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Graphing the Tide vs. Vanderbilt: Total Domination

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Vanderbilt tallied only FOUR successful plays all day.

NCAA Football: Alabama at Vanderbilt Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

By running the advanced metrics this week, we were able to deduce that Alabama handily outperformed the Vanderbilt Commodores in their football game last weekend. Thanks, metrics!

For some games, these efficiency metrics do tell us something unexpected—like the FSU game we opened this season with—but the Vandy game was not one of those times. If anything, the stats double down on the conclusion that this was a complete destruction.

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 = 43%

Not seeing a chart here?

If I’m not mistaken, this opponent’s chart is the emptiest we’ve it in the last season and a half... this was an absolute pantsing of the Vanderbilt Commodores, who failed to tally a single explosive play, or to even register a non-zero Success Rate for two quarters. Apparently somebody forgot to tell Alabama that they weren’t playing cupcakes anymore, as ‘Bama’s offensive numbers are in line with the past few weeks versus Fresno State and Colorado State. The defensive numbers are much better than in those weeks, to boot, likely related to the return of a few damaged linebackers.

Running and Passing, Alabama

Not seeing a chart here?

Brian Daboll started out with some passing and a balanced offense, but things quickly went to the run-first approach once the clock was the only opponent left to play against. Rushing success rates were sky high all night, which makes for a pleasant game-watching experience. The Tide tallied 38 successful rushes on the night (compared to 14 successful passes), which is monumental:

  • 9 for Damien Harris, with 3 of them explosive plays, and 3 of them touchdowns. Awesome.
  • 8 for Bo Scarbrough, including 3 explosive plays and 2 touchdowns. That probably also includes about half a million broken tackles on the day.
  • 6 for Najee Harris, also with some nice broken tackles.
  • 4 for Brian Robinson, including 1 explosive TD run
  • 3 for Ronnie Clark, including one explosive
  • 3 for Jalen Hurts, including one explosive
  • 3 for Josh Jacobs
  • 1 explosive one for Tua Tagovailoa!
  • and 1 4-yarder from Calvin Ridley in the 2nd quarter. I... do not remember this one.

As for passing: the success rates dipped suddenly during a series of incomplete passes in the 2nd quarter, with a few of those being drops from Calvin Ridley, Bo Scarbrough, and (IIRC) Robert Foster. But we witnessed a slight uptick in passing with the entry of Tua Tagovailoa in the 3rd quarter, when we saw the passing success rate climb back slightly. Everyone loves a backup QB!

Running and Passing, Vanderbilt

Not seeing a chart here?

The early (few) successful plays prop up these lines at first, only to see them inevitably fall play after play. We’re looking at four total successful plays here, with zero of them being explosive. Let’s just print them all out here:

  • #1: an odd-looking Roughing the Passer penalty on 3rd down during the 1st quarter. Count it? This is technically a passing play.
  • #2: A Ralph Webb run for 9 yards in the 1st quarter.
  • #3: A Khari Blasingame run for 7 yards in the 1st quarter.
  • #4: In the 3rd quarter, a 10 yard pass completion from apparently-backup-QB Deuce Wallace to apparently-backup-WR Donaven Tennyson. Good job, boys.

And that’s it.

Parting thoughts

It was a fun game! We and the media went all the way around on this one during the early parts of this season, but this actually ends up pretty close to what one might expect out of a ‘Bama-Vandy game in these past several years. Let’s tune in to see if the Tide can do it against a better (right?) offense from the Ole Miss Bear-Sharks.