Alabama by the Numbers: The Crimson Tide Offensive Production

Given the jaw-dropping dominance of Alabama's defense this season, it was often easy to overlook (or, more likely, undervalue) the performance of the Crimson Tide offense. The fact is, they were pretty damn good and a hell of a lot better than the "mediocre" label most outside observers seemed inclined to bestow on them.The numbers tell the tale.

Alabama Offense 2011 Rankings
National Rank SEC Rank Category Stat
16 1 Rushing Offense 214.46 ypg
69 4 Passing Offense 215.15 ypg
31 2 Total Offense 429.62 ypg
20 3 Scoring Offense 34.85 ppg

Given the premium some programs place on offensive production, it's not surprising that Alabama's attack isn't in the rarefied air of the standings. Yet viewed in the context of the defense-first Southeastern Conference, the Crimson Tide certainly performed in an exemplary manner. And while a lot of that production came on the legs of Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy, that was by no means the whole story this season.

Alabama Offensive Production 2007-2011
Alaoffyard12_medium
Source: CFB Stats

Nick Saban puts balance at a premium in his offenses and, historically, the closer the team has gotten to this ideal the better the win/loss record has been. In 2011 approximately 59 percent of Alabama's offensive plays were runs but almost exactly half of the team's offensive yardage came on the ground. The passing game accounted for 2,788 yards in 2011 - just nine yards more than the running game, less than a single first down.

If you look at the yards per play Alabama accumulated against each opponent in 2011 in comparison with each of those team's average against all other opponents during the season, the effectiveness of the Crimson Tide offense becomes much clearer (the actual numbers are after the jump).

Alabama Offensive Production per Play
Alaypp2011_medium
Source: CFB Stats

The Alabama offense performed quite well against every team on the schedule in comparison to the rest of the slate. Even against the powerful LSU defense it acquitted itself admirably, regularly putting the team in a position to score in both games.

If we look at the Crimson Tide offense's performance on third downs we get a better sense of what it was able to accomplish on the field in 2011. At first glance, though, it might seem a bit mercurial.

Alabama 3rd Down Conversion Rates
Ala3dc2012_medium
Source: RollTide.com

Yes, the Mississippi State game was that bad. Alabama didn't convert a third down down until the final play of the third quarter. Yes, LSU's defense in the title game was that good, but the number is severely skewed due to the amount of conversions the Tide managed on earlier downs. Yes, the Kent State game was an unpleasant mess all around.

Yet, the Alabama offense didn't need to step up in any of these contests since the Tide never trailed for a minute. You can chalk up the tepid third-down-conversion rates to a host of different factors but the bottom line was there was never a point in any of these games Jim McElwain was put in a position of trying to put the ball down the field for touchdowns. Grinding clock and collecting field goals was enough as long as there were no turnovers.

Outside of those three contests, though, the Alabama offense performed quite close to the 45% third down conversion percentage Coach Saban sets as their goal. Moreover, the 46.43% third down conversion percentage for the season is the first time in the Crimson Tide offense has surpassed Coach Saban's benchmark in the past five years.

The key, obviously, is producing first downs and, in that respect, this Crimson Tide team was extremely good.

Alabama 1st Downs 2007-2011
Alafd_medium
Source: CFB Stats

The overall number of first downs last season (280) was slightly less than the previous two seasons (287 and 288, respectively) but certainly in the same ballpark of production. The fact is the team was able to move the chains when it was required all season.

Eventually, though, all of this needs to produce points. Either by offensive touchdowns or putting the kicking unit in position to score. Once again, let's compare the average points allowed of every team on Alabama's schedule against all other opponents and what the Crimson Tide was able to put on the scoreboard.

Alabama Points per Game 2011
Alappg2011_medium
Source: RollTide.com

While the margins varied notably over the course of the season, the fact is the Crimson Tide's offense outperformed every defense it faced in 2011. And given the quality of the defenses on the slate that's certainly quite an accomplishment.

Opponent Yards Per Play
Opponent Alabama YPP
Opp YPP Allowed
Kent State 6.7 4.6
Penn State 5.0 4.6
North Texas 9.5 5.8
Arkansas 6.7 5.1
Florida 5.4 4.5
Vanderbilt 5.5 4.8
Ole Miss 9.2 6.0
Tennessee 6.6 5.3
LSU 4.9 3.9
Miss. State 5.7 4.6
Ga. Southern 6.8 5.7
Auburn 6.8 5.7
LSU 5.6 3.9

NOTE: The opponent yards per play allowed expresses each team's total minus their numbers against Alabama.

Alabama Third Down Conversions
Opponent Conv-Att Percent
Kent State 2-10 20%
Penn State 8-17 47%
North Texas 6-11 56%
Arkansas 5-13 39%
Florida 7-13 54%
Vanderbilt 12-17 71%
Ole Miss 7-11 64%
Tennessee 7-14 50%
LSU 5-13 39%
Miss. State 2-11 18%
Ga. Southern 7-10 70%
Auburn 7-13 54%
LSU 3-14 21%

Alabama Points Per Game
Opponent Alabama
Opp PPG Allowed
Kent State 48 22.1
Penn State 27 15.9
North Texas 41 29.7
Arkansas 38 20.9
Florida 38 18.8
Vanderbilt 34 20.6
Ole Miss 52 30.3
Tennessee 37 21.3
LSU 6 12.7
Miss. State 24 19.3
Ga. Southern 45 23.8
Auburn 42 30.2
LSU 21 12.7

NOTE: The opponent points per game expresses each team's total minus their numbers against Alabama.

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