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Too Much Information: Georgia Bulldogs v. Alabama Crimson Tide

As I mentioned last week, "Too Much Information" is a segment that dates back to my days co-hosting "The Dawg Show" on local cable access in Henry County from 1999 to 2004. Each week, I did a short rundown of some statistical but mostly historical minutiae of which viewers likely were unaware.

(In a way, "Too Much Information" ultimately was the genesis for Dawg Sports: "The Dawg Show" was on only locally, and I invariably compiled too much information---hence the name---for a 22-minute telecast, so I typically typed up the results of my research and e-mailed it to various friends and family members, many of whom forwarded it along to friends and family members of theirs. Ultimately, those e-mails found their way to Paul Westerdawg, who wrote to me and said, "You should start a weblog.")

In any case, I am starting to steer "Too Much Information" back to its historic roots. Why? Because there are better football minds than mine breaking down the X’s and O’s---viz., Michael, Ell, Doug Gillett, Senator Blutarsky, Cock’n’Fire, Quinton McDawg, and (egad!) Chris Brown on Nick Saban and Dr. Saturday on Knowshon Rockwell Moreno---and a visiting ‘Bama fan has already started a discussion of the position matchups, so I’d rather stick to my strengths and give you some historical background with which you might not have been familiar and a scattering of numbers you might not hitherto have known.

For instance, were you aware that there is a division among ‘Dawg fans whether we ought to call him "Evil Richt" or "Dark Richt"?

  • You may have heard that Georgia and Alabama are pretty evenly matched. Well, it’s true. For instance, Saturday’s combatants have scored identical numbers of touchdowns (18 apiece), they are about equally as weak on kickoff coverage (‘Bama nets 40.4 yards per kickoff to the Bulldogs’ 40.3), they are roughly as adept as one another on third down (Georgia converts at a 51.1 per cent rate, as compared to the Tide’s 50.9 per cent clip), and each team has lost a pair of fumbles and recovered a couple of opponents’ fumbles this fall.

  • The Red and Black rarely have ventured outside the Southeast in recent years, but, when they have, the result usually has been a pretty good indicator of how well the Bulldogs would fare against ‘Bama. In 1957, 1958, and 1960---years in which Georgia lost, respectively, to Michigan in Ann Arbor, Texas in Austin, and Southern California in Los Angeles---the ‘Dawgs fell to the Tide in sequence in Athens, Tuscaloosa, and Birmingham. However, in 1965, the Classic City Canines beat the Wolverines in the Big House in a season in which they also upended Alabama between the hedges. (Yes, I know . . . his knees were down. As with the Jasper Sanks "fumble," it still counts, though.) Since the year before "mama called" Bear Bryant home to the Capstone, Georgia’s out-of-region road results have mirrored the Bulldogs’ success, vel non, against the Tide. Anybody remember how the ‘Dawgs did out in Tempe?

  • The second quarter figures to be huge in Sanford Stadium on Saturday night. So far this season, the Bulldogs have scored 62 points in the second quarter and 63 points in the second half. The second period, obviously, is Georgia’s best scoring quarter, while Alabama has given up more points in the second stanza (20) than in the other three quarters combined (17). Conversely, the Crimson Tide (who have scored fewer points in each successive quarter than in the quarter before) have notched 64 of their 144 total ticks on the scoreboard this season in the first 15 minutes. The ‘Dawgs have yet to surrender so much as a single first-quarter point.

This has nothing to do with anything, really, but I just ran across the foregoing image at The Wizard of Odds, and, let me tell you: I, along with everyone who has ever watched a Georgia football game and an episode of "Mad About You" with me, find this truly disturbing on multiple levels.

  • As I am sure any Alabama fan could tell you, the Crimson Tide hold an all-time 35-25-4 series lead over the Bulldogs. However, Georgia and Alabama have gone 7-7 against one another since 1965. The Red and Black currently hold a three-game winning streak over the Red Elephants. The last time Georgia claimed a fourth consecutive victory over Alabama was October 18, 1913 . . . 37 days after Paul William Bryant was born.

  • Everyone knows that Alabama leads the league in rushing offense (236.8 yards per game) and Georgia stands atop the S.E.C. in rush defense (45.8 yards per game allowed). Defensively, the two teams are comparable---excluding first downs surrendered on penalties (a category which does not favor the Bulldogs), the Red Elephants have given up a fresh set of downs 54 times (37 on pass plays, 17 on running plays) and the Red and Black have done so on 56 occasions (43 on pass plays, 13 on running plays)---but the ratios are reversed on offense: Alabama has picked up 44 first downs by running the ball and 33 by throwing it, whereas Georgia has moved the chains 45 times using the forward pass and 36 times by keeping it on the ground. ‘Bama has two of the league’s top ten rushers (Glen Coffee and Mark Ingram) but the Classic City Canines have two of the league’s top ten receivers (A.J. Green and Mohamed Massaquoi). Matthew Stafford ranks second in total offense, second in passing yards per game, and first in pass efficiency. The ‘Dawgs boast the conference’s top completion percentage (62.8%) and highest yards-per-attempt average (9.2).

  • Since falling to eventual national champion Florida in the 2006 Cocktail Party, Georgia has won eight straight games against ranked opponents. (It would have been ten in a row if South Carolina and Arizona State hadn’t lost to Vanderbilt and U.N.L.V., respectively, while looking ahead to the Red and Black.)

The following Feel Good Stat of the Week was brought to you by the people’s national champion.

The Feel Good Stat of the Week: Since last year’s embarrassing loss to Tennessee lit a fire under the Bulldogs, Mark Richt has crossed paths with five national championship-winning coaches: Florida’s Urban Meyer, Georgia Tech’s Chan Gailey (who won one at Troy), Georgia Southern’s Chris Hatcher (who won one at Valdosta State), South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier (who won one at Florida), and Arizona State’s Dennis Erickson (who won two at Miami).

Georgia’s record in those five games? 5-0. Say, does anyone know whether Nick Saban has ever won a national championship?

The Bottom Line: I’ve gone back and forth all week long about this one. At first, the two teams appear so evenly matched that a classic low-scoring S.E.C. slugfest appears inevitable, with a close victory going to the team that most effectively runs the ball and stops the run. Then, I think about the injuries on the Bulldogs’ offensive and defensive lines, at which point I begin to wonder whether the Classic City Canines are about to be exposed. Then, I think about how overrated Clemson is and how awful Arkansas is, at which point I start to think that ‘Bama is a paper tiger elephant unprepared to face the buzzsaw the Crimson Tide will be walking into in Sanford Stadium on Saturday night.

There have been comparisons drawn in the blogosphere between this game and the 2004 Tennessee game; namely, the ‘Dawgs were coming off of an emotional win (over Louisiana State four years ago, over Arizona State last weekend) and they came out flat. Anyone who believes such a thing was not watching Georgia’s victory in Tempe, for which the best description was "workmanlike." The Bulldogs certainly didn’t put all of their emotional eggs into the basket of Sun Devil Stadium; theirs was a victory of poise, not passion.

That bodes well for this weekend, particularly if Mark Richt’s demeanor throughout the week has been any indication. To the extent that a head coach’s attitude filters down to affect his players’ mindset---and surely Nick Saban provides ample evidence that this extent is considerable---I am encouraged by the sense of humor Coach Richt has displayed before the news media. (To give credit where credit is due, Coach Saban exhibited similar cleverness in beginning the week with an attempt to defuse any potential advantage provided by the blackout.)

The tangibles are more or less equal, which is where the intangibles come into play. At home, at night, in front of a crowd that is going to be stoked by the presence of "College GameDay" as never before and the repeat of the blackout exactly as before, with their emotional capital remaining in the bank after a road win hallmarked by efficiency instead of energy, staring at a clear path to the No. 1 ranking after Oregon State obligingly took care of Southern California while wearing the butt-ugliest uniforms ever to have been donned by an unranked team on the verge of upsetting a top-ranked squad, the Bulldogs hold the advantage in all the immeasurable categories that make college football so unpredictable and enjoyable.

My Prediction: Georgia 27, Alabama 20.

Go ‘Dawgs!