5 stats you might not know about Georgia's historically dominant, title-winning defense
You know it was nasty.
Assuming you had 2 eyes and/or 2 ears, you had an entire season’s worth of proof to show you that Georgia’s 2021 defense was dominant. You didn’t need any stats to confirm that. Of course, the numbers did just that.
By now, you’ve probably seen some numbers. Like the 10.2 points per game (more on that in a minute). Maybe you also saw that Georgia allowed 40 fewer points than any team that played at least 13 games.
The numbers are silly. You didn’t need me to tell you that.
You did, however, need me to tell you a few other numbers. These 5 stats only add to the belief that this was one of the best defenses of the 21st century.
1. Stop looking at that 10.2 points per game allowed stat. It’s actually better than that
It’s really 8.8 points per game that Georgia’s defense allowed. For whatever reason, we’re all too lazy to remove the non-offensive scores with points per game allowed. Call me crazy, but it’s not fair to count a scoop-and-score against UGA’s defense. Avoiding a Stetson Bennett tackle attempt is just a touch different than escaping Nakobe Dean.
I know what you’re thinking — where would that rank among the best defenses of the 21st century? I’m glad you asked. Again, this is removing the non-offensive scores:
- 2011 Alabama — 6.5 PPG allowed (subtract 3 non-offensive TDs)
- 2001 Miami — 8.0 PPG allowed (subtract 3 non-offensive TDs)
- 2021 Georgia — 8.8 PPG allowed (subtract 3 non-offensive TDs)
- 2008 USC — 9.0 PPG allowed (no non-offensive scores to subtract)
I know what else you’re thinking — all of those non-2021 Georgia teams played in an entirely different era of football. Alabama was still winning national championships with the pre-Lane Kiffin offense, and targeting wasn’t a thing like it is today. The game today is obviously more favorable for the offense, which makes the 2021 Georgia group that much more impressive.
And before you tell me that the Dawgs didn’t play against quality competition, they had 4 games against offenses that finished in the top 20 in scoring. Take away non-offensive scores and those offenses averaged just 20 points per game against UGA. All of those teams averaged at least 35 points per game, so that’s telling. Three of those 4 performances were dominant, too. Tennessee went 53 minutes between touchdown drives, Michigan’s first touchdown came late in the 4th quarter of a blowout and Alabama scored 1 touchdown in the title game.
It’s impressive any way you look at it.
1A. Even if you don’t take away non-offensive scores, UGA was 1.5 points per game better vs. P5 competition than any team in the Playoff era (minimum 4 games)
Shoutout to CFBStats.com, by the way. If you don’t use them to reference college football stats, you should. I cannot recommend enough. Unlike the NCAA website, it updates quickly and there are far more situational stats.
I bring that up because they have an easy way to isolate games against Power 5 competition. That dates back to the Playoff era. So if we limit it to that timeframe (2014-21), here’s where Georgia’s defense stacks up against Power 5 competition, even if you don’t take away non-offensive scores (with a minimum of 4 games):
- 2021 Georgia — 10.7 PPG allowed vs. P5
- 2017 Alabama — 12.2 PPG allowed vs. P5
- 2019 Georgia — 12.9 PPG allowed vs. P5
- 2019 Clemson — 13.8 PPG allowed vs. P5
- 2021 Wisconsin — 14.8 PPG allowed vs. P5
Three of those teams played in a national championship, and the top 2 won it all. And who said defenses don’t win championships anymore?
2. No running back had a run of 20 yards against UGA’s first-team defense all year
Think about that. I only had to put the “first-team defense” caveat in there because the lone run of 20 yards from a tailback was a 23-yard run with 15 seconds left of a 56-7 win against UAB … and then that same guy was stuffed for a 4-yard loss on the next play to close the game. That was with the first-team UGA defense on the sidelines probably figuring out what their dinner plays were gonna be. Still, I bet Kirby Smart legitimately dissected why his third-stringers let up that 23-yard run.
In case you forgot, Georgia’s first-team defense played in 15 games. UGA’s opponents had 462 rushing attempts this season, and not a single one of them was a 20-yard carry by a running back against the first-team defense.
Look at this list of 1,000-yard backs that UGA faced:
- Tyler Badie, Mizzou
- Chris Rodriguez, Kentucky
- Brian Robinson, Alabama (2)
- DeWayne McBride, UAB
- Hassan Haskins, Michigan
- Tank Bigsby, Auburn
Excluding Bigsby, that means in 6 games it played, UGA faced a running back who finished among the top 20 in FBS in rushing (counting Robinson twice). None of them had a run of 20 yards.
Even if we want to just leave it at “runs allowed of 20-plus yards” and include all positions and all members of the depth chart, UGA allowed 3 such runs. Nobody else in FBS allowed fewer than 5.
I know this is supposed to be all about the 2021 group, but in the last 3 seasons, Georgia only allowed 10 runs of 20-plus yards in 39 games played. During that same 3-year stretch, Alabama allowed 37 such runs. Iowa is the only other program that came anywhere close to Georgia, and it surrendered 12 runs of 20-plus yards, though that was also in 4 fewer games than UGA.
Speaking of those rushing stats …
3. In 6 games against teams that finished as AP ranked foes, Georgia allowed 1 rushing touchdown
Wait … really? Bonus points if you can guess who and when that lone rushing score was.
Bryce Young in the SEC Championship is your answer. So the only dude on an AP ranked team who reached pay dirt with his legs against Georgia was the Heisman Trophy winner. Yep.
Not surprisingly, UGA led the country with fewest rushing scores allowed against teams who finished as ranked opponents (among teams with a minimum of 4 such games). Among that group, only Oklahoma State and Clemson had less than 3 rushing scores allowed vs. teams who finished as ranked opponents, though they only had 4 of those matchups compared to 6 for Georgia.
By the way, Georgia allowed 3 rushing scores all year. Nobody else had fewer than 6. In other words, UGA allowed a rushing score once every 5 games it played. I’d say that was historic, but that’s not even the best mark of the Smart era. That 2019 group only allowed 2 rushing touchdowns in 14 games. Along with 2011 Alabama and 2010 West Virginia, who also allowed 3 rushing scores, those are the best 4 totals since CFBStats.com started tracking that in 2009.
Moral of the story? Running against Jordan Davis, Jalen Carter and Devonte Wyatt isn’t fun. Shoot, even the rushing scores that did happen looked like heroic feats:
Ridiculous touchdown from Tank Bigsby pic.twitter.com/u2ahjlnHJz
— Patrick Greenfield (@PCGreenfield) October 9, 2021
4. UGA had the best red-zone defense of any Power 5 team since … 2011 Alabama
You know how Alabama’s offense struggled so much in the red zone against Georgia in the title game? Believe it or not, that defensive performance was actually bad by UGA’s 2021 defensive red zone standard. Why? Alabama only had 1 touchdown — more on that in a minute — but it scored all 4 times it entered the red zone.
If you break it down by red-zone scoring percentage, Georgia’s defense just posted the best number (62.5%) of any Power 5 team in a decade. Here are the Power 5 leaders in that category since the start of the 2011 season:
- 2011 Alabama — 58.82%
- 2021 Georgia — 62.5%
- 2013 USC — 62.79%
- 2014 MSU — 63.64%
That’s what happens when you have elite pass-rushers like Channing Tindal and Nolan Smith who can get that third-down sack to force a team into a tougher field goal or out of field goal range altogether. It also helps when you have guys like Davis and Carter who can push the pile and block kicks (Georgia had 5).
Georgia’s 2nd blocked kick of the day, again Jordan Davis is there but its Jalen Carter who get his hand on it pic.twitter.com/V6yX9y8SI7
— Tyler Browning (@DiabeticTyler) October 22, 2021
If you want to narrow it down to defensive red-zone touchdown percentage, Georgia was also No. 1 in FBS there at 28.13%. That’s the best of any FBS team since 2016 LSU. In fact, 2016 LSU is the only group that ranks better at UGA in that stat since CFBStats.com started tracking it in 2009.
In other words, even if you accomplished the rare feat of reaching the red zone against Georgia, you basically had a 1-in-4 shot at a touchdown. Fun!
5. Alabama had a streak of 75 consecutive games with multiple TDs … until Georgia happened
I get that Jameson Williams got hurt and John Metchie was already out. There’s no asterisk on UGA’s title, but yeah, those guys impacted Alabama’s offense. Absolutely.
Having said that, Alabama still had the Heisman Trophy winner. And in an all-or-nothing game, Georgia held Alabama’s offense to 1 touchdown for the first time since it beat LSU 10-0 in 2016. That was 75 consecutive games. By the way, this is the Alabama program that set the NCAA record with 36 consecutive games with 31 points, which came to an end this past November against LSU.
The rematch with Georgia was also the first time the Alabama offense was held to 1 touchdown in the postseason since the 21-0 victory against LSU in the title game rematch at the end of the 2011 season. So maybe that’s the secret to facing Nick Saban’s team in the postseason. Just get an in-season rematch in a national championship and you’ll hold Alabama to 1 touchdown. Easy enough, right?
In the end, Georgia’s defensive dominance had 1 outlier game all year. In a 15-game season with 13 matchups against Power 5 opponents, it deserves to be remembered as one of the best groups we’ve ever seen. It should be in the same breath as 2001 Miami and 2011 Alabama.
Based on that trend, we’ll have to wait another 10 years to see a defense as impressive as 2021 Georgia.