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Georgia Football

Is Kirby Changing? The Data Says Yes.

October 7, 2020

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ATHENS - If it feels like you’ve seen more of Georgia’s offense of late that’s because you are. 

Kirby Smart has coached 58 games in his five years so far in Athens. Georgia’s two games this year - both double-digit wins over SEC foes - rank No. 3 and No. 13 overall in those 58 games. 

And this: only two other times in Kirby’s tenure has the Dawgs’ offense snapped the ball more often in a two-game span. We are witnessing the Todd Mokenification of Georgia. Kirby brought him in, and we are starting to see it. 

The key thing, too, is that in the past a lot of snaps probably meant Georgia was in trouble. The results from this year’s two-game stretch of more snaps is markedly different than in the past.

In 2016, with Jacob Eason at the helm, Georgia went for 174 total plays against Ole Miss and Missouri. If you remember, Eason saved the Dawgs at Missouri while the program suffered a lopsided loss at Ole Miss. I think it is pretty clear that those two games were either out of reach or very much in doubt in the fourth quarter. 

In 2019, Georgia unsuccessfully tried to save itself in overtime against South Carolina a week after running all over Tennessee. That back-to-back week managed 165 total plays. The South Carolina game, where Georgia had 95 plays from scrimmage, is the most in Kirby’s time. 

In three of the four games where Georgia ran up a lot of plays in back-to-back games, Georgia either lost or had to win the game on the last play of the game. 

Fast forward to 2020 - that’s not at all what’s going on. Georgia is snapping at record pace and winning going away. 

So what does it say about a program that’s been built on toughness and defense is winning going away with a bunch of snaps and defense? There are any number of different ways to win football games. Is it possible that the stereotype about Kirby is that he’s happy to grind out wins is wrong?

So far in 2020 the numbers say we are, in fact, stereotyping him. The facts on the ground show that things have, at a minimum evolved. Perhaps they have changed for good, and we just don’t know it or have enough data yet.  

Remember that in 2019 Georgia averaged 67 plays a game. Again, that number is skewed by the Carolina game (95 snaps), which was part of that total. 2018 averaged 66 plays a game. 2017 had 65. Only in 2016, with a freshman QB, did Georgia average more than 70 snaps a game at 70.69 offensive snaps a game. 

Is this new Georgia under Kirby? It feels like it. Keep in mind that Georgia snapped the ball 89 times against the Hogs in a 27-point win. The 21-point win over Auburn featured 73 snaps, which is more than any other game in 2019 outside of the overtime game with the Cocks. 

Georgia is snapping more, and scoring more. And they are doing it on purpose. I’ve not calculated the play clock, but I can assure you that when I rewatch all of the games I can’t just hit the 30-second fast forward button and get the full play. I usually have to rewind it some because the play has already snapped, or the play is over. 

Perhaps Kirby has changed. Perhaps he has evolved. Perhaps he’s always wanted to do this, but couldn’t because the best way to win with Jake Fromm was by being deliberative. Either way, this is a quicker, snappier offense. 

It turns out 2020 isn’t like 2019 in more ways than the pandemic.


2019    S. Carolina    95
2016    Missouri    93
2020    Arkansas    89
2016    Ole Miss    81
2018    Alabama    79
2017    Missouri    77
2017    Alabama    77
2016    Auburn    76
2017    South Carolina    75
2016    Vanderbilt    75
2018    Tennessee    74
2016    Tennessee    74
2020    Auburn    73
2016    Kentucky    73
2019    Georgia Tech    72
2017    Notre Dame    72
2017    Tennessee    72
2016    UNC    72
2018    South Carolina    71
2019    Tennessee    70
2019    Baylor    70
2018    Kentucky    70
2016    Georgia Tech    70
2018    Auburn    69
2017    Samford    69
2019    LSU    68
2017    Vanderbilt    68
2019    Florida    67
2019    Missouri    67
2016    South Carolina    67
2019    Arkansas State    66
2019    Murray State    65
2018    Vanderbilt    65
2018    Florida    65
2016    TCU    65
2019    Auburn    64
2018    LSU    64
2018    Texas    64
2017    Appalachian St.    64
2019    Vanderbilt    63
2018    Missouri    63
2017    Auburn    63
2017    Oklahoma    63
2018    Massachusetts    62
2016    Nicholls    62
2018    Georgia Tech    61
2017    Auburn    61
2018    Austin Peay    60
2017    Georgia Tech    60
2019    Notre Dame    59
2019    Texas A&M    59
2016    Lafayette    59
2017    Kentucky    58
2018    Middle Tennessee    56
2019    Kentucky    55
2017    Mississippi State    54
2016    Florida    52
2017    Florida    42

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