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Eleven “mostly depressing” graphs from the LSU game

It wasn’t a fluke—Alabama was outplayed in this close loss.

Najee Harris runs Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

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Team Success Rates (cumulative)

Most losses are full of “shoulda-woulda-coulda’s”: it’s natural to dwell on those pivotal plays that could have given us a more positive outcome. We’ve got plenty of them in this game—a few calls, a bizarre red zone fumble, an INT, and defenders trying to strip the ball rather than wrap up a tackle; the list goes on.

But, frankly, this game didn’t slip away from the Crimson Tide based on a few flukes. In fact, the game was only so close at the end due to big plays, gutsy 4th down conversions, and a special teams touchdown from the Tide.

The advanced metrics tell a similar story to what our sad eyes were watching throughout the game: LSU’s offense was efficient, reliable, and pretty explosive. Alabama made noise in the 2nd half, but ended the game with a cumulative 46% success rate: that’s not bad—it’s above average—but was a season low that was 12 points short of of LSU’s 58% SR. the Tiger’s offense outpaced the Tide’s as soon as they got on the field, and they maintained an efficiency advantage throughout. Sigh.

Success and Explosiveness by Quarter

The quarters chart tells a similar story, but with a few more angles. For one, Alabama had a real bum of a 2nd quarter: if we’d actually managed to slip into halftime down just 13-16, it would’ve been a near miracle. As it was, the meltdown in those final minutes of the half got us a score that looked closer to the unfortunate reality.

We had a good 3rd quarter, though! And the offense at least stuck around for most of the 4th quarter, too. Plus, Tua Tagovailoa and team were pretty explosive throughout the game: it’s probably the only major category that Bama had the advantage in these charts.

Play Map: Yards and Result by Play

We often see this script flipped for a close Alabama game, but this time it was Alabama that was erratic and only occasionally successful. Long droughts—namely the 2nd quarter—were interspersed with a handful of huge passes and successful runs. It was just enough to keep things close.

But that LSU chart is what we usually strive for: that was a steady performance, with a good mix of rushing and passing success. Outside of the 3rd quarter, explosive plays came fairly regularly: though, interestingly, LSU didn’t get any plays longer than 35 yards. Prior to this game, LSU was leading the league in a few “long play” categories.

Success and Explosiveness by Play Type

For the first time in recent memory (perhaps ever), Tua Tagovailoa and the offense had a below-average passing SR, at 41%. He almost made up for it with a massive 29% explosive play rate, but this feast-or-famine passing strategy just wasn’t enough.

The running game was certainly more efficient, with a 48% SR, and Najee Harris saved us on several drives. Still, it was not quite enough to make up for the defense and (in part) the passing game. That 7% XR is pretty low, but the running game hasn’t been very explosive this year in general, so I’ll take what I can get in that category. (7% may actually be one of the higher rushing XR’s we’ve seen from Najee and co. this season.)

Success and Explosiveness by Down

The later downs are the most noteworthy here: LSU’s 57% 3rd down SR is probably the game winner; though Tua and team’s 33% 3rd down XR helped the Tide stick around after a really bad first half. Weirdly, nearly all of Alabama’s 3rd down conversions were also explosive plays.

In the positive-but-not-really category: we did pretty well on 4th downs! Too bad we didn’t get just one more of them in the 2nd quarter, when we needed offense the most.

Rushing and Passing Success (cumulative), Alabama

Alabama had a great first drive, with 4 successful plays in a row. At that moment, you and I were both younger and happier: optimistic, even. But Alabama’s next 20 plays saw both the running SR and passing SR slip into the thirties. We had a few big pass plays in there, but we had 8 unsuccessful rushes in a row during this skid. Bad. News.

The second half at least saw a resurgence from Najee Harris and the offensive line, as 12 of Alabama’s last 18 runs were successful, including a streak of 5 in a row in the 2rd quarter. The cumulative rushing SR crept back up into positive territory.

The passing game just tottered along in the 30s and low 40s, though; it did creep back up in the end, but we apparently needed the passing game to have more of a resurgence to come out with the win here.

Rushing and Passing Success (cumulative), LSU

Blah blah blah. The Tigers were great on offense, especially running the ball.

Top Passers, Alabama

12 explosive passes is pretty high, but otherwise this is a very average-to-below-average QB line for Tua.

Top Receivers, Alabama

Again, for how unsuccessful most of these plays were, it’s incredible how many explosive plays are in here. These are some of the worst lines we’ve seen from these receivers, but they all seemed to catch some long passes occasionally. It seemed like we were just slinging it long, which is surely in part due to the rare come-from-behind situation that Bama found itself in.

Top Tacklers, Alabama

Anfernee Jennings had a good game. Terrell Lewis was disruptive, but only was credited for two tackles on unsuccessful plays (where otherwise he was chasing folks down the field, with 3.5 tackles on successful and even explosive plays).

Otherwise, this is a lot more purple and a lot less white than we want to see from this group.

Top Runners, LSU

*Fart noise*

I’m not even going to show the LSU passing charts here: take a look at the full graphing article, also up today, to see that and all the other charts from this game.

Hopefully the team can learn from this and make whatever improvements they need to make to beat the best teams.

Roll Tide, anyway.

Note about penalties: the play-by-play data (my source data) has been treating penalties strangely this season, especially at BDS (it must be the new lights). So I’ve removed all penalty plays them from the graph analyses as of this game. For this game, it didn’t demonstrably affect the overall efficiencies outside of a quarter or two.

Overall, it just means we’re looking at a stricter definition of success: e.g., I’m not giving the offense a “successful play” during defensive PI; the play just isn’t counted. Some would argue that this is how you should count efficiency anyway, but I’ve tried to have more nuance in the past. Yes, I know that penalties can still have a significant affect on outcome, and even efficiencies (e.g., 1st and 5 after an offsides is easier to be successful on than 1st and 10). But other than that we’re just going to simplify and remove them for the rest of the season. Happy to discuss or answer any questions in the comments.