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Graphing the Tide vs. Auburn: Better Late than Never

The first half was fine. The second half was REAL FINE.

Auburn v Alabama Photo by Kevin C. Cox/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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Well played, Tide: this is the kind of Iron Bowl we like around these parts. The Alabama offense did another 4-for-4 on above-average quarters by success rate (even if that slow 2nd quarter just barely passed the 40% mark). The first half was serviceable, but boy did the second half open up: those ~60% success rates and ~30% big play rates through the second half are massive! Maybe the Tiger-Eagle-Lizards just gave up.

Auburn’s performance wasn’t technically terrible; yes, there were some trick plays and weirdness in there, but overall the Tiger’s 36% SR was notably better than Mississippi State’s 24% or LSU’s 30%. Given, they built that SR back up in a pretty meaningless 4th quarter. None of these SEC teams were very explosive vs. Bama, but Auburn set the low mark here with a paltry 4% XR. Woof.

Play Map

Speaking of that garbage-time 4th quarter: the play map this week helps shed some light on that weird final frame. The Tide only ran 7 plays the entire quarter: a few plays of #TuaMagic, then Jalen Hurts’ one-and-done touchdown pass, then an all-run clock-bleeding 3-and-out late.

Meanwhile, Auburn ran a whopping 22 plays in the 4th quarter, in an apparent attempt at a moral victory. Uh, good job guys.

Success by downs

Once again we’re seeing a pretty even performance out of the Tide across downs: this is a huge relief compared to the Alabama offenses of recent past seasons, where we’d either do great on early downs or inevitably come up short on 3rd. Sometimes it seems like we lean heavily on Tua Tagovailoa to bail us out on 3rd and long-ish — I’ll admit to some personal worries there — but these downs charts from the past five games suggest that we’ve got a healthy chance of success across all downs. That’s good!

For their part, Auburn had success across downs, too — though in a very ‘Barn outcome, they had the most success (and the most explosiveness by far) on 3rd downs. That surely inflated their scoreboard aesthetics beyond their actual (efficiency and explosiveness) performance. That trend from an opponent can be frustrating in a close game; hopefully we don’t have to see it in that context anytime soon.

Running and Passing

Well, well: if it isn’t that traditional pass-first Alabama offense again!

For the most part, Alabama has run more than passed against SEC competition — the only exceptions so far have been vs. Texas A&M, LSU, and now Auburn, where the Tide passed significantly more than they ran. This game and the A&M game are especially dramatic examples, as the Tide didn’t see much rushing success in either. Hopefully this a feature of intentional game-planning by coach Locksley and crew, and not an example of outright weakness in the rushing offense. I guess we’ll find out more in the post season: you’d think we’d have found out by the 12th game of the year, but this running offense has been up and down all season.

For what it’s worth, a handful of those runs were when the Tide was burning clock late — without the last 3 rushes, we’d have seen a pretty good 43% rushing SR — but if we didn’t count those then we’d be looking at even fewer rushing attempts. Strange days, these.

The good news is that, after some early struggles, the passing game picked up and practically soared into the 4th quarter: the final passing SR was a great 59%. We did see more short passing attempts than what we’re used to this year (note the unusually high 7 unsuccessful catches), but that also means that the true completion rate was nearly 80%, which is crazy. We’ve got QB’s, y’all!

Running and Passing, Auburn

Speaking of quarterbacks, Auburn’s quarterback... isn’t very good? The story seems to change on Jared Stidham as the weeks and seasons go by, but this was decidedly not a good passing performance. In fact, the run/pass ratio looks flipped from Bama’s, with a slight focus on running and a left-for-dead passing performance.

Remember those 7 unsuccessful catches the Tide had in this one? Auburn had 9, which is hilariously high... I guess that’s the downside of the screen-y short-pass-y offense that Gus and his merry men put out there.

The fightin’ blue Eagles did run the ball well, though, with a 49% rushing SR. The result on the scoreboard speaks for itself, but this is something that the Alabama defense will surely want to shore up for the run-savvy Georgia Bulldogs next weekend. Hopefully Isaiah Buggs can get back on the field soon after suffering an injury (apparently a hyper-extended knee, hopefully minor) on Saturday.

We’ll get into individual player stats later this week. In the meantime, Roll Tide and happy Iron Bowl Win (2018 edition).