Saturday and probably to Kentucky back in October.

Nevertheless, the defense and its deficient line was just good enough to help the team to a 6-6 mark (or not quite bad enough to keep the team from a .500 record) and its 14th consecutive bowl game, likely coming in the Liberty Bowl against the winner of Central Florida-SMU this Saturday.

By the way, we Bulldog fans need to pull hard for the Mustangs of SMU; they have a pass-oriented offense.  Central Florida, on the other hand, has rushed for 225 yards or more against seven of 12 opponents this season AND have a running quarterback who has netted more than 500 yards of rushing... 

As things have gone this season for Grantham's defenders, Georgia could very well be the Golden Knights' next ground-game victim. 

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