Running Back Success Rates

You've probably read Darth Saban's post on RB Success rates of Bama Running Backs this season-- where a success is defined as

40%+ on 1st down, 60%+ on second down, 100%+ on 3rd or 4th down

In the comments section of that post, I extended his methodology to all of Alabama's games this season, which resulted in the following chart of Alabama RB success rates:

My own addition here is to smooth out the data with a Kalman filter-- the number of carries per game is so low, especially for teams that split carries between several running backs, that it's impossible to do anything useful if you don't use data from each game to make inferences about the other games.

The idea of this post is to extend this analysis to more teams. That's a kind of slow process, but I've started by doing it for Notre Dame-- I'll edit more teams in as I get them, probably a couple a day.

Notre Dame's running game is often portraited as a three-headed monster, but there's a clear hierarchy there: Theo Riddick gets by far the most carries-- with 183 almost exactly as many as Eddie Lacy, although of course Lacy had one more game to work with. Lacy, for what it's worth, produced about 300 yards more on his carries than Riddick has. Overall, Riddick makes successful plays about 54% of the time, which is significantly lower than what either Lacy or Yeldon have to offer. Riddick isn't bad by any means, but there's no reason to be afraid of him. Look no further than to his carries against Michigan, which doesn't rank among the top 50 rushing defenses in the country:

6 yards, 1 yard, 2 yards, 3 yards, no gain, 4 yards, 5 yards, 7 yards, 2 yards, 1 yard, 5 yards, no gain, 2 yards, 4 yards, loss of 1 yard, 3 yards, 8 yards.

The number two is Cierre Wood, a junior who was suspended for the first two games. Even given that, he's averaged 11 carries a game to Riddick's 15. He is more effective than Riddick by an insignificant amount, having a success rate of 56%.

Then there's George Atkinson III, a sophomore, who might get thrown in here and there, but usually doesn't get more than one drive a game. He averages 58%, but that's probably inflated by the fact that he largely features against Notre Dame's weaker opponents. We probably won't see more than three or four carries in the Championship Game from him, unless one of the two main RBs gets injured.

Lastly, QB Everett Golson is pretty run-happy, having run the ball three times more than McCarron this season, and 50% more than Atkinson. He's actually Notre Dame's most successful runner, at 60%. I'm not too happy with making a direct comparison of a running QB to an actual RB, because Golson can always throw the ball away or attempt a pass when he gets obviously stalled-- the running backs can't. Still, the Tide will need to keep at least one eye on him. Golson's best game was probably against Pittsburgh, throwing for 227 yards and 2 TD (1 INT) while running for 74 yards on 15 carries (1 TD). Still, Notre Dame didn't exactly move mountains in that game.

Enough words, here's a chart. Note how Golson's line is completely stable-- that's because the number of carries he had isn't really enough to pick anything out- three quarters of his carries came in 5 games. For Atkinson, too, the sample size is a bit low- the only thing we can say is that he came down crashing from the game against Navy, where he could do no wrong, carrying the ball 9 times for 99 yards (with a long of 56) and 2 TD's.

Riddick is probably somewhat better now than he was in the Michigan game-- he's improved by about 10% since then. Still, none of these players come close to Yeldon or Lacy.

FanPosts are just that; posts created by the fans. They are in no way indicative of the opinions of SBN and the authors of Roll Bama Roll.

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