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9 “sounds about right” graphs from the Texas A&M game

The Aggies’ offense jogged; but the Tide offense sprinted

Texas A&M vs Alabama Photo by UA Athletics/Collegiate Images/Getty Images

It wasn’t obvious who to feature in the headline photo in this week’s graphing article: as you’ll see, we had several players stacking stats against the Aggies on Saturday ... mostly on offense, but with a few defensive candidates in the mix, too.

I ended up going for a “tasteful blend” for the headline image: I’m loving the opportunity to feature relative newbie John Metchie III—as he showed up on a few big plays (and nearly a few big more)—but I’d be overthinking it not to recognize the guy slinging the ball to Metchie and the other Tide receivers. So this selection captures Mac Jones as well, in what was perhaps the mere moments before a warm hug (I can only conjecture).

For the All Graphs article this week, I recognized the interior defensive line with a photo featuring Justin Eboigbe: he and a few of his brothers in the trench actually held things down nicely from a statistical standpoint.

Let’s get into it.

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Team Success Rates (cumulative)

You know, while last week’s version was an unpleasant surprise, this Total Efficiency chart wasn’t as bad as I feared it would be. Sure, the Texas A&M Aggies posted up above- average efficiencies the whole game, ending up with a pretty good 44% SR by the end of their steady performance. That’s fine in a vacuum, but Mac Jones and the Alabama Crimson Tide offense pulled ahead in the 2nd quarter and rode out some really solid 55-64% SRs before settling at 56% total after garbage time.

Sure, there were some hiccups early in the game, and a brief scare when the Aggies oddly tied the game at 14-14, but the Tide’s steady efficiency lead through the rest of the game was encouraging. Against a talented conference opponent, those are very good numbers.

Success and Explosiveness by Quarter

This quarters chart gives us a funny mess this week: technically the Aggies “won the efficiency battle” for two of the four quarters and “won on explosiveness” for the second half; but the Tide’s second quarter efficiency and overall explosiveness was still enough to make this game something of a blowout.

As a pleasant surprise, the Tide was in fact more efficient during garbage time this week!

But, let’s get into the Play Map to see why this Quarters Graph looks so weird ...

Play Map: Yards and Result by Play

Oh, so, Alabama’s offensive success in the 3rd quarter was literally only Mac Jones’s 87-yard bomb-and-run TD to Jaylen Waddle. Hah! I guess it’s nice to have that #17 cheat code in Coach Sarkisian’s back pocket, but I’d rather the other six plays not be terrible in the first place—efficiency is usually a better ingredient for predictably getting victories.

In general, flipping between the Alabama map and the Texas A&M one gives us something we’d never have expected to see prior to the Tua era. Suddenly, the Tide is the explosive, pass-first offense that only spends time on the field in short, explosive bursts; while the opponent is the one chugging along slowly with successful runs and short passes, staying on the field for long stretches of a time.

Sure, Alabama ended up more efficient regardless, but a few years ago this was the kind of comparison we’d have hated to see the other end of, e.g., if the other team had managed an upset based on a few brief drives and big plays. That would look vaguely like the last Clemson-Alabama title game (I’m not even going to link it, just don’t); and likely that pair of Ole Miss victories from 2014 and 2015.

Success and Explosiveness by Down

This chart would have looked very different early in the game, when the Aggies couldn’t trade their whole wallet for a 3rd down conversion: but they started to manage, and they made up for it by cruising on 3rd down the rest of the game ... enough to average out at a high 55% 3rd down SR. That hurts, but also explains those long drives and time of possession we just saw in the prior charts... they were scraping by and racking up plays based on drive-extending 3rd down conversions.

Perhaps a worse sign is their explosiveness on 3rd down, though Alabama brought some of that itself ... and the Tide’s “explosive plays” were, well ... more explosive.

Otherwise, the Tide did just fine on 1st and 2nd down efficiency advantages; if the defense could tamp down on 3rd down, games like this would be total blowouts instead of qualified blowouts.

Rushing and Passing Success (cumulative), Alabama

Watching this one, I wasn’t too happy about that early running game: it basically took Najee Harris, Landon Dickerson and the OL until the middle of the 2nd quarter to get us out of “below league average” for rushing success rate. For an ol’ fashioned gump, that’s a sad way to open a game.

But cheer up: the passing game didn’t dip below a 50% SR for the entire game, so at those rates, passing alone was going to get us points no matter what else happened in this game.

We had a few nice rallies of successful plays in both aspects, too. Those 5 successful rushes in a row in the 2nd quarter were a glimpse of “smashmouth” football on short (but successful) rushes; and if you throw passes into the mix, that drive showed nine (!) successful plays in a row (and 10 of 11, and 13 of 16). That was a really nice drive in what turns out to be a fairly balanced (if pass-first) attack.

Top Runners, Alabama

Given that we’re still early in the season, there are especially good reasons to highlight these player charts again this week ... so let’s look at all of them! First of all, Najee Harris overcame some early struggles to round out to a nice 50% success rate. Unfortunately, again this week he posted zero explosive rushes.

However, Brian Robinson Jr. came in to show us how explosive rushes work—his was our first explosive rush of the season! While Mr. Robinson was at it, he matched Najee’s 50% success rate (if on two fewer rushes).

And speaking of season firsts: Trey Sanders actually had a successful rush, with a 9-yard run to get the Tide out of the shadow of their own goalposts. Hilariously, he ended up also technically matching Najee’s 50% SR (but on only two rushes)

These are happy results after seeing the practically Najee-only rushing chart from last week. Hey, we have other running backs too!

Top Passers, Alabama

We know this already, but I thought I’d reinforce the message with this oh-so-simple passers chart. Mac Jones passed, and most of the time it worked out really, really well: his 60% Success Rate and 30% explosiveness rate are (still!) maintaining the rates Tua Tagovailoa was putting up last year. Nice work, Mac.

Top Receivers, Alabama

And (partially) thanks to Mac, we’ve got a brilliant and diverse receivers chart this week: aside from Brian Robinson Jr, every receiver is showing a very high success rate, and four receivers are showing explosive plays (with three having multiple of them). This wasn’t “Amari Cooper bails out Blake Sims”: no, this is a very, very good receivers chart.

You know, I must have been distracted by John Metchie III and Jaylen Waddle, because I’m surprised that DeVonta Smith was actually the top Tide target by successful (and total) catches. I guess by now I shouldn’t be surprised at the things DeVonta does.

For their part, Miller Forristall helped break us out of a few spots from the TE position, and Najee Harris did the same on some great catches out of the backfield.

Top Tacklers, Alabama

This tacklers chart isn’t quite as exciting as the ones from the offense, as the Aggies put up more success (and more big plays) than we’d like to see here.

Plus, our defensive backs like DeMarcco Hellams, Daniel Wright, Malachi Moore, and Jordan Battle are showing up on this list more than I’d prefer: usually you’re happier to see more of linebackers like Dylan Moses (and on less successful plays), though Christian Harris, per usual, did his part from the other middle LB spot.

But, the positive highlight I wanted to get from this chart is about the interior defense: it took a handful of plays to warm up, but then we started to see big boys Justin Eboigbe, Phidarian Mathis, Byron Young, and Christopher Allen stuff some plays and put some mostly-empty bars up on this chart. That’s a trend I’d love to see continue and build as our (fairly young) pass rush and run defense solidifies.

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For more charts, and less talky-talky, see all of the graphs from this game. If we can continue the offensive efficiency and explosiveness from this game while deflating that 3rd down defensive success rate a bit, we could have a (relatively) long season on our hands.

Be safe out there. Roll Tide all.