Last night, I began the process of delving inside the numbers regarding the Georgia-Colorado matchup. On the eve of the game, I now conclude my statistical analysis by providing you not a modicum of information . . . not a reasonable portion of information . . . but, rather, Too Much Information.
The Running Game
Georgia ranks third in the S.E.C. in rushing offense (160.0 yards per game) and has scored more rushing touchdowns (7) than any other team in the league. The Bulldogs will face a Colorado defensive front that has acquitted itself moderately well, conceding just 82.3 yards per contest on the ground.
It would be an understatement to claim that the Junkyard 'Dawgs are stingy against the run. The Red and Black are second in the conference in rushing defense (57.0 yards per game allowed), they give up the league's fewest yards per carry (1.8), and they have not surrendered a rushing touchdown in 2006.
I meant in the 2006 season, not the calendar year 2006, smart guy.
While the Buffaloes' running game has managed just 104.7 rushing yards per contest, those numbers are misleading. Running back Hugh Charles, who was hampered by injuries in C.U.'s first two games, performed well against Arizona State and he has averaged 5.7 yards per attempt this autumn.
Odds and Ends
Reports of the Bulldogs' offensive anemia are greatly exaggerated. Although the Red and Black rank eighth in the league in total offense, gaining just 317.7 yards per game, the 'Dawgs stand atop the conference in scoring offense, tallying 33.3 points per contest. Because Georgia is in the top third of the S.E.C. in kickoff returns and in punt returns, the Classic City Canines routinely start with good field position and seldom have to travel far to reach paydirt. That should pose a real challenge for a Colorado squad ranked ninth in the Big 12 in scoring defense.
In light of the foregoing, Georgia's offensive balance also is noteworthy; the Bulldogs have gained 27 first downs and 480 yards on running plays while earning 24 first downs and 473 yards on pass plays. (It should be noted, by the way, that Mark Richt's conventional offense has attained as many rushing first downs as Urban Meyer's spread option attack and more than Al Borges's West Coast approach. So much for Offensive Chic.)
In fact, Alabama is the only team in the S.E.C. to have made more trips into the red zone than the Bulldogs' dozen treks beyond the 20 yard line. No squad in the league has scored more red zone touchdowns than Georgia (8) and no other conference competitor has scored as many rushing T.D.s on deep drives into enemy territory (6). As for Colorado, the Cyclones are the only Big 12 squad to have allowed more red zone trips or more red zone touchdowns than C.U.
The two teams are evenly matched in turnover margin at +1 apiece, but they arrived at that juncture by different avenues. The Buffs have recovered as many fumbles as they've lost, with three apiece, while the 'Dawgs have offset the four interceptions their quarterbacks have thrown by recovering five of their opponents' fumbles.
C.U. has managed just four plays of 20 or more yards on offense, but the Buffaloes have surrendered a dozen plays defensively that covered one-fifth of a football field or more . . . 11 of which were pass plays.
There hasn't been a lot of this lately. (Photograph from The Michigan Daily.)
The Georgia O has the S.E.C.'s second-lowest third-down conversion rate (32.3%) . . . but the Bulldog D allows the league's second-lowest third-down conversion rate (28.6%). The Colorado O has the Big 12's second-lowest third-down conversion rate (33.3%) . . . but the Buffalo D allows the conference's second-highest third-down conversion rate (43.5%).
No offensive line in the Big 12 has surrendered more sacks (11) or more sack yards (64) than C.U.'s.
The Feel Good Stat of the Week
Georgia ranks first in the Southeastern Conference in scoring defense, allowing just 4.0 points per game. Colorado ranks last in the Big 12 in scoring offense, tallying just 7.7 points per game.
The Buffaloes also occupy the conference cellar in total offense (193.7 yards per game) and have scored the fewest touchdowns (2) of any Big 12 team. The Bulldogs rank second in the league in total defense (203.7 yards per game allowed) and have given up the fewest touchdowns (1) of any S.E.C. squad.
In 180 minutes of playing time this fall, the Buffs have spent just 48 minutes and 21 seconds in the lead. On average, Georgia carries a 19-2 lead into the locker room at the break and the Red and Black have scored more points in the fourth quarter (31) than in any other period.
Only one team in the league has permitted the opposition to cross the 20 yard line fewer times than the 'Dawgs (4) and no Southeastern squad has allowed the other team to score in the red zone fewer times than the Red and Black (1). C.U., meanwhile, has taken the Big 12's fewest trips into the shadow of the enemy's goal posts (6) and the Buffs have scored the conference's fewest touchdowns in the red zone (2).
Nine of Colorado's 23 points this season have been scored in the first quarter, in which Georgia has yet to allow a point. All of the Buffaloes' points have been scored in the first half, in which the Bulldogs have allowed a total of one touchdown. The Red and Black have surrendered a total of five points in the second half and C.U. has not scored after intermission.
Dan Hawkins's offense has been shut out in seven of its first 12 quarters of play this season. Mark Richt's defense has held the opposition scoreless in 10 of its first dozen quarters this fall.
The Bottom Line
Colorado is a better team, and Dan Hawkins is a better coach, than the Buffaloes' 0-3 record suggests. By the time Georgia travels to Boulder in 2010, the clash of these two teams will carry the impact it was expected to have when the series was scheduled.
This, though, is not Colorado's year and very little about this game works in the Buffs' favor. Talent, momentum, home field advantage, and humidity all work against the visiting squad. C.U. will play hard, but the Bulldogs will win solidly, if not spectacularly.
My prediction: Georgia 27, Colorado 6.