Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy your Thursday because you’re not going to enjoy Saturday!
This will be the fourth time in my life that I wake up on the Saturday after Thanksgiving knowing that Georgia Tech has no chance to beat Georgia. 1994, 2018, 2019 now have a new sibling. 1994 ended 48-10 in favor of the school from Athens; 2018 kicked with a 17 point spread, and UGA went up by 38 before a couple of late GT touchdowns. The highest spread on record in the series, 28.5, favored UGA in 2019, and they covered that to the tune of 52-7.
I’ve heard the comparison from some GT fans this week that this setup reminds them of the 2015 Miracle on Techwood. Let me offer a rebuttal: Florida State was a 6.5 point favorite in that game. UGA is favored by 35.5 and the line continues to creep in their direction. The only comparable line in recent history for Georgia Tech was the first game of the Collins era, when GT travelled to Death Valley as 36.5 point underdogs to open the 2019 campaign. Three years in, we’ve got a bookend doomsday.
Things are bleak, and here we dig in to understand the matchup and see why the margin for UGA looks so massive.
When GT Has the Ball
*GT numbers come from my play by play charting. Opponent numbers come from @CFB_Data and teamrankings.com. Explosive play data comes from David Hale.
*I’ve updated some of the national averages based on season data to date.
Somehow, some way, GT ends up with one categorical advantage on this side of the ball. I’m going to burst your bubble of hope though. GT’s EPA/rush number is bolstered heavily by its performances against the particularly bad defenses of Miami, UVA, BC, and UNC. Against the good defenses GT has faced this year, the EPA/rush numbers have been -0.12 (Clemson), -0.17 (Pitt), and -0.46 (Notre Dame). This offense can’t run against good fronts. And, well, if you like good run fits and dominating play up front, this week’s opponent has something for you.
(Via @sarahg1561 on Twitter)
The man in the middle is 6’3”, 315 lb. Devonte Wyatt. The man on the left is Jordan Davis. Someone on this thing that Georgia Tech calls an offensive line is supposed to block this man on Saturday. I really hope Kirby shows mercy. You thought Jordan Yates was running for his life last week?
And in the few instances where Yates does manage to get a clean throw away, things look just as bleak. Opponents lose almost half of an expected point every time they throw against this defense. Read that sentence again. There is no strategy that poses any possible advantage against that type of dominance given the caliber of players on the GT sideline. There are probably only two teams in America who can move the ball realistically against this defense, and neither is lining up on Flats this weekend.
When Georgia Has the Ball
The Georgia defense rightfully gets the lion’s share of the publicity. But the matchup on this side of the ball is even worse for GT. There are no points of even misleading advantage. Despite the punch line that is Stetson Bennett IV, he’s quietly led UGA to a borderline top 5 offensive efficiency this season. They are not as explosive as Ohio State or Alabama, but they move the ball and score almost at will each and every week.
The passing EPA numbers are what stand out the most here; UGA is 5th in the country in offensive EPA/pass. You know the GT pass defense is bad, but did you know it is now 130th in the FBS in defensive EPA/pass? The combination of not getting any interceptions, allowing a good number of explosive passing plays, and doing nothing to stop opposing pass efficiency has landed GT in the absolute cellar. As you may have hoped, it’s all but confirmed that coaching changes are coming for the back end, and here you see the statistical reason why that is so necessary.
This is a game where UGA can move and score however they choose.
The consensus Vegas line opened as UGA -34 and has settled at UGA -35.5, which translates to a 0.7% win probability for GT. Our model here at FTRS, The Binion Index has UGA as a 49 point favorite (0.04% win probability!). Looking at the more granular level, we identified 20 areas of advantage for Georgia to go with only 1 misleading area of advantage for GT, and those numbers have come against the 50th ranked schedule for UGA compared to GT’s 28th ranked schedule to date.
I see no evidence that points to GT staying in this game. First half garbage time would not be a surprise.
Vegas: Georgia by 35
My Pick: Georgia 56-3
The Binion Index: UGA by 49 (UGA to cover)
Year to Date Against the Spread: 354-291-8 (54.7%, Goal: >=55%)
Average Absolute Error: 13.6 points per game (Goal <= 12.5 points per game)