With no spring practice, there are still a lot of unknowns when it comes to how Georgia will look in 2020. We are still well over a month from actual Georgia football games, and full pad practices have yet to start. Lucky for us, we’ve found another way to get a peek at how the Bulldogs could look this season...
One of the biggest questions for 2020 is who the starting quarterback will be. Once Jamie Newman transferred from Wake Forest to Georgia in January, we all assumed that he would be the starter this year. In late May, JT Daniels surprised everyone by transferring across the country from USC and enrolling at Georgia. It was assumed that Daniels would have to sit out this coming season due to transfer rules, but In July the NCAA approved a waiver making him immediately eligible. Now Todd Monken and Kirby Smart have two very different talents to choose a starter from.
Newman impressed last year at Wake and exhibited deadly accuracy downfield while showing that he’s much more than a running threat. Daniels started as a 17 year-old true freshman at USC in 2018 before tearing his ACL in the first game of 2019. Backup Keenan Slovis stepped in and performed well enough to keep the job in 2020, but Daniels showed excellent arm strength and a lightning quick release in 2018.
If only there was a way to find out how Georgia’s season might go with each of them under center.
Fortunately for us, there is one way to find out. EA Sports discontinued their NCAA Football franchise after 2013, but there’s still a group of heroes out there who upload current rosters every offseason. The rosters include accurate heights, weights, player attributes and coach information. A couple of weeks ago, the new rosters hit the internet and I uploaded them into the game.
As we’ve established in the past, DawgSports believes in science. So today we’re going to see what Georgia’s record looks like if we allow the CPU to simulate a season with Newman. Then we’re going to see what happens if we allow it to do the exact same thing with Daniels. Since new Georgia offensive coordinator Todd Monken was the head coach at Southern Miss back in 2013, I assigned the Golden Eagles’ playbook to the UGA offense.
Obviously we still aren’t sure what Georgia’s schedule is going to look like in 2020, but knowing that it will consist of ten conference-only games meant that I had to get creative. The game is programmed to give each SEC team eight conference games, so I made the entire league independents. (Congratulations to new SEC members Georgia St, Arkansas St, South Alabama and ULM)
Next, I added Mississippi State and Ole Miss to Georgia’s existing 2020 slate of conference games. Since the game requires each time have at least eleven regular season contests, I added FCS Southeast to the schedule.
Now let’s see who preformed the best...
UGA With Newman
With Jamie Newman under center, Georgia’s schedule played out like this. (Opponents final regular season records are in parentheses, and the opposing team’s ranking at the end of the regular season is next to their name)
at Mississippi St (7-4) - W 35-28
#18 South Carolina (9-2) - W 52-13
FCS Southeast - W 42-10
#9 Ole Miss (9-2) - L 24-42
at Tennessee (5-6) - W 28-16
Missouri (3-8) - W 42-21
at #16 Alabama (7-3) - W 38-21 (you hate to see it)
#20 Florida (7-4) - W 38-14 (lol Mullen)
Auburn (7-4) - W 31-23
at Kentucky (3-7) - W 37-24
Vanderbilt (5-7) W 48-24
Regular Season Record 10-1
Newman - QBR- 157.3, 191/305 for 2560 yds 62%, 26 TD’s/6 INT’s, 8.4 ypa, 17 sacks
Cook - 1028 yds, 4.8 ypc, 11 TD’s
White - 732 yds, 5.2 ypc, 8 TD’s
Newman - 239 yds, 2,7 ypc, 3 TD’s (sack yardage included)
Pickens - 1006 yds, 74 rec, 11 TD’s, 13.5 ypc
Georgia’s offense was plenty potent with Newman at the helm, and with a passer to keep defenses honest, Georgia’s running game thrived. Most importantly, the Dawgs beat everyone on their schedule except for Lane Kiffin’s surprising Ole Miss team. That everyone besides Ole Miss includes Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide on the road in Tuscaloosa. If nothing else, Jamie Newman has freed us from ever having to hear the “Nick Saban is undefeated versus assistants” stat on a broadcast ever again. The Dawgs also ranked #19 in total offense under Newman.
Georgia finished the regular season ranked #3, and if they weren’t an independent for scheduling purposes, the Dawgs would have met Ole Miss in Atlanta for the Rebels first ever SEC Championship game appearance. Assuming they won, the Bulldogs would have gone into the College Football Playoff as the third ranked team.
The CFP rankings looked like this: 1) Ohio St, 2) Iowa St !!!, 3) Georgia, 4) Wake Forest !!!!!!
I’m starting to talk myself into the 2020 football season.
UGA Under Daniels
With JT Daniels under center, Georgia’s schedule played out like this. (Opponents final regular season records are in parentheses, and the opposing team’s ranking at the end of the regular season is next to their name)
at #10 Mississippi St (9-2) - L 27-30 OT
South Carolina (3-8) - W 42-28
FCS Southeast - W 51-3
#20 Ole Miss - L 38-45
at Tennessee (4-7) - W 28-17
Missouri (5-6) - W 35-0
at #3 Alabama (8-2) - W 42-14 (you REALLY hate to see it)
#9 Florida (8-3) - W 24-17 (even the game knows Mullen can’t score more than 20 on Kirby)
#7 Auburn (9-2) - L 10-20
at Kentucky (3-7) - W 42-10
Vanderbilt ( 5-7) - W 30-17
Regular Season Record 8-3
Daniels - 156.3 QBR, 167/282 2405 yds 59%, 26 TD’s/7 INT’s, 8.5 ypa, 23 sacks
Cook - 1150 yds, 5.5 ypc, 11 TD’s
White - 729 yds, 5.2 ypc, 7 TD’s
Daniels- 127 yds, 1.5 ypc, 1 TD (sack yardage included)
Pickens - 1091 yds, 70 rec. 13 TD’s, 15.5 ypc
Georgia’s skill players put up very similar yardage under Daniels as they did under Newman, but Georgia didn’t have as much luck in close games. Daniels can be forgiven for losing to both Mississippi schools and Auburn because he lead the Dawgs to a 28-point win over Alabama.
What happened around Georgia in this simulation was very different, as UGA came out #44 in total offense in this simulation despite having close to the same yardage output. Despite their three losses, Georgia actually finished the regular season ranked #5. It feels pertinent to mention that is totally something we could see happen in the 2020 season. In real life with the SEC and its divisions still intact, Georgia would have won the Eastern Division and faced Alabama again with a playoff birth on the line in the SEC Championship. Instead the Dawgs are left on the outside looking in.
The CFP rankings looked like this: 1) Oklahoma, 2) Louisville, 3) Alabama, 4) Oregon
This experiment actually was quite illuminating. Newman was just a bit better than Daniels, but in a ten game SEC season, that small margin can be the difference between a one loss season and a three loss one. Under Newman, Georgia averaged 37.7 points per game. Under Daniels, the Dawgs put up 33.5 points per a contest. We already established that the two threw for about the same amount of yards. So what was the variable that lead to Neman’s success?
Newman’s legs accounted for more yards on the ground and more yards per a carry than Daniels’ did. The yardage itself doesn’t make much of a difference, but how the offense functions was greatly effected.
Monken’s base offense consists of spread passing concepts mixed with a lot of zone-read running plays. With Newman taking snaps, defenses have to play the quarterback keeper honestly. That occupies another defender, and makes life a lot easier for an offense when they get into the red-zone and windows get smaller.
While Georgia did perform better with Newman at the helm, there isn’t much drop off between him and Daniels. While that is going to make the task of picking a quarterback difficult for Kirby Smart and Todd Monken when fall camp starts, it is very good news for Georgia in 2020.
It is a virtual certainty that college football players are going to be held out of games because of Covid-19 this season. For some programs, the loss of their starting quarterback to a positive test result will put them in a tough spot. With talents like Newman and Daniels in the quarterback room, Georgia is blessed with good options under center.
Until later... Go Dawgs!