It has been suggested that one of the key matchups of Saturday's SEC Championship Game will be that of Alabama's defense against the UGA rushing game. Many have said that Alabama's Rushing Defense is on par with UGA's, some have even said BAMA is better.
I'm having a hard time with the "Bama is better" concept. Here's why:
UGA's D is third in the nation in rushing yards per game, at 78.92 while Bama's is fourth, 80.58
Bama's YPC average is 2nd at 2.42, while UGA is third... at 2.49.
UGA leads the nation in TDs allowed on the ground, with 2. Bama places 5th, with 8.
When you look at only the Power 5 competition, the difference grows a bit...
UGA's D is fourth in YPG, at 75.2 while Bama sits 6th at 89.78.
UGA's P5 YPC is 2.39, good for 4th in the nation. Bama is at 6th at 2.67.
So, all of this would seem to suggest that the two teams are, mostly even in a rushing defense perspective.
But, I did see a couple of interesting things when looking at the statistics.
Of the 947 yards the UGA defense has allowed on the ground this year, 603 of them have come when UGA has been ahead by 15 or more points. Now, I don't know when the official "garbage time" barrier begins and Kirby starts rolling folks in, but with THIS defense, a lead of 15 is essentially garbage time. UGA has given up the lions' share of its rushing yards, basically after the outcome of the game is decided. That would suggest, for me, that when the younger pups get in, perhaps they aren't as great at stopping the run.
But then I saw something ELSE in the statistics as well.
Surprisingly, the distribution of rushing attempts against UGA has been fairly constant, quarter over quarter. Common thinking would predict that with UGA having such big leads in their games, opposing teams would abandon the run in favor of passing to catch up. But, UGA has defended 97 1Q rushes, 96 2Q, 90 3Q and 98 4Q rushes. Perhaps teams TRIED to throw in the third, but then resigned themselves to slogging on towards defeat in the 4th, I dunno.
But, what I further noticed was this... the YPC average against our defense is lower in the 2nd half, than in the 1st. As the game goes along, UGA is better able to stop the opposition's runs. (There may also be greater number of sacks in the 2nd half, which could account for that, but I don't have access to that detail).
Still, when I look at BAMA's Run D, what I find is that like us, they have a fairly consistent number of attempts to deal with 98, 104, 100, 92 ... but that their YPC goes UP in the 2nd half.
Teams have found it easier to run on Bama in the 2nd half.
This bodes well for a UGA offense that has averaged 6YPC in the 3rd Quarter, and 5.26 in the 4th. Simply put, if UGA is holding a lead in the 2nd half, I expect a heavy dose of the run game to help salt it away (especially with a 5.58YPC when leading by 15+).
UGA's overall 5.39 YPC is good for 9th in the country, right alongside Florida.. who gashed Alabama for 244 yards.
I don't believe these two teams have equal rush defenses, and I know UGA's rushing offense is far better than any Bama has seen in months. I suppose only time will tell if the Dawgs' rushing attack (oddly maligned by many fans) can impose its will on the Tide.
I like their chances.