Georgia football fans can get their statistical fix each week with By the Numbers — a stats-based look at how UGA coach Kirby Smart is doing in his attempt to keep the Bulldogs on top of the SEC and continue the program’s pursuit of a national championship. Today’s edition of By the Numbers looks at the state of UGA’s 2019 signing class after the early signing period’s conclusion.
We had some fun on DawgNation Daily the other day. The question came up about what Georgia’s Early Signing Day grade should be. I initially gave it a B+, but in retrospect, that’s probably too low.
It is certainly fair to point out that UGA didn’t get every recruit it pursued — no program does. It’s also fair to admit the Bulldogs still have needs to address before the cycle ends in February. However, those issues shouldn’t obscure the fact that Georgia is amassing talent at a rate that would make almost any program jealous.
After all, no one could deny the Crimson Tide has become the true measuring stick for UGA. The Bulldogs lost two razor-thin games to Alabama in 2018 — in January in the national championship game and again in December in the SEC Championship. Yet, the last year also brought plenty of recruiting success for Georgia against Alabama.
Over the last three years, Alabama has signed a national-best 53 players ranked among ESPN’s top 300 prospects, and as Chris Low pointed out this week, UGA is right behind the Crimson Tide with 52 top-300 players over that same span. The next-closest SEC team on that list is LSU with just 34.
According to the 247Sports composite player ratings, UGA has actually signed significantly more 5-star recruits than Alabama over the last three years (15 to 11), and as DawgNation’s Connor Riley — the one who first started the discussion about UGA’s class grade — pointed out this week, Georgia’s earned a higher combined score over its last two classes than the Crimson Tide.
For the 2018-19 recruiting cycles, both UGA and Alabama have signed 48 players. The Crimson Tide’s total score — which is based on the individual rating of each signed player from the 247Sports composite— over that span is 602.18. The Bulldogs’ combined score is 622.04
To those who don’t follow recruiting closely, those numbers might sound like gibberish, and to those that do follow recruiting but remain skeptical of it, the star ratings can seem about as bankable as cryptocurrency.
Yet, recent history suggests that UGA’s gains on Alabama in recruiting could be the precursor to a national championship.
“Teams whose signees are less than 50 percent blue-chips (meaning former four or 5-star recruits) over the previous four years can’t be considered national title contenders,” according to SB Nation’s Bud Elliott.
From 2015-18, 69 percent of UGA’s signees were former four and 5-star recruits. So far, 86 percent of its 2019 signees have been so-called “blue-chip” recruits.
Alabama’s blue-chip percentages are still slightly higher — 77 percent for previous four years, and 96 percent so far for 2019 — but UGA’s not far behind and its gap over most of the rest of the country is growing rapidly.
Talent doesn’t just matter in pursuit of national championships though, it can be a crucial edge each Saturday as well.
The college football writer, Matt Hinton did a study in 2013 regarding how predictive star rankings were in determining which teams would win and lose games. The results were in his words, “overwhelming.”
Examining games played over a three-year span — a total of 1,028 games — Hinton found the team with the higher-rated recruits “won almost exactly two-thirds of the time (66.4 percent of the time, to be exact.)”
Of course, none of this guarantees Georgia will beat Alabama the next time the teams play. If anything, this data explains why the Bulldogs will probably still be a slight underdog. However, Georgia is closing the gap quickly on the Crimson Tide, even surpassing it in some regards and UGA has enough talent to likely be considered a point-spread favorite over any other team in the country.
That kind of recruiting definitely deserves an “A.”