Is Georgia football overrated heading into 2017?
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Is Georgia overrated?
There’s a lot of hype surrounding Georgia football ahead of the 2017 season. With a slew of returning starters, a fairly easy schedule and a perennially weak SEC East, there’s no reason Georgia shouldn’t have a big season. And that’s been reflected in the (unofficial) preseason standings. I averaged Georgia’s place in a bunch of way-too-early rankings back in January and found the Bulldogs were projected as the No. 13 team in the nation.
But could that projection be too high? One statistic says yes.
I’m a big fan of Bill Connelly’s S&P+, and according to his projected 2017 S&P+ rankings, Georgia locks in at 20th with a 13.4. For reference, SEC teams ranked ahead of Georgia are Alabama (1), LSU (4), Auburn (9), Florida (15) and Texas A&M (19). That’s not much of a difference than 13th in preseason rankings from the media, especially when you consider Florida is ranked ahead of the Bulldogs and thus is more likely to win the East.
So, what does S&P+ know — or more accurately, what does S&P+ think it knows — that the rest of country doesn’t? For that, we have to look at the criteria used to calculate S&P, and thankfully for all the good college football fans of American, Connelly always does a fantastic job of breaking down his process. There are three factors involved, and … well, I’ll just let him explain it.
To come up with preliminary projections, I create projected ratings based on each factor. Here’s how the process currently works:
- Recruiting is easy. I simply create a projected rating based on these two-year recruiting rankings. The recruiting-based projection makes up 25 percent of the overall S&P+ projection.
- For returning production, I apply projected changes (based on each team’s returning offensive and defensive production, which are on different scales) to last year’s S&P+ averages. The projection based on returning production accounts for 56 percent.
- For recent history, I’ve gotten a little weird. I found that the previous year’s S&P+ ratings were carrying a little too much weight in the projections, so what you see below is a projection based solely off of seasons two to five years ago. Recent history now carries less weight in the overall formulas, only 19 percent. It basically acts as a slight supplement to the two factors above.
Starting with the least important category — recent history — Georgia is eighth nationally in a weighted 5-year S&P+. In two-year recruiting, it’ll come as no surprise to Dawg fans that UGA really shined. The Bulldogs are ranked sixth, mostly on the back of the Class of 2017, the stellar crop of freshmen coming to campus this fall. But those two together only account for 44 percent of S&P+.
That leaves us with returning production at 56 percent of S&P+, and this is where Georgia falls short, ranking 41st. The long and short of how this is calculated is by identifying which statistical categories have the biggest correlation to change in S&P+ year to year. Offensively, the most important stat is returning receiving yards and returning passing yards. Considering the anemic air attack last season, that’s a minus in UGA’s column. Georgia is ranked 35th in projected returning offense.
Defensively, there are a number of categories with a high correlation to improved S&P+, thus it’s a more important category than offense. Returning passes defended, overall tackles, DB passes defended and DB overall tackles are the most important stats. Continuity in the secondary is key and this is a huge strength for Georgia, which only lost Maurice Smith on defense. Unsurprisingly, Georgia is fifth in projected returning defense.
There are obviously caveats to all of this. These rankings are a projection, not the tried and true in-season S&P+, which develops and learns more as, you know, actual football games are played. It could obviously be wrong about some things. Hell, Georgia was 15th in projected S&P+ heading into 2016, and we all know how that turned out.
But it serves as a reminder to not let the hype overtake you. Coming off the disappointments of last season, in the second season of a new regime, with the caliber of recruits who are steadily trickling into Athens, finishing the season 20th in the nation would be a good year that can be built upon. Unless you’re expecting to finish in the top 10. Keep your expectations in check and it’ll save you a lot of bitterness and heartburn in the future.
One more Dawg?
DL Breiden Fehoko of Texas Tech is transferring and Georgia is reportedly a potential destination. According to Dawgs247, Fehoko will redshirt in 2017, then have two remaining years of eligibility. He started in all 25 of Texas Tech’s games the last two seasons, racking up 38 tackles, 7.5 TFL and 2 sacks. There is always a need for talent on the line, and with many of Georgia’s best linemen draft eligible at the end of next season, it could soon be a pressing issue.
The Dawgs will have to beat Auburn, Louisville and LSU to land Fehoko.
It looks like Stegeman Coliseum will finally get some sorely upgrades ahead of next season. I love the blacks seats.
— John Bateman (@mayorofmilledge) March 28, 2017
- Kirby Smart continues to praise Mecole Hardman, Jake Fromm (Chip Towers, DawgNation)
- The early word on changes to Georgia’s offense (Seth Emerson, DawgNation)
- Kirby Smart’s spring speaking tour will be mainly private and outside Georgia’s borders (Seth Emerson, DawgNation)
- Should Georgia stay tough on marijuana use? (Chip Towers, DawgNation)
- Kirby Smart to Paul Finebaum: Jacob Eason has ‘a little competition going’ with Jake Fromm (Andrew Astleford, DawgNation)
- Mark Fox on SEC’s success and updates on Georgia for next season (Seth Emerson, DawgNation)
- Several targets earn invites to Nike’s The Opening (Dean Legge, Dawg Post)
Here’s a dog playing fetch in a hockey rink. You’re welcome.
When the dog wants to play catch with the puck on the ice at Verizon Center, you play catch with the dog on the ice at Verizon Center. ? pic.twitter.com/UWMZ75TVmE
— CSN Capitals (@CSNCapitals) March 26, 2017