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Florida vs. Georgia: Efficacy, not endpoints, matters most in the running game

The Gators and Bulldogs have been winning when they rush for more yardage of late. But focus on efficacy, not arbitrary totals.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

As our friends ("friends"?) at Dawg Sports noted on Wednesday, the Florida-Georgia series has been dominated in recent years by the team that compiled more rushing yards over the course of the game — since 2006, when Georgia has run for more than 150 yards against Florida, it has won, and when it has not met that mark, it has lost, per Dawg Sports.

Would it surprise you to learn that this is a stat of extreme convenience, with arbitrary endpoints — and that it's also misleading and wrong?

Georgia's had success when running for more than 150 yards against Florida, of course, but most teams have success when running for more than 150 yards, and against any foe. Florida went 21-3 when rushing for more than 150 yards under Will Muschamp, and two of those losses came with Skyler Mornhinweg at quarterback; the Bulldogs are 51-9 since 2008 when rushing for 150 or more yards, with all but two of those losses (Missouri in 2013 and Alabama this year) coming by a single possession.

Georgia also didn't run for 150 yards on Florida in 2012, settling for 123; it was probably Florida's six turnovers that won that game for the Dawgs — or, more appropriately, lost it for the Gators. Thus: Since 2006, Georgia is actually 3-0 when running for more than 150 yards against Florida, and 1-5 when gaining fewer than 150 yards on the ground.

But we can play around with the endpoints and get completely different stats. Since 2003, Georgia is only 4-3 when running for 150 or more yards against Florida; since 2009, Georgia's 3-3 against Florida when compiling more than 120 rushing yards ... and has done that every year.

There's nothing special about 150 rushing yards, really, and pure yardage totals don't do much to tell the stories of games. Georgia could've very easily run for 150 yards on Florida last year — it finished with 141 yards on the ground, and gained 4.4 yards per carry — but Mark Richt and Mike Bobo called three runs over the Dawgs' final 32 offensive plays, after Nick Chubb's fumble helped Florida carry a 17-point lead into the fourth quarter. Georgia wasn't very far from finishing under 150 yards in 2013, either: The Dawgs only crossed 150 on their final drive, an eight-minute possession on which they ran out the clock.

Moral of the story: Don't trust arbitrary endpoints.