Will Georgia's Balanced Attack Win Another Championship?

Georgia Bulldogs QB Stetson Bennett
Georgia Bulldogs QB Stetson Bennett
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NCAA Bowl Season - The best team heading into the season is now heading into the four-team College Football Playoff as the presumptive favorite. The Georgia Bulldogs capped a perfect 13-0 record with a 50-30 victory over LSU in the SEC Championship Game and secured the top seed in the final bracket, well positioned to make a run at a second straight national championship crown. We haven't had a repeat champion since the BCS era, when Alabama claimed titles at the end of the 2011 and 2012 seasons. Kirby Smart has Georgia in familiar territory and on the precipice of officially establishing a new dynasty in Athens.

As was the case last year, Georgia is a defense-first program that anchors its success in limiting its opponent's firepower. The Bulldogs lead the nation (by a respectable margin) in opponent-adjusted defensive efficiency (DFEI) and rank among the best in the nation in the unadjusted efficiency metrics that matter most in terms of generating scores. They rank No. 1 in opponent touchdown rate (10.3%), No. 2 in points allowed per drive (1.11), and No. 3 in opponent value drive percentage (21.4%), the percentage of opponent offensive possessions that produce more drive-ending value than expected based on starting field position.

Unlike last season, however, Georgia's defense is not producing at historic levels in its defensive efficiency metrics across the board. They merely rank 24th nationally this year in opponent first-down rate (63.2%), the rate at which opponent offenses earn at least one first down (or score) per drive. The Bulldogs were No. 1 by a wide margin in defensive available yards percentage and yards per play allowed in 2021, but rank at the bottom of the top 10 in those categories this season. They posted a 90th-percentile defensive game rating (measuring single-game performance against all other team games in the season) in 13 out of 14 games against FBS opponents in 2021, but have only matched that performance level in seven out of 12 FBS games in 2022.

Nevertheless, Georgia is undefeated heading into the playoff and arguably presents a more balanced threat to its opponents this year by pairing great (if not extraordinary) defense with great (if not extraordinary) offensive efficiency metrics. The Bulldogs don't have the most explosive offense in the country, ranked 13th nationally in the percentage of drives that average at least 10 yards per play and 72nd nationally in the number of scrimmage plays that gained 40 or more yards. But they are reliably productive with a wealth of solid weapons for opposing teams to try to neutralize.

Quarterback (and Heisman Trophy finalist) Stetson Bennett's passing statistics don't jump off the page among elite signal-callers, but he distributes the ball effectively to big-target tight ends Brock Bowers and Darnell Washington to keep Georgia in rhythm, making it extraordinarily difficult to get the Bulldogs off the field. On third downs of 1 to 9 yards, Bennett has completed 50 of 67 passes (74.6%) this season for 40 first downs, five touchdowns, and zero interceptions.

Among the playoff final four, Georgia outpaces Michigan, TCU, and Ohio State (and the rest of the nation) in net drive efficiency, the core unadjusted metric I use to produce the opponent-adjusted FEI ratings. And they have done so against a tougher schedule to date than the Wolverines, Horned Frogs, and Buckeyes have faced, which suggests they'll have little trouble rising to the challenge in the semifinal and championship games. The Vegas odds favor the Bulldogs to repeat, and my numbers agree that they are the best bet.

Likelihood to Win
College Football Playoff per FEI
Team Percentage
Georgia Bulldogs 48.4%
Michigan Wolverines 28.5%
Ohio State Buckeyes 17.9%
TCU Horned Frogs 5.2%

I will post new updated ratings after the Army-Navy game closes out the regular season this weekend, and bowl game projections for every game at my site, but I won't be back in this space until after the semifinal games have been played.

2022 FEI Ratings (through Week 14)

Fremeau Efficiency Index ratings (FEI) are opponent-adjusted possession efficiency data representing the per-possession scoring advantage a team would be expected to have on a neutral field against an average opponent. Offense ratings (OFEI) and defense ratings (DFEI) are opponent-adjusted drive efficiency data representing the per-drive scoring advantage a team unit would be expected to have against an average opponent unit. Net drive efficiency (NDE) is the sum of offensive drive efficiency and defensive drive efficiency data representing scoring value earned by offense and defense units per drive. Strength of schedule ratings represent the expected number of losses an elite team two standard deviations better than average would have against each team's schedule to date (ELS), the expected number of losses a good team one standard deviation above average would have against the schedule to date (GLS), and the expected number of losses an average team would have against the schedule to date (ALS). Ratings for all 131 teams are found here, and expanded ratings including projected win totals are found here.

Rk Team Rec FBS FEI OFEI Rk DFEI Rk NDE Rk ELS Rk GLS Rk ALS Rk
1 Georgia 13-0 12-0 1.51 1.73 4 1.46 1 2.46 1 1.48 19 4.58 9 8.48 6
2 Michigan 13-0 13-0 1.25 1.38 9 1.08 4 2.26 3 1.28 30 3.59 41 6.96 41
3 Ohio State 11-1 11-1 1.23 1.78 3 .90 8 2.29 2 1.25 33 3.54 42 7.08 38
4 Tennessee 10-2 9-2 1.19 1.89 1 .30 37 1.50 4 1.88 9 4.35 19 7.35 30
5 Alabama 10-2 9-2 1.17 1.24 10 .99 6 1.48 5 1.63 14 4.45 14 7.55 25
6 Texas 8-4 8-4 .98 1.06 16 .82 10 1.06 16 1.46 21 4.54 12 8.55 5
7 Kansas State 10-3 9-3 .89 1.04 17 .85 9 .98 21 1.42 24 4.99 5 9.40 1
8 Utah 10-3 9-3 .88 1.08 15 .71 17 1.44 8 .99 47 3.69 38 7.33 31
9 Penn State 10-2 10-2 .87 .75 24 1.08 5 1.45 6 1.54 16 3.72 37 7.13 36
10 TCU 12-1 11-1 .87 1.17 12 .60 24 1.03 18 1.32 26 4.46 13 8.48 7
11 Florida State 9-3 8-3 .82 1.38 8 .40 34 1.44 7 .66 62 2.87 53 6.52 53
12 LSU 9-4 8-4 .74 1.23 11 .57 26 .67 31 2.72 1 6.00 1 9.13 2
13 Oregon 9-3 8-3 .69 1.48 6 .11 52 1.18 13 1.52 17 3.78 33 6.90 42
14 USC 11-2 11-2 .69 1.84 2 -.44 95 1.17 14 1.05 43 3.60 40 7.31 32
15 Mississippi State 8-4 7-4 .63 .47 38 .75 13 .37 42 1.92 8 4.62 8 7.93 18
16 Minnesota 8-4 7-4 .59 .59 33 .74 14 1.19 12 .66 64 2.56 60 5.66 65
17 Illinois 8-4 7-4 .58 .01 64 1.13 3 .89 25 .96 48 2.85 55 6.27 58
18 Ole Miss 8-4 7-4 .57 1.16 13 .10 54 .64 32 1.18 38 3.75 35 7.37 28
19 Clemson 11-2 10-2 .57 .33 44 .78 12 1.02 20 .65 67 2.86 54 6.68 49
20 Washington 10-2 9-2 .55 1.59 5 -.37 89 1.20 10 .52 73 2.28 64 5.57 67
21 Oregon State 9-3 8-3 .54 .43 40 .72 16 .77 27 .95 49 3.36 47 6.66 52
22 Tulane 11-2 10-2 .52 .60 31 .62 22 1.20 11 .55 71 2.50 61 6.18 60
23 Florida 6-6 5-6 .50 .94 21 .07 58 .04 62 2.36 2 5.34 3 8.34 9
24 Notre Dame 8-4 8-4 .48 .40 42 .44 30 .68 30 1.01 45 2.92 51 6.46 54
25 Arkansas 6-6 5-6 .46 .83 23 .05 60 .12 57 1.28 31 4.24 24 8.13 13
26 Louisville 7-5 7-5 .44 .07 60 .74 15 .48 37 .70 61 3.18 48 7.26 33
27 UCLA 9-3 8-3 .41 1.39 7 -.29 81 1.05 17 .89 52 2.89 52 5.78 62
28 Maryland 7-5 7-5 .41 .51 37 .34 36 .40 40 1.66 13 3.77 34 6.87 43
29 Oklahoma 6-6 6-6 .40 .70 27 .21 42 .36 43 1.24 35 3.97 30 7.75 21
30 Iowa 7-5 6-5 .39 -.55 96 1.22 2 .07 60 1.63 15 3.90 32 6.87 44

Comments

1 comment, Last at 08 Dec 2022, 11:58pm

#1 by vikedawg // Dec 08, 2022 - 11:58pm

UGA will win both games

Points: -1

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