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January 14, 2011

Where My Hogs At?

Following Georgia's loss at Colorado up until the Liberty Bowl debacle, the Bulldogs' offense received much praise in averaging 41 points and more than 415 yards per the final seven games of the regular season. 

Even in doing so, however, Georgia was hardly able to establish much of a ground game; the Dogs' mid- to late-season success on offense can primarily be attributed to a tremendous freshman quarterback and fine receiving corps (particularly, one receiver that just declared for the NFL).  

The lack of a running game was certainly evident against Central Florida in Memphis as Georgia's ground attack sputtered to gain 82 yards on 32 carries.  Even if the Knights' sacks on Aaron Murray are omitted, the Bulldogs' rushers averaged just 3.8 yards per attempt...and this was against a defense that, in three consecutive games versus East Carolina, Houston, and Southern Miss during the regular season, yielded a combined 99 points. 

As much as Murray was a pleasant surprise in 2010, Georgia's offensive line play was a major and unforeseen disappointment.  This was a unit that returned seven players from 2009 - including all five starters - that had each made at least 10 starts in their careers, totaling an extraordinary 155 total starts.  No team in the FBS returned more career starts on the offensive line than the Bulldogs.

Couple Georgia's offensive line experience with the fact the Bulldogs' running game was rather impressive during the latter part of the 2009 campaign, and things looked good for 2010.  As I stated back in June:
Notice I said "should be"...

Curious to see exactly how Georgia's offensive line play stacked up against the rest of the conference in 2010, I figured - as I did in the above link for the 2009 season - the Offensive Hog Index for the SEC this past year.

Similarly to the Defensive Hog Index, the Offensive index takes into account three statistical rankings amongst conference members where final placement is determined by the average of the three rankings.

Like my calculation for the Defensive index, for the Offensive, I figured just games against BCS-conference opponents and included bowl games.  The three measurements used were average per rush (sacks omitted), percent of passing plays (pass attempts + times sacked) resulting in an interception or sack, and third- and fourth-down combined conversion rate.

This past season, Georgia averaged 4.84 yards per rush (7th in SEC), 9.78% of its passing plays resulted in a sack or interception (6th), and had a 41.1% success rate (7th) on third and fourth down combined. The Bulldogs’ 6.7 average ranking placed 7th in the conference:

1. Auburn (2.0)
2t. Alabama (4.7)
2t. Kentucky (4.7)
4t. Arkansas (5.7)
4t. LSU (5.7)
4t. Ole Miss (5.7)
7. Georgia (6.7)
8t. Florida (7.0)
8t. South Carolina (7.0)
10. Miss. State (8.7)
11. Vanderbilt (9.3)
12. Tennessee (11.0)

I'm not surprised that Auburn easily had the best offensive line in the SEC, according to the index, while Tennessee clearly had the worst.  Excluding Georgia, Auburn had the most returning offensive line starts from 2009 (111 starts) while Tennessee had the fewest (13).

As far as Georgia goes...  I'll mention it again, 155 starts - the most of 120 FBS teams; college football expert Phil Steele ranked the Bulldogs' offensive line in the preseason as the very best in the entire nation.

So, what happened?  Did the offensive line suddenly forget how to block in 2010?  Were the linemen, although experienced, just not all that good to begin with?

Although the Bulldogs' dropped in the index rankings, Georgia's three measurements are actually somewhat similar to the ones from a year ago.  In other words, although the Dogs may have returned lots of experience along their offensive line, those linemen did not advance with the rest of the conference.  In fact, there was no improvement from 2009 to 2010, and maybe even some decline in performance.

The bottom line: What was suppose to be perhaps the best offensive line in college football didn't even rank in the top half of its own conference.  And, for such a shortcoming, you can primarily pin the blame on any coach that had anything to do with those "experienced" linemen. 

1 comment:

crap sandwich said...

Wow, just a great post.

All of us were rather stunned by our OL performance this season, but with Sturdivant coming back, Glenn out with Mono, problems at guard..Gates, Strickland, Davis etc. they just never seemed to play well as a unit.

There are other concerns I have. First, I just don't see Jones as a SEC caliber center. Great GATA guy, just a no talent and small. Doesn't pass the eye test with me.

Both Davis greatly underperfomed. We all had great hopes because it seemed Josh Davis really stepped up in 2009, but he really stepped down in 2010. Chris Davis is a tough guy, but those shoulder surgeries did him in.

I am very optimistic about improvement for 2011 in the OL, if we stay healthy. Sturdivant and Gates both should be much improved. Glenn is now playing for the NFL and must step it up. Maybe S&C changes will make the difference for Jones. RT could be a problem, but any worse than Davis played this year? Combine that with a possible Crowell running the ball....could see the OL improve in 2011.