Here's a common complaint I've heard from fans recently: Georgia has a top-10 recruiting class every year, so shouldn't we always be a top-10 program?
On the surface, it seems logical, so let's look at exactly how the numbers stack up, courtesy of a bit of research done by Randy, one of the blog's fine readers...
Randy went back through the past five years (i.e. any player that would still be on a team's roster) and looked at the average star ratings by class. He then took the top 25 from each year and assigned a point value. The top-rated class each year was given 25 points, the 25th-rated class given one point, and so on. He then tallied the points to see, based on recruits, who should have the most talented teams.
The next step was overlapping those results with the current rankings. Here's the current AP top 15 and their "recruiting score," according to Randy's research.
|9|| Ohio State||202|
|14|| Penn State||64|
|15|| Oklahoma State||28|
Now, a couple of problems with the study, some of which Randy also alluded to in his note to me.
For one, recruiting rankings are not an exact science. They're generally strong indicators of future success for individual players, but when you add them all up for a class, there can be wide variances. A few extra diamonds in the rough mean you can have a stud class with a low socre and a few busts means you can have a great score but a below-average class.
The other thing to take into account is how many players leave early for the NFL. Those big recruits also tend to be the guys who bolt school after three years, too. Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno are helping Georgia's overall score here, but they aren't helping the Bulldogs on Saturdays.
And finally, a minor problem with the math. Randy used both Rivals' and Scout's rankings and added them together. What that means is that if you had the No. 5 class one year, you really got 40 points for that, and if you had the No. 20 class, you got 10 points for it. By adding them together, the variance between the top and bottom was essentially doubled. That's not necessarily a problem in terms of how we compare the rankings of each team, but saying Georgia's score of 203 is five times better than Oregon's score of 40 is probably overstating the difference in total talent by a bit.
Still, there are some obvious things we can take from this research.
For one, the great recruiting schools -- i.e. schools over 200 points -- do quite well.
Second, winning with a low recruiting score isn't likely unless you're in a non-BCS conference or the Big East.
Third, it's absurd how much of an advantage USC has in terms of recruiting compared to other Pac-10 schools.
Wait... you wanted discussion about Georgia? Ah, I figured you might.
Yup, Georgia is by far the highest score not to be ranked in the top 15 (or even the top 25) in the AP poll. The next closest competitors are Michigan (170), Notre Dame (155), Oklahoma (151), Florida State (142) and Tennessee (114). I'll give Oklahoma a bit of a pass since they've gone to a bunch of recent BCS bowls and they'd probably be a top-15 program if it weren't for their Heisman-winning QB sitting on the sidelines with a shoulder injury.
But look at the rest of that list: Michigan and Tennessee are in either Year 1 or 2 of a new coaching regime. Notre Dame is a disaster, and, well, you've read the news on what's going on at Florida State.
It's not exactly a group Georgia wants to be associated with.
Of course, the other side of the coin is this: Georgia is in the same conference with three of those other top schools. It also competes against South Carolina, Georgia Tech, Tennessee, Auburn and Arkansas, which had reasonable recruiting scores and added Oklahoma State to its schedule this year. Meanwhile, as I mentioned, teams like Ohio State and USC are miles ahead of the vast majority of their competitors when it comes to bringing in talent.
But even when you add up compeition, attrition and margin of error in the rankings, it's hard to not come to a relatively similar conclusion. I'll let Randy give you his:
"Tossing out injuries, early departures, strength of schedule – hell just about everything – I have concluded either UGA is being coached down or the recruiting services are as clueless as Mike Bobo."
I'm not saying this is fair, but recruiting rankings vs. results is probably the most analytical measure we have of which coaching staffs get the most out of the talent they have to work with, and by that measure, Georgia really does not stack up well -- at least this season. Of course, it's also probably worth remembering that the Dawgs did finish No. 2 in the country just two years ago, and with those same high recruitings scores, LSU, Florida, Alabama and Miami have all had 4+ loss seasons in the past three years.
ADDENDUM: As many of you have pointed out in the comments, this analysis is little more than a snapshot in time. It's a rough approximation of the talent currently in Athens vs. the current ranking. That ranking was different a week ago and could be different next week. And the talent is certainly not necessarily evenly dispersed. Again, that's why I included so many caveats in discussing the research.
I don't know that we can make any absolute statements about Georgia from these results, but what we can say is that, given the talent that should be expected from consistently strong recruiting classes, Georgia should routinely play at or near the same level as other top programs, including Florida, LSU, Alabama, USC and Ohio State. In terms of sheer wins and losses, that has been the case. But I'd also be willing to guess from the vast majority of the comments I hear from fans, the program isn't necessarily viewed that way.
So then the question is: Are these rankings useless? Maybe. Is the value of a program simply derived from national titles rather than simple Ws and Ls? Maybe. Or is there more talent than results? Maybe.
Again, these numbers aren't a final solution to any questions. They're a piece to the puzzle, and a starting point for a discussion I'm sure will continue throughout the season.
OK, moving on...
We've talked quite a bit about kickoffs and kick coverage this week, for obvious reasons. But we've dealt with specific examples, like last week's debacle at the end of the game. What about more aggregate numbers?
Well, Bulldogs Blog MVP Jim F. looked at each kickoff this season and came up with some numbers.
The one problem with analyzing kickoff numbers from the stat sheet is that it doesn't tell us whether a kickoff was directional or deep or how the coverage unit looked or any of that. We get two numbers: How deep was the kickoff and where was the kick returned to? If someone wants to watch the film for all five games and do some better math, I'm all for it. Sadly, I don't have that kind of time right now.
But, thankfully for us, Jim applied a loose interpretation of the numbers that does a good enough job of approximating Georgia's kickoff philosophy on individual kicks. If a kick was 65 yards or farther, Jim considered it a "deep" kick. If it was 60 yards or less, he considered it a "directional" kick. (And, for good measure, there was also one poorly executed squib kick in there, too.)
Here's what he found (total 28 kickoffs):
|Type of kick|| Avg.Field Pos.|
|Deep w/touchback|| Opp 20|
|Deep w/o touchback|| Opp 35|
|Directional|| Opp 34|
|Squib|| Opp 37|
|All|| Opp 32|
So what does this tell us?
Well, for one, there is some evidence to support Jon Fabris' claim that directional kicking has merits, since essentially it does save Georgia an average of 1 yard per returned kick in field position.
But my guess is that one yard is not enough to overcome the likelihood that a deep kick for a touchback offers. Even if you figure that three-quarters of all of the "deep" kicks will be returned, the statistical difference between the average field position the opposition would get on that 75 percent of kicks would be just about four yards per game more than the directional kicks. Yet on that one out of four that went for a touchback, Georgia is gaining 14 yards of field position over a directional kick.
And how much of a difference does that make? A big difference, actually. Here's Jim's breakdown of field position:
| Starting field pos.||Opp. Drives||Opp. Scores|| Percent scores|
| UGA territory||4||4||100%|
|Opp. 40 or better||7||6||86%|
| Opp. 30 or less||16||4||25%|
| Touchback (i.e. opp 20)||6||1||17%|
*Note: Two of the drives that started inside the 30 ended in turnovers.
So, what do we learn from this?
The obvious answer is, if Georgia forces its opponent to march 70 yards or more for a touchdown, the defense is going to be pretty successful. If they don't, there's a good chance points are going on the board.
So if we know that a.) your best chance at having the opposition start behind its own 30 comes from kicking deep, and b.) having the opposition start behind its own 30 drastically reduces its scoring efficiency, then shouldn't a + b = c.) kick the ball deep for cripe's sake!
But these are just numbers. They don't measure the heart of a walk-on or the excitement of a good challenge or the intensity of the defense when faced with adversity. Those are the intangibles you just can't account for with stats.