Weekly Thoughts

The Iron Bowl

Prediction Analysis

  • First, I want to note that things didn't really go all that unexpectedly in this ballgame.
  • Here is a comparison of my computer prediction for the game vs. actual
  • Running yards (Alabama)
    • Predicted - 191
    • Actual - 218
  • Running Yards (Auburn)
    • Predicted - 209
    • Actual - 296
  • Passing Yards (Alabama)
    • Predicted - 220
    • Actual - 277
  • Passing Yards (Auburn)
    • Predicted - 153
    • Actual - 97
  • Total Yards (Alabama)
    • Predicted - 411
    • Actual - 495
  • Total Yards (Auburn)
    • Predicted - 362
    • Actual - 393
  • Score
    • Predicted - (37-28)
    • Actual - (28-34)
  • Going into this game, Alabama had far and away the best special teams in the nation according to Football Outsider's F+ rankings
  • Realize that if Alabama makes all three field goals, the score would have been:
    • 37-28
    • That's the exact predicted score my computer model showed
  • There were two things that changed that allowed us to lose
    • I had guessed that Auburn would shift from run to pass, and their production would drop. Instead, they wisely did the opposite, and played to their strength. We were unable to stop them and lost.
    • The special teams unit was an absolute disaster. In 11/12 games this year, that unit would have generated 9 points for Alabama. In this game, they generated 6 points for Auburn. It was a radical deviation from expectations, and could not have been reliably predicted.

The passing game:

  • Many people complain about the passing game, but it was very sputtery. McCarron threw for 9.6 yards/attempt, which was his 4th best in conference play (behind UT, UK, and TAMU).
  • However, his 58.6% completion percentage was his 7th best (beating only MSU).
  • The reason for this is that outside of the 99 yard bomb he only got 6.36 yards/attempt.
  • That is only barely better than the 6.2 yards/rush that we averaged. If we had thrown more, it stands to reason that the yards/attempt would have dropped, and we would have gained even less yardage in the game.
  • However, it might have been better at getting first downs:
    • You need 10 yards to get a first down.
    • Ignoring the 99 yard bomb (which skews the consistency data), we averaged 11.125 yards/completion
    • We only completed about 50% of our throws.
    • Taken together, every set of 3 downs has about a 1/8 chance of not completing a pass if you pass every play (so, odds are you can get 7 first downs in a row).
    • However, if you run once and then throw, it reduces the odds.
    • Remember, we average a first down for every completion so long as it's 11 yards or less to go. It's only really a question of completing the pass.
    • If we had thrown 2 passes per set of 3, there is a ¼ chance of completing a pass (meaning we should get 3 first downs in a row). One run is not enough to average a first down.
    • If we only 1 pass per set of 3, there is a ½ chance of completing a pass (meaning that we only should only average 1 first down a drive). 2 runs should be enough to average a first down, though it's very hard to know statistically the chance of that happening (I'd need to do a ton of data work).
  • The crux of it is this:
    • If we ran all three plays, we should average 18 yards. Running has a low variance (it's pretty consistent yardage). That means we should get a first down every time.
    • If we pass all three plays, we will move the ball for more yardage (average 28.8 yards per 3 throws), and should get 7 first downs in a row.
    • If we play balanced, (throwing once or twice a drive), we lose the consistent first down yardage of running constantly, and have lower odds of completing the one pass we need for a first down.
    • Auburn killed us because they ran almost all the time. They got 5.7 yards/carry (which, by the way, was less than us), but they were happy doing it every play. Since they were pretty consistent, they moved the sticks.
    • However, their passing game did not average a first down per completion, so they stalled almost every time they chose to pass.
  • At the end of the day, I can't help but feel that McCarron is seriously injured. The throw to Cooper was only to about the 40 yard line, and McCarron struggled getting the ball out there.
  • I also think that we made him into too much of a game manager. The one real risky throw he made inside Auburn's 35 was Cooper's drop. When you are in tight spaces like that, you have to be willing to throw into tight windows, as the players aren't spread out enough to be more open. We were unwilling to take risks, and it probably cost us points.

General observations:

  • We only had 2 drives of 6 plays or more all game. So only 15% of our drives were "sustained" in my view, meaning they had at least 2 full sets of downs.. The first started at the end of the first quarter, was 11 plays, and was our first points. The last was at the end of the 3rd quarter, had 13 plays, and ended with our 2nd missed field goal.
  • Auburn had 6 drives of 6 plays or more. That meant 50% of their drives were sustained drives.
  • We didn't have that many penalties, but the timing of them was catastrophic.
  • Our staff needs to seriously re-evaluate the way they call plays. McCarron consistently was given the play with under 20 seconds on the play clock and was motioning to hurry up.
  • This necessarily meant that we were snapping with under 5 seconds on the clock. This limited the chances for audibles as Auburn made a last-second adjustment, and precluded changing the snap count. I think this may have quietly been the difference in the game.
  • I think it really, really hurt us dealing with Auburn's pre-snap motion, since it let Auburn wait until the last second to shift. I hate opponents with a bye week to prepare.
  • Kenyan Drake did not hold the ball properly in the drive he played in. He also allowed a sack by being out of position.
  • Still, him not playing again was odd for two reasons. First, the drive he ran in was the only sustained scoring drive of the game (the 11 play drive). Second, he carried twice in the first quarter, then there was the quarter change, and they kept him in. If they weren't pleased with his ball security early on, I don't know why they let him come back out for the second quarter. The sack did occur in the second quarter, so it seems more likely.
  • I've been told that we missed more field goals in the Iron Bowl than any game all season, though I haven't found a way to confirm it.
  • Finally, the final field goal wasn't the poor decision that people are making it out to be. A kick that is successful typically goes for about 10 yards out of the back of the endzone (because it's about 10 yards in the air). So, all Griffith needed to do was kick a field goal that was good enough to make it from about 46 yards out for it to be unreturnable, as that would have at least made the back of the endzone. His actual kick was probably only enough for about a 42 yard field goal, which is why it was returnable. You just don't expect the kick to be that short.

USC's Coaching Search

  • "I also can't help but feel the hiring of Coach O may be more bad than good. Yes, they've improved, but there's nothing special about beating Arizona, Utah, Oregon State, or Cal. Beating Stanford was gutsy, but the defense made it happen, and they were doing just fine under Kiffin. Now there's a real danger that Orgeron won't give up the spot without a fight, and the players and recruits might never buy into the next guy they hire.
  • "And there isn't a single thought in my mind that Orgeron is a good long-term choice as a head coach. He went 3-8, 4-8, and 3-9 as the head coach at Ole Miss. They weren't just bad, they were a complete and utter disaster. The team played tough, just like USC now, but they were poorly organized, poorly coached, and the program was poorly structured. Not only did they lose repeatedly, they also embarrassed the program off the field when 20 players were caught stealing from the team hotel." - November 18th thoughts
  • I can't help but be interested in seeing if Coach O causes real problems for USC.
  • Particularly with recruiting. They got Talamaivao to swap under Coach O, who was his recruiter. Does he want to stick with that pledge now?
  • As for hiring Sarkisian.. many were deluded into thinking that a top coach was going to want that job. I've said it for years, the sanctions don't really hit until 2014 and 2015. That's when the sanction classes will be upperclassmen. Their 2013 team was riding the senior class of 30+ that Kiffin loaded up before sanctions hit... they are going to get hit HARD by graduation this year. What huge coach wants to have his first two years being the heat of sanctions?

Mizzou vs Auburn

  • "People are really sleeping on Missouri this year. Now actually healthy, and with Florida looking particularly bad, they might be favored in every game but UGA, USC, and TAM. They could backdoor their way into a 10 win season." - The first weekly thoughts I ever wrote, way back in September
  • This will be a huge challenge for Auburn. Missouri has largely been dominant in every game they have played.
  • It will be a tall task for Auburn to turn around and get up for this game.
  • Missouri has a very capable passing game with a good quarterback. Unlike Ole Miss, who has incredibly inconsistent QB play, Missouri should be able to get the ball to their players on the perimeter and isolate them against Auburn's corners. Washington and DGB are a massive mismatch in this game.
  • It's also interesting because both teams run the zone read, so both defenses should be plenty prepared. Missouri is well equipped to handle Auburn's rushing attack (they are 14th in rushing defense).
  • Missouri seriously struggles against the pass (they are 112th), but Auburn likely can't exploit it.
  • The big question will be if Auburn's excellent front 4 can be disruptive enough to stop the Missouri offense. Whoever wins the battle in the trenches when Mizzou has the ball will win the game.

Duke vs. FSU

  • Duke has a potent offense, and only VT has managed to hold them under 27 points in a ballgame.
  • Unfortunately, FSU's worst outing was 37 points against Florida.
  • Duke has to throw everything they have at FSU, and even then I doubt they can score enough to keep up.

Ohio State vs. Michigan State

  • Hard to say a whole lot about these teams, they've played a collective -1- currently ranked team, OSU's win over #21 Wisconsin.
  • I don't know enough to say much more than this: I don't trust Braxton Miller throwing against good defenses, and I don't trust OSU's defense against anyone with a pulse.

Betting Lines

  • Unless my math is way off, I've mathematically locked up the (SBNation) pick'em.
  • I went 214-145 ATS;
  • Or a win rate of 59.6% ATS.
    • That's pretty darn good ATS over such a large sample size.
  • That was good enough to win in a field of 100.
  • Now, consider that a bookie gets an average "juice" of 5% the total payout.
  • If I had bet $250,000 evenly over the course of the year.
    • I would make $33,100 (13% payout).
    • Again, I was the best in a large field.
  • This is why I don't bet... even if I were to do this full-time and wager a small home in cash every year, and did this well every single year, I couldn't make enough money to make more than a fairly meager living.
  • Parlays may pay more, but they have even worse odds.
    • 5 dimes pays 47.41/1 for a 6-team parlay.
    • The odds of getting 6 games right (assuming 50/50 chance) are 1/64.
    • So, the payout rate is only 74% on a properly balanced line (the house gets 26%).
  • In the end, the house is going to beat me, which is why I don't bet.

Closing Thoughts

  • After the TAMU game, I was pretty vocal about how I thought that would probably go down as the worst win of our season. What that game showed was our Achilles heel. At the end of the day, we were totally deficient at the second corner position. Against TAMU we got burned badly against the pass, and against AU that corner couldn't stop the run. Don't fault Cyrus Jones, it was his first year at the position, yet he was the best of the bunch and he played his heart out. As for Jackson, I personally think Saban's "he's just a freshman" comment is really about realizing it isn't fair to expect a freshman to be our savior his first year in school. If Milliner had come back this year, no one scores within 20 of this team.
  • No one ought to say that we lost a national title against Auburn. The two games that followed (Missouri and likely FSU) would have been even tougher tests, as those teams featured dominant passing games with incredibly talented receivers. Frankly, I'm not so sure we could stop either.
  • I enjoyed writing these this year, and I hope you enjoyed reading them. I can't promise that I'll have the time to do anything like this again, but it's been fun giving my thoughts and hearing peoples' feedback.
  • I love the feedback, by the way, so if anyone has anything to add on what I've said here (or before), please don't hesitate to do so.

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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