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5 “kinda surprising” graphs from the Mizzou game

The Tigers put up a statistical fight, if too little and too late

NCAA Football: Alabama at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t easy to choose which player to feature above, on the main graphing article this week. Should it be Najee Harris? Jaylen Waddle? Christian Harris?

I ended up going with Waddle for the All Graphs article, and Najee for this main article. For one, the drop-off between Najee’s effectiveness vs. his peers in this game was profound—we’ll discuss soon—and was more dramatic than Waddle’s position superiority. Also, I couldn’t find a great picture of Christian Harris from this game... which is a shame given that he stood out so much on the charts this week.

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Team Success Rates (cumulative)

Whoa! Look, I didn’t want these first few graphs of the season to be so ... funky. I wanted some of those straightforward, self-validating, “Alabama Crimson Tide blowout” charts that we all like.

But the Missouri Tigers had different plans for our graphing column this week. With their commendable garbage-time achievements, they managed to hoist their overall efficiency up to a 43% Success Rate, just shy of Bama’s 44% SR by the end of the game. That’s wacky, considering the score differential for most of this game. These are the makings of a distant moral victory.

Success and Explosiveness by Quarter

Seriously, though, looking at that quarters chart should have us Tide faithful take a quick pause. Sure, the 1st quarter was something of a walloping by the Tide, with a good 52% SR and elite 24% XR (Explosiveness Rate), to get the scoreboard going early. And yes, the 4th quarter demonstrated nearly hilarious efforts from the Mizzou Tigers to score meaningless aesthetic points. Those contrasting quarters did contribute to the overall evenly-matched efficiency.

However, the 2nd and 3rd quarters happened, too, and that 2nd quarter shows a pretty efficient Mizzou putting up slightly-above-average efficiencies on what was still a lot of Tide defensive starters. The run game, especially, kept the ball moving at surprising times against what appears to be a strong Tide front seven.

The 3rd quarter quickly wanders into “garbage time” territory, but Mizzou just improved on their efficient-but-boring mid-game method while the Tide offense slipped a bit. Bama had the game pretty much in hand, but we don’t wants to see quarters like these.

Play Map: Yards and Result by Play

The Play Map largely validates that main story: the 1st quarter vs. the bizarro world (and garbage time) 4th. But, Mizzou seemed to command time of possession through the middle of the game while Alabama’s offense delivered in only fits and starts. Heck, Mac Jones and co. barely even touched the ball in the 3rd quarter.

Good thing the Tigers were basically blanked through the 1st quarter (and most of the 4th).

Success and Explosiveness by Down

The by-downs chart isn’t terribly important this week, but it’s interesting that Alabama flipped the script from its usual “over-perform on overall efficiency, while having below-average 3rd down conversion rates.”

Not only was the offense efficient on 3rd down: that 29% explosiveness is extremely high. Hopefully we can keep these trends up in the bigger games, where 3rd down performance has been an Achilles’ heel in the past.

Top Runners, Alabama

Ok, so the remaining charts aren’t as “surprising” as much as “obligatory”: for the first game of the season, of course we want to talk about individual player performances.

And who better to start with than Najee Harris. He came out looking just like he did in the Citrus Bowl in January: mean, lean, and putting up solid Success Rates. His efficiency was actually an improvement on his Citrus Bowl one, where his 46% SR was good (and paired with a 12.5% XR). Against Missouri on Saturday, Najee’s 53% SR was strong and encouraging (even if paired with a lower 6% XR). In both games, though, an obvious trend appeared: Najee was the only rusher to really accrue much in either game.

Brian Robinson Jr. did some fairly efficient cleanup in both games, but the new names in 2020 are the most intriguing. And Bryce Young is fast! Fast enough to put up some successful scrambles, at least.

But Trey Sanders had a disappointing first look at Alabama RB, with a zero-for-nine (!) performance for a 0% SR. Look, part of that had to be on the offensive line without Evan Neal—per much discussion on RBR—but that just has to hurt. Hopefully this will be merely a blip in the radar that we’ve long forgotten by the New Year.

Top Passers, Alabama

There isn’t much here that hasn’t already been said in postgame reviews: Mac Jones wasn’t perfect, but he looked pretty darn good, especially slinging the ball downfield and generating a great 24% Explosiveness Rate. And that well-above-average 52% Success Rate will get us most of where we need to go this season, even if it isn’t the 60%-ish numbers we’d often see from Tua Tagovailoa.

(Apologies for yet another Tua comparison: for what it’s worth, Mac’s 24% explosiveness rate was right in line with Tua numbers).

Bryce Young had it a little tough, with an offensive line that suddenly stopped mauling the defense sometime in the 2nd half. These passing stats don’t control for that, or account for his 2-for-2 successful rushes we already discussed ... but still, these numbers aren’t exactly a statement. Give the young man time.

Top Receivers, Alabama

Again, the starters are obvious in here. Hopefully we’ll continue to see limited year over year drop-off due to the likes of Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith. Those two combined for a 54% SR and a 17% XR, which are solid numbers for a starting duo.

A nice somewhat-surprise was John Metchie III, who was out-of-nowhere awesome in the 2019 Spring Game but ... I, uh, had almost forgotten about him in the meantime. Nice to see that he’s built on those performances and made his way into a solid lineup. 2-for-2 explosive plays is not a bad college career start, my friend!

Top Tacklers, Alabama

These tacklers charts always have a lot going on—and here we have a mix of some old names, and some new (welcome back and thank you, thank you Dylan Moses).

The highest count on this sheet is Mr. Daniel Wright, who put in a lot of work on Saturday making sure the Tigers didn’t cause us more trouble than they did. However, those six tackles on successful Mizzou plays are, you know, the kind of tackles we wish someone else up front had made earlier to create unsuccessful plays. Thanks anyway, Daniel.

Included in the names I’m especially excited to see are Christian Harris—with his six tackles on unsuccessful plays, a really nice blank bar standing out on this chart—and LaBryan Ray, who’s been around for a bit, with a few stumbles along the way. I really hope this is the kind of performance we continue to see from him as he delivers on the promise of his talent and hard work.

All in all, it’s the beginning of a weird year that gives me conflicting feelings about organized football ... but it was indeed Alabama football, which felt to see again on a Saturday. For more charts, see all the graphs from this game.

Roll Tide, everyone, and stay safe.