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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Statistical Review: Georgia Tech #60

Georgia Tech allowed 40+ points in six of 12 regular season games. That list includes a win against UNC despite allowing 50 points (one of nine games in 2012 in which the winning team allowed 50+ points). If not for offensive lightweights Maryland, Boston College, Presbyterian and USC sans Barkley, Georgia Tech would have allowed more than 35 points per game. Despite that, the stats say they were really an eight win team living in a seven win team's season.

 Tech ran the ball 81% of the time, so that merits the majority of our attention, but they also averaged 9.37 yards per pass. Only Georgia was better. And they led the nation with 17.8 yards per completion, best in the nation. In fact, in the Paul Johnson era, Georgia Tech has set up camp near the top of the yards/pass stats. If you watch Aaron Murray and then watch Washington or Lee (the quarterbacks, Washington and Lee is an institution of higher learning), you'll see that they aren't in the same class (and by that I mean one is good at throwing a football and two are much less good), but their yards per pass are similar. How is that?

The easy explanation is that Tech runs the ball 80% of the time so defenses are willing to give up something in pass defense to focus on defending the option. If that's the full explanation, defensive coordinators are morons. Georgia Tech runs the ball 90% of the time in most situations but throws the ball more than half the time on 3rd and 6+ and 85% of the time on 3rd and 11+. It doesn't take a PhD in statistics to figure out what they're going to try on the next play. Only Army is more predictable.

The more important explanation is that Georgia Tech only employs the forward lateral when it makes sense to employ a high risk/high return strategy; that is to say, they don't always throw the ball, but when they do, they prefer to throw it deep . The result is a lot of incomplete passes (47.4% incompletions), a lot of interceptions (4.12% of passes), and a lot of long completions. Every team in college football (except Georgia Tech) could increase their yards per pass by employing this strategy. But if you are doing it always on all downs you won't have a lot of success moving the ball down the field. If you're not convinced, watch a noob play Madden. That is why Georgia Tech has one of the nation's most efficient pass offenses in terms of yards per pass, but only a moderately effective passing game in terms of EPA per pass. Because they are often throwing on 3rd and long, defenses are giving them the first 6 or 8 yards and are focused on taking away anything further down field. They don't always succeed.

This Tech team was like all others of recent history in that they ran the ball a lot and depended heavily on explosive plays. This team was unique because it was fairly good at preventing explosive plays (only 3.4% of plays). Unfortunately, they were brought down by poor run defense (proof that teams aren't just good at what they practice against) and on 3rd downs.

The Statistical Review breaks down teams along a number of performance categories, everything from red zone scoring to field goal percentage, and compares that performance against the rest of the FBS. All 124 teams will be reviewed from 124 to 1 by the hybrid rankings. You can find short descriptions of the stats used in the table below.

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