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Graphing the Tide at Ole Miss: We probably should’ve lost!

A comeback almost made up the gap, but Ole Miss was stronger overall

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 12 Alabama at Mississippi Photo by Austin McAfee/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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Team Success Rates over time (cumulative)

I was afraid we’d see something like this as soon as the first quarter was in the books. Well, to be fair, at that time my chief fear was that we’d lose this game, and by a more decisive margin than the last few.

But my second-place fear was this result: a victory on paper that nonetheless showed Alabama’s opponent as the superior statistical team. That one definitely happened, with Ole Miss’s offense posting advantages over the Tide in both efficiency (47% to 42% SR) and explosiveness (a poor 10% that still beat out a pathetic 4% from the Tide).

That said, this chart is showing cumulative rates, so awful first-half performances drag down the lines and don’t entirely tell the story of Alabama’s comeback. Breaking it down by quarter opens the picture up a bit.

Success and Explosiveness by Quarter

That first quarter ... ouch. Hilariously, Alabama’s single successful play of the first quarter was also an explosive one. And just barely: it was a 15 yard pass to Cameron Latu, yet another 3rd down safe from Bryce Young. The rest of the quarter went nowhere, though, and the Tide earned zero points for their efforts. Looks like Kiffin’s DC was prepared for the fire trucks early.

The other quarter lines look much more kindly on the Tide. In fact, they “won” the 2nd and 4th quarters on efficiency (though they lost the explosiveness matchup in every quarter), and posted average or above-average SR’s in every quarter but the first. That’s fine, but honestly still not desirable performance from a talented offense playing the SP+ 39th-ranked defense in the league.

Still, that 3rd quarter from the offense — and the 4th quarter from the defense — filled the gap and let the Tide slip away from this one with a one-score win.

Play Map: Yards and Result by Play

Similar to the game vs. Mississippi State and the loss to LSU, the Tide got the win but the other team put together the Play Map you’d prefer. This baby blue scatterplot is something of a dream through 3 quarters, with rushing success spread throughout and a nice sprinkling of explosive passes through every quarter. Fortunately for the Tide, that ended for the Aardvarks abruptly in the 3rd quarter, and their final frame was challenging enough to decide the game.

Flipping over to the Tide chart, this thing is bizarre. There in the 1st quarter is your one successful play in the first quarter, Followed by a clowncar of failures — that 14-yard run was a Bryce scramble that came up just short on 3rd down — before getting into the swing of things somewhat in the 2nd quarter.

The 3rd quarter is so strange, with some early failures convincing us that this wasn’t going to be a turnaround job! But late in the 3rd we saw an absolute spree of success — balanced, with runs and passes! — that bled over into the 4th quarter for a moment before some late sputters. Was this a sighting of the fabled “Fire Truck offense” that Bill O’Brien has designed the playbook around?

SR, XR, and Play Count by Drive

Again similar to the Play Map and to last week’s loss, the non-Crimson team was the more consistent one on a drive by drive basis. Ole Miss did have a few lapses (especially with some 3-and-outs in the 2nd half), and a few underwhelming efficiencies on a few drives, but were the more consistent offense across the game. In fact, they posted five drives with a >50% SR, including three (technically) with a 70%+ rate. Those are really efficient drives.

The Tide was erratic again. The one respectable drive in the 1st half was that 6-play run (Drive 8 in this chart) in the 2nd quarter; you know, the one where the offense moved more quickly, apparently tried some RPO stuff and Jermaine Burton caught a 19-yard strike from Bryce Young for a TD.

Drive 14 was the one coming off of that odd (and close) fumble by Ole Miss RB Zach Evans. Alabama had excellent field position and delivered a TD in 6 plays on a 50% efficiency.

Success and Explosiveness by Play Type

You know, the Rush/Pass story feels important in any game: it’s one of the core decisions that OC’s make a hundred times a game, and it’s easy to second-guess this simple decision based on play outcomes. But I think compared to most games, it’s less of a story here, at least statistically. Overall, the Tide continued its 2022 trend of leaning on the pass. We also saw an unfortunate gap in the rush SRs, plus the Tide defense giving up some big passes.

Rushing and Passing Success (cumulative)

Otherwise, these run/pass numbers aren’t that telling before we stretch them over time. Alabama’s running game did struggle horrifically in the first quarter, notching seven unsuccessful rushes in a row. Heck, the passing game was struggling too. Things started picking up in the second quarter, but the cumulative rushing SR didn’t catch up to the passing line until the last “real” Tide drive of the game. Some really nice sequences in there saw the Tide posting 3- or 4 successful rushes in a row, usually with passes in the mix, too.

But overall, each phase of the game settled in right around NCAA average marks for efficiency (and showed very little explosiveness overall). Ole Miss’s chart isn’t “sky high” — at least not after the first quarter — but this is an uncanny expression of ‘balance’ of success across the two phases of the game.

Rushing rate (cumulative)

Speaking of balance ... the Tide was oddly balanced in this one! I thought we’d see the usual “lean on Bryce Young” effect — and we did in the first quarter, to great failure — but these are some of the higher Rushing Rates we’ve seen from the Tide in 2022.

Ole Miss is ... unbalanced. But toward the rushing game! Coming out of the first quarter, they were posting 70%+ Rush Rates, which is pretty nuts for a non-option-based offense. And they were doing it well, if we’re being honest. They started going towards the pass more and more as the second half went on, which may have been a mistake considering the relative efficiencies and the ultimate result in a close game.

Success and Explosiveness by Down

Usually this chart is rife with red hot storylines. But not this week! The 3rd down over-performer was actually the team without Bryce Young this week (which usually results in a Tide loss). Overall the efficiencies and big plays were even across all downs for both teams.

Success and Explosiveness in the Red Zone

The Red Zone, however, was it’s usual storyline-centric self. And, if you like, you can somewhat chalk up this game to Rd Zone efficiencies, where the Tide had the edge down there by a few points (plus an explosive play down there, which is uncommon), while Ole Miss carried the other parts of the field easily.

That said, the gap wasn’t that big. I think there’s some Red Zone story here — and a preferred one from the Red Zone beating that Bama took last week — but this is another chart this week with odd evenness across.

Success and Explosiveness by Distance to go

Again this one doesn’t feel meaningful this week. In a way it maps more closely to conventional expectations for rushing-first teams, where short yardage situations are easy to convert (~70% SRs for both teams), and longer yardage situations are more difficult. That 3-6 yard gap for the Tide is weird, though.

Top Rushers

This rushers chart is sparse this week, and that empty Jahmyr Gibbs line is spooky. Jase McClellan stepped in nicely, relatively speaking, but still posted a sub-50% line on the primary load of 19 (!) attempts.

So ... this week I featured an opposing player in this article image for the first time. Quinshon Judkins — the Ole Miss freshman RB who grew up in Alabama — posted a pretty amazing line for the 25 carries he got. He only put up one explosive rush, but those 17 total successful rushes put him at a 68% Success Rate, which is high for a lead back who’s taking that many attempts. So, he gets the kudos from me and the image feature.

Fortunately, Jaxson Dart was kept to one explosive scramble and two more successful ones, but his other nine rushing attempts were unsuccessful.

Top Passers

The passer charts look oddly similar between the teams’ respective QBs, but Jaxson Dart put up a few more explosive passes for his efforts, with similar efficiencies to Bryce overall.

Top Receivers

The Tide receivers chart is at least more fruitful-looking than it did last week, with eight different receivers making catches. Jermaine Burton and Ja’Corey Brooks appear to actually be the WR1 and WR2 that they’re written in as on the depth chart, and we got a few contributions from the young’ins, too. Kendrick Law, especially, took a turn as “freshman receiver of the week” — Kobe Prentice and Isaiah Bond have held this spot for a game or two each — with his 3 successful catches for a 100% SR.

Ole Miss’s receivers list is ... very concentrated, though, with only four catchers listed. WRs Jonathan Mingo and Malik Heath both made hell where they could, standing out as truly leading wideouts in the absence of much help. I’d be more frustrated at seeing these receivers get the kind of separation needed to each get 6 successful catches — and 6 total explosive catches between them — but, you know, we won the game in the end so it colors the analysis.

Roll Tide.