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January 28, 2013

For Starters...

Distinguished Georgia starting quarterbacks of the last 40 years:
The Winner (John Lastinger), The Ultimate Underdog (Jeff Pyburn),
and Mr. Perfect (Brian Smith)
Over the weekend, I heard some sports-talk radio hosts discussing the playoff success of Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco entering the Super Bowl: the Ravens are 8-4 when Flacco starts at quarterback, they notably have the same record against the spread in those 12 games, and four of the eight victories have resulted when Baltimore was an underdog.

Perhaps file this with the for-what-it's-worth-probably-not-much posts, but I decided to find out the same for Georgia's starting quarterbacks beginning in 1973 (the year college football point spreads became relative to today's lines), figuring every quarterback's career starting record, their record when the Bulldogs entered as underdogs, and their starting record against the spread.  Plus, I've added a few historical notations along the way.

I realize a quarterback's record as a starter does not fully equate to his overall value; far from it, in fact, in some instances.  However, there is some value in whether a player directly guided his team under center to a win, or a loss.  This was especially the case recently when we heard the outcry of "Aaron Murray (the team's quarterback, as we all know) can't win the big game."  In addition, these rankings are somewhat appropriate since there is a minor but prevailing discrepancy with which actual Georgia quarterback has the best career starting record.

––Of the 28 Georgia quarterbacks to have started in the 40-season period from 1973 through 2012, seventeen started at least 10 games for their careers.  Below, these 17 are ranked according to their starting winning percentage, followed by career record in the seasons they started for the Bulldogs.  As indicated, I began with 1973 because that was the initial season computers were used to help determine college football point spreads and, according to a guy I know at The GoldSheet, any line in the sport prior to 1973 has "little relation" to today's college football point spreads.  However, if the lines prior to '73 aren't considered, the first two seasons of the great ANDY JOHNSON are not recognized.  Therefore, for the following analysis, I used "nonrelative" Las Vegas odds from 1971 and 1972 simply so Johnson's career starting record against the spread would be a complete one.

Starting Winning Percentage
.891  John Lastinger (20-2-1 in '82-'83)
.871  Buck Belue (27-4 in '79-'81)
.833  DJ Shockley (10-2 in '05)
.808  David Greene (42-10 in '01-'04)
.794  Matt Stafford (27-7 in '06-'08)
.783  Ray Goff (18-5 in '75-'76)
.778  Wayne Johnson (14-4 in '85-'88)
.750  Andy Johnson (23-7-2 in '71-'73)
.710  Quincy Carter (22-9 in '98-'00)
.683  Aaron Murray (28-13 in '10-'12)
.667  James Jackson (19-9-2 in '85-'87)
.646  Eric Zeier (26-14-1 in '91-'94)
.646  Jeff Pyburn (15-8-1 in '77-'79)
.643  Joe Cox (9-5 in '06, '09)
.615  Mike Bobo (16-10 in '95-'97)
.545  Matt Robinson (6-5 in '74-'75)
.520  Greg Talley (13-12 in '89-'91)

––Here's the discrepancy: Officially, BUCK BELUE has a 27-3 career record; that is what's listed in Georgia's records along with what's in the NCAA record book (which likely acquired the record directly from UGA).  And, a 27-3 mark is a .900 winning percentage, or just better than JOHN LASTINGER, which would claim the top stop among Georgia's starting quarterbacks.  However, Belue started games four through ten of the '79 season, in which Georgia had a 5-2 record, and all 12 games in both 1980 (12-0 record) and 1981 (10-2).  Either my calculator is broken or Belue had an "unofficial" career starting record of 27-4, and not the official 27-3 mark.  Perhaps where the discrepancy lies is the meeting with Auburn in 1979 – a game in which Belue started but appeared for only a single play (a two-yard loss after being sacked in his own end zone, yielding an Auburn safety while suffering a broken ankle).  Nevertheless, according to the NCAA, a quarterback is considered having started a game if he simply takes his team's first offensive snap.  Therefore, a seemingly slight oversight has given credit where it wasn't due, handing JEFF PYBURN a losing start while enabling Belue to sit atop the "official" chart.
Seemingly, a bum ankle vs. Auburn in '79 determined 
passing the buck of a starting loss for Belue.

RECORDS of UGA Quarterbacks with Less than 10 Starts (chronological order): Dicky Clark 1-1; Randy Cook 0-2; Steve Rogers 0-1; Todd Williams 5-3-1; David Dukes 3-1; Preston Jones 1-1; Joe Dupree 0-1; Brian Smith 4-0; Hines Ward 1-4; Cory Phillips 3-2; Joe Tereshinski 2-3

––Filling in for Mike Bobo in 1996, and Bobo and Hines Ward the year before, BRIAN SMITH started only four games his entire career: Clemson, Vanderbilt, and Kentucky in '95, and Auburn in '96.  However, Smith won all four games, including two in which Georgia entered as underdogs (Clemson and Auburn), while the Bulldogs covered each contest, as well.  Granted, the final start against Auburn by Georgia's "Mr. Perfect" is worthy of an asterisk since Smith was benched late in the second quarter with Georgia trailing by three touchdowns before Bobo rallied the team in a four-overtime victory.  Nonetheless, a start is a start... 
Top 5 Against the Spread
.667  Ray Goff (14-7-1 ATS)
.630  Buck Belue (17-10-3 ATS)
.600  Matt Robinson (6-4 ATS)
.588  Wayne Johnson (10-7 ATS)
.560  David Greene (28-22 ATS)
Under .500 Against the Spread
.348  Jeff Pyburn (8-15-1 ATS)
.357  Joe Cox (5-9 ATS)
.400  Greg Talley (10-15 ATS)
.448  James Jackson (13-16 ATS)

––Of the 17 Georgia quarterbacks to have started 10+ games, notably, only four have a record against the spread under .500.  Bringing up the rear is JEFF PYBURN, who covered just one-third of his 24 career starts.  However, Pyburn is remarkably Georgia's leader with five wins (and only three losses) as a starter when the Bulldogs were dubbed underdogs (South Carolina in '77, Baylor, Clemson, and LSU in '78, and Georgia Tech in '79).  Therefore, if you're keeping up at home, you'll figure that when Pyburn started and Georgia was favored, any wager placed on the Bulldogs was a near-guaranteed loss; the Bulldogs covered just three of 16 games in such circumstances.   
Most Wins as an Underdog (number of losses)
5- Jeff Pyburn (3)
4- Buck Belue (0)
4- Matt Stafford (2)
4- David Greene (5)

––In the five games HINES WARD started at quarterback while a Bulldog – all occurring in his sophomore season of 1995 – Georgia entered as an underdog for all five (Alabama, Florida, Auburn, Georgia Tech, and Virginia in the Peach Bowl).  In comparison, of the Bulldogs' seven other games that season, only once did the team enter as the underdog.
Bottom 5 in Underdog Win Percentage (at least 4 games)
.111  Aaron Murray (1-8 UND)
.200  Hines Ward (1-4 UND)
.250  Eric Zeier (2-7-1 UND)
.333  James Jackson (2-4 UND)
.333  Mike Bobo (2-4 UND)

––Of the 113 games Georgia entered as underdogs from 1973 to 2009, only 55.8 percent of the time the Bulldogs would actually lose the game, including an excellent 12-12 underdog record during that time under Mark Richt.  In sharp contrast, over the last three seasons under Richt and with AARON MURRAY starting under center, Georgia is a lowly 1-8 as an underdog.  Over the last 40 years (and likely much longer), never have the Bulldogs experienced such a dismal stretch in games they were supposed to lose.  Still, in looking at the upcoming 2013 schedule, I spot at least two, and maybe as many as four, regular-season foes that will probably be favored over Georgia.  Therefore, Murray should have ample opportunity to improve upon his underdog and "big game" mark.


Anonymous said...

patrick-great analysis but something that really caught my eye was you last couple of sentences. who do you think GA will be underdogs to? as many as FOUR???

Unknown said...

Most likely S. Carolina and LSU and possibly Clemson and Florida, or swap LSU and Florida.

Anonymous said...

11-3 would be .7091 winning percentage for Aaron Murray as our Starting Quarterback, assuming he does not get hurt.

# 9 all-time on the UGA Starting QB Winning Percentage is Quincy Carter at .7097 winning percentage.

Therefore, I hope Aaron Murray goes 12-2, again.

That would make him our # 9 best Starting QB, replacing Quincy Carter with Aaron Murray winning percentage of .7273.

I don't know who is going to tackle on running plays 2013, with Alec Ogletree off the NFL; but 1 area we could improve upon is only out-rushing our Opponents for the entire 2012 season by a mere 5 yards, those gained against Nebraska at the end of the game by Todd Gurley who got less than 16 carries a game 2012.

And, we never designed a running play to get Keith Marshall out in space, wasting his 4.29 speed in the 40-yard dash.

I'd say we need to run the football more, and design plays specifically for the guy we do hand the ball off to.

That would assist the defense greatly in 2013, not sending them right back out there to stop the run when they have proved only Alec Ogletree could tackle the opposing running backs.

I am excited about 2013. Aaron Murray ? He will not break David Greene's 42 wins as our Starting Quarterback, and even with 14-0, would only tie David Greene's Record here at UGA with 42 Wins as our Starting QB.

David Greene beat # 4 vols in 2001 and never after that beat a single team making the AP Poll Top 10.

Matthew Stafford beat # 9 Auburn in 2006 but lost 7 games while winning only 27, including a long string of horrible opponents he lost to. He, too, never beat another team who made the AP Poll Top 10.

DJ Shockley beat # 6 LSU in 2005 to win The SEC Championship Game, but that was his only win against a team making the AP Poll Top 10 despite the 0-28 before we could even get settled-in at our seats at the Sugar Bowl at the Georgia Dome which never happened.

Aaron Murray beat # 9 Florida in 2012, after all those games 10 in a row he lost to such teams, and has a chance this 2013 season, to add another win over a team who makes the AP Poll Top 10. Alabama is a better team 2013 than 2012, and Florida was an enigma in 2012 and still has no Aaron Murray at QB again 2013, do they ? LSU lost all their players to the NFL with the entire Junior Class all jumping ship, so that is a win. # 6 UGA will beat # 13 Clemson at their Death Valley if we don't have half the team suspended again early as usual around here. South Carolina has 2 quarterbacks but no Todd Gurley, and is not about to beat us 3 years in a row nor go 11-wins or more 3 years' in a row. Where's my $ 100 Steve ?

Anonymous said...


Patrick Garbin said...

Thanks for all the comments. Sorry I'm just now getting around to responding... As of now, personally, when looking at the entire regular-season schedule, I see us definitely entering the Clemson game as an underdog. And, of SC, LSU, and Fla, an underdog entering one of those, possibly two, and a slight chance of three (but let's hope not).