Arguably the biggest improvement form last year to this year for the Georgia Bulldogs is their third down defense.
In 2010, UGA allowed opponents to convert 42% of third downs ranking 79th nationally. This season they rank 2nd nationally giving up 28% conversions.
When asked about his run defense matching up against Georgia Tech, Mark Richt said third and short will be key.
In another #2 vs #2, Georgia's second ranked third down defense will be going up against Georgia Tech's second ranked third down offense which converts 56% of their attempts.
Delving deeper into third and short reveals this is when both units are at their best.
If we go ahead and assume Georgia Tech will be running the ball the majority of the time on third and short, the Yellow Jackets have been converting 3rd Down with 1-3 yards to go at a 73% conversion rate gaining 4.5 yards per carry. On 3rd and 4-6 yards Tech converts 61% of the time. When faced with 6 yards or less to go on 3rd Down, Georgia Tech is converting 68% of the time.
Georgia's Defense has allowed opponents to convert 13 of 21 (62%) times when running the ball on 3rd down with 1-3 yards to gain. Teams have not run much against UGA when faced with longer than 3 yards to gain attempting just 6 runs with 4-6 yards to gain. Third down and 7+ yards is when opponents are playing it safe not trying to force the ball down field by running it 29 times.
UGA's passing defense is at its best on third down with a 80.5 passer rating by opponents.
In their 8 wins, Georgia Tech is converting third downs 60.4% of the time but in their 3 losses they have made the line to gain just 45% of the time. That number is just 43.9% against ranked opponents.
Meanwhile, UGA's defense has been steady all season allowing 27.8% conversions in wins and just 30.8% in losses.
[Stats via CFBStats.com]