Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Let's Lie with Statistics

Stats Lie.

They do.  They can be manipulated, spun, crafted into whatever narrative the person presenting them wishes to tell.  They have no basis in reality insofar as reading tea leaves and making predictions go.  "Stats as Predictors" is something I absolutely abhor.  They tell a story of the past, not the future.  They tells us what we may not have seen, but not what we WILL see.    


So, screw it, why not use them to lie to myself and all of you lovely Dawgfans?  Here we go.  Let's get to lying.  

Georgia and Alabama face off in a few days time, and all this hullabaloo will be settled.  Either the Dawgs will win yet again, cement themselves as the #1 team for the remainder of 2021 and head into 2022 ready to capture their first National Title since 1980.  Or, BAMA will win (yet again), and setup a potential rematch with a freshly besmirched Dawg team, either in the Semi's or the Finals of the Playoff.  

Now, I can't tell you what the future holds.  But, I can tell you what's in the past.  I'm not interested in the 2017 past, though.  Not interested in 2018 either.  2020? Couldn't give a damn.  These two teams were not involved with any of those games. 

I'm interested only in the past of 2021.  You see, the most common argument being regurgitated by UGA fans regarding the two teams is that UGA has been completely demolishing teams and BAMA has been struggling with them.  They say the eyeball test against the best levels of competition shows UGA to be superior to Alabama.  They say that Bama simply hasn't seen a defense like ours, and that UGA doesn't care what offense it sees - they will all be chewed up and spit out. 

How in the world can folks be so confident when they spout fluff like that?

Well, the two teams played 4 Common Opponents this season.  So, let's take a look at how those games shook out.

So, these are the scores of the games, and the differential between actual and expected Margin of Victory for both UGA and BAMA.  In three of these four games, UGA's differential is vastly superior to Bama's... but Bama's ability to outdo us against the best offense we faced (TN is the #9 scoring Offense in the country, y'all) can't be ignored.  I mean, sure, Bama allowed TN to score 7 more points than they did against us.  And sure, the game was close until about 12:42 in the 4th, when Bama extended a 7 point lead to 14, and never looked back.  And sure, UGA dominated Tennessee for the entire game and allowed a second touchdown with 3 minutes to go in the game, in Knoxville (BAMA-TN was in Tuscaloosa).  Sure, all of that is true... but TN's differential IS higher than ours, so they definitely played a better game against TN than we did. 

Still, we're not done lying yet... because we haven't begun to use this data to PREDICT anything.  So let's do that shit.   

First, we have to determine some kind of trend in order to apply it.  And again, we can only use trend data from THESE four games.  We can't bring in the Wollymocker games against the likes of Charleston Southern or Mercer .. and we can't bring in Struggle Bus games like Clemson and LSU... those hardly seem like fair comparisons.  No, we will only lie with THIS data set.  So, here goes:

What THIS is showing, is the percentage of points allowed and scored by UGA and BAMA in comparison to the 12-game average points scored and allowed by these four common opponents.  You can see that, on average, UGA is allowing 25% of the opponents' average points scored, while BAMA is allowing 85% of the opponents' average points scored.  The offenses are much more similar, with UGA (national rank 6) scoring 146% of these opponents' average points allowed, while BAMA (national rank 5) is ripping off 147%. 

Now, this would lead some people to believe that these offenses are similar in their production, but anyone who watches the games knows that Alabama has a vastly superior offense to UGA's, and there's no way our guys can keep up with them.  They're Elite, and UGA just isn't, y'all.  But we're lying with statistics, so we're making it look like they are. 

So, what do these numbers tell us in a predictor fashion?  Well, for that, we'd compare these trends to the two teams' 12-game averages.  

So, what we have here, are two tiny data sets.  One, UGA's predicted points on offense, and allowed.  And BAMA's predicted points on offense and allowed.  

Oddly enough, those two data sets present some strikingly similar results.  


They are dirty, dirty bastards which have nothing to do with reality.  There is no way on God's Green Earth that the 12-0 Georgia Bulldogs who have barely played a football game into the fourth quarter this year could possibly be 21 points better than the World-Beater Crimson Tide who have, most recently, gone to 4 Overtimes with a 6-6 Auburn team led by a one-legged quarterback and a bunch of transfer portal defenders.  That is NOT possible.   

There is no way that the final score of the 2021 SEC Championship Game will in any way resemble a UGA victory, 31-10. 

Nope.  Not gonna happen.  But it's been fun lying about it. 

Go Dawgs.

I don't get a vote.

Individual player awards in College Football are ridiculous, I think we all know this.  

Don't get me wrong... it is wonderful to celebrate the excellence in achievement by these athletes.  It's even fitting that these awards can often go to players on teams who weren't necessarily in the running for great team accomplishments.  Though, those teams are usually well-represented in award season because it only goes to figure that the teams who are able to win at a high level do so because their players perform at a high level (even if the high level at which they perform is completely maligned by their own team's fanbase and its incredibly self-deprecating nature... but I digress).  Still, the idea that players can achieve while their teams do not, is worthy of consideration.  

It does not stand to reason that the best individual player would HAVE to be on the best team in the nation.  I think we can all agree on that, and be ok with it. 

However - 

When it is clear to the vast majority of people who follow the sport closely (fans, pundits, opposing coaches, NFL players and alumni, Ethyl who sweeps the clippings at the barber shop, etc) that one of the nation's best players at a particular position happens to also play on the nation's best team... and that player is left off a finalist list, it causes a touch of rancor. 

I will give you one example.  The John Mackey Award, given annually to the nation's "Best" Tight End. The stat lines for the finalists are below.

Player, School: Receptions - Yards - TDs

Jalen Wydermeyer , Texas A&M:   40 - 515 -  4
Charlie Kolar, Iowa State:   58 - 723 - 5
Trey McBride, Colorado State:   90 - 1121 - 1

Now, no one is going to confuse any of those schools with the best in the country, and their accomplishments are worthy of note.  But there was another tight end on the semi-final list who is arguably (in the most conservative use of the word) better than all of these fine young athletes at playing that position.  That young man's name, is Brock Bowers.  Now, I am not the only UGA fan to be flummoxed by the inexcusable decision to leave Brock Bowers off the finalist list for this award.   In fact, Twitter was abuzz with folks calling out the selection committee for leaving him off when he scored TWO MORE touchdowns to add to his ridiculous freshman season.

Brock Bowers, Georgia:   37 - 652 - 10 

Also, his 2 receptions of 70+ yards trail only Bama WIDEOUT Jameson Williams.

I'm pretty sure he's left off the list because he's a freshman and has years left to win this award.  Wydermeyer lost out to Pitts last year, so he's my odds-on favorite to win, despite not leading in any category... because our world is currently soft AF, and that's the type of thing I expect (just like the talk of including a 2-loss Alabama or OSU in the playoff, but again I digress).  Still, I think you can come with me on the short trip to crazy town that is the decision to leave Brock off the finalist list.  Asshats. 

And don't even get me STARTED on the Heisman.  The idea that this award might go to ANY Quarterback this season is patently ridiculous.  If it's me?  I'm looking at the story of the season, and right now the story is... Look at the damn Defenses, stupid.  The best player in the country is very likely one who doesn't get to know what the play is before it starts, but reads and reacts and puts an end to it at a higher level than anyone else.  

QBs are gifted every tool, every call, and penalties tailor-made to protect them... and still, the best ones are being shut down by really good defenses this year.  

Get over yourself, Heisman.  Look on the other other side of the ball. 

And Mackey... admit your stupid mistake and elevate Brock to the level he has earned. 

That's what I'd do.  But I don't get a vote. 

Go Dawgs.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

I've seen this before.

A lifetime ago, in a small town in West Georgia, before I ever thought I might get a snap of playing time in Athens... I was a senior on a football team that went 10-0 in our regular season.  Every offensive snap that mattered started with my hand on the football.   Seemingly every fourth quarter ended with me and the rest of the starters resting on the sideline.  Now, I'm certain that memory has been engorged with the lifeblood of the years between then and now, and that there surely was a game or two where we had to play the full span, but I really don't remember it. Not during the season. 

Our offense scored 346 points that season.  Our defense surrendered 63.  The ability of that unit to squash their opponents in the way that they did left me in awe.  Still, almost none of those guys ended up playing major D-I football.  We had some good corners, some good linebackers, some good D linemen... but they weren't the type who jumped off the page statistically.  They were a dominant unit, though... and as the season wore on, we'd watch the upcoming opponent on film and I'd think - those guys aren't going to be able to beat us.  

Much like the goals Kirby has mentioned in his pressers, our guys had a board on the wall with their season and game-by-game goals... and it was incredible to watch them get checked off.  They reveled in their ability to hold opponents under 14 points, to hold rushers under 50 yards, to cause turnovers.  They loved each other, they loved playing football together, and they loved doing their jobs.  They were THE unit - and as a member of the offense, I got to watch them decimate other teams, and look forward to the moments they'd give us the ball back so we could go to work.  I never doubted them, and they didn't let me down. 

Now, some of you may be thinking... "what in the world does this have to do with 2021 UGA?"  And, admittedly, there are many thousands of people who have many thousands of fond memories about their old playing days, and the parallels may not be quickly ascertainable.  But, throughout this season, I have maintained a fairly quiet confidence about this team (though visitors to Senator Blutarsky's "Get The Picture" blog may have caught me getting a bit effusive in my appreciation for our chances).  It honestly dates back to the very first game of the season.  Someone with whom I am close, who coaches football, posed the question, immediately following the game: 

"Are Georgia and Clemson's defenses that good, or their offenses that bad?" 

I won't get into the full details of the conversation that followed, but the basic summary is: The defenses are good - Georgia's front 7 is elite, but its defensive backfield is still a question, and our offense is very banged up and will improve.

I then also said, "I mean, this is your job, and my casual hobby... but to my eye, Clemson's defense benefited from a drastically slimmed down UGA offense.  What we saw did not resemble Monken's dynamic offense from the end of the season... and I don't mean by result... I mean by design."  

We would go on to learn that JT was hurt, and as a result Monken may have shied away from play calls that could get him into trouble.  A week later, Bennett blew the doors off UAB (a pass defense which is statistically better than Michigan State's, I might add).  Then JT dominated South Carolina.  Then they both eviscerated Vanderbilt... and since then, Stet has done what has been needed while that DEFENSE has been the story. 

The question of whether the defensive backs would be able to stand up has thus far proven to be a big fat YES, due in no small part to how well that front 7 has played.  They are an unbelievable UNIT, and it's incredibly hard to gameplan against a very strong unit.  You can gameplan around a game-changing DT.  You can use motions and route concepts to beat strong coverages.  You can neutralize LBs with personnel groupings and play-actions... but when the entire unit is solid, and plays to their assignment and standard... that's tough to beat. 

And I've seen that before. 

We were 9-0 going into our final game of the season, against... I think maybe a 9-0 Rival?  They may have been 8-1... I don't recall.  What I DO recall, is that the final game of the season would be the Region Championship... and those dudes were VERY confident.  You see, they had been a playoff team the year before, while we were ... well... not.  But each year is a new year.  On Wednesday night, two nights before the game, I ran into some of their players at a Shell gas station just blocks from our High School.  They were talking a whole lot of trash to me about how they were going to show everyone what frauds we were, and that they were the kings of our small town (man, the things that we think matter when we're 17, huh?).  I just said "Ok."  That was insufficient to them, so they continued to goad me.  Calmly, I explained to them that we play all the same teams... and that we had been completely dismantling those teams, while they were playing competitive football against those teams.  I was confident.  This game was not going to be close. 

As the first quarter came to an end, and our offense switched to the other end of the field, I walked over to one of my opponents, a guy with whom I had won a little league championship at age 11.  "Hey Mete, good to see you man - never thought we'd be in this game when we were kids, huh? (again... age 17... thinking I'm no longer a 'kid')."  His response to me was, well, NSFW but it concluded with "we'll see where y'all at in the fourth quarter."  I pointed to the scoreboard (21-0) and said, "Mete, I won't be playing in the fourth quarter." 

I wasn't. 

We won that game 52-6.  Their star RB was able to get a late score against our defense with no decals on their helmets (the 9th graders didn't earn their decals unless they dressed with the Varsity during the season).  

Now, understand that I am in no way comparing Alabama Football to the cross-town rival we played that night.  And I am in no way saying the University of Georgia is going to win the SEC Championship Game by a score of 52-6, with our starters resting in the fourth quarter. 

What I am saying, is that Georgia and Alabama have played 4 of the same opponents, and that UGA has dominated them while Bama hasn't quite done that.  Georgia's defense has done a phenomenal job of disrupting everything an offense wants to do, while Bama's offense has shown the ability to be disrupted.  Georgia's offense has shown the tendency to exploit a defense's weakness and score a bunch of points.  And Alabama's defense has shown areas to be exploited. 

I have watched every single game this season without a touch of nervousness.  Even when it was 3-0 late in the second against Florida, I knew the outcome was already assured.  In the first quarter of that game, Richardson completed a pass on a quick curl, and they got a first down.  In that moment, I said, "that is going to be a pick six later in this game" (I guessed 3rd quarter, and Nakobe got it ahead of schedule).  I knew it was going to happen.  That's the confidence I have in this defense, and in Kirby and Dan.  Because though I played a little football many years ago, I am now just a fan who watches... and if *I* knew that was going to be there, I knew damn well that Kirby and Dan and Nakobe and the rest could see it.  

Do I care about the "monkey on our back" that is Alabama?  I do not. 

I've seen this before.  

Go Dawgs.