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Graphing the Tide vs. Arkansas State

A strong performance from the offense, but not a defensive blowout.

NCAA Football: Arkansas State at Alabama John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Per usual, #content will be lighter after a cupcake game, but enjoy your charts!

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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Play Map

Looking at the quarters chart, you may think the offense put up a steady day across all quarters. Well, you’d be partially right, but the Play Map tells something otherwise: Alabama had a few “sprints” of success and explosiveness in this game, each of which just happened to straddle quarters (1st/2nd, and 3rd/4th). There’s a fun example of the Play Map telling a more precise story.

Anyway, the Tide offense looked really good: that 56% SR and 17% SR are both higher than the already-high rates last week vs. Louisville (54% and 13%, respectively), though not as big a gap as one might expect between a P5 and G5 team. Hmmm, Cardinals.

You could say something similar about the defense: Arkansas State was only slightly less explosive, and (more notably) less successful than Louisville last week. But in the map we see a few longer drives really save the day for the Red Wolves... without those, this would appear more like the “blowout” that the scoreboard suggests. To that, I think it’s fair to say that Arkansas State performed slightly better than the scoreboard suggests. Thanks for coming to town, Wolves!

Running and Passing

Now that’s more like it—we ended up with a gump-friendly run rate, and with more rushing success, to boot. I know we fans had some grumbles about the offensive line during this game, but that Play Map up there shows some rushing success again late. Perhaps that was courtesy of a fresh RB having a good game... we’ll get to that in the Players Review, but I’ll give you a hint: his last name is “Harris.”

There was a lot of passing early, with Tua Tagovailoa slinging that thing around: however, once the run rate picked up late in the 1st quarter, the passing and running success rates both peaked for the game. Says something about a balanced offense, eh?

Overall, it’s great to see the game end with both the running and passing SRs above that 40% line (NCAA average); that held even with the late-stringers in much of the 4th quarter. It’s especially nice to see the running SRs not drop off towards the end, as is usually the case when we’re burning clock.

Running and Passing, Arkansas State

The Red Wolves had some success through the air, especially early, and then again during their near-halftime burst. Interestingly, though, their run rate climbed as the game went on (instead of going into the usual pass-heavy “comeback” offense). I suppose Arky State saw the writing on the wall early and committed to practicing their normal, balanced offense. Good on them. In both running and passing, the Red Wolves’ SRs ended at semi-respectable numbers (especially for the receiving end of a ‘cupcake game’). I mean, they ran the ball a lot better than Louisville did.

Overall: A spread-busting win with no meaningful* injuries? I’ll take it. Roll Tide!

*Assuming Isaiah Buggs is ok.