The 45-Minute Men (Fun Stat Nerd Tidbit: Georgia)

ATHENS GA - NOVEMBER 27: The Georgia Bulldogs and quarterback Aaron Murray #11 react after a touchdown in the final minutes of play against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Sanford Stadium on November 27 2010 in Athens Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

UPDATE: The Georgia Bulldogs And Time To Earn The Hype is now up at the mothership.

Survive the first two weeks. That's the name of the game for Georgia in 2011. If they start the season 2-0, having beaten Boise State in Atlanta and South Carolina in Athens, then suddenly this talented, super-athletic, and still semi-young team becomes a name in the national title race. But even though UGa could lose both of those games and still be a damn fine team, the negative sentiments will grow significantly with an 0-2 start, especially after two diminished years and endless 'hot seat' discussion.

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Like Arkansas, Georgia was a rock solid team for 45 minutes, then fell off. The defense ranked 33nd in overall Def. S&P+ but 56th in Fourth Quarter S&P+; the offense, meanwhile, ranked 27th overall ... and a crazy 96th in the fourth quarter.

I wanted to see if I could find any connection between a team playing disproportionately well or poorly in the fourth quarter (as compared to the rest of the game) and their performance the next season. What I assumed I would find is a connection in which teams' performances in the first three quarters carried over. That's evidently not the case.

I grouped teams together based on how different their Q4 S&P+ was from their overall S&P+. The categories you see are as follows:

  • -20 or worse: Q4 S&P+ ranking is at least 21 spots worse than their overall S&P+. Obviously in Georgia's case, they qualify both on defense (23 spots worse) and offense (69).
  • 0 to -20: Q4 S&P+ Q4 ranking is 0 to 20 spots worse.
  • 1 to 20: Q4 S&P+ Q4 ranking is 1-20 spots better.
  • 21 or better: Q4 ranking is at least 21 spots better.

What I expected to find was that the "-21 or worse" crowd improved the next year. I found the opposite.

OFFENSE
Q4 S&P+ Rk
Versus Overall
Next Year's
Chg in S&P+
-21 or worse -6.98
0 to -20 -2.88
1 to 20 +1.99
21 or more +7.68

So basically, teams that were quite a bit better or worse in the fourth quarter saw their rankings change a decent amount the next year. If you were worse late, you regressed by about seven spots in the rankings; if you were better, you improved by seven or eight spots.

It's the same for the defense.

DEFENSE
Q4 S&P+ Rk
Versus Overall
Next Year's
Chg in S&P+
-21 or worse -7.94
0 to -20 +0.02
1 to 20 +0.21
21 or more +7.61

So why would this be the case? The major thing I can think is that it tells you a bit about a team's depth; better depth one year increases your odds of being able to absorb the loss of starters the next. Luckily for Georgia, they do not have many losses to absorb. And if any of the fourth-quarter struggles had to do with having a freshman quarterback behind center, then improvement is possible (the late-game execution versus Georgia Tech is certainly encouraging). I'll have to look a bit further into this, but ... wow, they were so much worse in the fourth quarter ... especially on offense.

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