When James Carville was running Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign, there was a famous mantra, “The economy, stupid.”
There were actually three messages that Carville had to keep the campaign on message, but talking about the economy was his most famous:
- Change vs more of the same
- The economy, stupid
- Don’t forget health care
Regardless of your political leanings, you have to admit James Carville is a great strategist. I don’t agree with him, but I love to hear him.
I bought the Phil Steele last week. I haven’t gotten deep into it yet, but I started it same way I always do: I looked over the Georgia page.
I wanted to guard my optimism this season because of the uncertain health status of Nick Chubb, questions at quarterback, and the new coaching regime. But after reading over some of the numbers in Phil Steele, my hesitation quickly turned to optimism.
The defense, stupid.
Nick Chubb will certainly play a factor into the success of the season. But I still think that Georgia will be a viable player in the SEC East race and win 10 games this season because of the defense.
Georgia has, according to Steele, 6 returning starters on defense. I don’t agree with that because he doesn’t count Davin Bellamy or Lorenzo Carter. While they may not have technically been “starters” last season, they each saw significant playing time. I think it’s fair to call them “starters” in the sense of it’s nothing new. So really, I think you can more accurately say UGA has 8 returning starters on defense.
Last season, Georgia had 6 returning starters on defense, and in turn yielded the lowest defensive points allowed per game since 2006. How good was Jeremy Pruitt? From 2013 to 2014, defensive ppg went from 29.0 to 20.7, and last year fell again to 16.9.
Now, I don’t think it’s totally fair to call 2013 a total indictment on Grantham, because the defense certainly played better in total during his tenure, though I think we can all agree Pruitt was an upgrade. The 2013 unit replaced all those starts from 2012 and had 3 returning starters.
If Mel Tucker and Kirby Smart’s defensive results are simply just as good as what Jeremy Pruitt did, we shouldn’t see much of a drop off on defense, especially considering we retained two position coaches from last year’s unit and we have 6 (8) returning starters.
It could be another good defense in 2016.
Should we expect Alabama level of good defense? No, I don’t think so. At least not initially.
But even if we improve slightly over our average output per game over the past several seasons, that would be enough.
Look at the chart below to see the points allowed by UGA and Alabama:
Since the Alabama started winning National Championships-4 championships in the 7 years represented on the chart-take the average ppg allowed from UGA and Alabama. Even doing Olympic scoring to take out any anomalies, if you take out the highest and lowest ppg, it doesn’t change anything. UGA and Alabama’s averages still stay the same.
If we are half as good as the difference, in other words if the Kirby/Tucker effect doesn’t get us as good as Alabama bur gets us closer, Georgia will be giving up somewhere in the neighborhood of 17 ppg. If Georgia gives up 17 ppg or fewer, the Dawgs will win 10 games.
Do you think there will be a major drop off from Pruitt to Kirby/Tucker? I don’t.
So I think that Georgia should be in neighborhood of 10 wins. For Kirby Smart’s first season, that would be good enough.
But depending on how the offense goes will determine if UGA gets to 9 or 10 wins, yet still isn’t a factor in the SEC race like. If Chubb is healthy or the quarterback situation isn’t a liability, then the Dawgs could have a chance to win the East.
First and foremost, it’s all about the defense, stupid.
But don’t forget about the offense.