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Graphing the Tide vs. LSU: Late downs, 3rd quarters, and Passing

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At least it’s better than the mess it appeared to be

LSU v Alabama Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Here are all of the Efficiency (SR) and Explosiveness (XR) charts I ran for this one.


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Team Success Rates over time (cumulative)

So, let’s get this out of the way: as a viewer of a TV product, I felt the same way you all did in real time about this (another) disappointing struggle-fest. After two weeks of rumination about bye week improvements, instead we saw maybe the worst game the Tide has had this season (even with the win).

But — while I spent the early part of the season as the grumpiest one in the room (low SR’s and 3rd down reliance) — I had a feeling I might end up on the sunnier side of the room this time. And the charts reflect it: Alabama’s offense was only barely above league average in it’s efficiency (at 44%), but it ended up a substantial 12 points ahead of LSU in that regard, plus well ahead on a respectable 14% explosiveness rate.

Yes, this is the worst offensive performance we’ve had all year, including against A&M, but the efficiency gap between the teams suggests that this was more likely to be a 2-3 score win than an LSU victory (which in real time, and against odds, it almost was).

For a useful comparison, let’s look at Georgia’s ‘easier’ win over Florida last week ...

Team SR and XR, Georgia vs. Florida

Look familiar? The details are different, and the ranges are too: ironically, Georgia-Florida was less of a defensive slug-fest than the Bama LSU game, with each team putting up 10-point higher efficiencies than in our game.

But otherwise, Georgia put together a +11 point efficiency to their opponent, and actually a -1 point deficit against the Gators, but they were rewarded with a nearly 4 TD victory over said opponent.

Because football is weird. Defensive touchdowns, turnovers, and notable TV highlights just distributed points in a different way than what we experienced against the Bayou Tigahs. It doesn’t excuse a relatively pitiful offensive performance from the Tide, but it does open us up to some perspective, I think, to why LSU was throwing a Hail Mary at the end of the game rather than losing by 4 TD’s. Let’s get into it

Late downs

Success and Explosiveness by Down

Look, before I get to that 4th downs line, humor me a moment: I’ve been grumbling here about Bama’s reliance on 3rd downs all year, and we finally had a game where that didn’t happen. And guess what? We scored way fewer points, our SR’s went down by about 10-15 points across categories, and we almost let this dumpy Tigers team beat us against a 4 touchdown spread. Live and die by the 3rd downs!

Hopefully we’ll see a regression to the mean here: gimme that 3rd down Bryce Young back, please, I’m sorry I complained about him.

But, yes, 4th downs is the obvious story here: the Tigers made even Kiffin blush by going for it on 4th down seven times, and they managed to convert it on 5 of them. Yeah, most of them were on short yardage (more on that in a moment), but that is an unusual rate and raw count of 4th down conversions. I mean, just look at the ratio of success on that down vs. on the earlier ones — their SR practically tripled from every other down they ran plays on.

As for Alabama, we were 0-for-1. Yeah this down alone is enough data to pretty much explain the whole thing.

Success and Explosiveness by Distance to go

Speaking of those short yardage conversions: we see practically the same effect here. The Tigers had well below average conversion rates for every category of distance (though, notably better than the Tide on a few of those), but their SR went up 200-300% in short yardage situations.

Interestingly, it happened to a lesser extent to Alabama, too; though we should have had more short yardage opportunities given that we were converting better on first downs (basically that >10 yards category).

And you may be sensing why it was that LSU was successful getting those short yardage (and often late down) conversions. It’s because they were mostly running the ball on them:

LSU 4th downs

  1. Avery Atkins pass complete to Jack Mashburn for 26 yds to the Alab 26 for a 1ST down (successful)
  2. Tyrion Davis-Price run for 2 yds to the LSU 45 for a 1ST down (successful)
  3. Tyrion Davis-Price run for 2 yds to the Alab 44 for a 1ST down (successful)
  4. Tyrion Davis-Price run for 37 yds to the Alab 8 for a 1ST down (successful, explosive)
  5. Max Johnson pass incomplete (not successful)
  6. Max Johnson pass incomplete (not successful)
  7. Max Johnson pass complete to Brian Thomas Jr. for 16 yds to the Alab 45 for a 1ST down (successful, explosive)

Top Rushers, LSU

But ... they weren’t just running it down our throats all night. Look at this runners chart for LSU: it looks terrible! These are really inefficient rates; and their Rush Rates were above 50% for most of the game.

So, the story is less “LSU did the ol’ RTDB better than the Tide did and look they got rewarded for it”! It’s just that they ran poorly all night but still managed to somehow convert those runs almost exclusively on 4th downs. Sure sounds more like coin-flipping to me than a real trend, but your mileage may vary.

3rd Quarters

Success and Explosiveness by Quarter

Alabama’s performance was erratic from quarter to quarter: this time (like in our last game) the 3rd quarter was this huge lull in offensive output. Just look at this play map:

Play Map: Yards and Result by Play

The Tide only accrued a single successful offensive play in the 3rd quarter, which was the long TD bomb to Jameson Williamson. In isolation, that play was awesome (truly), but massively disappointing that we did literally nothing else of value on offense. (Plus, the defense let LSU have their best quarter in the 3rd too).

This isn’t the first quarter-long lull we’ve seen out of this team this year; this might be an effect of small sample sizes, but it might truly be a trend:

Maybe it’s a story of adjustments (or lack thereof), playcalling, energy/motivation, or something ... but I can’t shake the feeling that it seems like a coaching thing.

Passing

Rushing rate (cumulative)

Watching the game in realtime, I was yelling “Run the Damn ball!” along with the rest of you — especially on short yardage situations, per usual — and the Rush Rate chart does validate some of that POV. In a season of low rush rates, this was one of the lowest, with us barely getting above a 30% Rush Rate for the entire game. Ugh.

Rushing and Passing Success (cumulative)

Problem is, this time our Rushing SR’s weren’t really looking very good. Unlike in some other games this season, at points in this game I don’t think I was correct that we just needed to #RTDB. I’m guessing that this one has something to do with the OL.

Top Receivers, Alabama

But, we did get one or two silver linings out of a crummy offensive day. For one, Jameson Williams was awesome! He had 9 successful catches (100% SR), with 4 of them being explosive (44.4% XR). He never caught a ball on a play where he didn’t get yardage needed for success (and they were often explosive gains). Part of that has got to be Jameson’s “big play and/or deep threat” role, but it’s cool to see him really earn that top billing on this chart in recent weeks.

That said, Metchie had a pretty good day himself! There were 3 catches on short (too short) yardage in there, but 6 successful targets including 1 explosive one are a pretty great line.

Slade, Latu, and Roydell Williams (!) round out the successful catches here.

To my everlasting sorrow, Brian Robinson Jr. didn’t have any successful catches, and didn’t really have an excellent running day either (I’m not even gonna show the chart here, check out the all graphs article for that and the rest).

Roll Tide!