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Graphing the Tide vs. Fresno State: Both teams were pretty efficient

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66% Success Rates? That’s more like it. Fresno’s offense performed above average too, though.

NCAA Football: Fresno State at Alabama Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

A quick update this week. I normally don’t do stats reviews for cupcake games, but we’ll at least run the numbers on them this year. Enjoy!

Metric definitions

A "successful" play, as defined by Football Outsiders, is basically when a play gains enough yardage to keep the offense on track, i.e., 50% of needed yardage on 1st down, 70% on 2nd, or 100% on 3rd/4th. A "big play" (aka an "explosive play") is any play that gains ≥15 yards (run OR pass).

Success rates, big play rates

Big play rate (XR) and Success rate (SR)

* NCAA average SR = 40%

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Running and Passing, Alabama (#RTDB)

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Running and Passing, Fresno State

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Here’s the full play-by-play. A few notes from the above:

  • Alabama’s efficiencies and explosiveness are some of the highest I’ve seen since the beginning of last season. Makes sense, given that it’s a cupcake game. But if two out of three of your plays end up ‘successful,’ then your offense is flowing very well.
  • The Fresno State Bulldogs had some surprisingly high efficiencies, too, notably above the ~40% league average. Looking at their play by play, though, a lot of that yardage was gained on their own side of the field—once again, general JK Scott and company wins the field position battle—and didn’t result in many points for Fresno. Still, you can see the sense in Saban’s postgame comments, where he noted that the defense was a little loose this weekend.
  • The Tide offense had 12 explosive plays this game. A whopping 5 were Jalen Hurts runs, then 3 were his passes to Cam Sims, Hale Hentges, and Calvin Ridley (all of the passes happened in the 1st quarter). Then in the 4th quarter, Najee Harris finally broke 2 longer runs (after some initial success, but limited explosiveness), and Tua Tagovailoa had 2 long-ish passes to Xavian Marks and Henry Ruggs III.
  • Both the Tide’s climbing run rate and falling efficiencies quarter by quarter are generally to be expected in a cupcake game: after the lead is in hand, and the weaknesses (e.g., passing game) have been practiced, put in the backups and run down some clock. That said, it’s nice to see some explosiveness in the 4th quarter, courtesy of Tua and Najee.