Here's the good news regarding Georgia’s star running back Todd Gurley—he is likely going to have a few extra weeks to recover from an ankle injury suffered against LSU on September 28th. The bad news for the Bulldogs? The offense may once again be without their workhorse in this Saturday’s game at Vanderbilt.
Todd Gurley doubtful for Saturday. "We're preparing to play without him," Richt said.— Seth Emerson (@SethEmerson) October 16, 2013
Although previously listed as day-to-day, Georgia coach Mark Richt downgraded Gurley’s status to doubtful on Wednesday. With a bye week forthcoming before a matchup with the Florida Gators on November 2nd, the plan now seems to be a prolonged recovery for the team’s leading rusher.
Despite missing large chunks of time against Clemson and LSU and missing the entirety of Georgia’s last two games against Tennessee and Missouri, Gurley still leads the team and ranks ninth in the SEC with 450 rushing yards. Unfortunately, his production is missed in more places than the box score.
The Scoring Difference
Simple mathematics shows differences between a healthy Georgia offense and one that is banged-up. Against Clemson, South Carolina, North Texas and LSU, Georgia combined to average 41.25 points per game. With injuries to Gurley and several receivers, the Bulldogs have managed just 30 points per game in their last two outings.
This data is even more telling when scoring totals are compared to opposing defenses. Below is a table comparing Georgia’s offensive production to what the Bulldogs’ opponents typically allow:
|Opponent||Points Scored by Georgia||Average Points Allowed to Other Teams||Georgia Scoring Relative to Average of Other Teams|
Georgia has more than doubled its opponents typical points allowed in each game that Todd Gurley has played. Without him in the lineup however, the Bulldogs offense has barely outperformed relative to expected scoring averages.
Gurley’s Impact on Offensive Drives
Todd Gurley has been on the field for 36 Georgia drives this season. Those 36 drives have resulted in a total of 110 Georgia points. Conversely, Georgia has put together 42 possessions that did not see Gurley take the field. On those 42 drives, Georgia has scored 115 points.
When Gurley is involved, the Dawgs average 3.06 points per possession. Without him, that average drops to 2.74 points. That difference may seem negligible in small doses, but over the course of an entire game, that gap adds up.
If a healthy Todd Gurley is worth three points for every 10 possessions (as the figures above suggest), Georgia could have avoided overtime against Tennessee altogether if he had been on the field. If the same assumption carried over to the Missouri game, the Bulldogs would have held a 29-28 lead over the Tigers early in the fourth quarter. Instead, the Dawgs trailed by two points.
When he’s completely healthy, Gurley is even more helpful to the Georgia offense. In the two contests in which Gurley was healthy for the entirety of the game (South Carolina and North Texas), Georgia averaged a whopping 3.43 points per possession with him on the field.
Gurley’s Impact on the Defense
The struggles of Georgia’s young defense are well-documented. Accordingly, it is in Georgia’s best interest to keep that vulnerable defense off of the field by sustaining long drives with an experienced offense. Georgia has had much more success in the department of time of possession when Gurley has been healthy.
In his two complete games against South Carolina and North Texas, Gurley helped Georgia hold the football for a combine period of 67:23. With Gurley out against Tennessee and Missouri, the Bulldogs combined to possess the ball for just 58:39.
On a smaller scale, Gurley allows Georgia to run the ball more effectively and eat up the clock. Against South Carolina and North Texas, Georgia found success on offense and was able to run the ball on 64.2 percent of all plays. In the last two games without Gurley, that number has fallen to 45.9 percent.
The tangible effect of this trend is less time for a young defense to rest, recover and adjust. With Gurley in the lineup, only 44 percent of Georgia possessions have ended in less than two minutes. Without him, 54.2 percent have failed to pass the two minute mark.
Gurley is missed for his yards and his touchdowns, but many fail to realize that this entire team suffers from his absence. Scoring is less efficient, the defense is left on the field for more of the game and as a result, Georgia struggles as a whole.
For Georgia to beat Florida in early November, Todd Gurley must be healthy. Georgia fans just hope a loss to Vanderbilt isn’t the cost of getting him back.