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Charting the Tide, Week 12 |
Mississippi State

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Tuns out that Dak Prescott guy IS pretty good on third downs.

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

The 2014 Charting Project is the brainchild of Bill Connelly; check out his college football analytics blog, Football Study Hall.

But first, a pre-emptive apology for you tl;dr folks…

This is going to be a long one. I had a minor DVR malfunction1 over the weekend, and was unable to completely chart the game until Tuesday evening. Fortunately the SEC Network replay had all of the plays I was missing, so we’re good there. Unfortunately, it’s now Tuesday evening, not Sunday or Monday evening, which means I’m behind schedule. THAT means you get everything in one article again! So many tables, all of the eyemelt, etc. and so on. Regularly scheduled programming to return next week, for what promises to be a revealing look at the Tide’s performance against Western Carolina2.

1 | Might have actually been a minor human malfunction.

2 | It’s not going to be revealing. They are going to be crushed.

… and a look at team performance by quarter.

You probably noticed that the Tide came out kind of flat after halftime last Saturday against Mississippi State. You may also recall feeling the same happened in other games this season as well. Over at this week’s From the Couch, Bamapride indicated a desire to see offensive production stats by quarter, if someone was willing to crunch the numbers. Just so happens I kind of specialize in crunching numbers, so I went ahead and took a look at that. Rather than looking at yards, points3, or rush/pass frequency, I elected to go straight to the core of offensive performance — efficiency (in terms of Success Rate) and explosiveness (in terms of Yards Per Play). The chart below has those two metrics broken out by game and by quarter, with season stats at the bottom for comparison. I also elected to NOT account for garbage time here, because all those second half N/As I got as a result shrunk the data set a good bit.

Oh, and on a whim, I decided to do the same for the defense. It was really hard, I cut and pasted some stuff from one spreadsheet to another — hard manual labor right there. The lengths I go to for your reading enjoyment.

Now that we are all on the same grill4, the tables:

3 | Bamapride's got you covered there.

4 | A delightfully tipsy friend of mine said that to me this weekend. I think they were trying to say “on the same page” — I like this better.

Offensive Performance by Quarter
First
Quarter
Second
Quarter
Third
Quarter
Fourth
Quarter
Game SR YPP SR YPP SR YPP SR YPP
West Virginia 56% 5.4 54% 7.8 55% 7.7 30% 5.0
FL. Atlantic 67% 11.5 58% 7.7 69% 11.1 33% 2.8
Southern Miss 54% 8.0 58% 5.3 75% 9.1 71% 7.6
Florida 61% 16.2 45% 4.6 54% 6.5 42% 5.2
Ole Miss 38% 4.2 44% 4.6 42% 5.5 41% 6.8
Arkansas 17% 1.2 35% 6.6 9% 2.4 42% 4.3
Texas A&M 69% 8.3 56% 9.3 30% 7.0 53% 4.4
Tennessee 55% 11.5 44% 3.9 53% 5.6 41% 5.0
Louisiana St. 19% 2.4 29% 4.9 20% 1.4 28% 5.1
Miss. St. 40% 4.2 64% 11.3 15% 3.4 42% 4.4
2014 51% 8 48% 6.5 48% 6.6 43% 5.2

Observations

Interesting. You’ll note from the 2014 line that SR and YPP tail off over the course of the game, but second and third quarter performance has been virtually identical. The game-by-game results are all over the map as you would expect, but I see something interesting in the breakdown between third and fourth quarter performance. The four SEC games in which the Tide came out of the half flat (Arkansas, A&M, LSU, and MSU) saw dramatic improvement for one or both metrics in the fourth quarter, including a 33% increase in SR against Arkansas and a 3.7 yard increase in YPP against LSU. The other SEC games, where the Tide started the second half relatively strong? With the exception of Ole Miss, performance went down.

The latter effect is likely because the games were essentially over at that point against Florida and Tennessee, and the Tide went into run-out-the-clock mode. The former? I’m going to go ahead and call that resiliency/responding to adversity/[your favorite coachspeak here], as that captures the LSU comeback, the go-ahead score against Arkansas, and the (eventually necessary) insurance TD against MSU. The main takeaway from this chart though is there is no real evidence that this team has an issue coming out of the half flat, at least not on offense5. The last two games were ugly (as was Arkansas), but it’s not a trend yet.

5 | This is what’s called “foreshadowing”.


Defensive Performance by Quarter
First
Quarter
Second
Quarter
Third
Quarter
Fourth
Quarter
Game SR YPP SR YPP SR YPP SR YPP
West Virginia 53% 5.7 44% 6.7 47% 7.6 13% 2.1
FL. Atlantic 40% 4.2 36% 2.4 25% 4.8 0% -2.3
Southern Miss 25% 6.5 11% 0.4 31% 5.4 36% 4.9
Florida 24% 3.5 23% 2.4 50% 6.8 27% 3.6
Ole Miss 35% 4.1 36% 2.5 54% 7.5 37% 6.2
Arkansas 33% 3.7 39% 5.2 22% 5.8 13% 2.2
Texas A&M 17% 1.3 18% 2.5 29% 4.7 0% 1.1
Tennessee 32% 4.2 42% 6.6 50% 5.3 25% 3.0
Louisiana St. 45% 4.0 14% 1.9 33% 4.3 30% 2.6
Miss. St. 23% 1.9 31% 4.7 46% 7.0 50% 4.6
2014 34% 4.1 31% 4.0 38% 5.8 28% 3.5

Observations

INTERESTING. From the second to the third quarter this season the Tide defense has been less efficient and allowed higher yards per play to the opposing offense in almost every game. I could see that in the blowouts — bringing in backups, changes in philosophy due to the score, etc. — but against SEC teams not named Texas A&M? Very curious. I suspect it’s a second-half adjustment thing, but the book on the Tide has always been that everyone knows what they are going to do and it’s nothing earth-shattering, they just have better athletes and out-execute the opposition. This chart would seem to indicate that there’s something to be adjusted for, however.

The only other explanation I can think of is that halftime saps the energy out of the defense, which seems to play better when they are locked in and fired up — as opposed to the offense, which is most effective when they’re in that calmly ruthless businesslike dominance mode. Notice that opponent performance nosedives in the fourth, which would seem to support this hypothesis.

The Goods

Confused?

  • Air Yards — The down-the-field or vertical yardage gained on a pass play as a result of the quarterback’s throw (i.e., prior to the receiver’s involvement), as measured from the line of scrimmage. So for forward passes thrown behind the line of scrimmage, the Air Yardage would be negative. This metric is also tracked on incomplete passes — underthrown balls are measured from where the ball lands, and overthrown balls from where the intended receiver is. Balls tipped at the line or thrown away are not measured. The companion statistic on completed passes is yards after catch — the sum of Air Yards and yards after catch on a completed pass equals the yardage gained on the play.
  • Blake Sims Map of Quarterbacking Excellence — Hand-crafted using the absolute finest graphical techniques of the late 90s, the Blake Sims Map of Quarterbacking Excellence breaks the field down into 9 blocks by Air Yards (Behind Line, 0 - 10 Yards, Over 10 Yards) and direction of throw relative to the hash the ball was placed on (Left, Middle, Right — see Pass Direction for more explanation). Each header/leader contains the number of attempts for that designation within parentheses (e.g., the number in parentheses next to “LEFT” denotes the number of attempts that were thrown to the left, regardless of distance). Each block contains the number of complete passes to that block over the total number of passes to that block, the completion percentage, the YPA, and the success rate. The block behind the line of scrimmage in the middle of the field contains the man himself, Blake Sims. The hashmarks are even relatively accurate!
  • Catch Rate — The number of balls caught over the number of targets for an individual, or how often a receiver makes the catch when targeted.
  • Disruptive Plays — A sum of sacks, blocked kicks/punts, passes defensed, interceptions, and forced fumbles. Think of these as things that got you multiple helmet stickers when you were playing peewee.
  • Distance Splits — The “distance” on these charts refers to the yardage required to gain a first down, not the yardage required for a successful play (see Success Rate).
  • Frequencies for Rushing and Passing Splits by Down — These numbers refer to the percentage of first down plays that were a rush, second down plays that were a pass, and so on, NOT the percentage of rushes that were on first down. For example, the sum of first down pass frequency and first down rush frequency will be 100%, but the sum of first, second, third, and fourth down rush frequencies will be well in excess of 100%.
  • Garbage Time — Defined as when a game is not within 28 points in the first quarter, 24 points in the second quarter, 21 points in the third quarter, or 16 points in the fourth.
  • Pass Direction — One datum tracked by the Charting Project is the direction of throw or Pass Direction. This refers to the direction the ball was thrown relative to the hash the ball was placed on, NOT the part of the field where the ball ended up. For example, on a play where the ball was placed on the left hash at the snap, a throw directly down the left hash marks would be tracked as Middle, whereas a ball thrown to the area between the hashes would be tracked as Left, and a ball thrown toward the left sideline would be tracked as Right. This is an important distinction for interpreting the Blake Sims Map of Quarterbacking Excellence.
  • Run Directions — See the figure below. Defensive letter gap terminology is on the top in blue, and offensive hole terminology is on the bottom in green. Rushes are coded as “Left Tackle” if they head through the left B and C gaps / the 3 and 5 holes, and so on.
  • RunDirection
  • Success Rate — A “successful” play is defined as gaining 70% of required yardage on first down, 50% of required yardage on second down, and all of the required yardage on third and fourth downs — required yardage is another term for the distance required for a first down on a given play. Success rate is simply how often a team is successful.
  • Target — The intended receiver on a pass play. All pass plays have intended receivers, with the exception of passes that were tipped at the line, thrown away, or otherwise thrown in such a manner as to render identification of an intended receiver impossible.
  • YPA — Passing Yards Per Attempt, which is a measure of explosiveness that pairs nicely with Success Rate. This is simply the number of passing yards gained over the number of passing attempts, both complete and incomplete.

OFFENSE

Passing Splits
Attempts Frequency Success Rate
Down VS.
MISS. ST.
VS.
MISS. ST.
2014
Season
VS.
MISS. ST.
2014
Season
1st 10 35.7% 38.8% 50% 45.7%
2nd 11 55% 47.5% 36.4% 45.3%
3rd 10 71.4% 59.4% 30% 51.9%

Observations

Blake Sims is a different quarterback at home, and the fingerprints of Home Blake are all over this map. Note the high accuracy at short range and heavy performance slant in favor of the right. Mississippi State did a fair job limiting the screen game, shutting down the two throws to the left and one to the right, but did let ArDarius Stewart loose on a 19 yard gain in the third. There were a couple of big plays down the field, and all of the numbers in the upper right block are courtesy of the 50 yarder to Amari Cooper in the second. Most of the passing yardage came in the intermediate distances, however — Sims was 12/17 for 103 yards at this range.

The Tide went to the air even more frequently than usual in this one, exceeding the typical frequency on second and third downs by 7.5% and 11.7% respectively. It didn’t work, as success rates dipped with the increase in frequency. The Tide were a little more successful on first downs than usual, but overall the much-maligned Bulldog secondary did a pretty decent job in this one. Almost like they were better than traditional metrics would lead you to believe.

Rushing Splits
Attempts Frequency Success Rate
Down VS.
MISS. ST.
VS.
MISS. ST.
2014
Season
VS.
MISS. ST.
2014
Season
1st 18 64.3% 61.3% 38.9% 34.9%
2nd 9 45% 52.5% 44.4% 61.9%
3rd 4 28.6% 40.6% 50% 59.3%
Direction VS.
MISS. ST.
VS.
MISS. ST.
2014
Season
VS.
MISS. ST.
2014
Season
Left End 4 14.8% 18.4% 75% 50%
Lt. Tackle 4 14.8% 12.5% 25% 32.4%
Middle 10 37% 39.3% 40% 46.7%
Rt. Tackle 4 14.8% 16.2% 25% 52.3%
Right End 5 18.5% 13.6% 40% 43.2%

Observations

Corresponding to the passing chart, Kiffin opted for rushes earlier in the downs, which more or less follows the trend for the season. Unfortunately success rates were not very high here either, as the Tide running game performed well under seasonal averages on second and third down and only slightly beter than normal on first down. Overall this was not a particularly strong offensive performance as you’ll see later on, but given the quality of the defense they faced that is to be expected.

The directional split is pretty telling — with the exception of runs to the left end, success rates were down all along the line. The distribution was pretty close to symmetric, more or less in line with the seasonal trend.

Down and Distance Splits
Plays Frequency Success Rate
Down VS.
MISS. ST.
VS.
MISS. ST.
2014
Season
VS.
MISS. ST.
2014
Season
1st 28 45.2% 44.5% 42.9% 39.1%
2nd 20 32.3% 32.8% 40% 54%
3rd 14 22.6% 21.8% 35.7% 54.9%
4th 0 0% 0.8% N/A 60%
Distance VS.
MISS. ST.
VS.
MISS. ST.
2014
Season
VS.
MISS. ST.
2014
Season
Under 3 Yards 7 11.3% 13.8% 57.1% 70.2%
4 to 6 Yards 7 11.3% 14.9% 71.4% 59.3%
7 to 10 Yards 43 69.4% 62.9% 34.9% 41.3%
Over 10 Yards 5 8.1% 8.4% 20% 37.3%

Observations

The first down success rate was actually a little better than usual against MSU, which is somewhat surprising given they were 12th in the country in defensive standard downs S&P+ coming in 6. The second and third down rates were not very good at all, at least not in comparison with what we’re used to seeing. Third downs in particular seem to be very troublesome lately, after they were a strength early in the season.

6 | They dropped to 20th, which is what happens when you run into buzzsaws.

Bizarre distance splits. The Tide didn’t get into intermediate and short yardage quite as often, and weren’t nearly as successful in short yardage, but were successful over 71% of the time on downs from 4-6 yards. This distance has been a bugaboo the last few weeks for the Tide offense, not sure why it wasn’t this week.

Formation Splits
Plays Frequency Success Rate
Formation VS.
MISS. ST.
VS.
MISS. ST.
2014
Season
VS.
MISS. ST.
2014
Season
Shotgun 38 61.3% 42.2% 42.1% 48.2%
Pistol 4 6.5% 10.1% 0% 50.8%
Under Center 20 32.3% 47.8% 45% 46.4%
Play Action 3 4.7% 7.1% 33.3% 47.1%
Backs VS.
MISS. ST.
VS.
MISS. ST.
2014
Season
VS.
MISS. ST.
2014
Season
0 3 4.8% 3.1% 33.3% 47.4%
1 43 69.4% 67.1% 39.5% 47.6%
2 16 25.8% 28.8% 43.8% 47.1%
3 0 0% 1.0% N/A 50%
Receivers VS.
MISS. ST.
VS.
MISS. ST.
2014
Season
VS.
MISS. ST.
2014
Season
0 0 0% 1.8% N/A 72.7%
1 0 0% 2.8% N/A 47.1%
2 12 19.4% 37% 25% 48.7%
3 25 40.3% 34.7% 48% 42.4%
4 22 35.5% 21.5% 40.9% 51.5%
5 3 4.8% 2.3% 33.3% 50%

Observations

The only real notable from the quarterback alignment section is a shift over to more Shotgun for this one, as Sims lined up well back of Ryan Kelly 19% more often than normal. Nothing else really to note here, at least not in light of the previous tables. The same is true of the Backs chart — frequencies consistent with season averages, lower success rates than usual due to the opponent.

Kiffin dialed up a lot more 3, 4, and 5 receiver sets than usual, which makes sense in light of the increased passing frequency discussed earlier. 3 wides in particular was fairly successful at a 48% clip, ~6% higher than usual. All of this came at the expense of 2 receiver sets, which were successful just three times on Saturday.

Targets and Catch Rate
Player Targets Catch Rate
Amari Cooper 118 66.1%
DeAndrew White 49 59.2%
T.J. Yeldon 22 63.6%
Christion Jones 19 57.9%
O.J. Howard 20 50%
BRANDON GREENE 1 100%

Observations

Cooper’s catch rate continues to fall, but so does everybody else’s7 Catch rate as defined here does not differentiate between drops and errant throws by the QB, so catch rates will fluctuate with Sims’ performance as well. O.J. Howard continues to be a coin flip when he’s targeted, which is Just Awesome.

7 | Except for Brandon Greene’s. THROW IT TO THE BIG FELLA, LANE. MAKE THEIR ASSES QUIT, LANE.

DEFENSE

Formation/Play Action Splits
Plays Frequency Success Rate
Formation VS.
MISS. ST.
VS.
MISS. ST.
2014
Season
VS.
MISS. ST.
2014
Season
Shotgun 88 100% 74.8% 38.6% 36.2%
Pistol 0 0% 4.4% N/A 13%
Under Center 0 0% 20.8% N/A 31.8%
No Huddle 71 80.7% 53.8% 42.3% 37.1%
Huddled 17 19.3% 46.2% 23.5% 30.9%
Play Action 2 2.3% 6.6% 50% 45.5%

Observations

Mississippi State’s formation for the game: No-Huddle, Shotgun, usually just 5 blockers, and 3/4/5 wides with 2/1/0 running backs. The Bulldogs ran just 16 plays with a conventionally-aligned tight-end, and very infrequently did that tight end stick around to block. Lack of formational variety seems to be kind of a hallmark among the HUNH type teams, which is fine with me because it makes charting their games a whole lot faster. As for performance, State was slightly more successful than your standard Tide opponent, but not by much8, and they were pretty putrid when they couldn’t go fast. On the 17 plays out of various timeouts and to start drives, the Bulldogs were successful just 23% of the time.

8 | The best are triple option teams, because all they do is run the ball, which means less plays to chart.

Passing Splits
Attempts Frequency Success Rate
Down VS.
MISS. ST.
VS.
MISS. ST.
2014
Season
VS.
MISS. ST.
2014
Season
1st 21 56.8% 42.3% 38.1% 39.8%
2nd 17 53.1% 50.3% 41.2% 41.1%
3rd 8 50% 65% 25% 32.5%
Air Yards VS.
MISS. ST.
VS.
MISS. ST.
2014
Season
VS.
MISS. ST.
2014
Season
Under 5 19 41.3% 41.3% 36.8% 36.5%
5 - 10 16 34.8% 21.8% 56.3% 49.1%
11 - 15 2 4.4% 10.3% 0% 65.4%
Over 15 9 19.6% 26.6% 33.3% 29.9%

Observations

MSU likes to throw the ball, unless its third down, which is when they like to spread the defense out with 5 wide receivers and send Dak Prescott straight up the gut. Makes sense looking at these numbers, as they only picked up 1 in 4 third downs on which they threw. The six they didn’t convert led to punts, as all three fourth down conversions came after third down rushing attempts.

They were also fairly successful throwing the ball, outside of the two attempts to the longer intermediate yardage. A lot of this was piled up when the Tide defense was in prevent mode, giving up almost anything underneath in order to keep the clock moving. Prescott did manage to complete a few longer throws, at a clip just a bit higher than he Tide’s season average.

Rushing Splits
Attempts Frequency Success Rate
Down VS.
MISS. ST.
VS.
MISS. ST.
2014
Season
VS.
MISS. ST.
2014
Season
1st 16 43.2% 57.7% 6.3% 12.6%
2nd 15 46.9% 49.7% 66.7% 47.2%
3rd 8 50% 34.2% 37.5% 45.2%
Direction VS.
MISS. ST.
VS.
MISS. ST.
2014
Season
VS.
MISS. ST.
2014
Season
Left End 3 17.7% 12.1% 33.3% 30%
Lt. Tackle 6 35.3% 19.9% 16.7% 21.2%
Middle 3 17.7% 43.4% 66.7% 29.2%
Rt. Tackle 2 11.8% 13.9% 50% 26.1%
Right End 3 17.7% 10.8% 33.3% 38.9%

Observations

The down and direction charts are not going to line up very well, as QB run directions are not tracked in the same way for the Charting Project, and MSU ran several designed runs with Prescott. Most of those went over the middle or toward right tackle, which were the areas of most success for the Bulldog running backs. The middle numbers, albeit over just three attempts, are particularly concerning, as the Tide gave up almost 40% more successful attempts than usual. I’m guessing the interior of the MSU offensive line is not too shabby.

Since Prescott is such a weapon in short-yardage, MSU ran plenty on third downs, successfully converting three of eight outright and picking up another three on fourth downs. This is becoming a trend in the latter half of the season for the defense, and it is a troubling one. Getting off the field is key against the HUNH teams, and it’s likely the Tide will see at least two more of those as they progress through the remainder of the year.

Down and Distance Splits
Plays Frequency Success Rate
Down VS.
MISS. ST.
VS.
MISS. ST.
2014
Season
VS.
MISS. ST.
2014
Season
1st 37 42.1% 41.4% 24.3% 24.1%
2nd 32 36.4% 33.7% 53.1% 44.1%
3rd 16 18.2% 23.1% 31.3% 36.6%
4th 3 3.4% 1.9% 100% 50%
Distance VS.
MISS. ST.
VS.
MISS. ST.
2014
Season
VS.
MISS. ST.
2014
Season
Under 3 Yards 9 10.2% 9.6% 77.8% 60.8%
4 to 6 Yards 23 26.1% 15.2% 39.1% 44.4%
7 to 10 Yards 54 61.4% 65.6% 31.5% 29.5%
Over 10 Yards 2 2.3% 9.6% 50% 23.5%

Observations

Overall the Tide were a little stingier on third downs than normal, but that was offset by MSU’s success on fourth downs. The Bulldogs’ pretty high second down success rate led to a lot more downs in the 1-6 yard range than the Tide are used to seeing. Normally a short yardage success rate of almost 80% would be a great concern, but with Dak Prescott being what he is that number is not terribly surprising. Big, uniformly thick9, athletic runners are hard to bring down, and Prescott certainly fits the description.

9 | Quit skipping leg day, Derrick.

Disruptive Plays
Player Passes Defensed Interceptions Sacks Forced Fumbles Blocked Kicks Total
Cyrus Jones 6.5 2 2 10.5
Xzavier Dickson 1 7 8
Landon Collins 4 3 7
Eddie Jackson 4 1 1 1 7
Reggie Ragland 2 1 2.5 1 6.5

Observations

This was another game full of disruptive play by the Tide, and it was inarguably the difference in the end. I don’t remember the last time the Tide had three interceptions in a game10, but Cyrus Jones, Landon Collins, and Nick Perry all got in on the action this week. Jones, while not the All-American corner Danielson was desperately trying to make him out to be on the broadcast, continues to be picked on by opposing offenses and continues to play solidly in spite of this. Eddie Jackson had another highlight reel pass breakup, this time denying a supposedly-unguardable back-shoulder throw in the fourth. Dalvin Tomlinson logged the lone sack of the contest.

10 | 2012, against Ole Miss, apparently.

As usual, if I missed anything (likely this week, just sayin’), please publicly shame me in the comments.

ROLL TIDE