Spartans and Dogs: Red Zone TDs and Third Downs The Enlightened Spartan: Spartans and Dogs: Red Zone TDs and Third Downs

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Spartans and Dogs: Red Zone TDs and Third Downs

ES keeps thinking of two stats:  red zone and third downs.  Let's compare these stats of UGA and MSU in their three losses, and the last five games. 


Third down off
15-44 (34%)
14-46 (30%)
Third down def
18-41 (44%)
9-35 (26%)
Red zone scoring off
4-11 (36%)
4-7 (57%)
Red zone scoring def
9-10 (90%)
10-11 (91%)

Third down off
29-67 (43%)
38-75 (51%)
Third down def
28-77 (36%)
23-68 (34%)
Red zone scoring TD off
13-20 (65%)
15-19 (79%)
Red zone scoring TD def
12-20 (60%)
8-11 (73%)

What is notable here is third down defense in the three losses, and red zone scoring defense in the three losses.   In its three losses, Georgia's defense remained admirable in stopping opponents on third downs - just 9 out of 35 attempts (26%).  However, in Michigan State's three losses, its defense allowed 18 third downs on 41 attempts (44%).  And, both teams red zone defense was horrific in losses.  Both Georgia and Michigan State gave up touchdowns 90% or more of the time that opponents were inside their 20 yard line.  

What the ES finds is that the Spartan defense is vulnerable on third downs when they lose... and both teams easily give up TDs in the red zone when they lose.  Stopping third downs and stopping red zone TDs are critical to success.  Georgia's defense seems to have the advantage on third downs.

But, what do the last five games mean?  The ES uses this as a barometer of how the teams fared going into bowl season.  When you look at the Sagarin ratings of the opponents in each of the final five games, the average rating is roughly equal (MSU 67.6, Georgia 63.2). Look below:

MSU (average opponent rating = 67.6)
UGA (average opponent rating = 63.2)
Wisconsin (8). Loss. Neutral.
LSU (1). Loss.  Neutral.
Northwestern (62). Win. Away.
Georgia Tech (50). Win. Home.
Indiana (138). Win. Home.
Kentucky (87). Win. Home.
Iowa (41). Win. Away.
Auburn (45). Win. Home.
Minnesota (89). Win. Home.
New Mexico State (133). Win. Home.

Again, while UGA has marginally better stats in its last five games, four were played at home - while MSU had to earn two wins on the road at locations they have lost frequently in the past several seasons (Iowa and Northwestern).  UGA was humiliated in its championship game loss to the nation's best team, LSU.  In the Big Ten championship, Michigan State outplayed Wisconsin, except for the final two minutes, and lost a heartbreaker. Both teams struggled at home against opponents they should have whipped easily (Minnesota, Kentucky); both teams had a shit-kicking win at home (Indiana, NMSU); both teams had a surprisingly dominating victory (Iowa, Auburn).

The ES sees Michigan State's defense as standing up a bit better than Georgia under road conditions, but both teams are about equal statistically.