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Mark Bradley

Football Outsiders: UGA is again a top 10 team

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Jeremy Pruitt, difference-maker? (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Jeremy Pruitt, difference-maker? (Curtis Compton/AJC)

As some of you know, I’ve become increasingly fascinated with advanced analytics. Which isn’t to say that I completely understand them. Truth to tell, I probably know just enough to be dangerous.

An example: I regard baseball as the sport that most rewards the tracking of advanced analytics, for two reasons: Baseball was the first to give rise to such sabermetric scrutiny, and baseball is the sport easiest to measure. We know what the Braves’ Dan Uggla did in every at-bat — heck, on every pitch — of the 2013 season, but do we really know, even after exhaustive film study, how often the Falcons’ Justin Blalock carried out his blocking assignment last fall? What if he pancaked the wrong defender? Is that a pass or a fail?

Another personal observation: For as much as advanced analytics attempt to measure college sports, how analytical can they be when the players change so often? I mention this because, in a post on ESPN Insider, Brian Fremeau of the estimable Football Outsiders presents his Top 10 for 2014, and four SEC teams — Alabama, LSU, South Carolina and Georgia — are included. All four, however, will be working with new quarterbacks.

(Not that I know anything about anything, but honesty compels me to note that I included all four SEC teams in my preseason Top 25 — but I had all four lower than Fremeau for that basic reason: They”ll be working with new quarterbacks.)

But enough about me.. Here’s what Fremeau, whose work I admire and enjoy, has to say about Georgia, which he ranks No. 9 to Alabama’s No. 1, LSU’s No. 5 and South Carolina’s No. 7:

The Bulldogs return 10 starters on defense, which is a good thing as far as our projection model is concerned, but (it’s) also a unit that has its work cut out in spring practice. Georgia ranked 81st in allowing explosive drives last season (possessions that average at least 10 yards per play) and 90th in overall defensive efficiency.

You’d have to think those wretched numbers will improve under new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, who replaced Todd Grantham, who left for Louisville. I had the Bulldogs at No. 12 back in January, but my rankings, such as they were, appeared the day before Pruitt was hired away from Florida State. At the moment, I’d say a Top 10 finish for Georgia is a definite possibility. And I’ll leave you with this: Fremeau assesses “the likelihood that the Bulldogs will finish 11-1 or better” at 15 percent.

From myajc.com, our premium site: Spring practice brings a fresh start for UGA’s defense.

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