Georgia football: Overthinking offensive statistics for the No. 1 Bulldogs
Have you ever met someone who is a classic overthinker? Someone who can’t help but analyze every word, every potential ulterior motive real or imagined, every vocal inflection –- all just to come to a wildly overreactive conclusion that may or may not reflect the reality of the situation?
Hi, I’m David. Nice to meet you.
Yeah, I have a tendency to be one of those people. And because I have a knack for overanalyzing (and overreacting), I found myself on the couch on Sunday poring over offensive statistics for this year’s Georgia team compared to the one that won the national championship a year ago.
Now, that’s a fine offense to compare to. It did, after all, win a title. But the hype around the country, and certainly in this space, was that the offense had taken an extra step and become a difference maker that could propel this team to an even higher level in 2022.
That may be the case, but there are a few numbers I’d like to call attention to:
The running game, overall, is about the same
It’s not a bad thing that the running game is about where it was a year ago. Georgia had a fine season on the ground last year, and it is having a fine season on the ground this year.
But that’s not exactly inspiring either.
Last year, the Dawgs picked up 5.26 yards per carry. That number is slightly up to 5.44 this year. Rushing touchdowns per game are slightly improved as well. Where the Georgia running backs are perhaps a touch behind last year’s group is in explosive plays.
Kendall Milton has a long rush of 27 yards this year. He’s the only running back on the team with a run over 20 yards. Kenny McIntosh, the team’s top back entering the season, has a long of just 12 yards.
And before you say it: I get it. I know Georgia is looking for other ways to achieve the same ends as picking up good consistent yardage on the ground. McIntosh has been very effective in the short passing game. He leads the team with 21 receptions and is 2nd in yards with 227. Tight end Brock Bowers is being used in the running game as well. He had a 75-yard score against Kent State on Saturday.
But there will likely come a time when Georgia needs a more consistent and explosive traditional running game, and I’m still trying to figure out whether this group is any improvement over the good-but-not-great one from a season ago.
Completion percentage is up but explosive plays are down
Let’s talk Stetson Bennett.
The eye test says he is without a doubt an improved quarterback this season. I will say that emphatically, and I don’t think you’ll get a ton of argument from around the room. He has better velocity on his throws, he’s completing tougher throws in coverage, he’s getting the offense into the right plays, he’s using his legs.
He’s better. Period.
With that said, while his completion percentage is at nearly 75 percent this year compared to 64.5 in 2021, the vast majority of Bennett’s throws are being attempted inside of 10 yards. Out of 107 total completions for Georgia this year, 32 have been to running backs. Add a few more to that number when you consider the short passes to tight ends Bowers and Darnell Washington that are turned into bigger gains.
Let’s also consider this number: In the red zone last season, Georgia completed nearly 60 percent of its passes and had its highest passer rating of any section of the field. At 214.7, that rating was 30 points higher than the next highest area.
This season, Georgia is doing arguably its worst inside the opponents’ 20 compared to the rest of the field. Completions are down to just 50 percent, and the passer rating is under 140. For an offense that felt much more explosive for the better part of 3 weeks this season, that was a surprising number to see.
Bennett’s attempts are up, his passing yards are up and his completion percentage is up, but yards per attempt, passer rating and touchdowns are all down.
It’s fine to get yards and scores however you can get them, but I’m an overthinker, remember. And this is what I’m overthinking about: Has Bennett’s game exploded as much as we gave it credit for? Or is it a slightly repackaged version of what we saw a year ago?
Here are some things to remember:
- Overall, scoring is up. The Bulldogs are on pace to set a school record for points in a season and are averaging over 40 points per game.
- They’re on pace for more total first downs this season, both by passing and rushing.
- Yards per play is about .75 yards ahead of last year’s clip.
- They are punting less, and all those consecutive scoring drives to start the year are still top of mind.
No matter what the numbers say, my conclusion is that this offense is more explosive. There are questions still hanging out there about how it will do when forced into a more aggressive gameplan, but that’s not a gigantic concern at the moment.