Last night, I provided you with a statistical breakdown of the Georgia and Virginia Tech defenses, which revealed that the two teams are more evenly matched than Rod Gilmore supposes.
Now, however, we turn our attention to the two teams' ability to move the ball on the opposition. In order to do this, as always, I offer not just a light dusting of data or a fine glaze of information, but, instead, Too Much Information!
Sadly, neither of Saturday evening's combatants is exactly tearing up the track offensively. The Bulldogs rank 77th nationally in total offense . . . two notches behind Kent State. The Hokies rank 95th nationally in total offense . . . two notches behind Idaho.
No, I don't mean the most famous team from Idaho . . . I mean Idaho! (Photograph from Sports Illustrated.)
Virginia Tech manages 26.0 points per game, as compared to Georgia's 24.7, and each squad has scored exactly 37 touchdowns this season. The aerial assaults of the respective teams essentially are evenly matched; the Red and Black have connected on 11 T.D. strikes while averaging 189.0 passing yards per game, making the Hokies slightly less productive in passing yardage (184.7 per contest) and moderately more successful in touchdown tosses (12).
During the Bulldogs' horrendous stretch of four losses in five games, Matthew Stafford's touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio was an awful three-to-nine, but it all began to click for Georgia's emerging superstar in the Auburn game. In his last two outings, Stafford has thrown 49 passes for 30 completions, 390 yards, two touchdowns, and no picks. While it is true that Stafford will be going up against a ball-hawking Virginia Tech defense, it also is the case that the turnover margins of Auburn and Georgia Tech (each of which is +5 in giveaway/takeaway) compare favorably to that of the Hokies (+7).
Similarly, Sean Glennon went through a sophomore slump at midseason, tossing four picks and just one T.D. pass during a four-game stretch in October and early November, but Glennon recovered in the final three contests of the regular season, during which he connected on 38 of his 61 throws for 539 yards, a trio of touchdowns, and just one interception.
Of course, Sean Glennon is best known for the fact that his father, John, wrote the song "Beautiful Boy" about him.
Although each Peach Bowl participant ranks seventh in its conference in rushing offense, Georgia enjoys a clear advantage over V.P.I. when it comes to running the ball . . . or, at least, as clear an advantage as either team has enjoyed over the other thus far.
The Hokies have run the ball more times (429) than the 'Dawgs (395), but Virginia Tech has gained fewer yards on the ground (1,432) than Georgia (1,585). The Classic City Canines average more rushing yards per attempt (4.0) and per contest (132.1) than the opposing Hokies, who manage 119.3 rushing yards per outing and whose yards-per-carry average (3.3) nearly matches the average gain per running play (3.4 yards) achieved against the Red and Black D. Somehow, though, V.P.I. has succeeded in scoring more rushing touchdowns (20) than Georgia (19).
Since the 'Dawgs have an advantage in the ground game, it should be noted that artificial playing surfaces tend to operate in favor of teams that can run the ball . . . as the Red and Black learned the hard way in last year's Sugar Bowl. This season, only one of Georgia's games has been played on turf---the Classic City Canines' narrow escape against Ole Miss---and that contest produced perhaps Kregg Lumpkin's best outing of the season, as the junior running back managed 101 yards on 13 carries for a 7.77 yards-per-carry average in Oxford. (Reportedly, by the way, the Peach Bowl could be Danny Ware's last game in silver britches.)
Despite the Red and Black's superior ability to run the ball, though, the Bulldogs are most adept at moving the chains through the air. Georgia has picked up 110 first downs by way of the forward pass, as compared to just 91 on running plays. Virginia Tech, which has tallied the second-fewest first downs in the A.C.C., also earns a fresh set of downs more often on passes (95) than on rushes (74).
For the record, the 'Dawgs have played three bowl games in the Georgia Dome. In the 1995 Peach Bowl, Hines Ward threw the ball 59 times for 413 yards. In the 1998 Peach Bowl, Quincy Carter threw the ball 33 times for 222 yards. In the 2006 Sugar Bowl, D.J. Shockley threw the ball 33 times for 277 yards. No pressure, Matthew. (Photograph from Atlanta Journal-Constitution.)
It is open to question whether either team's offense can make it past the opposing squad's 20 yard line, but, should such success be in the cards, both combatants can claim the fourth-ranked red zone offense in their respective conferences. Georgia and Virginia Tech boast similar numbers of deep drives (42 for the Bulldogs and 40 for the Hokies) and identical totals of red zone scores (34 each) and rushing touchdowns in the red zone (18 apiece). However, 26 of the Red and Black's treks into the shadow of their opponents' goal posts have resulted in touchdowns, as compared to just 20 of V.P.I.'s trips inside the 20.
Finally, the protection afforded by each squad's offensive line is a factor that operates clearly in the Bulldogs' favor. Georgia has given up the S.E.C.'s second-fewest sacks (15) and second-fewest sack yards (106). Virginia Tech, on the other hand, has surrendered the A.C.C.'s third-highest tally of both quarterback takedowns (26) and sack yards (205).
Yet again, we find that the 'Dawgs and the Hokies are fairly evenly matched, on offense as they were on defense. This just leaves us with special teams---gulp!---and other noteworthy minutiae as we head toward a more detailed prediction than my general (and predictable) forecast of a Georgia victory.
To be continued. . . .