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Graphing the Tide vs. Ole Miss: B-Rob, Explosiveness, and More

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The charts don’t waffle on the winner here.

Ole Miss v Alabama Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Whew — that’s another “Saban assistant revenge attempt” down, this time with surprisingly little fuss. In a(nother) blowout, these charts tend to reflect the overall scoreboard and game highlights, but, there are some interesting changes in the Alabama 2021 tendencies in this game.


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B-Rob (and Rushing)

Top Rushers, Alabama

Look, there was a moment when I thought I’d be taking the week off from my B-Rob (Brian Robinson Jr.) pseudo-column here at Graphing the Tide. B-Rob started Alabama’s first rushing attempts against Ole Miss with his usual workmanlike 5-yarders ... but then Jase McClellan came in to bust open a 10-yarder and a 5-yarder, two successful plays, and looked impressive while he was doing it.

But, unfortunately, those would be Jase’s only 2 successful runs* in this game ... and to add injury to insult, he’d later leave the game with what might be a weeks- or months-long knee injury. Ugh.

Meanwhile, B-Rob got the ball back and proceeded to bull and dodge it forward for 22 successful rushes (3 explosive), for a 61% rushing SR ... which is really good for this kind of volume, if not amazing. So we’re back to talking about Robinson, and he’s the feature player image on this article. (The other feature image on All Graphs went to DL Tim Smith)

*Jase also caught a successful pass in the receivers chart

Rushing rate (cumulative)

You may see B-Rob’s line on the prior graph and think, “hey, I haven’t seen those kind of numbers out of a single rusher in a while!” Well ... at least I did. Najee had a surprise game or two like this when the coaches chose to lean on him heavily, but these are numbers more akin to the Ingram, Richardson, and Lacey eras. (I won’t even say Henry in that mix, he’d actually get even higher counts in games, sometimes into the 30s).

And part of why we saw this in this game wasn’t just about Robinson’s individual performance: it was a rushing-oriented strategy that we haven’t been seeing much of this season. It’s #RTDB! Just look at those lovely, mid-60-ish numbers throughout the game!

Meanwhile, on the Ole Miss side (click that “Switch Team” button), there was an oddly dead-even balance that might be a head-scratcher after all that chatter about (former Heisman contender) QB Matt Corral.

Success and Explosiveness by Play Type

And I suppose it makes sense why the Tide rushed it so much: look at those efficiencies! Our Rushing explosiveness was low-ish per usual, but that rushing efficiency was enough to keep the chains moving and the clock ticking, sparing us a reincarnation of the 2020 shootout against these same Ackbars.

That said, the passing game was pretty efficient in its own right — a just-above-average ~50% — but that 31% XR is off the charts. That looks kinda like 2018 Tua on a good day!

Ole Miss mustered up a bit of explosiveness in the passing game (3 plays total, only 1 in the first half), but not a single explosive rush, so their overall explosiveness was very, very low ... especially for a Lane Kiffin offense we were wringing our hands over a few days ago. (We’ll talk about explosiveness more in a bit)

Rushing and Passing Success (cumulative)

This one is weird and cool this time around: it turns out that Alabama’s incremental rushing efficiency may be more of a comment about our rushing success specifically in that close-out 4th quarter. Because for most of the game, Alabama’s rushing and passing efficiencies were right in line!

You can even see a 15-play spree in the 2nd and 3rd quarters where we only counted 2 unsuccessful plays. And, hey: that first quarter wasn’t so bad, either.

Passing

Top Passers, Alabama

Ok fine we’ll talk about passing, then! Bryce Young did his usual thing of limiting incompletions and interceptions (though he let one slip through here), but was extra explosive in this one, with 9 explosive passes for that >30% XR. Otherwise, his efficiency continues to be notably above average, but not yet at the rates we saw from our last few offenses.

We are very, very lucky to have this inexperienced QB pick things up so quickly (and after we’ve gotten so suddenly spoiled on top-flight QBs around here).

Top Receivers, Alabama

Yep: when the QB stat line looks good, the receivers tend to as well. 5 different receivers recorded explosive catches, while 2 more recorded successful ones. In a funny twist, 3 different wideouts (Jameson Williams, John Metchie III, and relative newbie Traeshon Holden) recorded only explosive catches. That might say more about the (apparently excellent) game plan than the talent, but it’s hard to say.

Explosiveness

Success Rate (SR) and Explosive Rate (XR) by Team

I think the Rush/Pass chart earlier explains the explosiveness gap already, but it’s worth calling out that Alabama (16% XR) literally tripled the explosiveness rate of Lane Kiffin’s offense (5% XR), keeping the Rebels’ explosiveness to lower overall rates than Mercer or Southern Miss achieved against this Tide defense. That is hilarious given the Gump community’s collective warnings about this offense (and the nerves given last season’s game in Oxford).

Extra Yards Map: Net yards gained from needed yards

Hey hey heeeey, here’s a new chart! Thanks to some brainstormin’ and chart-buildin’ from RBR’ers krnxprs and MCurve7, I’m starting to play with this new “Extra Yards” metric.

“Extra Yards” is a look at the yards achieved on a play minus the yards that were needed to consider the play “successful” (i.e., 50% of needed yardage on 1st down, 70% on 2nd down, and 100% of needed yardage on 3rd/4th). We’re just starting to look at this metric, but the idea is that it adds color (amplitude, really) to the standard binary “Success Rate” metric. That is, it “Extra Yards” can tell you not only how often plays were “successful (or not)”, but “how successful (or not)” they were.

MCurve7 has already done some explorations on this (see the comments in the last few Graphing Articles), but my first take is an adaptation of the Play Map: this time, we’re showing the “Extra Yards” for each play (including negative ones, for unsuccessful ones), and the cumulative Average Extra Yards achieved.

We’ll learn more about this chart as we feed more games through it, but for now, observe:

  • Alabama’s cumulative Average Extra Yardage — “AEY”, I guess? — stayed easily net positive for basically the whole game, while Ole Miss’s was easily net negative, even after going through garbage time
  • Alabama’s plays were not only more often successful (SR), they were also more successful, with plenty of explosiveness sprinkled in, too. While Ole Miss wasn’t necessarily barely converting on their side of the chart, their positive “extra yards” were much shallower and didn’t do much to bring up their overall averages
  • Ole Miss started strong, but then didn’t really clean up until Garbage time
  • Alabama had a bad run late in the 3rd! Look at that string of negative (by success) plays.
  • Note that I’ve artificially forced the upper range of the Y axis: I’m not trying to capture every single play — you miss a few extreme gainers here — but rather show the trends within the most common band of plays.

Other Trends

Success and Explosiveness by Quarter

I was surprised at how a few of these quarters looked. For one, that 1st quarter is perhaps Alabama’s best this season (good timing, BOB), while the 2nd was a surprising lapse given how the scoreboard was so Crimson-y by halftime. Also, Alabama’s explosiveness and success in the 2nd half is not the usual blowout trend! Perhaps it’s a feature of keeping those starters in late (which resulted in some grumbles around here).

Success and Explosiveness by Down

Wahoo! We did fine on 3rd down this time, but we didn’t seem to lean on it nearly as heavily as we have been. 1st and 2nd down are showing nice, healthy >50% efficiencies, while the late downs seemed to play the “Boom or “Bust” roles, with lots of explosiveness, too. This is a refreshing balance compared to the 2nd (and sometimes 1st) down weakness we witnessed in the first few games. Let’s not get into the habit of bailing ourselves out on 3rd and long!

Meanwhile, LFK’s 4th down strategy looks ... a little different ... when you’re only getting 40% SRs (which would look much worse without garbage time attempts).

Success and Explosiveness by Distance to go

This is another new-ish chart, and one that I previously mentioned is a bit hard to pin down insights from: maybe MCurve’s charts will illuminate more here.

We can be thankful, especially for our own 4th down trials, that Alabama did real, real well on short yardage situations (0-3 yards needed). Keep things moving!

But Alabama’s SRs were strangely low on medium-yardage (3-6) situations, while being oddly high on the 6-9 yard range that teams so far seem to struggle on (including Ole Miss in this game). As a fan watching the games, I can’t help but think that it’s some of Bryce Young’s scramble-throw tendencies on those longer-yardage situations ... or maybe reflecting our newfound success on 2nd downs (where you’ll more commonly be seeing distances in the 6-9 yard range). In any case, I’ll keep looking at this one as we play more SEC opponents to see if more trends emerge.


Roll Tide! On to the next one. See the All Graphs article for more charts about this game.