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October 8, 2015

Repeat after me: Spread doesn't equal substantially better

I think a lot of Michael Bird's work. He's a great Twitter follow and as rational as one can be as a Michigan Man. However his piece on the Mark Richt total-debacle game is questionable.

His evidence, using the spread:

GameSpreadGeorgia's losing marginDelta
2015 Alabama-22830
2014 Georgia Tech-10.5616.5
2014 Florida-10.51828.5
2013 Missouri-71522
2012 South Carolina+1.52826.5
2009 Tennessee+1.52624.5
2008 Alabama-6.51117.5
2007 Tennessee-1.52122.5
2006 Vanderbilt-14.5216.5
2004 Tennessee-12.5517.5
2003 LSU (SEC Championship)+32118

Any list that doesn't include the 2014 South Carolina game on it, presumably because the betting line and 'Delta' didn't work out, can't be seriously considered as valid. As I'll show below, that was one of the most face plantingly of face plant games in the past 12 seasons. 

To me, any game in which Georgia was significantly statistically favored over a team is the right way to discuss Mark Richt's ability to handle 'where are we' games. Using the spread only serves to illustrate where bettors had misplaced money, so I looked at S&P ranks for those same games (all rankings are end of season numbers except for 2015). For 2003 and 2004, I showed final human rankings, as Football Outsider's S&P rankings only go back to 2005.

GameS&PGeorgia's S&PDelta
2015 Alabama126-25
2014 Georgia Tech107+3
2014 Florida297+22
2013 Missouri611-5
2012 South Carolina107-3
2009 Tennessee1431-17
2008 Alabama721-14
2007 Tennessee913-4
2006 Vanderbilt7134+37
2004 Tennessee16-Coaches; 13-AP6-coaches; 7-AP
2003 LSU (SEC Championship)1 (won BCS champ)6 -coaches; 7-AP

Since I brought up the 2014 South Carolina game, that differential was +36 (USC 43; UGA 7). By that measure, there are three games in this time frame UGA had zero business losing: 2014 South Carolina, 2014 Florida, and 2006 Vandy. The 2004 Tennessee game was closely matched (both teams finished with 10 wins). All the other losses were toss ups or statistically, UGA should have lost.

Frankly, the 'Richt is going to screw up one game a year' thing is lazy and a nice little trope that we should soundly reject. However, we as bloggers, sports writers, and fans must have narrative, so here we are. Even this week, we are only +4 over Tennessee in the S&P rankings. Maybe don't bet on UGA in 'big' games, but don't use bettors putting money in the wrong place as proof of Mark Richt's ineptitude at big game coaching.

Like the Tim Tebow 'all He does is win (except when he doesn't)' narrative, Mark Richt can't win big games (except when he does): blanking 2014 Missouri (S&P ranked 23) on the road, soundly beating 2014 Arkansas (S&P ranked 6) on the road, beating 2014 Auburn (S&P ranked 4), beating 2014 Louisville (S&P ranked 24) in the bowl, beating 2013 South Carolina (S&P ranked 10) and LSU (S&P 13), or 2012 Florida (S&P ranked 3). 

That's seven examples in the last two seasons. Only 2013 LSU and 2012 Florida were one score or closer. The average margin of victory for all the games on the list is 17 points. 

Unless, of course, you are saying that the only big games are when Georgia loses, but bettors think we should have won, then let's close the program, because we'll never win a big game again.


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