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Georgia Football

Georgia Bulldogs QB Stetson Bennett: Living in Reality About the Mailman

June 19, 2022

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ATHENS - In one of Dean Legge’s recent YouTube videos, he expressed frustration with the lasting narrative by many in the media (and among some of the UGA fanbase) that Kirby Smart and the Georgia Bulldogs won games and the National Championship in 2021 despite Stetson Bennett and the offense.

Some people claim to like those that “tell it like it is,” but often only if “it” fits their narrative.  Fortunately, or unfortunately for some, there are facts and statistics, and games that were played, that tell us what actually happened.

Alabama’s Bryce Young was a deserving Heisman Trophy winning quarterback in 2021. He is a better quarterback than Stetson Bennett, he has much more “upside” and much more of a likely NFL future than Stetson Bennett. (Some version of these points will be repeated a few times, yet for some the takeaway here will undoubtedly be that this article claims Stetson Bennet is better.)

Looking at 2021 statistics, and how the games played out, show that Young was great and a better quarterback than Bennett, and that Alabama had a high-powered offense.  Nonetheless, Bennett and the offense he directed were also excellent (perhaps even elite) in 2021 – despite many believing that both were somewhere between “trash” and average at best.

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Bryce Young had a remarkable season in 2021.  He started 15 Games and threw for 4,872 yards and 47 touchdowns, against only 7 interceptions and with a completion percentage of 66.9%.  

Stetson Bennett started 12 Games in 2021.  In this smaller sample size, he threw for 2,862 yards, with 29 touchdowns and 7 interceptions and a completion percentage of 64.5%. Bennett is one of the reasons Georgia is listed 17-point favorite to beat Oregon by FanDuel in the season opener in Atlanta. While again, objectively an inferior quarterback to Young (that’s three times), in 2021 Bennett ranked higher in many advanced statistics, as he was, for example, ranked in the top five nationally in passing efficiency, yards per completion and yards per attempt.  

Yet, the real narrative buster is not based on advanced analytics, but rather considering that Bennett’s 2021 numbers were underestimated in two critical ways.  Context matters when looking at statistics. First, as mentioned, Bennett only started 12 of Georgia’s 15 games in 2021.  It is not unreasonable to calculate the expected yards and touchdowns he would have likely accumulated if he started three more games.  Doing so would project Bennett to have thrown for over 3,500 yards and 36 touchdowns. 

Second, in the same way that Georgia’s legendary defense was, at times, statistically underrated because of how many of the points scored against it were in “garbage time” – as described in “Just How Stingy Was The Georgia Bulldog’s 2021 Championship Defense?”– Stetson Bennett and the Georgia offense should be considered in a similar context. Garbage time is generally defined as when a team is leading by more than 38 points in the 2nd quarter, 28 points in the 3rd quarter or 22 points in the 4th quarter. Many teams like Georgia tend to liberally substitute during garbage time, bringing in second and third string players so they can gain experience, and to limit the wear and tear and potential injuries among starters.  Any observer of Georgia games also knows that in garbage time, UGA looks to, literally and figuratively, run out the clock – severely throttling down their otherwise explosive offense in favor of clock eating run-heavy drives.

In 2021, in the 12 games that Stetson Bennet started, approximately 33% of the game time was played in garbage time.  Not surprisingly, during this “throttle down” time, Bennett threw only 2 of his 29 touchdowns, while throwing another 2 touchdowns late in games when Georgia was leading by more than two scores, but not yet in garbage time.  

In contrast, Young’s Alabama team played in garbage time for less than 20% of its season. Those forgetting (conveniently or otherwise) are reminded that Alabama struggled in wins over Florida, LSU, Arkansas and Auburn and lost to Texas A&M. Moreover, in 2021 Alabama was much slower to throttle down its offense when a game was in garbage time or approaching garbage time.  This is not an opinion.

Alabama and Young often continued firing the ball down field in garbage time.  In fact, Young threw nearly a quarter of his touchdown passes (11 of 47) when his team was either in garbage time (6 TDs) or nearly in garbage time, where he threw 5 touchdowns while Alabama was up by three or more scores.  Simply put, Georgia played significantly more of its 2021 Season in garbage time than Alabama.  And when Georgia went into garbage time, it was less likely than Alabama to have its starters in the game and to continue passing the ball. The statistics demonstrate these facts.

Alabama is certainly free to play their lopsided games however they see fit.  However, reviewing the context here demonstrates that the gap between the superior Young (that’s four) and Alabama’s offense, and Georgia’s Bennett and its 2021 offense, was not nearly as wide as this tired narrative would suggest.  And while no one can say definitively what would have happened if Bennett played in more games in 2021, and if more of the games he played in were competitive, it is not hard to imagine that his production would have been significantly higher.  Of course, had Stetson Bennett threw for more yards and touchdowns, as one could reasonably project, this would leave folks only able to complain about the National Champion Winning Quarterback’s height (which is very close to Bryce Young’s, by the way) and his meager recruiting profile coming out of high school. 

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