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8 “rebuttal” graphs from the LSU game

This should average out nicely against last year’s game

NCAA Football: Alabama at Louisiana State

Look, when DeVonta Smith keeps having games like these, it’s hard to not just put him at the top of the article every week. He gets the big highlights—including the stellar one-hand touchdown catch vs. LSU this weekend—but he’s also consistently getting to the top of the receivers SR/XR chart every game. He’s a force.

But looking at Roll Bama Roll’s homepage after this game, you’re seeing plenty of Mr. Smith already. We all get it. So we can easily come up with some solid statistical alternatives for Graphing the Tide.

Najee Harris is no longer a surprise to anyone, but his 68% rushing SR and respectable 9% XR on 22 carries vs. LSU makes him a nice fit for the top of the main article this week. We’re lucky to see him play in Crimson.

For the All Graphs article, we’re going with a defender, as the leading tackler in this game was actually true freshman OLB Will Anderson Jr.! His 4.5 stops out of 6 total tackles put him 0.5 tackles ahead of Malachi Moore for the lading tackler on the game.

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Team Success Rates (cumulative)

Well, that’s more like it! Last year’s Bama LSU game (yep, sorry) was one of the few times I’ve graphed an Alabama game where the Tide was decisively, unequivocally the less efficient team. Yeah, maybe some folks think that I twist numbers around here to make the Tide look good each week—even in a rare loss—but the simple fact is, Alabama is usually the more efficient team, even in a loss (yep, even in that last title loss to Clemson).

But LSU beat us last year, despite some late heroics in a long shot comeback attempt—and one that was almost successful—by Tua Tagovailoa and company.

However, this was a quick and dramatic flip to 2020: the efficiency graph is something of a mirror from the year prio... if it was one of those crazy carnival mirrors that distorted everything and made it look bigger. Alabama was consistently up in efficiency by 30-35% points, spending the entire first half above a 70% success rate (and most of it above 80%!).

By the time garbage time was over, the Tide had settled into a merely-sky-high (but not as stratospheric) 66%. This was a very, very efficient game for the Alabama offense.

Success and Explosiveness by Play Type

Funny enough (given the points differential), this wasn’t a total garbage fire for the LSU offense. They weren’t anything like the Tide Flying Circus™, but they put up nearly-average passing efficiencies and slightly-above-average rushing efficiencies. Heck, the Tigahs’ rushing explosiveness was even a point higher than Alabama’s (though that’s been a rare relatively lacking metric for the Tide this season).

The Tide rushing attack was much more efficient though: given that our rushing SR’s did not drop per usual during garbage time clock-draining, we put up a dominating 70% rushing SR for the entire game. That is quite good.

Rushing and Passing Success (cumulative), Alabama

Mac Jones, Devonta Smith, and the Alabama passing attack started strong, stringing together long sequences of successful and/or explosive plays in the first half. After starting with 5 successful plays in a row (2 explosive), they were successful or explosive on 13 of their 16 first passing attempts!

Things slipped a bit for the passing game going into the second half—not all of which is on Bryce Young, by the way—so, the more consistent rushing attack held on to “take the lead” as the most efficient phase of the game.

Rushing rate (cumulative), LSU

Here’s something I wouldn’t expect to say about LSU in the current era (or even in past eras): they barely ran the ball. After the first quarter, LSU’s high water mark for rushing rate was not 37%, and they ended the game only rushing the ball 31% of the time overall.

Some of that can be chalked up to a come-from-behind strategy; except that this rushing rate line is quite consistent once the data settles in after the opening few drives. I think it was their plan all along.

Top Runners, Alabama

Najee Harris, per earlier comment, was excellent. Beginning late last season he finally started getting substantial touches per game, and it was good to see the same here. Yes, he’s no Derrick Henry in terms of his rushing attempt totals, but 22 rushes is a solid days’ work, and he did really good work during them—only 7 of those attempts failed to give us solid statistical progress (that is, gained enough yards to be considered “successful”).

Brian Robinson Jr. looked his usual solid self as well, with a 72% rushing SR on 11 attempts.

And then there’s the depth. It was scary and frustrating that Trey Sanders got hurt in a car wreck and had to sit out another season; for him, I hope he gets well, accrues his stats, and has a great career at Alabama and beyond. But, it’s good to see we’ve got solid depth behind him: Jase McClellan showed us again why he’s the new breakout name, and super-backup Roydell Williams actually went 3-for-3 for a 100% rushing SR.

All of the backs on this list (including Najee) should also be thankful to run behind such a good offensive line. It’s a lot easier to garner a “successful play” when the big boys are giving you a free few yards every play. After all, gaining 3 yards on 2nd-and-4 is a “successful play,” as is any first down.

In fact, when Alabama had 4 or fewer yards needed on a play, they had a 69% first down rate and an 85% (!) rushing success rate (11 of 13). A good line can get you success in that range very often!

Top Passers, Alabama

This is the most “Mac Jones” passing line ever: it’s not some weird ‘perfect game’ fluke, or a temporary lull in his season, or anything of the sort. It’s just that same, really good ~60%ish success rate (this time it’s exactly 62.1%) with a routine (for Mac), but quite good, 24% explosiveness rate.

Bryce Young got his usual (few) low-leverage cleanup attempts, and didn’t get to show much with them. I hope with more practice and reps he’ll get back into the incredibly impressive rhythm we've seen in his recruiting highlights; but we’re just not seeing it consistently yet.

Top Receivers, Alabama

And there’s Devonta. Listen, buddy, I’m sorry I can’t just put you on the top of every article every week, but you’ve got teammates that need attention, too! Smith put up yet another stellar line, with an 80% receiving success rate and a 40% explosiveness rate. The funny thing is, those amazing numbers aren’t even particularly unusual for Smith from the last few seasons (but especially this one).

John Metchie III made a nice showing in this one, with some solid WR2 contributions. Unfortunately, Slade Bolden is still on some sort of slow comeback trail, and was mostly invisible (or turning the ball over when he was finally making strides).

Jahleel Billingsley is making a habit of this TE-athlete-hybrid thing: his 3-for-4 performance is a 75% SR with a 50% XR to boot. Miller Forristall has been the consummate Tide teammate for years, but it seems like Jahleel is consistently being utilized in ways that Forristall is simply not as suited for.

Top Tacklers, Alabama

You can see leading tackler Will Anderson Jr. right there in the pile! He was the sixth Tide player to make a tackle (this chart builds in order of appearance), but he made up for lost time by racking up a bunch of them. It’s encouraging seeing a young star in the front seven have so much impact so quickly.

Speaking of youngsters: sophomore Christian Harris is consistently good and was right there behind Will in both Tackles and Stops (that is, tackles on unsuccessful LSU plays).

While the big boys up front didn’t rack up quite as many tackles as usual—and Dylan Moses had another statistical dud this week—we saw the defensive backs making a lot of tackles. This is partially due to LSU’s pass-heavy strategy, but it’s not a good thing seeing all these tackles from DB’s on what were often successful LSU plays.

Hopefully this figures itself out to some degree, but it may also be a result of the bend-don’t-break philosophy: basically, we’d either get a sack or a TFL, or we’d just get one of our athletic DB’s to take down a receiver before they managed to do too much damage. If it continues to lead to wins like this against SEC teams, then I’ll take it, but it’s something to keep an eye on.

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Check out the All Graphs Article for more charts.

Stay safe and Roll Tide.