5 stats you might not know about Georgia’s historically dominant and game-winning defense


You know that was mean.

Assuming you had 2 eyes and/or 2 ears, you had a whole season of evidence to show you that Georgia’s defense in 2021 was dominant. You didn’t need statistics to confirm that. Of course, the numbers did just that.

By now you’ve probably seen some numbers. Like the 10.2 points per game (more on that in a minute). Maybe you also saw that Georgia allowed 40 fewer points than any team that played at least 13 games.

The numbers are silly. You didn’t need me to tell you that.

However, you need me to tell you a few more numbers. These 5 stats only add to the belief that this was one of the best defenses of the 21st century.

1. Stop looking at that stat of 10.2 points per game allowed. It’s actually better than that

It’s really 8.8 points per game that the Georgian defense allowed. For some reason, we’re all too lazy to suppress non-offensive scoring with points per game allowed. Call me crazy, but it’s not fair to count a scoop and a score against the UGA defense. Dodging a tackle attempt from Stetson Bennett is just a little different than evading Nakobe Dean.

I know what you’re thinking – where would this rank among the best defenses of the 21st century? I’m glad you asked. Again, this removes non-offensive scores:

  • 2011 Alabama – 6.5 PPG allowed (subtract 3 non-offensive TDs)
  • 2001 Miami – 8.0 PPG allowed (subtract 3 non-offensive TDs)
  • 2021 Georgia – 8.8 PPG allowed (subtract 3 non-offensive TDs)
  • 2008 USC – 9.0 PPG allowed (no non-offensive scores to subtract)

I know what else you’re thinking – all of these non-2021 Georgia teams played in an entirely different era of football. Alabama was still winning national championships with the pre-Lane Kiffin offense, and the targeting wasn’t like it is today. Today’s play is obviously more attack-friendly, which makes the Georgia 2021 squad all the more impressive.

And before you tell me the Dawgs didn’t play against quality competition, they had 4 games against offenses that finished in the top 20 in points. Strip out the non-offensive scores and those offenses averaged just 20 points per game against UGA. All of these teams are averaging at least 35 points per game, so that’s telling. Three of these 4 performances were also dominant. Tennessee went 53 minutes between touchdowns, Michigan’s first touchdown came late in the 4th quarter from a blowout, and Alabama scored 1 touchdown in the title game.

It’s impressive from every angle.

1A. Even if you do not do removing non-offensive scores, UGA was 1.5 points per game better against P5 competition than any team in the playoff era (minimum 4 games)

Congratulations to CFBStats.com, Moreover. If you’re not using them to reference college football stats, you should. I can’t recommend enough. Unlike the NCAA website, it updates quickly and there are a lot more situational stats.

I bring this up because they have a simple way of isolating games against Power 5 competition. It dates back to the Playoffs era. So, if we limit ourselves to this time period (2014-21), here is where the Georgia defense compares to the Power 5 competition, even if you don’t take out the non-offensive scores (with a 4 game minimum):

  1. 2021 Georgia – 10.7 PPG allowed against P5
  2. 2017 Alabama – 12.2 PPG allowed against P5
  3. 2019 Georgia – 12.9 PPG allowed against P5
  4. 2019 Clemson – 13.8 PPG Allowed vs. P5
  5. 2021 Wisconsin – 14.8 PPG allowed against P5

Three of these teams have played in a national championship, and the top 2 have won everything. And who said defenses don’t win championships anymore?

2. No running back has rushed 20 yards against the UGA first-team defense all year

Think about it. I only had to put the ‘first team defense’ caveat in because a tailback’s only 20-yard run was a 23-yard run with 15 seconds left of a 56- 7 against UAB … and then that same guy was pissed for a 4-yard loss on the next play to close the game. It was with the first-team UGA defense on the sidelines, likely figuring out what their dinners were going to be. Still, I bet Kirby Smart legitimately dissected why his third strings gave up on that 23-yard run.

In case you forgot, Georgia’s first-team defense played 15 games. Opponents UGA have had 462 rush attempts this season, and not one of them has been carried for 20 yards by a running back against the first-team defense.

Watch this list of 1,000-yard backs UGA have faced:

  • Tyler Badie, Mizzou
  • Chris Rodriguez, Kentucky
  • Brian Robinson, Alabama (2)
  • DeWayne McBride, UAB
  • Hassan Haskins, Michigan
  • Bigsby Reservoir, Auburn

Excluding Bigsby, that is, in 6 games played, UGA faced a running back who finished in the FBS top 20 in rushing (counting Robinson twice). None of them had a 20 meter run.

Even though we just want to leave it at “runs allowed over 20 yards” and include all positions and members of the depth chart, UGA allowed 3 of those runs. No one else in FBS has allowed less than 5.

I know it’s all supposed to be about the 2021 group, but in the last 3 seasons Georgia has only allowed 10 carries over 20 yards in 39 games played. During that same 3-year period, Alabama allowed 37 such runs. Iowa is the only other program to come close to Georgia, and they’ve given up 12 carries for 20+ yards, although that’s also 4 games less than UGA.

Speaking of those rushed stats…

3. In 6 games against teams that finished as AP rated foes, Georgia allowed 1 rushing touchdown

Wait…really? Bonus points if you can guess who and when this solitary rush score was.

No ideas?

Bryce Young in the SEC Championship is your answer. So the only guy on an AP-ranked team who made it to the paycheck with his legs against Georgia was the Heisman Trophy winner. Yeah.

Unsurprisingly, UGA led the nation in the fewest running scores allowed against teams that finished as ranked opponents (among teams with a minimum of 4 of those games). Of this group, only Oklahoma State and Clemson had less than 3 rushing scores allowed against teams that finished as ranked opponents, despite only having 4 of those matchups compared to Georgia’s 6.

By the way, Georgia allowed 3 ground scores all year. No one else had less than 6. In other words, UGA allowed a rushed score once every 5 games played. I would say it was historic, but it’s not even the best brand of the Smart era. This 2019 group allowed only 2 rushing touchdowns in 14 games. Along with Alabama 2011 and West Virginia 2010, which also allowed 3 scores on the ground, these are the 4 best totals since CFBStats.com started tracking this in 2009.

Moral of the story? Running against Jordan Davis, Jalen Carter and Devonte Wyatt is no fun. Shoot, even the rushed scores that occurred felt like heroic feats:

4. UGA had the best red zone defense of any Power 5 team since…2011 Alabama

You know how Alabama’s offense struggled so hard in the red zone against Georgia in the title game? Believe it or not, that defensive performance was actually poor by UGA’s 2021 defensive red zone standard. Why? Alabama only had one touchdown – more on that in a minute – but they scored all 4 times they got into the red zone.

If you break it down by red zone point percentage, the Georgia defense just posted the best number (62.5%) of any Power 5 team in a decade. Here are the Power 5 leaders in this category since the start of the 2011 season:

  1. 2011 Alabama—58.82%
  2. 2021 Georgia — 62.5%
  3. USC 2013 — 62.79%
  4. MSU 2014 — 63.64%

That’s what happens when you have elite pass throwers like Channing Tindal and Nolan Smith who can get that third sack to force a team into a harder field goal or out of range of field goals. It also helps when you have guys like Davis and Carter who can push the stack and block kicks (Georgia had 5).

If you want to boil it down to red zone defensive touchdown percentage, Georgia was also No. 1 in FBS there at 28.13%. This is the best of any FBS team since 2016 LSU. In fact, 2016 LSU is the only group that ranks better at UGA in this stat since CFBStats.com started tracking it in 2009.

In other words, even though you accomplished the rare feat of reaching the red zone against Georgia, you essentially had a 1-of-4 shot on a touchdown. Fun!

5. Alabama had a 75-game multi-touchdown streak…until Georgia happened

I understand Jameson Williams was injured and John Metchie was already out. There’s no asterisk on UGA’s title, but yes, those guys had an impact on Alabama’s offense. Absoutely.

That said, Alabama still had the Heisman Trophy winner. And in an all-or-nothing game, Georgia held Alabama’s offense to 1 touchdown for the first time since beating LSU 10-0 in 2016. That was 75 straight games. By the way, it was Alabama’s program that set the NCAA record of 36 straight games with 31 points, which ended last November against LSU.

The rematch with Georgia was also the first time Alabama’s offense was held to 1 touchdown in the playoffs since the 21–0 win over LSU in the title rematch at the end of the 2011 season. So maybe that’s the secret to facing Nick Saban’s team in the playoffs. Just get an in-season rematch in a National Championship and you’ll hold Alabama to 1 touchdown. Pretty easy, right?

In the end, Georgia’s defensive dominance had 1 outlier game all year. In a 15-game season with 13 encounters against Power 5 opponents, they deserve to be remembered as one of the best groups we’ve ever seen. It should be in the same vein as Miami 2001 and Alabama 2011.

Based on this trend, we’ll have to wait another 10 years to see a defense as impressive as Georgia 2021.


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