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Dominick Sanders and the Georgia secondary will be integral to any success UGA has against TCU.

Taking an analytical view of UGA, TCU and the Liberty Bowl

Cy Brown

Welcome to your one-stop shop for all the relevant UGA football news and takes every Monday through Friday. In today’s edition, we take a deeper analytical look at the Liberty Bowl. I’m talkin’ nERD, baby.

Revenge of the nERD

The long wait between the end of the regular season and bowl season can be a slog, especially when your team plays around the new year. But the lengthy gap does have its benefits. For one, all that time waiting also affords us the opportunity to look at Georgia’s Liberty Bowl opponent, TCU, much more in-depth than we have the luxury of analyzing in-season opponents and in a different form.

I’ve played around a lot with S&P+ ratings in the past. (Check here for some of that work.) While S&P+ is my preferred statistic for breaking down college football, it’s good to get a perspective from another metric. Today, we’re going to look at UGA and TCU’s net efficiency ratings (nERD) from numberFire. Below is the overall nERD for both schools, followed by their nERDs for pass rushing, pass defense and run defense, as well as numberFire’s pace of play metric. For more info, check out this glossary.

Team nERD Pass eff. Run eff. Pass D eff. Run D eff. Pace
Georgia 2.91 (58) 6.42 (85) 4.39 (75) 5.39 (14) 3.77 (27) 71.2 (63)
TCU 4.7 (47) 5.95 (99) 4.87 (46) 6.52 (46) 4.13 (49) 77 (20)
Top team 37.09 (Bama) 11.78 (Okla.) 6.58 (USF) 3.56 (Ohio St.) 1.46 (Bama) 86.8 (TTU)

A few observations:

  • Both teams are rated as average, in the thick of college football’s middle class, although TCU has an 11-spot advantage on UGA. TCU’s lead seems to be built by being more stable than Georgia across the board, ranking in the mid-40s in everything but pass efficiency and pace. Georgia, on the other hand, is excellent on defense and shoddy on offense. Things we already knew.
  • Georgia’s biggest advantage will come against the pass. Not only is UGA’s pass defense efficiency its best-rated category, passing efficiency also is TCU’s worst, thanks in large part to 13 interceptions in a generally poor season from Kenny Hill. Meanwhile, Georgia is getting picks and pass breakups from Dominick Sanders, Maurice Smith and Deandre Baker. The more UGA can force TCU into passing situations, the more likely UGA is to win.
  • Another reason the defense will need to be on point is that Georgia might not do much on offense. You’ve seen with your own eyes how bad this offense can sputter, and that bears itself out in nERD. TCU’s defense is far from great, but it should be good enough to keep Georgia contained.
  • The final thing to note is TCU’s pace of play. The SEC doesn’t have many teams that play at tempo. Georgia has only played one team that ranks above TCU in pace, and that’s Missouri. Ole Miss is the only other opponent in the top 30. So, we really don’t have a great idea of how Georgia does against tempo. If the Mizzou and Ole Miss games are any indication, on some occasions Georgia’s defense might get tired from no substitutions for a stretch or get confused by a couple plays in quick succession. Expect to give up a few big plays to TCU.
  • Overall takeaway from nERD: UGA and TCU are evenly matched opponents, but TCU has a slight advantage overall. However, if Georgia can capitalize on its superior pass defense, that advantage can be quickly erased.

Isaac Nauta named a freshman All-American

Georgia tight end Isaac Nauta was named to USA Today’s freshman All-America team. Nauta caught 27 passes for 353 yards and 3 touchdowns in his debut season between the hedges. He was one of four players from the SEC named to the team, along with Alabama’s Jalen Hurts (QB) and Jonah Williams (OL), as well as Texas A&M’s Erik McCoy (OL).

Here’s Nauta’s first touchdown as a Bulldog, a 50-yard catch against Tennessee back in November.

Dawgs in the NFL

Matt Stafford’s spectacular season continued on Sunday as he led the Lions to yet another comeback win, this time over the Bears, to give Detroit five wins on the run. Stafford finished the game with 223 passing yards, 1 touchdown toss and 2 interceptions, but this 7-yard scramble for a go-ahead touchdown was by far his biggest play of the game.

He may not be the first name mentioned when discussing the league’s best quarterbacks, but Stafford deserves to be in that conversation and near the top of the list. With 3,447 yards so far, Stafford is on pace for his sixth consecutive 4,000-yard passing season. He’s 50th all time in NFL passing yards, and the only person younger in the top 100 is Cam Newton, who is one year younger and ranked 100th. Since 2015, he’s thrown 41 touchdowns and zero — I repeat, zero — interceptions in the red zone. For years, he’s been severely underrated, and he’s finally getting his due, thanks to this run he has the Lions on.

Unfortunately, things may be tougher for Stafford the rest of this season. He tore ligaments in his middle finger during the game against Chicago. He played through it and orchestrated the 20-17 win, but the injury could have more adverse effects as the season wears on.

Elsewhere in the league, Bacarri Rambo snagged his first interception of the season when he took Carson Palmer the other way in Miami’s 26-23 win over Arizona.

Todd Gurley and the Rams suffered their ninth loss of the season, this time at the hands of the Atlanta Falcons. Once again, Gurley failed to get much going on the ground. The former Bulldog toted the rock 16 times for 61 yards and a touchdown. On defense for the Rams, Alec Ogletree was second in tackles, with 5 total, including 4 solo.

In a 23-10 win by the Bengals over the Browns, Geno Atkins pitched in 2 sacks among his 5 total tackles. Elsewhere on the Cincinnati defense, Shawn Williams totaled 4 tackles and pitched in 1 pass defensed.

ICYMI

Good dog

This dog is living a better life than me.