Valuing the Pigskin

ATHENS – That pigskin… it means everything in a football game.

That's why it is so difficult to watch Georgia these days. For all of the drama surrounding Georgia's defense, the fact of the matter is this: if Georgia took better care of the ball they would be 3-0 – and with a bullet.

The Bulldogs have made it hard on themselves this season and it is a direct result of turnovers. Actually the defense is not doing its part as it relates to turnovers, but I will get to that, too. Georgia's offense and special teams have not taken good care of the football – it cost them the Oklahoma State game, and nearly cost them both the South Carolina and Arkansas games, too.

Unlike the other 11 teams in the SEC, Georgia has played three legitimate foes the first three weeks of the season. That means some of the statistics the league keeps will be a little skewed away from the Dawgs. Still, Georgia's turnover margin, which accounts for turnovers given and taken away, is the worst in the SEC, and it is not close. How is Georgia going to continue to win football games with a -7 turnover margin? They won't.

Georgia's defense may not be in great situations all of the time, thanks to the offense's turnovers and poor field position, but that doesn't mean they can't get their hands on the ball, too. The Dawgs are not forcing enough turnovers. They have recovered only one fumble this season and Brandon Boykin's interception in the South Carolina game stands as the only one of its kind. Pressure causes mistakes, and the Dawgs are not getting enough of that. You can scheme all you want – or complain about scheme all you want – if you don't get pressure you will not force turnovers. If you don't force turnovers you will not win championships.

By contrast Auburn, a team with a coaching transition, is making things easy on itself. The Tigers have forced ten turnovers. Ten – in three games. As poorly as Georgia's is with the ball, Auburn is 180 degrees better at getting the ball. No wonder Auburn is off to a good start. Only two teams in the SEC have a negative turnover ratio – and neither of them is good enough to overcome that this season. Tennessee and Georgia, the two with turnover problems, have also played difficult foes. But the trend can't continue if either wants to have a good season.

What is surprising is that mighty Florida is not as good as they once were at the turnover game, either. The Gators ended last season +22 in turnover margin – they sit at +1 after three games right now, which is good for 9th place in the SEC and is on pace for only +4 for the year.

Turnovers are critical in football. Would Georgia have won the 1981 Sugar Bowl and the National Title had Notre Dame not muffed a kickoff return inside the Irish five? A better question is this: Can the Bulldogs, as a team, turn this horrible trend around? If not this season will be a very, very difficult one.

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