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Monday, November 23, 2009

Exploring the Depths

I posed the question on Twitter yesterday as to whether Saturday represented the worst loss of the Mark Richt era. Most of those who responded agreed that it was. Here were the other suggestions:

-- Vandy in 2006. This one was bad, but Vandy had to drive for a field goal at the end, and the Commodores had a future NFL star at quarterback.

-- Tennessee in 2007. About as ugly as any UGA loss has ever been, but the Vols did go to the SEC title game that year. They were a good team and it was in Knoxville.

-- Tennessee this year. Bad, yes, but it was in Knoxville, not at home.

-- Alabama last season. That first half was dismal, but Georgia did fight back to make it close and Alabama went 8-0 in the SEC and played in the conference title game.

-- Florida, pretty much any time. The 2002 game against the Gators is probably the only one I can really get behind because it probably kept Georgia from a national title.

Beyond that, this was as bad as it has ever been. Georgia lost the game because of it's own problems. It turned the ball over four times -- and fumbed two more times that it miraculously recovered. The defense gave up big plays. They had costly turnovers. The special teams were a disaster. It was at home. It was against a team that is 5-15 against SEC East foes since 2006, and all five of those wins are against either Georgia or Vandy. And it was on Senior Night, a day after Uga VII died. When you include how it happened, who it happened against, where it happened and when it happened, it's hard to find another loss that tops this one. Just brutal.

But look again at that list of other suggestions for worst loss of the Richt era. Outside of that 2002 Florida game, every one has come in the past three seasons.

With that in mind, I have a story in today's Telegraph discussing the direction of the Georgia program. Mark Richt has been asked after his past three losses if he was concerned about where the program was headed, and he has consistently said that the future remains bright. With players like Orson Charles, Branden Smith, Washaun Ealey, Caleb King, Brandon Boykin and Bacarri Rambo and another great signing class on the way, it's not entirely hard to believe him.

But looking ahead is conjecture. Maybe things work out. Maybe they don't. I think the odds remain in Georgia's favor, but it's hard to say for sure.

What we know for certain is what has happened for the past few years, and regardless of what Richt says, the situation is dire.

In its last 21 games, the Bulldogs have allowed 34 points or more 10 times. That happened just 11 times from 1997-2007.

While we know the defense has had it's problems, let's look at who is scoring on them in 2009:

-- Kentucky hadn't topped 26 points against an SEC foe all year. They got 34 against Georgia.

-- Florida's high for the season was 41 points (against Kentucky) which it matched against Georgia. They failed to top 29 against any other SEC foe.

-- South Carolina averaged 15 points per game in its other seven SEC contests. It scored 37 against Georgia.

-- Tennessee averaged 20 points per game against other BCS-conference foes. It scored 45 against Georgia.

-- Johnathan Crompton's 310 yards vs. Georgia were his most against any opponent except Memphis; Stephen Garcia's 313 were the most against any opponent except Arkansas; Morgan Newton's 137 nearly reached his previous career total; Ryan Mallett's 408 were a career best, too.

And how does Georgia fare against strong competition?

-- Against teams ranked at the time they played Georgia, the Bulldogs are just 2-6 in the past two seasons (with one of those wins being Vandy last year).

-- Georgia is just 6-9 vs. teams that finished the year ranked in the AP top 25 since 2006 (*using current AP poll for this season) and just 1-6 the past two seasons.

-- Georgia is just 15-12 overall against BCS-conference teams who finished the regular season with a winning record in the past four years.

But that's big picture. What about Georgia's primary competition?

Here is the Dawgs' record against the SEC East since 2006:

Florida: 1-3
Tennessee: 1-3
Kentucky: 2-2
South Carolina: 3-1
Vanderbilt: 3-1

In other words, here is Georgia's record against the SEC East since 2006: 10-10.

And that record is every bit deserved. In the past four seasons, Georgia has actually been outscored by SEC East opponents 520-473.

In its last seven meetings with SEC East opponents, Georgia is allowing an average of nearly 37 points per game. They have allowed 34 or more in six of those seven games.

But in truth, Georgia has been banged up and lost some big-time talent of late. So how about just comparing Georgia to general expectations?

-- The Dawgs are 3-8 against the spread this season.

-- Georgia is 7-15-1 against the spread in the past two seasons.

-- In games when Georgia is favored, it is just 5-12-1 against the spread in the past two seasons.

OK, but spreads are simply a tool for gamblers, not necessarily a judge of quality play. So how does Georgia stack up nationally?

Georgia's ranking this season, nationally, in a few categories:

Total Offense: 73rd
Pass Efficiency Defense: 90th
Scoring Defense: 75th
Third-down Conversion Pct: 73rd
Time of Possession: 84th
Red-Zone Defense: 103rd
Interceptions Thrown: 111th
Turnover Margin: 119th
Takeaways: 120th
Kickoff Coverage: 119th
Punt Coverage: 88th
Penalties: 116th

But is Georgia possibly improving anywhere? Maybe the coaches were dealt some bad hands, but they're making progress.

Issues that dogged the Dawgs in 2008: O line, pass rush, lack of takeaways, penalties, scoring defense, kick coverage

Issues that have been fixed this year: pass rush

(*It's also worth noting that coaches promised an improved pass rush would help the secondary. Georgia had 23 sacks last year, had 16 takeaways and ranked 47th in pass efficiency defense. Georgia has 27 sacks this year in two fewer games, but has just eight takeaways and ranks 90th in pass efficiency defense.)

But hey, there's more to coaching than adjustments. How about the work done game planning.

A few factoids about Georgia's starts to games this year:

-- Georgia has scored first in just four of 11 games this season.

-- Georgia has been outscored 75-34 in the first quarter of SEC games this season.

-- Georgia's offense has produced 10 points or fewer in the first half of 10 games (out of 21) against BCS-conference foes in the past two seasons.

But we also have to remember, Mark Richt's calm demeanor is crucial to overcoming adversity. Only Georgia hasn't had the best history of halting momentum in the past four years.

-- Against UK last week, Georgia was outscored 28-7 in the second half.
-- Against Florida this season, Georgia was outscored 24-10 in the first half.
-- Against Tennessee this season, Georgia was outscored 24-7 in the second half.
-- Against LSU this season, Georgia picked up just one first down in the first half.
-- Against Alabama last season, Georgia was outscored 31-0 in the first half.
-- Against Florida last season, Georgia was outscored 35-7 in the second half.
-- Against Georgia Tech last season, Georgia was outscored 33-14 in the second half (and 26-0 in the third quarter)
-- Against Tennessee in 2007, Georgia was outscored 28-0 in the first half.
-- Against Tennessee in 2006, Georgia was outscored 37-9 in the second half.
-- Against Virginia Tech in 2006, Georgia was outscored 21-3 in the first half.

And how about dominance in games?

Against BCS-conference opponents in Mark Richt's first seven seasons at Georgia, the Bulldogs won 17 games by at least 20 points. They lost just two -- the 2003 SEC title game against LSU and the 2007 game at Tennessee.

In the past two seasons, Georgia has dominated just one BCS-conference opponent: this year's 34-10 win over Vandy. They've been blown out three times (twice against Florida and this year against Tennessee).

But, of course, it all comes down to wins and losses, and that's not so great either.

Georgia is just 9-7 in its last 16 games.

That has only happened three other times since the Ray Goff era: 9-7 from Oct. 29, 2005 through Nov. 4, 2006; 9-7 from Oct. 30, 1999 through Nov. 25, 2000; and Aug. 31, 1996 through Nov. 15, 1997.

If Georgia loses to the Yellow Jackets next week, they'll be 7-7 in their last 14 games.

Georgia hasn't lost seven of 14 games at any point since Goff was coach.

And when Ray Goff is being mentioned that often, that "lunatic fringe" suddenly doesn't sound so crazy.

I think Richt has done more than enough in his career to engender a little good will and a fair amount of confidence that he'll get things turned around. But as any dime-store shrink can tell you, the first step is admitting you have a problem.


Dawg '85 said...

DH - A sobering analysis for sure... I agree it would be somewhat comforting to hear CMR admit the program needs rehab. I'll await the off-season before making judgement... the blog banter, speculation, and call for heads is getting tired.

There are so many ignorant people ranting against the program right now. My biggest current peeve is with fans saying we should turn down a lesser bowl bid... without realizing the importance of bowl season practice outweighs the tarnish of a lesser bowl.

I saw your earlier comment on LSU's game ending mistakes. Actually Les The Riverboat Gambler made an even bigger mistake with the 1st failed onside kick that led to Ole Miss score. Looks like his dice rolls are evening out. I've yet to hear any writers/commentators speak to this.

jferg said...

My guess is CMR knows better than most what will be done after the season. He'll continue to stay as positive as possible (as he should) until that day. That day, he may even shed a tear because of his decision. Hopefully CWM and possibly others are given the opportunity to "resign" for everyone's sake.

I just hope there is a DC out there who can bring our defense back into the 21st century and to be able to defend ALL types of offensive alignments.

Sports Dawg said...

David,In reference to you last commemt: Before January 1st, we should know if Richt is willing/capable of admitting he/we have major problems. His actions, or lack there of, will be the answer.

cakeman said...

That's a pretty devastating analysis, we are really at a crossroads as a program I think.

Anonymous said...

Georgia is a soft team with no intensity or toughness. The other night they were stopped on 3rd and short multiple times. That resorted in the crazy toss sweep on the goal line.

I knew we were dead when right after Butler made the personal foul, he and Walsh were joking and laughing on the sideline. That's what it is to the players, a big joke. It's like they are saying, "Whatever, dude."

Paul said...

David, This is a great breakdown of where the program is at this moment. I used my trusty Phil Steele at the start of the season to gauge where I thought Georgia fits in the national landscape by trying to identify a team in the other BCS conferences with a similar overall record, number of conference titles and bowl games. As a Georgia fan, I'm fairly myopic, so I'd be interested to see what your list of teams (and criteria) would look like.

MikeInValdosta said...

At least there will be no claims to the ball bouncing the wrong direction.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes perceptions can be misconstrued. We need to be careful not to make judgements on limited information and what we think is reality. Sometimes we laugh to release tension.

Anonymous said...

DH: Pretty sure Jay Cutler was not the QB for Vandy in 2006 if that was who you were referring to.

.500 Gets You Fired! said...

Willie has become Richt's Tony Franklin. The CEO's job is on the line now. You have 7 days to clean house Mark Richt or you need to go too.

Anonymous said...

"In other words, here is Georgia's record against the SEC East since 2006: 10-10."

Wow. I had no idea it was that bad.

Last years Alabama game, they played the single best half of football I have ever seen in college football. The execution was immaculate. Somehow we made adjustments at half time, and ended up in the game somehow.

I think that the worst loss in the Richt era was the modified Sugar Bowl loss to WVa in '06. I just felt like we have been on a slow decline after that, and I'm not sure we've bottomed out yet. Again, we made some adjustments and brought the game close.

The key point here is that in the games referenced above, we made adjustments at half-time, and we fought back. That's commendable, but neither of those two teams should have owned us like they did in the first half. That's game preparation, and we're not seeing any gameplan adjustments now.

So.. where do we go from here? Is the I-based offense dead and way to predictable to defend against in an era of the wildcat and the spread? The defense is just awful. I don't remember ever seeing a division I player actually regress in ability and drive like I've seen Prince Miller do this season. Rennie's the big bright spot though and a Damn Good Dawg.

As an alumni, I'm tired of this. Whatever the reasons for the complete lack of discipline from our players, and the awful attempt at game planning and adjustments ... these need to be DEALT WITH IN THIS offseason.

Ausdawg85 said...

DH - Great analysis and sadly, unbridled truth. Just so that the last of us die-hards can fully face the hard truths, can you skim through any of the statistical categories where there may be some improvement...stuff CMR might point-out in his defense (no pun intended)? There may be nothing, but that, too, would confirm the picture you've painted. Finally, how does our demise compare to other programs (FSU, ND, OK, etc.)?

Andrew In Atlanta said...

The analysis IS sobering as well as sad.

In my mind, the decline of the UGA football program goes back to storming the field after the 1st score vs. FL. At that time I thought CMR was finally understanding how important creating an emotional edge was. He's never going to be Meyer or Saban, but I really thought he was understanding WHEN to use emotion. Well, he then spent the better part of that season apologizing for it...and UGA became soft.

I really like my neighbor, friend or guardian of my kids, etc. I don't believe UGA will prosper with CMR as head coach. It's a violent, emotional game and I don't think he can generate the emotion (positive AND negative) that is required to win big games consistently.

It's not just that 2009 is a re-load year. We got HAMMERED twice last year with a very talented team. No, this is the direction we are going folks. Again, really like CMR as a person. He's probably quite good at making parents feel comfortable about sending their sons to UGA as well. But CMR will not win a championship for UGA and will not contend in the SEC on a consistent basis IMO. I truely believe his personal/spiritual beliefs OFF the field hamper him ON the field. Don't mean to offend anyone, but there is way to much data now to ignore the obvious.

Carter said...

The precursor to all this mediocrity was the '05 West Virginia Sugar Bowl. We were blown-out in the first half. Only the grit and determination of Shockley made a game of it in the second half. Willie couldn't adjust to anything WVU was doing. We got burned on special teams by that swinging-gate punt fake deal. There were countless other details of that game that have faded from my memory or blurred together with other such failures. We had never seen anything like that out of a CMR team before that game, but we have seen much of the same since.

Andrew In Atlanta said...

I guess what I'm trying to say is that, sooner or later, CMR will have to be replaced. There is simply way too much money at stake. The difference between big bowls and small ones is millions of dollars. This is what builds chemistry labs on campus. Plus, so many Div I programs lose money these days. I don't think the alums and execs at UGA will let this happen. With the kind of money coaches makes these days the leash is short. Schools buy coaches out of big contracts all the time. Just the reality. In short, it doesn't matter what changes are made in the off season. If we go 7-5 or worse next year I think CMR is gone. 8-4MIGHT get him one more year.

Carter said...


You should have began the last paragraph with, "Having said that,...."

Anonymous said...

@ Carter

It was the '06 Sugar Bowl. The '05 was Auburn v. Va.Tech. But... what's a year among friends, eh?

Check my post at 10:36. Nice observation , and I completely agree with your analysis!

David Hale said...

Carter -- Just wait for my "Grading the Game" post in about a half-hour.

doofusdawg said...

you are just the man for this job... regarding the joe cox stance from shotgun position linked on gtp... i watched the first half of the kentucky game this morning and confirmed that it is accurate... given our poor third down conversion rate you referenced... i imagine that a majority of those attempts were from the shotgun... can you attempt to quantify this ratio and infer any assumptions... u da man.

Anonymous said...

Dave, Cutler was not the Vandy QB in the 2006 season. He was drafted by the Broncos in April 2006. Earl Bennett was on that 2006 team though. Chris Nickson was the starting QB for the Commies.

Anonymous said...

I vote for a complete NEW coaching staff, INCLUDING replacement of marek richt!? AND I hope HE read this!!emonat

Anonymous said...

The Boss says:

Too much complaining. Richt compares very well to VDooley in all ways except record against Gators. Even there, he's the top dawg coach in 20 years.

Dooley struggled to finish ahead of BBryant, but he earned the respect he gets as greatest dawg coach. Richt is a solid #2, ahead of WButts.

20 years of losing to Gators is a long time in dawg years, but do you think it will last forever? There's a young HWalker growing up somewhere in Ga and Richt is looking for him. Stick with the dawg's best hope.