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October 10, 2013

One Disconnected Defense

Entering Saturday, Grantham's "guard dogs" have
allowed 7 consecutive opponents to score 20+ points, 
 & 7 straight BCS-conference foes to gain 400+ yards.
What the heck is wrong with Georgia's defense since the end of the 2012 regular season?
As evident at times during last season, especially the SEC title game and Capital One Bowl, the Bulldog defenders didn't always play as a unit as some of the starters seemed to already have one foot out the door towards the NFL.  This season, Grantham's troops are evidently too young and inexperienced, while "it's a learning experience," according to the defensive coordinator following the win at Tennessee.  "We won the [Tennessee] game with the players we had, and we're going to move on."
Thank goodness for the offensive players Georgia has had or the Bulldogs could very well be moving on from Knoxville with a 1-4 record instead of their actual 4-1 mark.
Yesterday, a good friend of mine, and someone close to the program, might have put it best when we chatted: "Starting with the SEC championship, I think our defense has been, well, disconnected.  Does that make sense?" he asked.
What doesn't make sense is that beginning with the SEC title game, Georgia's big-time defense led by supposedly a big-time coordinator, making big-time cash as Bernie points out, has allowed seven consecutive opponents to score at least 20 points, tying an all-time program record -- one of those records you wouldn't want to break.  Over the more than 1,200 games in UGA football history, only once before -- the final seven contests of the 1990 season -- have the Bulldogs yielded 20+ points over the same number of games.  The difference is while this season's squad has exhibited one of the better offenses in the entire nation, the '90 team, which won just one of those seven games, displayed hardly any offense at all.
Furthermore, if you include the Georgia Tech game prior to last season's SEC Championship, the Georgia defense has allowed seven consecutive major-college opponents to gain 400+ yards -- that assuredly is also an undesirable program record.
In their last seven games, beginning with Alabama a year ago through last Saturday, the Bulldogs have given up an average of 32.0 points per game and 4.48 yards per rush,  while yielding a passer rating of 144.23 and a 3rd down-4th down conversion rate of 44.74 percent -- all atrocious and alarming defensive results.

In defense of Georgia's defense, you might be thinking, the Bulldogs have faced some rather tough offenses since the end of last regular season: the Crimson Tide, Nebraska, and as Seth Emerson indicates, three really good offenses this season in Clemson, South Carolina, and LSU.  Still, from what I discovered, Georgia's defense was nearly as impactful, which wasn't very much, against those seven offenses as was all of the seven's other opposing defenses on averageTo my point, please bear with me as I deliver a dose of stat-geek overload.

The following is Georgia's aforementioned defensive stats for each of the four categories in the Bulldogs' last seven games followed by the offensive statistics of those seven teams against all other competition (excluding their games vs. Georgia) during their respective season, and (in percentage difference) how much "better" the Bulldogs were defensively against the seven teams than the seven teams were offensively against the rest of their schedule:
Points Per Game: GA- 32.0; Seven- 36.9 (+13.3%)
Rush Yds Per Carry: GA- 4.48; Seven- 5.15 (+13.0%)
Passer Rating: GA- 144.23; Seven- 157.15 (+8.2%)
3rd-4th Conv.: GA- 44.74%; Seven- 49.01% (+8.7%)
Confused?  Perhaps all that's really worthy of mentioning, according to the four telling measurements in this analysis, is Georgia in its last seven games had a defensive advantage of only 10.8 percent (average of four percentage differences above) over those seven opponents compared to when the seven teams faced the rest of the defenses on their schedules.  In other words, Georgia might have encountered excellent offenses since the end of November a year ago, but their defense has essentially performed no better than, say, a Mississippi State defense against Alabama, Purdue confronting Nebraska, or Syracuse versus Clemson's offense.
A 10.8 percent defensive advantage is rather low considering that while spot-checking seven-game stretches during the Coach Richt era, I discovered Georgia's advantage to normally be at least twice that amount, sometimes three times and even more.  There was an exception: In Willie Martinez's final seven games as Georgia's defensive coordinator (Tennessee through Georgia Tech games in 2009), or the home stretch leading up to his firing, the Bulldogs had a defensive advantage nearly as low (9.8 percent) as in their last seven contests.
Now, similarly to when I compared Georgia's last two defensive coordinators when opposing efficient offenses, I'm not saying I prefer Martinez to Grantham -- not even close. 
All I'm saying is that Missouri enters Saturday averaging 46.6 points per game and 6.08 yards per rush, having a team passer rating of 158.49, while converting 3rd and 4th downs at a 54.9 percent clip.  And, if the Bulldogs continue to allow opponents to be just off (like 10.8 percent) their offensive output, our defense will continue to get boat raced, especially by the high-powered Tigers.  And, no offense, particularly one riddled with injuries, will be able to overcome a defense so disconnected.

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