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8 “close, then less close” graphs from the Georgia game

The Tide had at least moderate advantages across most categories

Georgia vs Alabama. DeVonta Smith Catches a Pass in the Endzone.
DeVonta Smith doing his “Georgia game” thing
Photo by UA Athletics/Collegiate Images/Getty Images

The choice for the photo headliner this week was simple. Sure, we could have easily put Mac Jones up there—these days, we can apparently always put Mac Jones up there—but DeVonta Smith had just had one of “his” games again, and his stat-line absolutely pops in this one.

For the All Graphs edition this week, we’re taking a different tack by “featuring” the opposing QB Stetson Bennett IV; after all, his (generally negative) contributions likely represent the most pivotal performance of the game. In the image, he’s shown getting handled by Christopher Allen, who did fairly well with 5 tackles (2.5 on successful plays, 2.5 on unsuccessful plays).

(You could make an argument for Josh Jobe or Patrick Surtain II for a feature photo as well; hopefully we’ll have occasion to highlight them sometime soon)

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Team Success Rates (cumulative)

You know, watching the game, I didn’t feel so bad being down 7 points (then 4) in the late second quarter: I felt like Alabama was moving the ball better than Georgia, but just failing to capitalize on a few opportunities.

I was both correct and incorrect. The Alabama Crimson Tide offense, led by Mac Jones and Najee Harris, did pace ahead of the Georgia Bulldogs for basically the entire game; that’s gratifying in a game where a lot of the storylines coming out are about turnovers, referees, play calls and and field goals. But listen, Alabama won the thing play by play, too.

However, right when I was having that (perhaps misplaced) confidence was at a time that the Dawgs actually were pacing with Alabama: the 2nd quarter shows a few moments that truly look like this was a game between #2 and #3, with offenses and defenses countering to keep each other right around league-average SRs.

We still strode away by the end, though; after a solid 4th quarter, Georgia’s offense dipped to a below-average 39% overall success rate, while Bama’s climbed towards a solid 53% to make this game feel more decided than, at times, it really was.

Success and Explosiveness by Quarter

Speaking of that 4th quarter—hoo boy! This is two weeks in a row that the coaches kept the starters in late and they performed well in the 4th quarter. That 67% to 22% 4th quarter SR gap is massive and amusing; sure, we’re only looking at about 9 Georgia plays here, but this gap looks more like a cupcake game than another Big XII boat race (ahem, Ole Miss).

Funny enough, though, Georgia’s 2 late explosive plays technically put their 4th quarter explosiveness rate (XR), at 22%, which is the only category that Georgia beats Alabama on in this breakout. (Not to mention that Alabama wasn’t interested in explosive plays anyway during a basically all-rush 4th quarter clock melting)

Yes, the scoreboard flipped around a few times, and we had some funny business and lead changes that took Alabama into halftime with a losing score. There were also some field position differences that Georgia was winning on. But folks, Alabama outpaced the Dawgs on efficiency and explosiveness in basically every quarter of this game. That’s where wins come from.

Success and Explosiveness by Down

And you know what, I’m gonna double down here [brings out soapbox]. Ahem.

Yes, these “success” and “explosiveness” charts are influenced slightly by the same factors that fans get frustrated with—ticky-tack PI calls (“successful play”), a lucky bounce for an interception (“unsuccessful play”), a bad dropped pass on a potential big play (“unsuccessful play”). So, they’re not impervious to subjective perspective, odd events, and downright luck.

But, there are plenty of other plays in these games, too: what I like about this type of analysis is that it somewhat diminishes all of the above—the TV highlights—and it just talks about what the players most often did when they lined up against each other.

And here we’ve got another example where the Tide faithful can take some heart. Sure, Georgia was on a 3rd downs spree for a while in the middle of the game (my whiskey* shelf remembers), but overall, the Alabama offense was notably more efficient on that down (though not as explosive). And the Tide was much better on the other downs too!

Folks, it may have taken the scoreboard a quarter or two to catch up, but efficiency and explosiveness have a high correlation to scoreboard success, and I think we saw that unfold on Saturday ... against a good team, too.

Success and Explosiveness by Play Type

Georgia ran the ball slightly better than the Tide, beating us on efficiency and explosiveness (each by just a single percentage point). They Dawgs ran the ball well and gave us some trouble.

But the passing was nowhere near close. While Mac Jones busied himself putting up another Tua-like performance (albeit this time with significant assistance from DeVonta Smith), Georgia QB Stetson Bennett IV melted early and put up just enough fight to keep things interesting.

Rushing rate (cumulative), Georgia

Those success numbers make this run rate chart seem really odd: for a team running the ball well, they gave up on it quickly.

For some reason, the Dawgs came out passing the ball a lot, with six (?) in a row to open things. Maybe coach Golding was supposed to be surprised at the strategy, but it didn’t really work, so the Dawgs course corrected towards the run.

However, then Bennett IV started actually making a few of the throws, so Kirby Smart and co. went back to the pass in the second quarter and kinda sat on that (not entirely successful) 40% rush ratio for the rest of the game.

Rushing and Passing Success (cumulative), Georgia

And we should be glad that they wanted to pass the ball so much! I mean, look at all those early passes: after an initial 10-yard strike, the Dawgs put up 9 (!) unsuccessful passes in a row before rebounding and and stabilizing going into the 2nd quarter.

But wow, I can see why some UGA fans are unhappy with their offensive play-calling: the Dawg’s rushing SR sailed into the 60%s in the second quarter and never really settled into sub-50% until late in the game.

Sure, a shift in strategy could have resulted in a likewise shift in the Alabama defense—and it would’ve burned clock that apparently the Georgia sideline found precious—but it’s hard not to look at this gap and see that Georgia struck the wrong balance and missed out on some opportunity.

Top Receivers, Alabama

I’m a big John Metchie III fan, and I’m glad we’re involving him in the game, but aside from one big catch he didn’t give us the magic we’d usually hope for.

Jaylen Waddle had a very Waddle-ish stat-line: he doesn’t need that many touches to really do some damage.

But the fifth (!) Alabama receiver to be thrown toward in this game was our leading receiver DeVonta Smith. And after he caught that one, he went ahead and caught eleven more, for an absolutely monster 30% XR and 92.3% SR on a dozen targets. Heck, I was happy enough with his now-annual dusting of Ole Miss last week on nearly the same statline. But this performance against a real defense is just on another level.

It is a very, very good thing that DeVonta Smith chose to come back to Tuscaloosa.

Top Passers, Georgia

LOL. The first time the Alabama defense got pressure on Stetson Bennett IV and sacked him (technically Dylan Moses, midway through the 1st quarter), I turned to my buddy and said, “aw, he’s just a little guy!” as he was skittering around trying to escape.

To Stetson’s credit, he didn’t give up after that early bunch of short gains and drops that led to a very poor 1st quarter passing SR. And he ended up tossing some explosive passes for a nearly respectable ~14% XR. He also was much faster than I anticipated, putting up a 33% SR (1 for 3) on his rushes. So there’s that.

But the rest is history. A 30% SR is a pretty bad passing success rate overall.

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To revisit my (*) note from early regarding whiskey: I’ll admit that this time it was just for narrative effect. Actually, my Tide-loving compatriots and I have gotten into a habit these last few seasons, where we open red wine (“Rally Red”) when a game isn’t going as well for Alabama as we’d prefer.

I usually speak to statistics more than voodoo, but I’ve gotta say: Rally Red usually works. Plus, it’s a Crimson colored beverage, a good pace change from beer (or liquor, though take care with your combinations), and gives you instant class as you scream at the television.

So, for those of you who imbibe over a game, feel free to join me with a Rally Red the next time the occasion calls for it. Hopefully, we won’t have to again this season, but that’s a lot to ask for in an offense-heavy league.

Want more charts? Check out All of the Graphs from this game for more about the Red Zone, play types, and individual player performances.

Stay safe and Roll Tide.