Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Fussing at the Margins

Paul Westerdawg has an interesting post up about Georgia's struggles at kicking off. While he makes a good point that Georgia's directional kicking is a poor strategy, he goes a little far at the outset of the post:

Football isn't a game of yardage. It's a game of field position. That's why hidden yardage (non-offensive and defensive stats are so critical). Field position is also driven by those less obvious / hidden stats such penalty yards per game, punt/kickoff returns and coverage and turnovers allowed and created.

Thank you, Jim Tressel, but allow me to retort. Football is a game of yardage. The objective is to be very good at moving the ball and stopping the opponent from doing them same. Everything else is secondary. There are games that are decided by field goal kicking, punt coverage, or penalties, but these games are far rarer than games that are decided because the winner is better at moving the ball and stopping the loser from moving the ball. Florida was very good at moving the ball and stopping their opponents from doing so. That's why they won. Does anyone remember how good they were at punting or kicking field goals, as opposed to scoring at will on offense?

Look at the chart that Paul uses to illustrate the importance of kickoff coverage. Two teams were clearly the best in the SEC at kicking off: Kentucky and South Carolina. Those teams combined to go 14-12. Florida won the national title while finishing 6th in the SEC in kickoff coverage. Alabama won the West and finished seventh in that department. Their totals were not far off from Georgia's. If one is looking to explain Georgia's disappointing 2008, kickoff coverage is not the place to start.

If you want a relevant stat to describe Georgia's issues in 2009, look at the 4.97 yards per play they allowed, which placed the Dawgs eighth in the conference. Alabama and Florida finished second and third in that category, behind a Tennessee team that was completely undone by its offense. Georgia was not very good at stopping opponents in 2008, hence the three losses. Looking for other explanations is interesting for off-season discussion, but we shouldn't pretend that Georgia finished behind Florida and Alabama in the SEC because Georgia opponents started drives after kickoffs on the 29, whereas Florida opponents started on the 27 and Alabama opponents started on the 28. That's a little like a Braves fan fixating on the team's bunting or stolen base percentage allowed as opposed to an outfield that cannot produce offensively.


peacedog said...

Kickoff coverage is a hot topic for UGA fans these days, but I agree we're too fixated on it (not that it can't improve, and the strategy seems bizarre at times, moreso from a coverage standpoint).

I thought Blutarski's post today about Yards per Point allowed was a little more interesting. Here he shows were UGA had it's most appalling YPP allowed in the Richt era; 12.1 or something.

The story is clear: we yielded points too easily last year. Good starting field position might have contributed to it, but IMO it didn't contribute to it as much as say Richard Samuel fumbling that KR in the third quarter against GT. Also, it again shows Martinez defenses in 05 and 06 were pretty darn good, but there has been a definite slide since, and last year was awful. I believe we will be better this year for a variety of reasons. But how much better? Phil, I need your mojo.

At least our best looking DE didn't go and get suspended for the first two games.

Michael said...

Yards per point is a pretty good stat. In Georgia's case, I think it has often shown their problems in the red zone. Still, if you're looking for one stat to illustrate what went wrong for Georgia last year, 4.97 yards per play allowed is it.