Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Jeff Schultz’s Solution for Georgia: Martin Seligman*

If you’ve read this blog for any period of time, you know that I hate explanations grounded in pop psychology.  They are the refuge of the lazy.  They are a substitute for thinking and analyzing data.  Did Team A break a losing streak to Team B?  If yes, then it’s because they wanted it more and they spent all offseason thinking about it.  If no, then it’s because Team B is in their heads.

It’s Georgia-Florida week, so it’s time to trot out an array of unprovable assertions.  Step on down, Jeff Schultz:

The numbers are dizzying: three consecutive losses, 11 of 13, 18 of 21.

Vince Dooley went 17-7-1. His 25-game winning percentage: .700. Since then, Ray Goff (1-6), Donnan (1-4) and Richt (2-8) have gone 4-18. Their 22-game percentage: .182. 

How can players and coaches not think of that history, even if they weren’t here for most of it?Some players weren’t even born yet. Murray? He actually was born Nov. 10, 1990 — the day Steve Spurrier’s Gators tortured Goff’s Dogs, 38-7. That’s when this 21-game stretch started. So it’s all Murray’s fault.

When one signature program loses 18 of 21 games to another, it’s not just about talent. At some point, it’s between the ears.

Georgia’s starting quarterbacks in the past three meetings have thrown nine interceptions. Florida’s, one. The Dogs have committed 12 turnovers. Florida, one.

That not about athleticism. That’s one team being calm and the other having a meltdown.
Schultz presents a binary proposition: Georgia’s lack of success in Jacksonville can either be the result of talent or mental strength.  It can’t be a combination of the two.  More importantly, it can’t be primarily the result of a totally obvious, more likely explanation: for the most part, Florida have had better teams!  Maybe Georgia players, instead of getting PTSD the moment they cross the border into Florida, are up against superior opponets?  Whether that is the result of Florida having better players, better coaches, or a combination thereof, is a matter for debate.  Again, it’s probably a mix.

So, Jeff, let’s test my little hypothesis since I'm operating in the world of facts and you are in the ether.  Let’s look at CollegeFootballReference.com to see every year since 1990 in which Georgia has either finished with a better SEC record than Florida (excluding the Cocktail Party) or had a better SRS rating.  Here is the complete list:

1992
2002
2003
2004
2005

In contrast, Georgia had an inferior record and SRS rating in 1997 and had the same record (excluding the Cocktail Party) and an inferior SRS rating in 2007.  So really, Georgia fans can point to all of three games over a 21-year period where they had a better team and should have beaten Florida, but didn’t: 1992 (although in retrospect, Spurrier versus Goff was a huge equalizer), and the two Zook disasters in 2002 and 2003.  Georgia was better overall in 2005, but not without DJ Shockley.  Florida fans can point to 1997 and 2007 as years in which their teams were at least comparable, if not marginally better than Georgia and they lost both games.  (A simple question for Georgia fans: how much of your fond memories of the strengths of the ‘97 and ‘07 teams are bound up in the wins in Jacksonville?  After the Florida game, the ‘97 team was solidly beaten at home by Auburn and then required a last-second touchdown to beat Georgia Tech.  The ‘07 team came on like gangbusters at the end of the season, but was mediocre for the first six games.)  So Georgia should be, what, 5-16 against Florida since 1990?  6-15, maybe?  Would we all feel better about the game is that was the tally instead of 3-18?

Since 1990, Florida has finished first in the SEC nine times.  They have won the East ten times, or slightly more than 50% of all available titles.  They have played in 11 major bowl games.  They have three national titles.  In the same time period, Georgia has won two SEC titles, three divisional titles, and no national titles.  Georgia has played in three major bowl games.  Schultz’s mistake is starting from the premise that Florida and Georgia are both “signature programs,” implying some sort of equality.  Georgia has the potential to be equal to Florida, especially if Florida State and Miami pose credible recruiting threats to the Gators in-state, but that potential has not been realized over the past 21 years.  That, more than some imaginary mental block, is the reason why Georgia has struggled in Jacksonville.

The good news, then, is that Georgia is a better team than Florida in 2011 (Georgia is almost five points better in SRS and about 5.5 points better according to the Sagarin Predictor) and the margin isn’t close if Jeff Brantley is either out or limited.  If Georgia loses this year, then we may have to examine what’s going on upstairs with this team, as probability is pointing in the Dawgs' favor.**
 
* – Here’s the title reference for those of you who aren’t married to psychologists who interned at Penn.

** - Come to think of it, the most precise way to determine what Georgia's record should have been against Florida over the past 21 years would be to come up with retroactive point spreads using SRS (and Sagarin for the years for which it is available) and then assign percentages to the games. 

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

2007 Florida was shredded by a team who couldn't beat Appy State at home and also somehow lost to Auburn. They did sterling work running up the score on inferior/quitting teams, but that was about it.

Michael said...

2007 Florida beat the two teams that beat Georgia by a combined score of 110-51. Also, they lost on a last-minute touchdown in Death Valley to the eventual national champs. Their losses were by three, four, six, and 12 (and the 12-point loss to Georgia was close until the very end). They were not flat track bullies.

Anonymous said...

The 12-point loss to Georgia alternated between one- and two-score margins throughout the entire second half. Georgia controlled that game from the second quarter on.

Teams also barely losing to the eventual "national champs": Again, Auburn. And Bama, who lost to Louisana-Monroe in worse fashion.

2007 Florida finished 3rd in the East, 5th in the SEC overall. They lost 4 games. Fine for a transitional year.

Anonymous said...

Also, that's a 12-point cushion even given the following:

- Kicking off from two rows up in the endzone seating because of the celebration
- Kicking off with another 15-yard penalty because Massaquoi dared do the Gator chomp after a long TD
- Penn Wagers calling Georgia for not enough men on the line after a long pass completion because he couldn't count
- Penn Wagers not allowing Georgia a timeout to change its mind about a long FG

12 probably = 20, really.

Michael said...

1. Tebow had an injured shoulder in the game. I seem to recall Georgia fans using that fact to show that he wouldn't be able to survive a whole season in the Meyer offense. I think that cuts against the factors that you list.

2. No response to Florida's scores against South Carolina and Tennessee?

3. Georgia outgained Florida by 70 yards in the game. The Dawgs were the better team in the game, but don't kid yourself that it was a blowout.

Anonymous said...

"Tebow had an injured shoulder in the game."

1) Shockley.
2) Tebow didn't play defense. Stafford would've dropped bombs on Florida's crappy DBs and Moreno would've juked Florida's line out of its lingerie all night with or without a healthy Tebow.

"No response to Florida's scores against South Carolina and Tennessee?"

Florida also lost at home to Auburn (seriously, how do you do that?), who at last look is still giving up points to '07 Georgia in the second half. Again, even with the help of Penn Wagers.

"but don't kid yourself that it was a blowout."

It was as much as 2010 Auburn/Georgia, which is to say it wasn't then it actually was. At least in 2007 Georgia/Florida's case Georgia didn't actively try to injure Florida players.

I...really don't see the benefit in taking 2007 Florida to the grave with you. 2006 Florida was a defensive masterpiece. 2008 Florida was incredibly balanced. 2007 Florida was merely OK. I think they'll live with that.

Auburn beat that team! Michigan did! 2007 Michigan! C'mon.

Anonymous said...

As for Florida's score against South Carolina, well, good for them. They ran up the score on a team clearly on Quit Mode to give Tebow some Heisman love. Meanwhile, Georgia was helping solidify a BCS at-large bid. Whee.

Anonymous said...

The problem with 3-18 isn't that Florida typically has a better team than Georgia. Pick almost any rivalry game other than Ohio State and Michigan the last 6 years, and the record between the two teams will typically be closer than the "amount of times one team has more talent than the other."

Now, obviously at some point the talent differential is so different that there will be no differential in either talent or record (think Michigan-Indiana). But 5-16 is the record one would expect when a Minnesota plays a Wisconsin, not when a Georgia plays a Florida.

Now, I agree with you that the answer is not "PTSD." It's a combination of several decades of underachievement in Georgia (lots of talent allowing them to outmuscle cupcakes day in and day out, but constantly getting outcoached against better teams), stellar achievement in Florida, along with random variance. But 5-16 isn't the expected record for Georgia against Florida, for the same reason that a team that is constantly a 5 point dog against another team, pitted in a hypothetical "10 games on a neutral field," should not go 0-10 in the hypothetical.

Michael said...

1. I acknowledge in my original post that Georgia had a better team in '05, but not with Shockley out. Florida may have had a better team in '07, but that might not have been the case with a limited Tebow. With a healthy Tebow, Florida would have scored with Georgia. I'm on the same page with you that Florida wouldn't have stopped Georgia with that defense. What more could Stafford and Moreno have done in that game beyond what they achieved?

2. The 2007 Michigan team that took the field against Florida was a very good team, mainly because: (a) they used the pass-based spread that Michigan should have used for the entirety of the decade, but instead only pulled out when they were two scores down and/or scared to death of the opposing offense; and (b) they were playing their asses off for their retiring coach. Lloyd had his flaws as a coach, but he also had strengths and one of the strengths is that he engendered great feelings of loyalty from the vast majority of his players. Thus, it was no shame for Florida to lose to that Michigan team, especially when Michigan's strength - Henne passing to Manningham and Arrington, with Hart as a change of pace - could exploit Florida's weakness: a bad secondary.

Hobbes said...

Michael, you said:
"and (b) they were playing their asses off for their retiring coach"

so mind-set does have something to do with how one plays?

Pat Dye always downplayed the role of emotion in winning--but often emphasized playing with confidence. Which could play a role in the WLOCP.

Also Napoleon's maxim "The moral is to the physical as three is to one" comes to mind.