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Graphing the Arkansas game... with TiderInTheSouth

We’ve got graphs again, but also a special guest.

A squirrel in St James’s Park, London.  Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images

Look, we all love an easy Alabama win, and after seeing some mediocre offenses carve up the Tide this season, it’s refreshing to see a spread-beating near-shutout. Our defense is showing a stronger pulse, and our backup QB seems to be the real deal. Roll Tide!

However, big wins lead to boring graphs. So, to kick things up a notch this week, I’ve looped in notorious RBR’er TiderInTheSouth to help me break down the game. We also discuss other matters that are important to the Roll ‘Bama Roll community. Hold on to your backsides.

Not seeing any charts below? Tap here to load the full article.

Top Passers, Alabama

It sure looks like Mac Jones had a great game… and apparently a “better first start” than Tua Tagovailoa (as it was repeatedly stated on the live broadcast). Should we just relegate Tua to the bench full time and embrace the Mac Attack era early?

Balloons: To be clear, Mac’s 61% passing success rate on this many attempts was really efficient, especially for a backup QB on his first career start. It’s not far off from Tua’s 67% before he went out of the Tennessee game, and it beats Tua’s efficiencies in the two SEC games prior (50% vs. Ole Miss, 46% at Texas A&M — albeit, both better teams than Arky).

Explosiveness is another matter, though: while Mac’s 18% passing XR is good, Tua has been routinely putting up big play rates in the 25-35% range. Those are the kind of plays that get the Tide scoring quickly, whether the defense is helping them out or not. I’d say we give this Tua guy another chance once he’s healthy, though it’s a relief that we know we’ve got a good backup ... and maybe even an answer after 2019.

(Also, Taulia Tagovailoa’s line from this game isn’t bad either; it’s similarly efficient... but also similarly not as explosive as what his big brother usually puts up).

TiderInTheSouth: The only encouraging sign from last night’s squeaker (besides the cheerleaders and the competence of the concessions employees), was the efficiency and success of the short passing game.

Kidding. We all knew the short-to-intermediary game was there to use, but Arkansas clearly kept the majority of their defense in range to combat this short passing game... and it made little difference.

At times, the Hogs were able to limit this, but it rarely killed any drives. Admittedly, I expected the offense to be a tad more vulnerable to this when a pass was dropped, or a RTDB play was blown up, but Coach Sarkisian called a terrific game* for what Mac and Taulia were able to deliver for the receivers.

* Ed note: I’m choosing to see this as Tider wanting to start Mac and Taulia all year instead of Tua, feel free to respond to that fabricated hot take in the comments!

Team Success Rates (cumulative)

The Tide obviously won big, but looking at the little piggy squiggly line here, it seems like the Arkansas offense actually stuck around. Should we (still) be concerned about the defense given this performance?

Balloons: Not really. Bama’s defense had Arkansas down to a ~20% SR late in the second quarter when it was already a 30+ point game. I was glad that coaches Saban and Golding kept starters in late to get additional reps, but by the 4th quarter they were pretty obviously just trying to wrap things up and get out of there.

Plus, a lot of this apparent “comeback” by the Razorbacks was just a single hyper-efficient drive late in the game during deep garbage time (we’ll see that on the Play Map shortly!)

TiderInTheSouth: Unfortunadamente [sic], the 2019 Tide defense will quite simply bleed yards. It’s still difficult getting used to this new reality, and a lot of us (me included) often forget the lack of experience in this unit overall. Linebackers are going to have trouble with their gaps in the running game, and they will continue having trouble covering TEs & RBs more often than not.

Not to be too critical, but some of this could be alleviated by the emergence of senior Raekwon Davis as a lineman who simply makes an impact on just 15% more plays than he does. I hate to shine a light on ONE guy, but he no longer seems very good at pressuring the QB, or helping to stop the run.* Being a senior, I’m not even sure if his experience is that much of a help to the younger players?

* Ed. note: for what it’s worth, Raekwon did have 2.5 tackles on unsuccessful plays this game, but that isn’t particularly high, and at times this season we’ve barely seen his name register on the tacklers chart. Agreed that it’s fair for us to expect more from him at this point is his career at ‘Bama.

Play Map: Yards and Result by Play

It seems like Alabama put up all kinds of dots all over the place this week; but the Razorbacks… not so much. Should Saban be a good sport and share more of his dots?

Balloons: See? I told you that all that Arkansas “efficiency” from the last chart just came from one drive at the end! This is actually a fantastic Play Map from the Tide defense; it’s not a single metric, but I’d call this the “best map” they’ve put up against an opponent all year.

As for sharing dots, I’d argue that the Tide’s dot-hoarding is beneficial for everyone: for this game, we totaled about ten fewer plays than the Tennessee game, and nearly 40 fewer plays than the Texas A&M game! As a matter of player safety, it seems like Alabama monopolizing all of the successful plays is best for all involved, thank you very much.

TiderInTheSouth: Ladies, gentlemen, tra... [redacted]. Anyone reading this, I’d love to point out that WE WATCHED A THREE HOUR GAME LAST NIGHT. Suh’weeet lawdeh [sic] was it not indescribably beautiful?!? Both teams ran the ball and complied with our beloved fuhbaw [sic] of 7-8 years ago by also getting tackled inbounds.

Granted, I was surprised at the amount of short passes we simply rammed down the Hogs’ throats—even 13esee could’ve schemed for those—and those assisted with our efficiency. The RTDB attack also did a terrific job cutting through the defense, keeping drives alive and showing this country that freedom is most definitely not “free”: That shizzay costs a buck o’fahv, motherscratchers [sic?].

Success and Explosiveness in the Red Zone

Alabama’s red zone performance dipped this week, compared to the positive results from the Tennessee game. Is that a concern? Also, if you didn’t call it “the Red Zone,” what would you name it?

Balloons: I’m a bit discouraged by the dip in red zone performance from last week: in that way, this was less like a “blowout” than some of the other lopsided victories we’ve had this season (New Mexico State, Duke). The defense got us some points that made the scoring margin look similar to those, but our relative slowness in the red zone kept that point total from being even higher. It’s hard to be too grumpy from a win like this, though.

As for “the Red Zone”: I’d call it “The Mud Pit,” as it’s an area of the field where teams get scrappy and rough, and the high-flying offenses often get dragged down into the muck. Plus, I’d love hearing TV analysts talk about “Mud Pit Efficiency.”

TiderInTheSouth: Balloons, I like the cut of yer jib, SIR. “Mud Pit Efficiency” should be in the lexicon since [some specific TV announcers] use the term “dog” [instead of] “underdog.” Thusly, it is now the job of everyone one of you here — myself included — to begin shouting “Mud Pit Efficiency” into the faces of your unsuspecting coworkers, whether it is at the water cooler... or even if you have to follow them into the restroom and wait patiently for them to exit from the stall after dropping their proverbial “deuce.” *

*Ed note: carefully evaluate your specific work circumstances before considering this advice.

Where the hell was I going with this? Oh yes! Hunkering down inside dat dey Redzo’ [sic] and git’n dat pigskin inter [sic] that end zone yaw’l! This offense isn’t able to RTDB on a team that’s expecting it more often than not. That said, inside [The Mud Pit], the offense was still able to set itself up nicely with short passes and Mac acquitted itself with aplomb and honour*. Had the defense not been as on-point as it was, I have no doubts that the offense would have been called on more and put the scoreline into the 50s.

*Ed note: told you he was a Mac Attack guy.

Najee’s 2 touchdowns came in goal line sitchee’ayshuns [sic] and the simplicity with which we punched it in had to warm some of the cold, skeevy hearts up in this booch [sic?], right? RIGHT? Yeah, you know it did. I know what evil lies in the hearts of yaw’l chaetin’ [sic] Bammars!


What was your favorite play from the game?

Balloons: I loved the Trevon Diggs pick-6. I’ve been a fan of his since he played as a receiver his freshman year. He’s been patient through a position change and injuries, so I’m glad to see him get some recognition, through turnovers and generally great defending.

TiderInTheSouth: Any play involving Pterodactyl [Terrell] Lewis. THAT is how a vet bosses it on the defense, kids. Though me wee son Thorin be only in diapers and happily filling said diapers, I have the lil’ squint [sic?] watching every moment of our beloved Tide. He’s even making use of colorful language despite being just short of 4 months old.

Besides Balloons, who’s your favorite RBR editor or contributor?

Balloons: I have a soft spot for Erik’s sturdy and informed pessimism… it’s good to stay close to earth during a time when the program has been on such a high. I could also go throwback here and say Saxon: his old Charting the Tide column was always a great read, especially the Blake Sims Map of Quarterbacking Excellence.

But, similar to the actual athletics: Roll Bama Roll is a team sport and it takes the whole gang to generate this quality and quantity of content. Brent, CB, Doc, Austin, Brice, and Ben help round out a high-performing editorial staff, and the Josh era has seen a smooth transition and is a grand success so far. Kudos, y’all.


I’m going to have to go with a combo of Lah-ell Tawd Bammar and Erkevnz [sic], because if there were truly any justice in this crazy world, I would have been banned from this famileh blawg [sic].

Have you ever actually swung a cactus?

Balloons: I have not (yet). I touched a cactus once accidentally, and it hurt, so I’d need to be very, very upset to work up the courage to actually grab and swing one.

TiderInTheSouth: Cacti actually have skeletons. Did you know this?* Thusly, I equate them with us. They are our brethren and shan’t be uprooted whilst we are in the throws of anger. Plus, I cannot even imagine how much it hurts to have all those needles plunging into my hands.

* Ed note: no, I did not!

What’s your favorite rodent?

Balloons: This is an unpopular one, but I’ve heard that rats make great pets: they’re intelligent, have a flexible diet, and they supposedly remember their owners (unlike, say, mice, which are just terrified of everything all the time).

TiderInTheSouth: Without a doubt, it is the Deutsche Panzer Sqvirrel [sic]. Not many are aware that the 44th Panzer Division in WWII had sqvirrels driving little tanks… wearing little black Panzer coats & hats… consuming beer mid-battle… I CAN DREAM, CAN’T I???

Honestly, I do have a soft spot for pretty much every animal and have released (rather than killed) rats, mice, spiders, vol fans*, etc.

* Ed note: where do you release a Vol fan? Knoxville? Big Lots?

Many thanks to Balloons for all your hard work, SIR! A gentleman and a scholar you are!

Balloons, again: And a hearty thank you to TiderInTheSouth for giving his time and contributions to the graphing column this week! If I’m not banned from RBR forever after this, I’ll be interested to see where the experiment leads us.

Holler below if you have any thoughts on the Alabama Arkansas game... or any of the other highbrow topics discussed today. And take a look at all the graphs from this game; that post is up too.

Roll Tide, all, and enjoy another well-earned bye week.