Like many of you, I am confident in UGA’s chances this weekend for a number of reasons. That said, we all know there are a range of outcomes in sports. While I believe we have a high probability of winning, the scenarios where we don't are more common than most believe. Thus, we all need to be mindful that outcomes with only a 20%-33% happen regularly in sports. Let's all hope this isn't one of those times.
Before we get into this week’s Relative YPP Analysis, I want to introduce a new Section called Confirmation Bias. In behavioral finance, there is a constant struggle to overcome one’s desire to seek out confirmatory data points while not ignoring those that challenge the thesis. This week, we lean into a few data points that support our thesis. Feel free to offer data points that challenge it in the comments section.
Confirmation Bias Stats of the Week – UGA-UT Mean Reversion Edition
Place Kicking - Opposing teams have made 12/13 FGs against UGA. Of the 12 FGs, 5/5 on FGs from less than 40 yards, and 7/8 on FGs longer than 40 yards with the average length of attempt being 48 yards. In contrast, UT’s opponents have made 8/14, with Bama and Pitt a combined 4/7. If either team makes another FG, UT probably loses the game.
Fumbles - UT has recovered 13/20 fumbles, include 7/9 opponents’ fumbles. UGA has recovered 9/16 fumbles. While this type of turnover luck can persist through a season, they tend to even out over time. USC’s turnover margin in week’s 1-4 was an astounding +14. While the margin has actually increased over the last two weeks, they have a net turnover margin of +2 in their last 4 games, which included a loss to Utah and a challenge from Arizona.
Red Zone TD % - Against P5 opponents UGA has an 81% red zone TD percentage on 33 trips. UT has a 71% red zone TD percentage on 26%. In 6 P5 games, we have been perfect in three (Florida, Auburn, Oregon), above average to very good in two (SC and Vandy), and very bad in one (Mizzou). In 5 games, UT was perfect in 1 (Bama), good to very good in two (UF & Pitt), and average to below in two (UK and LSU).
On defense, they are allowing TDs 52% of the time against P5 opponents on 23 trips. We have allowed 25% of 3 on 12 red zone trips. Last year, they went 2 of 5 against us, with 1 of its red zone TDs being garbage time, and the other was against L. Brini, who was ultimately benched for the post season. We went 3/4 against them.
Week 9 – Relative YPP Analysis
UGA’s overall YPP% ticked down due to its 24% relative YPP% against Florida. The difference is largely attributable to the long TD pass to Henderson. Eliminate that play, and UGA is at 41% and 42% for the week and season, respectively. For those of you wondering, UGA’s 24% relative YPP% and 1.5 ypp differential relative to UF average, exceed Tennessee’s 11% and 1.0 against UF.
Overall, the general picture did not change considerably. In updating the week’s data I dropped the non-contending teams, which makes the graphs more reader friendly. It is also important to note that a teams’ relative YPP% changes due its own performance and the performance of its opponents after they have played them. For example, Ohio State outperformed Penn State’s Net YPP by 27%, which is obviously dilutive to its prior 45% Net YPP%. In contrast, though Bama did not play, overall improvement in YPP of their opponents impacted their relative performance.
Other Combined Relative YPP% commentary
- Tennessee benefitted from their controlling Kentucky from start to finish, and UGA’s game against UK on 11.19 looks less concerning over time.
- Michigan’s underperformed MSU’s YPP, which is probably due to several factors. The biggest is that Michigan’s heavy run emphasis and lack of explosive plays. Most of MSU’s defensive vulnerability has been against the pass. Michigan’s defense was fine against a bad offense and benefitted from the dubious decision to run out of pistol instead of under center on 4th and 1 twice.
- Clemson’s relative YPP% was impacted by prior “ranked” opponents Syracuse and Wake Forest.
Net YPP and Relative Net YPP
UGA remained atop the contenders at 2.83 and 2.31, net YPP and relative net YPP against P5 opponents.
Strength of Schedule
In terms of strength of schedule, UGA’s SOS improved a bit due to adding UF and diluting Vandy/Auburn, who continue to weigh on UGA’s SOS. Obviously, wining the Tennessee game trumps all conversation around UGA's SOS.
Offensive and Defensive YPP%
UGA continues to be the most balanced team between offense and defense.
- Tennessee’s shut down of Kentucky improved its defensive relative YPP%.
- TCU and USC are both quite vulnerable if their offenses suffer.
- llinois remains very limited offensively, and it is unclear how they will fare when faced with a quality offense. I suspect that their limitations on offense will place inordinate pressure on their defense in their week 11 match-up with Michigan.
- Despite all the hype about JJ McCarthy giving them a vertical passing game, Michigan’s YPP passing is down from 8.0 in 2021 to 7.3 in 2022 in Big 10 games, on three fewer attempts per game. Whether that limited passing is due to showing less of the playbook, leaning into the consistency of its running game, or a desire to mitigate the risk of McCarthy making a mistake isn’t clear.
- OSU’s vulnerability against PSU was through the air, as PSU had its second worst rushing performance of the season. Overall, it wasn’t an inspiring defensive performance against an offense that has been very inconsistent. That said, the solid rushing Defense combined with Michigan’s emphasis on running the ball suggests OSU is probably better positioned to face Michigan than they were in 2021.
Edited by MDC-NYC