Gamecock Man has already given you a comprehensive look at this weekend's SEC matchups. As part of a preview of the new "project" I keep talking about, a look at some numbers on Alabama vs. Georgia, the biggest conference game of the weekend.
Hypothesis: The game between Alabama and Georgia this weekend could very well come down to quarterback play.
Proof: The numbers.
Yes, I know; all of you think I've lost my mind. After all, the Tide has risen largely on the backs of Glen Coffee and Mark Ingram -- both in the top 100 nationally in rushing ypg -- while everyone with even a passing knowledge of college football has heard of the spelling-challenged Dawgs' superstar jumping jack running back, Knowshon Moreno.
But there's the rub: While both of these teams are good running the ball, they're even better at stopping the run. Georgia, for example, ranks 35th in rushing ypg (189.3) offensively but 3rd defensively (45.8). Likewise, Alabama comes in 14th in rushing ypg when they have the ball (236.8) and 8th when the other guys do (55.0).
It's worth pointing out here that neither of these teams has faced a truly impressive rushing offense all year, and certainly not one as good as they'll play against in this game. (Clemson's vaunted DaviSpiller monster has only managed to get the Tigers up to 65th in the country this year.)
It's also, though, fair to say that the running games could essentially cancel each other out. If Alabama plays to its rankings on run offense and defense, and Georgia plays to its rankings on run offense and defense, both of these teams will pile up impressive but not slobber-inducing ground yardage on the run. It shouldn't shock us to see, for example, 125-150 yards and a touchdown or two on the ground for both teams.
Neither team was quite as good running or stopping the run over the course of the season last year, but at risk of being accused of confusing causality and coincidence, behold the QB numbers from 2007.
|John Parker Wilson||17-35||185||0||0||92.97|
No Georgia or Alabama fan needs to be reminded which one of these quarterbacks won the game last year. But to recap anyway: Coffee rushed for no gain on Alabama's first play of overtime. Two incomplete passes later, the Tide kicked a field goal. Matthew Stafford came in and immediately connected on the game-winning TD pass to Mikey Henderson.
You've got to think that, given their choices, Georgia fans would prefer to win with Knowshon's legs but could live with Matt's arm: Stafford is ranked 22nd in the nation and first in the conference in passing efficiency at 152.64. Alabama? John Parker Wilson is 66th in the country and 8th in the conference at 123.43.
Of course, the numbers could be wrong -- they sometimes are -- and Moreno could rush for 175 yards, or Coffee-Ingram could score four times or ...
But if they're right, and if these defenses can at least slow down the ground game, Alabama's chances for winning could come down to John Parker Wilson. How comfortable would Alabama fans be then?