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Week 15 - National Championship Edition


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Peach Bowl post-mortum

Before we dive into TCU, we wanted to offer a few thoughts on the Peach Bowl.  First, credit to Ohio State for refusing to follow the script in our Peach Bowl preview.  They played by far their most impressive game of the season.  From play calling to execution, OSU maximized its chances of winning the game.  Rather than struggle against a high caliber defense, C.J. Stroud elevated his performance to a level that, while possible, wasn’t the most probable statistical outcome.  He extended plays in the pocket and had a season high of over 70 non-sack yards rushing.  As Graham pointed out, UGA needed to bring 5-7 defenders to pressure Stroud to turn TDs into FGs.   

Though we have one more game to win, the resilience that our guys demonstrated is the stuff of champions.  Over the Kirby Smart era, the number of references to UGA transformation to a program built on a similar DNA to Bama are too numerous to list.  Last Saturday night brought a new dimension to UGA’s ascent to “peak Bama”, and that was demonstrating an ability to overcome multiple two score deficits against a high caliber opponent that was playing exceptionally well.  UGA hasn’t really had many games in the KS era where their opponent played a near flawless game seizing a two score lead only to come back in Bama-like fashion.  The Rose Bowl was one, but from 2018-2021, UGA’s wins have rarely required overcoming significant deficits. 

While the program deserves credit for the consistency of their efforts in building leads, one could argue that most our of losses were situations where better DNA and coaching flexibility could have driven better outcomes.  Imagine the 2022 DNA in Baton Rouge in 2018, having Monken against South Carolina in 2019, or even better defensive “connection” to stop the bleeding against Florida in 2020. 

Should UGA do what we all hope Monday night and follow it up by maintaining the status as the standard bearer in CFB, it is certainly possible that we will look back 5-10 years from now at last Saturday’s comeback as the transformational moment when UGA became the team opponents can't kill.  UGA never panicked.  They simply made important play after important play to take the lead.  Like Matt Damon in The Martian, UGA solved one problem and then another and eventually they solved enough problems to make it to Los Angeles.

National Championship Game Thoughts

Statistically, UGA has amassed a much better resume.  There is way to position it otherwise.  Obviously, the game isn’t played on paper, but the track record of the two teams suggests that it should not be close.  TCU has a negative NYPP in the 4 games against 3 different ranked opponents.  Not only is the average negative, but TCU only had a YPP advantage in one of the game.  Under normal circumstances, teams shouldn’t win 3 of 4 games when they don’t win the NYPP battle

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For perspective, UGA’s NYPP against OSU was over 2.  The reality is that TCU benefitted from a highly unlikely series of events including: two JJ McCarthy pick sixes, a fumble on the goal line after a replay review that certainly could have gone Michigan’s way, an inexplicably stupid “Philly special” fourth down attempt, and a 76 yard catch and run on a Q Johnson TD.  To be clear, TCU did a LOT of other dirty work to make those other plays relevant.  They controlled both LOS, and frustrated Michigan’s running game, while running for over 250 yards on yet another overrated Michigan defense.  That said, they also surrendered a career high 343 yards to JJ McCarthy on just 34 attempts. 

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Let’s get one thing out of the way quickly.  Max Duggan isn’t CJ Stroud.  While we highlighted CJ Stroud’s relatively anemic numbers against ranked opponents, Duggan’s numbers are even worse.  His ranked/unranked splits are even more extreme than Stroud’s on a YPA basis.

Obviously, Duggan is a capable runner, and UGA’s defense can’t allow him to extend drives with his legs.  That said, as the above numbers suggest, he isn’t a particularly dangerous passer when he extends drives.  As many have pointed out, TCU generates a lot of explosive plays.  Similar to Stetson, about 10% of Duggan’s passes have gone for over 25 yards, with the notable difference that Stetson perfomed best against ranked teams.  Duggan’s legs are likely to extend a drive here or there, but without a significantly better performance than he has shown throwing the ball, TCU chances of winning are not great.  Excluding Q. Johnston's 76 yard behind the LOS catch and run TD, Duggan averaged 5.2 YPA and 88.3 passer rating on 13/28 for 149 with 1 TD and 2 INTs.  

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Week 15 –Update

A quick run through on the data.  UGA once again demonstrated its ability to elevate its offensive performance when faced with a ranked opponent.  Hopefully, the defense can regain its footing.

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On a combined basis relative Net YPP % basis, UGA and Ohio State ended up statistically similar for the season.

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UGA remained the dominant team on a both a Net YPP and opponent-adjusted basis.  TCU has only outgained its opponents by 1 YPP.  That type of statistical profile doesn't normally make the CFP let alone win a game in it.  Then again, they faced a Michigan team that had basically only played two ranked opponents...so there were outliers on both sides.

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In the end, the high level statistical profile of the CFP participants’ opponents were closely bunched together.

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Despite its struggles defensively against OSU, UGA remains the most balanced team.  For all the discussion above about TCU’s offense and splits against ranked teams, the simple fact is that TCU isn’t a particularly imposing team defensively.  Ultimately, we think Will Muschamp contextualized the defense well.  It is the equivalent of facing a triple option offense.  As we all know, the teams that run those offenses do so to offset talent deficiencies.  TCU’s 3-3-5 is designed with the same goal in mind.  While much will be said and written about its spacing and structure, teams have successfully moved the ball on TCU.  We expect UGA to have success offensively. 

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Edited by MDC-NYC

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