Florida vs. Georgia advanced stats preview

Today I’m previewing the Florida-Georgia game in the same way I begin reviewing games: looking at the advanced stats. This review is based on Bill Connelly‚Äôs Five Factors of winning, and sacks are counted as pass plays.

Explosiveness

This factor is one where Georgia has a noticeable advantage. The Bulldogs have more team speed right now than the Gators do, so that should be expected. It’s not that Florida is slow as a team, but UGA has some elite speed players like Mecole Hardman and D’Andre Swift that UF used to have but doesn’t so much at present.

Team Runs 10+ Pct. Passes 20+ Pct. Explosive Pct.
Florida 41 15.6% 17 8.6% 12.6%
Georgia 54 20.6% 22 11.5% 16.8%

 

One out of every five UGA carries has gone for at least ten yards. It’s tough to beat a team that is able to do that, though it is possible. UGA ripped off six explosive runs against LSU in 27 carries, good for a rate of 22.2%. It’s just that the Tigers built a lead and forced the Bulldogs to pass more than they normally would.

Offenses coached by Dan Mullen have been more efficient than explosive in recent years. Being behind in this department is nothing new for him.

Here is the defensive version of this table:

Team Runs 10+ Pct. Passes 20+ Pct. Explosive Pct.
Florida 36 14.2% 14 6.5% 10.7%
Georgia 26 11.8% 11 4.6% 8.1%

 

Something I noticed is that UGA’s defense really tries to keep things in front of them. They seem to trust that they’ll eventually win out if opponent drives go on for long enough, so they’ll give up seven yards on 1st & 10 or five yards on 2nd & 7 if it means the offense has a worse chance at gaining 30 yards.

Florida’s explosive defense is fairly average. The “Third and Grantham” business has been overblown, but they aren’t superlative at it either.

Efficiency

The main measure here is success rate. Watch this short video if you need to brush up on it.

This section excludes plays in garbage time using Connelly’s updated definition: a game enters garbage time when the lead is at least 43 points in the first quarter, 37 in the second, 27 in the third, and 21 in the fourth.

The first two tables covers the offenses:

Team Run SR Pass SR Overall SR Red Zone SR
Florida 47.3% 47.0% 47.2% 52.4%
Georgia 48.1% 56.2% 51.6% 51.0%

 

The teams have been fairly close in terms of efficiency on offense. The Gators would have a better passing figure if not for the rash of drops early; Georgia hasn’t suffered a similar affliction to my knowledge.

Jake Fromm has completed 66.9% of his passes on the year versus 56.6% for Franks. Even with drops factored out, Franks would be noticeably behind Fromm in that respect. That’s as much as anything why the UGA pass attack rates as being more efficient.

Team 1Q SR 2Q SR 3Q SR 4Q SR
Florida 41.9% 56.8% 38.5% 50.5%
Georgia 49.1% 50.8% 58.3% 45.7%

 

The Gators have often come out slow to begin each half before cranking things up in the second and fourth quarters. The Bulldogs haven’t been on such a rollercoaster ride. They’ve been steady throughout games.

Now, two tables for the defenses:

Team Run SR Pass SR Overall SR Red Zone SR
Florida 37.4% 35.0% 36.4% 41.4%
Georgia 42.9% 40.0% 41.4% 39.1%

 

Florida may allow a few more explosive plays, but the Gators are much better on a down-by-down efficiency basis. While UGA’s figures here are pretty close to the national average with passing a bit below, UF is consistently five percentage points better in rushing and passing. Both defenses are merely OK in the red zone.

Team 1Q SR 2Q SR 3Q SR 4Q SR
Florida 44.2% 41.1% 37.3% 18.7%
Georgia 41.3% 39.0% 38.2% 52.1%

 

Want to see Nick Savage’s impact? Have a look at that fourth quarter success rate for the Florida defense. When it gets to crunch time, the Gators have locked down opponents.

Georgia, for its part, has only defended 48 fourth quarter plays before garbage time, most of them against Missouri and LSU. Mizzou had a success rate above 50% in all quarters but the second, while the Bayou Bengals suddenly found a new gear after scuffling in the 20s of percentages in the second and third quarters against UGA. In either case, the Bulldog defense didn’t show itself to be a strong closer in games that weren’t completely out of hand late.

Field Position

In the next two sections I’ll use the figures from Connelly’s advanced stats profiles. The ranks I cite do not account for movement from the Week 8 games that just happened, but they shouldn’t move much.

The Gators are a national leader in the field position game, a tangible result of both Mullen’s emphasis on special teams and his in-game decisions to value field position. They’re 21st in the country with an average starting position of their own 32.4 yard line and tenth with opponents averaging their own 25.2.

Georgia’s rankings are noticeably worse, though the absolute numbers in field position aren’t terribly far apart. UGA is 94th nationally with an average starting position of their own 28.7 and 46th in the country with opponents averaging at their own 28.0.

That said, let’s split the difference exactly on each of these figures. Doing so would have UF averaging a start on its own 30 and Georgia averaging a start on its own 27. In a game with 25 possessions, that implies Florida would end up with 75 yards’ worth of field position advantage.

Finishing Drives

In Connelly’s parlance, a scoring opportunity is a drive that includes a first down at the opponent’s 40-yard-line or closer or one that has a touchdown that scores from more than 40 yards out. The number of points per scoring opportunity is then the measure for how well a team takes advantage of those opportunities.

The distribution is bunched up a lot. Florida is 45th in the country by averaging 4.95 points per scoring opportunity, while Georgia is nine spots higher 36th at 5.04 points per scoring opportunity. On the other side of the ball, Florida is 7th in the country at 3.36 while Georgia is 32nd at 3.97.

The expectation of points per scoring opportunity is going to be pretty close, in other words. The Five Factors work together, though. Winning field position, generating big plays, and maintaining efficiency are all ways to generate more scoring opportunities. Whichever team generates more scoring opportunities is likely to win.

Turnovers

Florida has the edge on the headline number. The Gators are +9 in turnovers on the year with 18 gained and nine lost. Georgia is a more modest +2 with nine gained and seven lost. UGA has lost a couple fewer on the year, but UF has gained double what the Bulldogs have.

Studies by a number of people have shown that recovering fumbles is largely luck. Georgia has the luck with its own fumbles, as they’ve recovered nine of their 12 while Florida has recovered five of nine. The Gators have the luck with opponent fumbles, as they’ve recovered 11 of 14 while the Bulldogs have recovered five of 11. Which luck holds out could be very important.

The only thing Connelly has found that has a consistent correlation with forcing fumbles is sacks. This makes sense, as quarterbacks shopping for targets don’t employ the same ball security techniques as ball carriers do and they sometimes get blindsided. The Gators are way out ahead with 21 sacks versus just nine for the Bulldogs.

UF also has the edge when it comes to interceptions, which aren’t as random as fumbles are. The Gators have picked off 3.6% of opponent throws, right about double the Bulldogs’ rate of 1.8%.

Overall

Georgia is in the third year of its current coaching regime and has been recruiting at a rarified level during that time. Florida is in the first year of its coaching retrofit with high but not elite talent.

Thus, it should be no surprise that UGA is ahead of UF in many advanced statistical measures. S&P+ liked the Bulldogs to win by about six with a win likelihood of around 63% prior to the Week 8 games taking place and will probably be about the same this week.

That also means S&P+ thinks the Gators would win one-in-three games and are just one big touchdown play away from winning. Those aren’t terrible odds. The consensus after the game a few weeks ago was that Florida and LSU are almost the same exact team. The Tigers beat the Bulldogs by 20.

The Gators’ best shot on offense is probably to keep doing what they’ve been doing except against Kentucky: stay on schedule and play the field position game. On defense, they need to avoid giving up the big play against an explosive UGA offense since the Gators are an excellent efficiency defense. That means playing bend-but-don’t-break between the 20s and being judicious with blitzes.

Maybe the biggest factor will be not falling behind early. UGA has jumped out to quick leads a lot this year thanks to either turnovers or explosive offensive gains. Some of both have been lucky, like their tip drill pick-six against South Carolina or a fumble return touchdown against Missouri enabled by the refs not blowing the whistle for end of forward progress as soon as they should have or Isaac Nauta collecting Fromm’s fumble and running it into the end zone against Tennessee.

LSU didn’t fall behind early, and UGA was not comfortable playing from behind. The Gators’ advantages in efficiency defense and field position mean they’re hard to come back against. With a continuation of their turnover luck in recovering opponent fumbles, Florida can follow a path to victory in Jacksonville. It’ll be hard, but it’s doable.

David Wunderlich
David Wunderlich is a born-and-raised Gator and a proud Florida alum. He has been writing about Florida and SEC football since 2006. He currently lives in Naples Italy, at least until the Navy stations his wife elsewhere. You can follow him on Twitter @Year2