Coming off of a few quiet weeks of practice (without any actual games), I was wondering if any new Alabama Crimson Tide players would emerge out of the mid-season mix.
We did see some fresh faces cropping up in the game vs the Kentucky Wildcats—which we’ll get into—but it was still nigh impossible to not place DeVonta Smith at the top of this article once again. In a game that featured a lot of scoring (... from one team), DeVonta substantially stood out from the pack again, this time bringing in touchdown catches from multiple quarterbacks.
For the All Graphs article, though, we do have a first-timer, with freshman running back Jase McClellan gracing the cover. I can’t recall seeing him run in Crimson until Saturday, but boy was it fun! Welcome to Graphing the Tide, Jase.
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Team Success Rates (cumulative)
In the sub-headline for this article, I call this game a “scoreboard blowout,” because while this chart ultimately shows a decisive gap, you wouldn’t normally look at this and expect that it was a near-blanking of an opponent in a 60 (!) point win.
A lot of what we discuss in these Graphing the Tide articles is the gap between the scoreboard results and play-by-play efficiency and explosiveness, and this game is no different. Look, Kentucky was barely in a position to win this game after their (surprisingly plucky) first quarter, but you could say overall that they did better than the scoreboard represents. Slightly better.
But yes, in a trend that was the opposite of the Mississippi State game weeks ago, Kentucky started efficient and then the averages just drifted and drifted into irrelevance.
Success and Explosiveness by Quarter
Yep, this checks out. Kentucky outperformed Alabama in offensive efficiency in the first quarter, putting up an actually-kinda-impressive 58% SR against Pete Golding’s “bend, then hopefully stop bending” defense.
The drop-off was quite sharp, though, as the Wildcats’ SR was cut into a third by the 2nd quarter and even further from there. In a garbage time 4th quarter, Kentucky couldn’t muster a single successful play! Perhaps that says something about the preparedness of our backups after a few weeks off. One can hope.
To speak to the unusual SR/scoreboard gap I mentioned earlier: explosiveness might be the primary cause. Sure, the Wildcats had an efficient first quarter, but were still woefully in-explosive ... and that was their high water mark for the game! When a team isn’t explosive, it can make even a fairly efficient performance result in fewer points than you’d otherwise expect. Efficiency simply isn’t as “profitable” if you can’t pair it with anything better than the single-digit explosiveness rates you see across this game.
Play Map: Yards and Result by Play
The Bama and Kentucky versions of this chart—you can click through to switch them—show polar opposite trends. The Tide offense had a few explosive plays early, but was otherwise off the field ... until they leaned in close to half time and ran away with things from there.
Kentucky’s chart is hilariously stark: the first quarter is a legitimately good performance, with even a few explosive passes mixed in to an efficient overall offense. But, again, the drop-off is just night and day (or day then night, I suppose). Kentucky mustered a total of 4 successful plays in the 2nd quarter (1 explosive), then 2 in the 3rd quarter (1 explosive), and then zero of either in the 4th.
Whew. Better study some film, Stoops.
Rushing and Passing Success (cumulative), Alabama
The passing game has been very efficient in most of our games this year—vs. Mississippi State being the lone exception—and we continued that trend this game, with impressive (if not stellar) 55%+ SRs throughout the game.
But, after a slow start, the running game had an encouraging bounce into plus-efficiency. Sure, it took into the second half—we really didn’t even try to run it much in the first, for some reason—but our running backs and OL pushed the overall average up and up, to soon be right in line with the passing game. Well done.
Top Receivers, Alabama
We’re going to do the receivers first this week, to pay due respect to Mr. Smith. His 40% explosiveness rate and 67% success rate isn’t his best game by any means—it’s not even his best game this season (hey Dawgs)—but this performance was head and shoulders ... and knees and toes ... better than the other receiver lines coming out of this game.
Sure, we’ve got some silver linings: sophomore TE Jahleel Billingsley was 3-for-3 on explosive grabs in what appeared to be his first (meaningful) career start in Crimson. Plus, Najee and Slade Bolden and John Metchie III did have contributions from limited targets.
But that sparsity outside of DeVonta’s line is concerning. Sure, we likely won’t have Jaylen Waddle back in this lineup for a true secondary big-play threat, so we can’t expect that; but we’ve seen better WR distribution even in the weeks since Waddle’s injury. I hope we can return to something more like that in big games ahead, instead of leaning so heavily on DeVonta Smith.
Top Runners, Alabama
Speaking of distribution ... it must have been opposite day on Saturday, because our rushing distribution has been lacking all year up until this one. It’s usually the Najee Harris show (the Tennessee game is a good example), with sometimes a secondary back like Brian Robinson Jr. (see Ole Miss) or our since-injured Trey Sanders (Miss State) taking up the rest of the plays.
But against Kentucky we had excellent rushing distribution, with four RB’s putting up at least 4 successful rushes on at least 6 attempts. Interestingly, Robinson was shelved somewhat quickly in favor of carries to the backups. Included among those backups was newbie Jase McClellan, who came out of the depth chart to put up the most efficient and the most explosive rushing performance in this game: in ten carries, his 30% rushing XR and 80% (!) SR is absolutely excellent.
I’m excited to see where this goes.
Top Passers, Alabama
Mac Jones did Mac Jones things — he was good! This wasn’t his most efficient game, with a 56% SR, but his 36% XR represents a notably explosive performance.
I’ve sometimes been forced into the role of a (statistical) critic of Bryce Young this season—look, he hasn’t accrued many stats through the air!—but this game showed encouraging signs otherwise. The coaches didn’t let Bryce pass much in garbage time, but he showed some moxie and touch in putting up 2 explosive passes out of 3 attempts. Let’s see more of that soon, Bryce!
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Take a look at the All Graphs article to see everything I ran for this game. Look, it was a scoreboard blowout, so the charts read about how you’d expect them to ... but it’s still gratifying nonetheless.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving, stay safe, and Roll Tide.