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9 “one eye closed” graphs from the Ole Miss shootout

This game was hard to watch, but a few charts can tell us more about what we saw

Alabama vs Ole Miss
Najee Harris had some breakout runs vs. the Rebels
Photo by Kent Gidley/Collegiate Images/Getty Images

Believe it or not, I wanted to put LaBryan Ray as one of the feature photos in the graphing articles this week. Yes, I know that this was a record-setting shootout, with what appeared to be very little laudable defense from either team. But, LaBryan and a few of his brothers in the trench did accrue some important tackles in this game; we’ll get to that later.

I also considered Mac Jones or DeVonta Smith, for their obvious and constant contributions to Alabama’s point total. But, we’ve been talking about Mac for weeks, and last season’s Ole Miss graphing review was basically entirely devoted to DeVonta.

So, instead, the running backs are getting the looks this week, with Najee Harris gracing this article, and Brian Robinson Jr. taking the header over the All Graphs article. In the second half Saturday, these gentlemen gave us faith that the Tide could largely rush down the field on every possession, simultaneously accruing touchdowns and burning clock to end this forsaken game.

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Team Success Rates (cumulative)

When I say we’re looking at graphs with “one eye closed,” I’m partially referring to my hesitation to even open the graphs after this strange and ugly game. According to many Gumps, the only thing the Alabama Crimson Tide did to win this game was to have a center who muffed only one snap, rather than Ben Brown’s two. Thanks, Landon Dickerson.

But, I was surprised and (at least a little) pleased that the overall efficiencies chart doesn’t really support that narrative. Sure, the Ole Miss Rebels put a well-above-league-average offensive performance on the Tide, staying above a 50% success rate for nearly the entire game. And yes, that goes down as one of the best performances against Bama’s defense that I’ve charted (Joe Burrow’s Tuscaloosa adventures last year and Oklahoma’s not-so-comeback from the 2018-2019 playoff are the only ones that beat it).

However, there’s was a notable efficiency gap throughout the game, and especially as the second half bled on. The Rebel Landshark Matt Corral Blackbears were doing just fine for themselves on offense, managing to match the Tide score for score over three and a half quarters; but the efficiency gap was consistent and notable, as the Tide were 15-22 points more efficient through most of the game.

Color me surprised at that. Sure, once both teams are efficient enough to score consistently, this gap means less than it would for, say, a 30% vs 50% efficiency. But efficiency still correlates strongly with outcomes, so the fact that the Rebels were score-for-score with a much more efficient Alabama offense is specifically notable, exceptional, and pretty unlikely. Call me a biased Gump, but the score probably exaggerated how close this play by play matchup was.

Success and Explosiveness by Quarter

One team had an extremely efficient and explosive offense all game long, and they didn’t slow down at all. The other team also put up very efficient and explosive performances, but did indeed slow down (at least on efficiency) through every quarter. The first team won: this chart, like the last one, makes it look like that first team should have won more decisively.

Honestly, I won’t spend much time talking about how excellent this Tide offense was against this s***ty defense: it’s not new information, and it’s not an interesting storyline. That said, four quarters of offense all above 60% has got to be a first for Alabama in recent memory, at least against non-cupcake opponents.

Success and Explosiveness by Down

So, remember that whole scoreboard-vs-efficiency gap we noticed earlier? Here’s where most of that came from. While Alabama soared on offense across every down—and did well enough to not need any 4th down attempts—the Rebel offense disproportionally capitalized on the critical later downs. In a tale as old as football, those 3rd and 4th down conversion rates are the game makers and game breakers (see: 2017 Iron Bowl).

The Rebels’ 55% SR and 33% explosiveness rate (!) on 3rd down is quite high, and was apparently enough to cause me headaches over the 4 hours that this game took to play out.

But that 4-for-4 on 4th down is an extreme and unlikely metric. Sure, Coach Lane Kiffin is a known offensive mastermind, and sure, three of those 4th down conversions were on 4th-and-1. But still, even at an above-average success rate, consider flipping a coin four times in a row: there’s a 6.25% chance that it’ll land on tails every time. Even with a slightly weighed “Kiffin-Corral Coin,” the odds to convert every time are quite low.

But, yeah, those are the odds that the Bama defense ended up allowing, and we had to hold our collective breaths for another hour or so as a result.

Rushing rate (cumulative), Ole Miss

Just two more Ole-Missy charts, I promise, then we’ll move on. I had to bring this one up because of this strange and dramatic curve.

Matt Corral and the Ole Miss offense tried mostly passing the ball through the first and second quarters, but then actually shifted to a heavily run-oriented offense: the rush rate barely slipped below 60% through the second half, and topped out near 70% in the late 4th quarter.

Run-shifting is a weird thing to ever see against the Alabama defense—unless your coach is Gus Malzahn and your offense is based on 2-buck sleight-of-hand tricks—but the stranger thing about Ole Miss’s shift in this game was that ...

Rushing and Passing Success (cumulative), Ole Miss

... was that the run wasn’t working for the Rebels that well in the second half. Yeah, we’ve all got our favorite nightmare moment from Saturday’s game, where an Ole Miss back broke yet another one for 10-15 yards; but that was indeed the part of their game that the Tide defense started clamping down on after halftime.

After sky-high rushing success in the 2nd quarter, Kiffin and his Rebelsharks doubled down on the strategy even as it slipped and slipped away from them. Sure, you could argue that those rushes opened up big passing opportunities—and Ole Miss did indeed continue capitalizing on those up until their final, brief meltdown—but it may have been a self-defeating strategy from an ultimately (if barely) outmatched team.

Rushing and Passing Success (cumulative), Alabama

Sigh. Ok let’s get to happier pastures: the Alabama offense was AWESOME Y’ALL. Especially the passing game: Mac Jones threw 13 successful passes in a row (!) to open the game, and the passing success rate never went below an already-sky-high 74%. We ended the passing game on that explosive 45-yarder to Jaylen Waddle, sealing the passing success rate for the game at an unheard-of 79% overall. Wow.

The running game started a bit slow, with a few unsuccessful rushes in a row to dip us into below-average territory. But it rebounded quickly into 60%+ overall averages, and we rarely had more than one unsuccessful rush in a row after that.

Either of these performances would have been a sight to behold in a “normal game” where the other team didn’t score nearly 50 points.

Top Runners, Alabama

The runners chart looks how you’d expect, but with a few fun tidbits. Najee Harris was his apparently-usual self, taking time to warm up to an excellent performance. He finally got his first explosive rush of the season this game... and then went and got four more, too! That’s a crazy turnaround.

Brian Robinson Jr. seems like a good dude: after some early-season iffiness from the non-Najee backs, I was excited to see him come in and pound the rock for an insane 82% SR on eleven rushes, with two explosive rushes mixed in. I hope we continue to see him as an effective second back to mix up the defense with some fresh muscle.

Mac Jones rushed twice. Nice work, Mac. And Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith got in on the fun with some successful sweeps. I was especially excited about DeVonta’s late TD sweep, as the announcers were going on and on about how certainly Najee would be running the ball to keep the clock going, and then BAM a skinny wideout takes it outside and scores.

Top Passers, Alabama

This is the best QB chart I’ve ever charted. That is a 38.2% explosiveness rate, which is probably higher than any of the Tua Tagovailoa games by at least 5 points. Roll Tide, Mac.

Top Tacklers, Alabama

Now look, I know we don’t love talking about the defense in this one, but there are some tidbits worth discussing.

The front seven—especially the big boys—come out of this chart looking better than expected. From Will Anderson Jr., down through DJ Dale, Christopher Allen, Drew Sanders, LaBryan Ray, Byron Young, Phidarian Mathis, Justin Eboigbe, and Christian Barmore ... these boys totaled 21 tackles on unsuccessful Ole Miss plays. That’s a lot!

LaBryan Ray had 5 of those himself, for a lovely success-less stat-line. I’d glad to see he’s growing into his now-senior role and original promise.

Even the suddenly-maligned Dylan Moses put up 6.5 tackles on unsuccessful plays as part of his game-leading tackles total.

As for the safeties and such: they were a mess. Jordan Battle was our leading tackler out of the secondary—mostly on successful or explosive Ole Miss plays—and will be out for the first half against Georgia due to his targeting penalty in the 4th quarter. Great.

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You know, aside from the 48 points the Rebels scored, this wasn’t such a bad game after all! Check out the All Graphs article to see everything I charted for this game.

Stay safe and Roll Tide.