Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Revisiting Georgia's Winning Streak

Another week, another criticism of one of my favorite blogger's optimism about what Georgia has proved this year.  Here is Blutarsky on Georgia's mindset for the SEC Championship Game:

What I mean is that this is a game in which Georgia shouldn’t be burdened by timidity and uncertainty.  There’s no reason to wave Logan Gray out there to fair catch punts.  Richt doesn’t have to send a message to his team that they have to be tougher on third-and-short if they don’t want him calling for a field goal early against a CUSA squad in a meaningless bowl game.  No, they’ve proved themselves by regrouping and clawing their way into the title game.  They’ve accomplished their primary preseason goal.  In a sense, they’re playing with house money now.  They can afford to be a little loose.
Given the weak opposition that has provided the list of victims for the ten-game winning streak, I don't think that there is a strong case to be made that Georgia is playing with house money, unless one simply expected improvement this year.  Georgia has clearly shown that, but they have not yet shown the ability to beat top teams.  They don't need to beat LSU on Saturday, but they do need to show that they can play on the same field.  (Alternatively, beating the Big Ten Championship Game loser, Michigan, or Nebraska in the bowl game would do the trick, although Nebraska not quite as much as the other two and with bowl games, there is the inevitable "how much do these teams really care?" question.) 

I don't think that it's unreasonable for Blutarsky and other Georgia fans to overvalue the ten-game winning streak.  Normally, you would think that a streak like that in the SEC would inevitably involve taking multiple quality scalps.  This is just a bizarre year, one in which the SEC is Morganna-style top heavy and Georgia missed the busty part of the conference.  Try this stat on for size: Georgia has not played a team ranked in the top 20 for ten straight games this year.  The last time this happened was 1981.  Moreover, none of the teams that Georgia beat in its ten-game winning streak are likely to finish in the top twenty of either the AP poll or the good computer polls.  (The highest-rated team of the ten right now is, surprisingly enough, Vandy, which is #27 in SRS and #33 in the Sagarin Predictor.  That close win in Nashville looks better and better.)  This is an unprecedented run for the Dawgs, and not necessarily in a good way.

Now, the counter would be that Georgia has put up excellent numbers, above and beyond 10-2.  One way to show this is my favorite measure: yards per play margin.  Georgia is +1.53, which is very good.  (For comparison, LSU is 1.96, although against a much tougher schedule.  Bama is an off-the-charts +3.34.)  Another way is this excellent chart, which accounts for strength-of-schedule by showing that Georgia has held its opponents well below their average production on offense.  These numbers are encouraging, but coming back to the original point, the Dawgs need a good performance on Saturday to validate the season.  If they get blown out, then the "what does it mean to beat a bunch of average opponents?" question will resurface.  


Senator Blutarsky said...

Two paragraphs before the passage you cite, I wrote this:

"They have nothing left to prove at this point other than being deserving of sharing the field with the Western Division champs."

Isn't that the same point you're making here?

JasonC said...

Everyone loves to pile on Georgia's schedule. Frankly, we can't help it if Miss St was overrated, Florida went in the tank and Ole Miss & Kentucky were god-awful.

But how is the Dogs' schedule much different from VA Tech, Wisconsin, Houston, Boise St. or South Carolina- all teams that are ranked around or higher than UGA?

Michael said...

Blutarsky, you do make that point, but then you note that the Dawgs are playing with "house money." That seems inconsistent to me.

Jason, this has nothing to do with where Georgia is ranked and I'm not blaming Georgia for the fact that Florida and Tennessee are wretched right now. This is simply a matter of determining the value of Georgia's ten-game winning streak.

Senator Blutarsky said...

The "house money" remark was simply an observation that after the 0-2 start, nobody expected Georgia to wind up in the SECCG.

Anonymous said...

Georgia lost to freaking Colorado and Central Florida last year. This is better.