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12 “ho-hum” Graphs from Alabama vs Notre Dame

This one went roughly by the book

The CFP Semifinal presented by Capital One - Alabama v Notre Dame Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Well, we’re doing it again: DeVonta Smith gets the photo feature in the main article this week, because he just keeps doing Smitty things.

Top receivers, Alabama

I swear, it’s pretty much like this every week. Even coming out of a game where we had really nice receiver diversification—that’s two TE’s with 4+ receptions, a running back, four receivers, and even a pass from and to the same QB—DeVonta still stands out notably from the pack. His 7-for-8 performance for an 88% receiving SR, plus the 50% explosiveness rate, is just so Smitty-esque.

We are gonna sorely miss seeing this guy in Crimson, so let’s enjoy it this week, and then for one more game.

On the All Graphs article, we’re looking at that defense! Despite his limited experience as a true freshman without a full Spring camp, OLB Will Anderson Jr. has had a ton of impact in the Bama front seven this year. He led the Tide in this game with a full 5 stops against the Irish (plus another tackle on a successful Notre Dame play)

Top Tacklers, Alabama

Mr. Anderson, in fact, already earned this feature once this season for his performance against LSU—in some ways, this game was actually quite similar to that one: it was Bama vs. an outmatched opponent that still rode a garbage time 4th quarter to tally up still-average offensive efficiencies.

Other defenders in this chart could’ve been highlighted, too: DeMarcco Hellams was the leading tackler on the day, with 3.5 stops of his own. Christian Barmore was right there alongside Will Anderson on the line, with 4.5 stops, including a sack. The linebackers were a little lighter on tackles in this one, though Dylan Moses did collect his usual 3.5 or so stops, Jaylen Moody picked up 2, and Christian Harris had another 2.

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Team Success Rates (cumulative)

You know, watching the game live I didn’t think this efficiency chart would be too kind to the Tide. After a dull first drive, the Fighting Irish spent much of the first half eating up clock while they dinked and dunked and 3rd-down-converted their way to some long drives. Those kinds of drives—especially 3rd-down-ish ones—don’t always map to efficiency, but ball control does often imply some baseline success.

Basically, I thought Notre Dame was going to show up here as an efficient, but not explosive (and ultimately, not scoring) offense.

But I was kinda wrong: the Tide offense was massively more efficient than the Irish throughout the game, and especially in the first half. Bama’s Success Rates staying above 70% for the entire first half is truly pretty incredible; while Notre Dame barely scraped a league-average efficiency for the entire game. I guess living and dying on 3rd (and 4th) down conversions does come with its ills.

For what it’s worth; Notre Dame’s performance on efficiency does look better than how the scoreboard did; recall that they were sitting on only a single touchdown for the entire game until well into the garbage-time 4th quarter. Seeing so few points result from what was a pretty average Success Rate is pretty remarkable.

Success and Explosiveness by Quarter

This reads a lot like the overall efficiency chart, but whew if it isn’t stark example of coming out hot and trailing off into garbage time. You know, I don’t have any special insight into the coaching strategy or intention, but if there really was some sort of “hide the playbook after we get up a few scores, save it for the Title game” plan, this steady efficiency drop-off would be roughly compatible with that.

Either that or the Notre Dame defensive adjustments were very dialed in. Shrug.

For those fellow Gumps who were also irrationally upset in the 4th quarter—hello, friend—yes, the Tide offense had one of its “worst” quarters this season, with a terrible 22% SR and zero explosive plays.

Success and Explosiveness by Down

For those of you who were frustrated that this wasn’t a huge blowout: here’s a hint as to what kept it relatively close. The Irish weren’t particularly efficient on early downs—1st downs dragged down their averages considerably—but but they had a 50% 3rd down success rate and were 2-for-3 on 4th down attempts (including an explosive play in there).

Without getting those results on a few dice throws, this game could have quickly slid into a more dramatic victory.

Success and Explosiveness in the Red Zone

However ... we’ve got a counterpoint that again helps explain why the Irish offense only managed two touchdowns from a game of league-average Efficiency. It’s the Red Zone!

This chart doesn’t always tell us much, given that sample sizes can be small and context is fairly limited. But this was an especially strange data set: Notre Dame actually spent a good amount of time in the Red Zone, with 16 plays there (mostly in the 4th quarter, but some in the 2nd as well). Alabama, meanwhile, tallied only three plays in the Red Zone!

This partially results from the success gap: Alabama was quite successful in the Red Zone, so spent very little time there; while Notre Dame was sluggish and had to run a lot of plays (and convert some 3rd and 4th downs) to get their meager points.

Still, it’s interesting that even with the Tide facing more deep safeties lately, we’re still scoring on long plays and spending little time in the Red Zone.

Rushing and Passing

Success and Explosiveness by Play Type

Mac Jones! The passing game was great, with a stellar efficiency and pretty solid explosiveness, too. The running game was strangely even with Notre Dame’s performance, which was a surprise given Najee’s highlights on the ground.

Rushing and Passing Success (cumulative), Alabama

And ... for that rushing question, part of your answer is here. When Najee was running early in the first half, things were going great. They were perfect, in fact, for the first 6 (and 7 of the first 8) rushes!

Things fell off after that, with a slide of unsuccessful rushes that continued through the rest of the game. Part of that must be the predictability of a garbage time (drain the clock) offense, but this is a pretty rapid turnaround that could be attributed to that Irish defense, as well.

The passing game had a vaguely similar overall trend, but with a less dramatic falloff. We passed the ball early, and it worked brilliantly for a while, with 15 of the first 18 passes being successful (and 6 of those being explosive, to boot). We even had three explosive passes in a row (Smitty, Billingsley, Smitty) early in the 2nd quarter. Even after the garbage time swoon, our passing game was still delivering sky-high efficiencies above 70%.

Rushing rate (cumulative), Alabama

And that makes this rushing rate chart make more sense. To open the game, rushing and passing the ball were both working... but passing was clearly the way to build a quick lead against a team that would have trouble playing catch-up.

After the Tide build a lead, we started seeing more rushes come into the mix; the rushing rate steadied at around 43% for the remainder of the game.

Top Runners, Alabama

Unfortunately, Najee’s line here is susceptible to the same effects that the earlier charts were: rushing just became less efficient after the first quarter, and Najee’s rushing line ends up as technically one of the least impressive he’s delivered this season (40% SR, 13% XR).

It doesn’t quite match up with the eye test, where Najee’s dogged rushing, timely receiving, and highlight hurdles showed a hefty contribution to this game. But a lot of these rushes were slow developing and “something out of nothing” situations—Najee for 2, for 2, for 3, for 2, for 3—where a mere mortal back would have often gotten negative or net zero yardage. They still count as unsuccessful rushes if they don’t earn enough positive yards, though.

Our most efficient rusher was Mac Jones, who’s 4-for-4 performance is, I believe, his largest rushing line in Crimson. Stay tough, Mac!

Top Runners, Notre Dame

And for a quick nod to the other side: this Kyren Williams fella was pretty darn good, delivering the kind of efficient rushing line (56.3% SR on 16 carries) that we’re used to seeing from Najee instead.

Top Passers, Alabama

Say it with me again—Mac Jones! This wasn’t Mac’s very best line (68% SR, 23% SR), as he’s usually more explosive and slightly more efficient ... but heck, these are great numbers, and I swear we see Mac put up really consistent performances like this every week.

I get it—there are offensive systems, OC, good receivers and surrounding talent, NFL measurables (or lack thereof), and other pieces of context. People more knowledgable than I have different ways of judging quarterbacks. But this guy is just plain consistent, and that has got to have value.

I guess we’ll get another data point soon when we play against a team with an arguably more talented, but lately less consistent, quarterback. I’ll see you here for that one.

You can catch the rest of the graphs on the All Graphs article from this game. Stay safe and Roll Tide.