Growing up observing UGA football during the 1980s, I became accustomed to the Bulldogs’ bend-but-don’t-break defenses, which often allowed opponents to march up and down the field; however, as for any points the foe put up on the scoreboard, as actor John Houseman would say back then in Smith Barney commercials, they usually earned it.
Therefore, like many of you, it is still difficult for me to endure games like last Saturday’s, when Georgia yielded 375 total yards to an excellent Missouri offense — about 30 yards less than the Bulldogs had been giving up per game, and the first time in eight games they held a BCS-conference opponent to less than 400 — but allowed the Tigers to tally 41 points, the eighth consecutive opponent dating back to last year (an all-time program high) to score 20+ points.
In its 41-26 loss, as has been commonplace, Georgia gave scores away to its opponent, or handed it points, and gave away the ballgame to Missouri in the process.
I’ve often mentioned YPP, or yards per point, which is just that — the number of yards a team gains/allows for every point it scores/yields. It has been called “probably the single most powerful stat in handicapping college and NFL football.” Defensively, Georgia’s YPP is poor — very poor — which might help explain why the Bulldogs have covered the spread just once this year in six games.
Although defensive YPP primarily and obviously concerns defensive play, as I’ve mentioned before, the ratio is a reflection of the entire team: the offense giving opponents good field position, unfavorable turnover and penalty margins, poor special teams play, bad coaching calls, etc. Simply put, it’s a measurement of how hard a team makes its opposition “work” to score points. The lower the defensive YPP, the worse. The worse of the worse in the country entering this week:
114. California- 11.86
115. Georgia- 11.851
116. New Mexico St.- 11.846
117. UNLV- 11.80
118. Western Michigan- 11.69
119. Eastern Michigan- 11.58
120. Purdue- 11.03
121. Florida Int’l- 10.54
122. SMU- 10.32
123. Southern Miss- 10.21
Of all 123 FBS schools, the Bulldogs are eighth from the bottom in defensive YPP, or one of the most generous in the nation this season in just giving away points to their opponents. Besides being charitable, what else do the 10 teams above have in common? For the most part, they’re big losers. Excluding Georgia, the nine others have combined to win just 9 of 53 games.
Notably, the FBS teams currently with the highest defensive YPP: in order, Louisville, Alabama, Oregon, Florida State, and Clemson — all with defensive YPPs of greater than 21.3. What they have in common is that they’re big winners. In fact, they’re such winners, they haven’t lost a single game combined, recording a perfect 29-0 record, while holding five of the top six spots in the latest Coaches Poll.
As for our team, a lowly defensive YPP is something we’ve gotten used to. In the first five years of the Coach Richt era (2001-2005), Georgia notably averaged about a 19.0 mark per season. However, since the start of the 2006 season, the Dogs have been down wit’ defensive YPP.
This is near mind blowing: Of the last eight seasons (including 2013), SIX rank among Georgia’s bottom 12 defensive YPPs of all time (all time meaning the last 68 seasons, 1946-2013). Remarkably, FOUR of the last six seasons rank in Georgia’s bottom five of all time (And, there is no excuse of defensive YPPs, on the whole, trending down over time as the NCAA average has remained rather consistent, hovering around 14.0 to 16.0 annually for the past 50 years). UGA’s bottom five defensive YPPs in its history, including this season:
11.85 in 2013
12.61 in 1961
12.71 in 2008
13.09 in 2009
13.48 in 2011
Last season, due in large part to the Bulldogs allowing just 43 points to their final five regular-season opponents, Georgia got back on track by recording a defensive YPP of 18.2, which ranked third in the SEC behind Alabama and Florida. However, this year, the Dogs are up to their old tricks, on pace for the lowest, worse mark in the program’s history.
When will the Bulldogs get back on track again? I long for the first half of the Richt regime, when Georgia hardly handed or gave away points to the opponent, or the bend-but-don’t-break units I remember from the 1980s. Nevertheless, for now it appears we’re stuck with a defense that simply, well, breaks.