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Graphing the Tide vs. Missouri: The offense was merely great.

But the defense showed up big for their midterm exam.

Missouri v Alabama Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Metric definitions

A ”successful” play, as defined by Football Outsiders, is 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 “explosive play”) is any play that gains ≥15 yards (run OR pass).

Success by Quarters

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Funny enough, that “scary” Tiger offense we’ve been anticipating all year only put up a 28% SR against an Alabama defense that “just hasn’t looked as good as usual.” So much for storylines! The only team the Tide has held for less so far this year is Ole Miss (with a 25% SR in that game). Missouri got some explosive plays and some success early on, but things tightened up from the 2nd quarter all the way to garbage time. Big props to a banged-up Tide defense for keeping those success rates low.

And speaking of (relatively) low success rates: The Alabama offense turned in a pretty great 52% SR overall, having above-average performance in all quarters except the 4th... but that SR is the lowest we’ve seen from this new-look Bama offense since the Texas A&M game. This Mizzou defense wasn’t supposed to stack up to that Aggie one, so it’s fair to say they over-performed expectations (or that the Tide offense under-performed their new, Tua-led stratospheric standards).

The Tua-semi-injury storyline comes up easily here, but that 60%-SR third quarter is an interesting exception to it, as Jalen Hurts was leading the offense during those two big 3rd quarter drives! In those, Alabama mostly ran the ball with Josh Jacobs and the Harris boys (mostly Najee Harris, a little Damien Harris), then sprinkled in a few big passes from Jalen. This run-first play-action look kinda feels like what we would have run all along had Tua Tagovailoa not come along.

Play Map

Pardon the yellow being a bit hard to see here—but hey, I’m just glad that we finally played a team who’s dominant color is not red! Alabama had pretty consistent success throughout the game, especially after they got warmed up in the 1st... and then again in those 3rd quarter Jalen drives I mentioned earlier.

But the more interesting chart is the Mizzou one: this is the first time we’ve held a team to having zero plays of 30+ yards for the entire game. My charts threw some errors at first, so I thought something was broken, but it turns out it was just Mizzou not being good at making big plays. Silly Tigers.

Again, this was supposed to be a threatening pass-first offense with a future-1st-rounder QB, so I guess that says something for Alabama’s game prep. Missouri also got zero explosive plays (15+ yards) after the half, including in garbage time. The Tide defense’s ability to hold them in check was a huge relief after seeing Trevon Diggs’ season ended due to injury last weekend. I tip my cap to Saivion Smith for filling in superbly.

Running and Passing

That run rate chart speaks to the lead that Alabama was sitting on after midway through the 2nd quarter: it just creeps up and up as we committed to draining the clock.

But from a success standpoint, this was one of the more balanced games we’ve seen from the Tide this season: that’s 20 successful rushes to 18 successful passes. If you remove Alabama’s last two garbage-time (basically run-only) drives, you end up with ~55% success rates for both running and passing on the day. This “balanced offense” thing fields weird. Just RTDB Coach Kiffin Sark Daboll Locksley!

Running and Passing, Missouri

Again, pardon the yellows: that passing bar chart does indeed show a lot of caught-but-unsuccessful passing plays for the Tigers, which must be a result of all of the screens and short passes that the Tide defenders sniffed out and stopped. That’s an unusual look for any teams we’ve seen this year, and it’s definitely a weird ratio compared to what we’ve been seeing out of Tua Tagovailoa and the offense this year... we’re just not throwing as many short passes as we did in the screen-happy days of yore. Good riddance?

Mizzou wanted to run the ball early and often—and good on them for trying!—but they did slip into attempted-comeback mode in the second half with an increased emphasis on passing. They did have some success on the ground, though not much after the first quarter: hopefully this was good practice for an Alabama defense that hasn’t been as tough against the run as we’ve seen in recent years.

Per usual we’ll dig into the player-specific stuff later this week, but for now, this was a good win that will hopefully represent the toughest challenge we’ll see in October. Now on to another not-red team this weekend... Roll Tide!