Since this is a quiet college football offseason, Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley saying that if “you go throw Georgia’s defense, which was a top-five-ranked defense going into the Rose Bowl, you go throw them in the Big 12 every year, they’re not going to be a top-five defense” has become a matter of controversy.
The full quote, from a Sirius XM exchange with Danny Kanell:
Here’s the full exchange between Riley and kanell from the interview. pic.twitter.com/lzXA9Pw2vS— Allen Kenney (@BlatantHomerism) July 3, 2018
Riley also tweeted that he did not mean the comment as a diss.
But you know the usual reaction stuff.
That’s a SHOT AT GEORGIA. He’s got SOUR GRAPES over losing the Rose Bowl. DISRESPECTING THE SEC should be ILLEGAL. I’M MAD about WHATEVER THE LATEST NEWS IS regarding TIM ALLEN’S TV SHOW. And SO ON and SO FORTH.
Let’s defuse things with some easy math.
We’ll learn how to use cfbstats.com along the way!
1. Georgia ranked No. 6 in total yards allowed per game last year.
Here, via cfbstats’ total yardage page, are the numbers (we could use any stats source to discover this information, but cfbstats makes the next step super simple):
- Alabama 260.4
- Wisconsin 262.1
- Michigan 271
- Clemson 276.7
- UTSA 287.8
- Georgia 294.9
2. But total yardage tells an incomplete story, because not every game includes the same number of plays.
For example, Big 12 games usually have more plays than SEC games do because of different offensive styles.
3. So let’s push one button and discover, via a better statistic, that Georgia ranked No. 10 in yards allowed per play last year.
Here’s what we get after mashing “Yards/Play” on that very same cfbstats page:
- Alabama 3.99
- Clemson 4.27
- Wisconsin 4.42
- Washington 4.42
- Ohio State 4.44
- Michigan 4.52
- Northern Illinois 4.62
- Auburn 4.67
- Wyoming 4.67
- Georgia 4.69
That’s not the entirety of what Riley was referring to — he was also praising the quality of offenses in his league, as evidenced by OU putting 48 points on the Dawgs — but this is a really easy way to argue that if Georgia had been in faster-paced games with more plays, it would have ranked a little lower in total yardage.
4. “But Big 12 teams are all bad, and SEC teams are all good.”
Huh. Well, let’s go one step further, then.
Bill Connelly’s S&P+ ratings system is adjusted for opponent strength, and its game predictions beat Vegas spreads on a yearly basis. It ranked Georgia’s defense No. 11 in 2017. We can agree No. 11 ranks lower than No. 5.
5. None of this matters anyway.
Georgia’s defense was really good. Oklahoma’s defense was, uh, bad. Oklahoma’s offense was really good. Big 12 teams play higher-scoring games. SEC teams play lower-scoring games. We all already knew that stuff. Actual football is pretty close.