Football games are played in the trenches. They are won in fourth quarter through momentum plays and by securing or avoiding the key turnover.
Yet which team has the better players coming in? That’s a question to address while all the other stories have been written about Georgia vs. Ole Miss and all the hay is in the barn.
We can look at that several different categories. The first way is to track which program has recruited better over the last several recruiting cycles. Which program stacked up more nationally-renowned classes?
The answers, as one might expect, is Georgia. But it is closer than most might think.
Here’s how the recruiting classes have ranked over the last five cycles:
It could be argued that the class ranking would be the wrong sample size. They do not account for the players who wash out and leave the program. That highly-rated safety might also never saw the field. The players also — most importantly — get coached up differently and develop better in one program relative to another. That doesn’t reflect the talent that will line up and decide the game.
The starting lineup comparison will offer up a more relevant look.
Let’s tread lightly with all the comparisons for just a second. Georgia freshman Jacob Eason was rated higher coming out of high school than Chad Kelly. Yet not even the staunchest Bulldog advocate would propose the visiting team has the edge at quarterback Saturday morning in Oxford.
There are flaws to this process. Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram was a 3-star prospect coming out of Georgia and these charts devalue his influence on the game. The same goes for a key Georgia contributor like Sony Michel. He’s not technically seen as a Georgia starter but his contributions or lack thereof will be a major factor in Saturday’s outcome.
In trying to figure out which team has the better players, the final barometer for a talent comparison might be these two:
Those are the major measurables to consider in a talent comparison across both sidelines. The only thing better would be for Hugh Freeze and Kirby Smart to go to the 50-yard line two hours prior to the game and let them choose sides picking one player at a time.
While that sounds corny, the talent only goes so far. Georgia fans would tend to agree how the talent gets “coached up” while on campus has also played a major role in the big SEC wins and losses over the last decade.
Follow Jeff Sentell on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play Between the Hedges. Unless otherwise indicated, player rankings and ratings are from the 247Sports Composite.