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Advanced Box Score: Chinks in Georgia's armor?

The Georgia defense may be the biggest obstacle to a Carolina victory on Saturday night.
The Georgia defense may be the biggest obstacle to a Carolina victory on Saturday night.
Scott Cunningham

Given the Gamecocks welcome the Georgia Bulldogs to Columbia this weekend, and we only have one piece of evidence to judge the Bulldogs by at this point, we thought it made sense to dive deeper into the Bulldogs' 45-21 victory over Clemson two weeks ago.  Are there areas where Carolina can exploit an advantage over Georgia?

Advanced Box Score
Clemson Georgia Advantage
Points 21 45
Drives 16 14
Pts/Drive 1.31 3.21 Georgia
Plays 73 67 Clemson
1st Down 37.0% 44.8%
2nd Down 32.9% 34.3%
3rd Down 27.4% 19.4%
4th Down 2.7% 1.5%
Yards 283 458 Georgia
Yds. per Play 3.88 6.84 Georgia
Standard Downs 3.92 7.20 Georgia
Passing Downs 3.76 5.83 Georgia
1st Down 4.78 7.43 Georgia
2nd Down 2.17 7.22 Georgia
3rd Down 4.95 5.00 Georgia
4th Down 1.50 4.00 Georgia
Rushing 37 plays 40 plays
Rush Yds 132 340 Georgia
Rush Success Rate 43.2% 47.5% Georgia
Rush Yds/Play 3.57 8.50 Georgia
Passing 36 plays 27 plays
Pass Yds 151 118 Clemson
Pass Success Rate 25.0% 40.7% Georgia
Pass Yds/Play 4.19 4.37 Georgia
Penalty 65 40 Clemson
Success Rate 34.25% 44.78% Georgia
Standard Downs 42.31% 53.06% Georgia
Passing Downs 14.29% 22.22% Georgia
1st Down 44.44% 43.33% Clemson
2nd Down 16.67% 47.83% Georgia
3rd Down 35.00% 38.46% Georgia
4th Down 100.00% 100.00% DRAW
1Q Success Rate 35.0% 61.1% Georgia
1Q Yards/Play 4.10 6.00 Georgia
2Q Success Rate 48.4% 22.2% Clemson
2Q Yards/Play 6.00 0.56 Clemson
3Q Success Rate 30.0% 30.8% Georgia
3Q Yards/Play 3.40 5.12 Georgia
4Q Success Rate 0.0% 64.3% Georgia
4Q Yards/Play -1.58 15.14 Georgia
Turnovers 1 1 DRAW
Scoring Trips 4 7 Georgia
Points 21 38
Pts/Trip 5.3 5.4 Georgia
*Standard downs - all 1st downs, 2nd and less than 8, 3rd/4th and less than 5
*Passing downs - all other downs
*Success is 50% of yards on 1st, 70% of yards on 2nd, and 100% on 3rd or 4th
*Scoring trips - trips inside the opposing team's 40-yard line

And, our five thoughts:

1. Huston Mason remains unproven

Georgia certainly did a nice job in their win over Clemson, but they gained most of their yards on the ground.  When they went to the air, they weren't particularly successful, with a success rate of just over 40%, but a horrid yards per play of only 4.37 (note - we add sacks into passing stats here, because it's more representative, so this hurts Mason in a way other box scores may not show).

The success rate is pretty decent, but it's not great, and if Georgia gets behind, it's no sure thing they can throw their way back into the game.  Given the Gamecocks' struggles with the passing game, this may be just the offense they need to face.  Then again...

2. Damn, Gurley

340 yards rushing is a massive performance, and the Bulldogs were able to go to the ground with volume as well, with 40 of their 67 plays rushes.  However, their success rate wasn't incredible - 47.5% isn't anything to be ashamed of, but it's also not dominating.  Rather, the Bulldogs rolled up a few huge rushes, particularly the two fourth quarter, one-play drives that finished off Clemson.  That's not to suggest they can't do the same against South Carolina, but if the Gamecock offense can avoid going 3-and-out for an entire half (as the Clemson offense did), they shouldn't put their defense in the same position as the Tiger defense, which looked completely beaten by the fourth quarter.

3. Really, that fourth quarter

It's one-fourth of all the information we have about them, so there's no reason to throw it out, but Georgia out-scored Clemson 21-0 in the fourth quarter and just dominated them in every way at that point.  There's no particular reason to think that Carolina will wilt at home in the same way.  Maybe Georgia really is the better conditioned team that will ultimately prevail in the fourth quarter.  But then again, maybe Clemson just isn't very good.

For the first three quarters, the Tigers stayed right with the Bulldogs - in fact, the Dawgs only led thanks to a Todd Gurley kickoff return, not based on their play-by-play dominance.  As much as the game is remembered for Georgia overwhelming the Tigers, it's not as if Georgia played crisply throughout.  And that 3.21 points-per-drive isn't particularly scary, especially given how low it would've been without the last quarter.

4. The Georgia defense looks quite strong

Clemson didn't really get it done anywhere - less than four yards per play on both standard and passing downs, less than 4.5 yards per play on both run and pass, and a success rate below 50% no matter how you slice it - run/pass, standard down/passing down, or 1st, 2nd, or 3rd down.

Aside from a decent second quarter, there really isn't much here to point to where you can find a weakness in the Georgia defense.  Jeremy Pruitt led Florida State to a national championship last season, and he's already significantly improved the Georgia defense.  Again, this is only one game, so it's not easy to tell - maybe Clemson simply can't play offense very well.  But right now, the Bulldog defense seems more concerning than the offense.

5. Despite your perceptions, they're beatable

There's a reason that Georgia only opened as about a field goal favorite.  The offense for Georgia really doesn't seem great, and if the Gamecocks can find a way to stop the run - and again, while they haven't faced a great run defense, they also haven't faced a team with this weak a pass defense - they could stay with Georgia.

The biggest questions may come on the other side of the ball.  If the Georgia defense is as successful against Carolina as it was against Georgia, there's really no way to see Carolina coming away with a victory.  But if the Gamecocks hit some plays early, and Georgia has to start relying on Hutson Mason to move the ball, there's nothing from the Clemson game that suggests he's capable of doing that.

I'd certainly rather have Georgia's season thus far than ours, but there's plenty of evidence that they're beatable, and if Carolina can notch a win over them on Saturday, a lot of their goals remain attainable this season.