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Charting the Tide, Offensive Review | Wisconsin Badgers

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Is Lane Kiffin an RBR reader? Saturday's outstanding results suggest yes.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Bill Connelly invented all of this; check out his college football analytics blog, Football Study Hall.

But first, Hi Lane!

Lane Kiffin is clearly a loyal reader of Roll ‘Bama Roll, and Charting the Tide in particular. How do I know this? Well, first of all, the Tide #RTDB on Saturday, and this website only spent the entire offseason imploring the Tide’s OC to do just that. Secondly, I’d like to bring up a few quotes from Charting the Tides past.

From the midseason Texas A&M piece:

I’m beginning to wonder if Kiffin's just decided the pistol is not something they're going to use anymore — saw it quite a bit in the first few games, but Alabama's largely moved away from it since then. I don’t really understand why, because that’s still the most successful place to line up Sims.

And now from the 2014 in review piece:

After running nearly a fifth of plays out of the Pistol to start the year, Kiffin abandoned it almost entirely down the stretch in favor of the shotgun, which he dialed up at a nearly 70% clip in Season C. Success rates out of the shotgun plummeted over the course of the season, which oddly enough wasn’t the case when Sims came out from under center. The Pistol was a bit less effective in Season C than in Season A, and was absolutely putrid in Season B, but still probably should have been a bigger part of the offense based on these numbers.

Now, I’m not actually delusional. Lane Kiffin probably does not spend any portion of his day reading Crimson Tide blogs. There is an intern or a graduate assistant or something who does a similar sort of game charting to what I do, or some other avenue through which the OC gets this kind of information. I bring this up because, lo and behold, the Tide ran a ton of Pistol on Saturday, and it was apparently such a point of emphasis that the commentators knew about it before the game. In case you were still on the fence about the utility of the information in this series, Saturday should have alleviated any of your concerns.


  • 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, stuffs (tackles for loss on a ballcarrier, as opposed to a QB on a pass play), 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).
  • Rate of Occurrence 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 (SR) — 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.
  • YAC — Passing Yards After Catch, the amount of yardage gained by the receiver after catching a pass. YAC + Air Yards = Passing Yardage.
  • iPPPIsolated Points Per Play, the amount of Net Equivalent Points gained per successful play. This is the best explosiveness metric the advanced stats community currently has; read more about it here.
  • Opportunity Rate — The percentage of carries where the back has an opportunity to accrue Highlight Yards; read more about both here.
  • Line Yards — The number of rushing yards on every run attributable to the offensive line’s efforts. Read more about it here.
  • Running Back Rating (RBR) — An overall quality metric for running backs, this is the product of Opportunity Rate and Highlight Yards per Opportunity.

Overall Offensive Performance

Formation / Playcall Breakdown
Call Plays % SR iPPP
Shotgun 19 41.3% 57.9% 1.8
Pistol 17 37.0% 58.8% 1.4
Under Center 10 21.7% 20.0% 0.5
No Huddle 30 65.2% 56.7% 1.6
Huddled 16 34.8% 37.5% 1.2
Play Action 11 23.9% 36.4% 1.7


And there you go. Small sample sizes, etc.[1], but the Tide lined up in the Pistol more often than at any point last season. It was a pretty good look too, although not quite as good as the Shotgun, which had a higher iPPP at a similar success rate. Note the Tide basically operated exclusively out of the No Huddle; those 16 Huddled plays were the starts of drives, quarters, out of timeouts, or after one of the Tide’s many, many penalties.[2]

1 | Something I did not emphasize in yesterday’s Defensive piece. Only one game so far folks!

2 | I’m hoping that’s the last time we see a Big12 crew. The false starts were legit; everything else was pretty ticky-tack IMO.

Personnel Breakdown
Group Plays % SR iPPP
11 12 26.1% 58.3% 2.3
10 10 21.7% 50.0% 1.8
20 14 30.4% 50.0% 0.8
21 4 8.7% 75.0% 0.8
12 3 6.5% 33.3% 1.2


You can see here how the Tide mixed up their personnel groupings a bit more than the Badgers did. Wisconsin worked with 11 and 21 personnel over 40% and 30% of the time respectively, whereas the Tide spread the wealth a little more evenly between 11, 10, and 20 personnel. 11 personnel was the best bet in this game, with by far the highest iPPP of the different groupings. That’s entirely due to both of Derrick Henry’s long TD runs coming out of this group, but it’s something to keep an eye on going forward.

Quarter Breakdown
Metric 1st 2nd 3rd 4th
Plays 19 11 16 0
S. Rate 31.6% 54.5% 68.8% 0.0%
iPPP 1.4 1.5 1.6 0.0
Pass % 41.2% 54.5% 50.0% 0.0%
P. S. Rate 28.6% 66.7% 50.0% 0.0%
P. iPPP 1.6 1.8 1.5 0.0
Rush % 58.8% 45.5% 50.0% 0.0%
R. S. Rate 40.0% 40.0% 87.5% 0.0%
R. iPPP 1.3 0.8 1.6 0.0


As with the defensive piece yesterday, the fourth quarter was all garbage time this week, so no results to speak of there. The first row of this chart just makes you smile a bit, particularly in light of Josh’s quote from the Bear in this morning’s JP. As the game wore on, the Tide got more and more efficient and explosive[3], likely because the Wisconsin defense got more and more whipped. More evidence of this in the rushing row, as the third quarter was the most successful for the Tide in this respect.

3 | Minute increases, but increases nonetheless.

Down and Distance Matrix
Distance Metric Down
1st 2nd 3rd 4th
(0-3 Yds)
Plays 1 0 1 1
S. Rate 100.0% 0.0% 100.0% 100.0%
iPPP 0.3 0.0 0.2 4.2
(4-6 Yds)
Plays 1 4 1 0
S. Rate 0.0% 100.0% 0.0% 0.0%
iPPP 0.0 0.5 0.0 0.0
(7-10 Yds)
Plays 22 7 2 0
S. Rate 54.5% 28.6% 0.0% 0.0%
iPPP 1.3 3.6 0.0 0.0
Very Long
(10+ Yds)
Plays 2 2 2 0
S. Rate 50.0% 50.0% 0.0% 0.0%
iPPP 1.8 2.7 0.0 0.0


One of Coach Saban’s gripes post-game was success on third down, which was tough to come by for the Tide on Saturday. The box score said Alabama was 4/11 on the down, but they were just 1/6 prior to the fourth quarter. Of course, one of those missed conversions led directly to a fourth and short and a long TD run for Henry, but 1/6 isn’t going to cut it against some of the teams further down the schedule.

Offensive Line Performance

Rush Splits by Down
Metric All 1st 2nd 3rd
Attempts 21 11 7 2
Rush % 52.3% 50.0% 58.3% 40.0%
S. Rate 61.9% 27.3% 85.7% 50.0%
iPPP 0.8 0.9 1.5 0.2
LY/Attempt 3.6 3.0 4.6 2.5


Success rate was a bit low running the ball on first down, but the line more than made up for it on second downs, with a sky-high 85+% success rate and 4.6 line yards per attempt. The latter number is really something else — the most you can get on any run is 6.5, and that requires a run in excess of 10 yards. We’re only talking about seven attempts, of course, but don’t sleep on this line — they are going to be good.[4]

4 | Provided they can avoid penalties and keep Coker’s jersey clean, anyway.

Rush Splits by Distance
Metric Short
(0-3 Yds.)
(4-6 Yds.)
(7-10 Yds.)
Very Long
(10+ Yds.)
Attempts 3 6 11 1
Rush % 100.0% 100.0% 44.8% 16.7%
S. Rate 100.0% 66.7% 36.4% 0.0%
iPPP 1.6 0.5 2.4 0.0
LY/Attempt 3.8 3.7 3.6 3.0


It’s interesting to see the line got more push as the distance to go got shorter, which to me is a bit counterintuitive. In general, you’d think a defense would expect a run on shorter downs, and it would be more difficult to get good push in those situations, but that was not the case on Saturday. This will even out quite a bit as more attempts get folded in throughout the season, but it’s a fun little quirk to note for today. Note the high iPPPs in the Short and Long columns came primarily from Henry’s 4th and 1 and 2nd and 10 TD runs.

Rush Splits by Direction
Metric Left
Middle Right
Attempts 3 3 11 1 3
S. Rate 33.3% 33.3% 72.7% 0.0% 33.3%
iPPP 0.5 5.9 1.2 0.0 0.5
LY/Attempt 1.4 3.8 4.2 4.0 3.5


The Tide did a lot of damage running up the middle on Saturday. That 70+% success rate is probably the highest you’ll see this season, at least against a good opponent like Wisconsin. Both of Henry’s TD runs went between Cam Robinson and Ross Pierschbacher, and I suspect left tackle will be the best direction by the end of the season.

Running Back Performance

Advanced RB Splits
Metric Opp. Rate Hlt. Yds. / Opp. RBR
All Carries 45.0% 11.4 5.2
1st Down 20.0% 6.5 1.3
2nd Down 85.7% 9.9 8.5
3rd Down 0.0% 0.0 0.0
Short (0-3 Yds.) 50.0% 30.5 15.3
Medium (4-6 Yds.) 66.7% 1.4 0.9
Long (7-10 Yds.) 36.4% 16.8 6.1
Very Long (10+ Yds.) 0.0% 0.0 0.0
Left End 33.3% 1.5 0.5
Left Tackle 33.3% 49.5 16.5
Middle 60.0% 8.4 5.1
Right Tackle 0.0% 0.0 0.0
Right End 33.3% 1.5 0.5


This really shows how much influence a good offensive line has on your run game. Recall that the line really excelled on second down, and the end result is apparent in the highlight yardage numbers on the same down. This is basically saying that when the line got the backs five yards of push, they turned that into 15 yards of offense. Break your talented guys into the second level and they do big things for you — it’s not rocket science. Note the same effect on runs up the middle.

Individual RB Stats
Player Atts. S. Rate Opp. Rate HLT Yds. /
Henry, Derrick 13 61.5% 50.0% 15.8 7.9 4.0
Drake, Kenyan 8 37.5% 37.5% 2.8 1.1 3.0


Derrick Henry had a really, really good night, yall. Drake struggled early, but of course had the highlight reel touchdown in the fourth quarter that sadly doesn’t appear here.

Quarterback Performance
Map of Quarterbacking Excellence
Air Yards Metric Left Middle Right Totals
6 8 7 21
Comp. % 4/4 (100.0%) 2/2 (100.0%) 1/2 (50.0%) 8
S. Rate 0.0% 100.0% 0.0%
iPPP 0.0 2.0 0.0
Comp. % 0/0 (0.0%) 1/2 (50.0%) 0/1 (0.0%) 3
S. Rate 0.0% 50.0% 0.0%
iPPP 0.0 1.2 0.0
Comp. % 0/0 (0.0%) 3/3 (100.0%) 1/1 (100.0%) 4
S. Rate 0.0% 100.0% 100.0%
iPPP 0.0 1.6 2.1
Comp. % 0/0 (0.0%) 0/0 (0.0%) 3/3 (100.0%) 3
S. Rate 0.0% 0.0% 100.0%
iPPP 0.0 0.0 1.6
15+ Yards
Comp. % 0/2 (0.0%) 0/1 (0.0%) 0/0 (0.0%) 3
S. Rate 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
iPPP 0.0 0.0 0.0


The graphical map returns next week, I’m still messing with it. This one only reflects Jake Coker’s work from Saturday, as Cooper Bateman did not throw a pass until garbage time in the fourth quarter. Aside from the two sacks, Coker played pretty in his debut as a starter, only missing on six throws and generally executing the Tide’s offense quite well. One point of concern to watch moving forward might be the lack of success on shorter throws. Coker completed them at a high rate as you would expect, but the ball usually wasn’t placed where it needed to be for those routes to gain good yardage. Blake Sims was outstanding in this respect last year, and some of it may be the downgrade from Amari Cooper to the current receiver crop, but keep an eye on this.

Type Count Occurrence
Misfires 3 14.3%
Defensive Wins 2 9.5%
Drops 1 4.8%
Offensive Errors 0 0.0%
Penalties 0 0.0%


Couple of things to note here, as this is a new feature. Occurrence is based on all throws, not just incompleted ones. Misfires are when the ball is placed such that your typical receiver can’t make a reception — balls over or under thrown, thrown out of bounds, or thrown ahead or behind on crossing routes. Defensive Wins are when the ball is tipped at the line or defensed, or when pressure and coverage force a throwaway. Drops are self-explanatory; Offensive Errors are incompletions due to miscommunication or when the receiver trips/falls down. Penalties refer to passes that were incomplete due to defensive pass interference, illegal contact, etc.

As noted, Coker’s completion percentage was up over 70%, which is outstanding. Two incompletions were due to great plays by the Wisconsin defense, including the first bomb to Calvin Ridley early in the game[5]. ArDarius Stewart had a drop in the third on an attempted screen, which was the only drop I saw all day from the Tide receivers. Finally, three misfires in 21 pass attempts? Not bad, not bad at all.

5 | This ball was a touch underthrown, but Sojourn Shelton made a great play so I’m crediting it to him.

Wide Receiver Performance

Individual WR Stats
Player Targets Catch Rate YAC/Catch Pts./Target
Stewart, ArDarius 7 42.9% 7.0 0.5
Foster, Robert 4 100.0% 7.3 1.1
Drake, Kenyan 3 66.7% 27.0 1.3
Howard, O.J. 2 100.0% 10.5 1.5
Mullaney, Richard 2 100.0% 6.0 1.7


And the last position group, the receivers. Overall I felt they had a pretty good day, including some great work from new additions Robert Foster, Calvin Ridley, and Richard Mullaney. Stewart had a rough day overall, as he was the target on four of Coker’s incompletions. Drake had a great day catching the ball, as he turned his two screens into big, big gainers. I would have liked to see few more targets for matchup nightmare O.J. Howard, but at least he was targeted at all, and hung on to both targets to boot. I expect Ridley to be on this chart more as the season wears on, but most of his work occurred in the fourth and isn’t represented this week.