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Graphing the Tide vs. LSU: it was so close

But fortunately the Tide got the stop and the break

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

Box Score: LSU at Alabama

Stat Alabama LSU
Stat Alabama LSU
Points 42 28
Total yards 507 478
Rush yards 288 206
Rush attempts 46 24
Yards per rush 6.3 8.6
Pass yards 219 272
Pass attempts 15-23 20-34
Yards per pass 9.5 8.0
1st downs 28 21
3rd down eff 11-14 4-9
4th down eff 0-0 0-2
Turnovers 0 1
Tackles 29 39
Sacks 1 2
Penalties-Yds 6-50 8-60
Possession 33:33 26:27

Whew. That was a wild one to watch. The box score belies the “shootout” (at least as much as you tend to get that in the SEC), and suggests (rightfully, to me) that it was closer than what the score suggets. Alabama won out in the topline metrics you want — score, total yards, and 1st downs — while tied or lagged in others.

The biggest out-of-context oddities, to me, were the gap in tackles (29 to 39 for a huge ~33% difference), 1st downs, and Time of Possession. I think the gaps are not entirely positive ... sure, Terrion Arnold’s interception likely reduced our tackles count, but so did the ease at which LSU picked up yardage in the 1st half. TOP is generally a good category to win in, too, but I’m not sure how much of that is also LSU’s quick-strike drives early.

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Team Success Rates over time (cumulative)

This week, SR and XR tend to agree with the box score on the non-score topline metrics: it was a close one! These efficiency and explosiveness metrics are remarkably inline with each other, with the major motions being that 2nd/3rd quarter surge from the Tigers, followed by the late 3rd quarter surge from the Tide.

As for how those compare ... keep in mind that the numbers here are cumulative, so it’s harder to move the lines late in the game. So for Alabama, especially, to surge like that late means that we really started making hay. Let’s look into that ...

Rushing and Passing Success (cumulative)

There it is: the Rushing Renaissance. The Tide was mostly respectably efficient during the 1st half — which is a relief against a bad defense — but this 2nd half rushing efficiency surge was huge. Coming out of halftime, Alabama posted 10 successful rushing plays in a row — albeit spelled by a few passes with mixed success — before flipping into what sure looks like a clock-bleeding scheme that dragged the rushing SR back down.

The passing game started pretty strong, with mostly efficient performance in the 1st half along with five explosive catches. But we stopped passing in the 2nd half, with only seven attempts after the break (and at hold-steady efficiency, too). I guess when you figure out what works — or more specifically, when Jalen Milroe figures out what works — you stick with it.

Rushing rate (cumulative)

Given the gaudy rushing totals for both teams, I thought I’d run this chart and see two high rushing rates facing off. But really, there was more balance than I recalled: Alabama’s offense didn’t swing into a “rushing majority” territory until the second half — and, heh, it seemed to work — where they leaned on it to win, and then to bleed clock and protect the ball late.

LSU started rush happy, but quickly swung into a pass-first offense — ironically during their most efficient and leading points during the middle of the game — before swinging back. Then down by 14 and without their 1st string running QB Jayden Daniels, they went pass-happy late in a futile comeback effort. All of this doesn’t even account for the fact that a lot of LSU rushing attempts were Daniels’ scrambles, so you could say LSU intended to pass much more than even this shows.

Success and Explosiveness by Play Type

Alabama ultimately won by rushing the ball, but LSU was more efficient doing the same; especially with those Daniels scrambles ... which literally worked every time (more on that later). The overall Tide rushing number did take some damage late in the game in what was at least partially a clock-bleeding effort: at its highest (at the turn of the 4th quarter), Alabama’s rushing SR was 68%, which is exactly what LSU’s is here.

And, ya know, I said that Alabama won by rushing the ball — and given the TD’s were all rushing ones, it sure seems to be the case — but the real differential in this chart is in the passing game (both in efficiency and explosiveness rate), so maybe Alabama won on balance by sprinkling in the passing game better?

Play Map: Yards and Result by Play

After weeks of seeing this Avg. Extra Yards line hover around the 0 mark for both teams, we finally have a “shootout” where this line is well into positive territory for both teams. And in this metric, LSU was decidedly better than the Tide until they settled in the 4th quarter (right before Daniels went out ... and then, obviously, after he went out).

Alabama showed more successful plays in this one, but we also just ran more plans in general (especially 3rd downs). I like to see all of these little filled in crimson dots on the board, but a lot of those explosive ones are just barely explosive (>15 yards gained). Over on the Tigers’ side of the chart, only one of their explosive plays was less than 20.

I guess Kevin Steele was deploying the ol’ “break down bend, but kinda bend as well” defense, eh?

Success and Explosiveness by Quarter

You know, as depressing as that first quarter was at times (especially early), Alabama actually edged out LSU in SR and XR in that frame. After that first flailing drive and then LSU’s quick score, we seemed to settle in nicely for the rest of the quarter.

The 2nd quarter was depressing (which was reflected by the deficit in the scoreboard then too), with the last minute giving LSU a sudden and dramatic boost in both metrics.

Then that 3rd quarter ... my, oh my. I have to admit, on my Tide-related text threads I was pretty pessimistic in the 1st half, but 2nd-half-Alabama showed up yet again and absolutely crushed this quarter (at least in offense and overall differential).

The 4th quarter was weird, gasping, clock-burning, oh-please-hang-on-to-this-lead.

SR, XR, and Play Count by Drive

Alabama managed to squeeze one more drive into this game: LSU did have a turnover and a few 4th down flame-outs, after all, despite their ability to score late in the 1st half and make the most of their possessions at that point.

And Bama actually was the team putting up more sustained drives this week, with only a few drives under 6 plays. We’ve been seeing a lot of the opposite this season, so it’s nice to see the offense stay on the field for a bit (even if it means nail-biting through a lot of 3rd downs; more on that in the next chart). That 11-play drive late was especially killer, given the clock burned on what was a “just barely sustaining” drive at 27% SR :grimace:.

LSU found success of their own on several drives, though interestingly didn’t post as gaudy efficiencies on several of them. I thought we’d see sky-high SRs, but I suppose for every Daniels scramble there was often an incompletion or a mostly-stuffed run on the down preceding it.

Success and Explosiveness by Down

In a close game, 3rd downs do it. And this chart looked way more like the Bryce Young charts of yore than they did the 2023 Tide: we had an amazing SR on 3rd down, and some impressive explosiveness to boot. Here’s my take:

  1. We had respectable, if not amazing efficiency on early downs, so Alabama often put themselves into 3rd-and-manageable, then converted from those positions (more on that in the distance chart)
  2. Jalen Milroe improved and checked down well here — I think? I’m not a game film buff — and got it to the TE once and running backs a few times out of the backfield, including on 3rd down.
  3. It’s just plain luck, folks: every play has some “coin flip” to it, and often Alabama is taken down by ‘tails’ coming up on 3rd downs in close games. But not this time: we were on a heater and were lucky to continue a lot of drives despite facing more 3rd downs than LSU did. Enjoy this one.

Also, LSU was 0-for-2 on 4th down in this one, which is obviously critically important against a great offense.

Success and Explosiveness in the Red Zone

Ah yes, the Red Zone. When people say that the 2023 Alabama defense is really great, I’m becoming increasingly convinced that this chart is where that actually bears out. Tell me if you’ve heard this one yet this season: the opponent was slightly more efficient and explosive between the 20s, but Alabama was considerably more efficient in the Red Zone, and ended up winning another nerve-wracking game as a result.

It’s interesting how few Red Zone attempts there were for each team (7); when you’re averaging high yards-per on both rushing and passing, often you just sail past the Red Zone and don’t accrue many plays there. Both teams also had a few stops just outside of the Red Zone, which mostly resulted in missed FGs for both teams. Sigh.

Success and Explosiveness by Distance to go

And hey this distance chart is less wacky than we usually see it: if you squint, you can see that in this one, if either team was closer to the line to gain, they were more likely to have an efficient play. Stunning analysis for two offenses that rushed well in this game.

But seriously, it’s been nice to see the Tide continue it’s 2023 trend of having sky-high efficiency in short yardage situations: it’s not something we necessarily enjoyed in the recent past. And, per my comments about the 3rd down efficiency, the ability to convert in short yardage is a big contributor to that.

Top Rushers

This one is both a surprise, and then not a surprise at all. Jalen Milroe has been biding his time all year, frustrating us with his relative unwillingness to tuck the ball and run. He relaxed his, um, “standards” in this one and delivered a hell of a rushing performance, with 4 explosive rushes (22% XR), on top of an efficient rushing performance (67% SR) on a surprising volume of attempts. I think this is not quite what Tommy Rees thought he was drawing up, but we all have to be pretty happy with the result.

The other backs did fairly well, too, though our recent bellwether in Jase McClellan was actually the least efficient of them (albeit on more attempts). Roydell Williams came in to do what he seems to do 14 of games, exploding for a score and a few big or converting plays late. And to the joy of many Tide fans, Jam Miller was platooned in to put up a solid 50% SR on 4 attempts.

Unfortunately, there are purple lines on here, too. While the Tide defense held RB Logan Diggs fairly well, Josh Williams did make some hay on limited attempts. And, dangit, QB Jayden Daniels was successful or explosive every single time he ran the ball (33% XR, 100% SR). Keep in mind again that I count Sacks as Passing plays but scrambles as rushing plays.

Top Passers

Fortunately, the QBs show up on this chart, too, and the Bama one was better. Jalen Milroe was very respectably explosive (26%) through the air, with an efficient line (56.5% SR) and very few “unsuccessful completions” (which is a trend for him).

Given the short-passing-and-YAC wing of LSU’s offense, Jayden Daniels delivered a few more unsuccessful completions (5), making his line less efficient than Milroe’s on a similar count of attempts. He also, thankfully, carried the lone dark gray mark in this one, putting up one INT that was part skill (thanks, Dallas Turner), and part luck. In a game like this, I’ll take both, please, in Crimson.

Top Receivers

The receivers were less pronounced in this game — really, on the highlight reel the passing games generally were less emphasized — but Bama’s chart is again diverse and somewhat surprising. Our apparent WR1, Jermaine Burton, only came up with 3 catches (none explosive), while Isaiah Bond actually served as an outlet with the highest catch count (and a few explosive catches in there).

Otherwise the ball was spread around. This pattern has become familiar, but in the Rees offense (and/or perhaps from Milroe’s reads), we tend to spread the ball and get explosive completions from a lot of different receivers, but often only once of twice. It’s nice to see a few of those go to RB’s, though (Jam Miller and Jase McClellan, plus a somewhat flex-back Kendrick Law), as it adds a nice wrinkle to the 2023 Bama offense.

Alabama Tacklers vs. LSU

Team Player SOLO TOT
Team Player SOLO TOT
Alabama Caleb Downs 9 13
Alabama Justin Eboigbe 2 6
Alabama Terrion Arnold 4 5
Alabama Dallas Turner 2 4
Alabama Trey Amos 3 3
Alabama Malachi Moore 2 3
Alabama Tim Keenan III 2 3
Alabama Jihaad Campbell 1 3
Alabama Deontae Lawson 0 3
Alabama Chris Braswell 1 2
Alabama Brayson Hubbard 1 1
Alabama Kristian Story 1 1
Alabama Jaheim Oatis 1 1
Alabama Tim Smith 0 1
Alabama Kool-Aid McKinstry 0 1
Alabama Damon Payne Jr. 0 1
Alabama Trezmen Marshall 0 1
Alabama Jaylen Key 0 1

And we’ve got tacklers data this week! I was tempted to put Caleb Downs as the image feature this week, given the pure volume of activity up here on the list. 9 solos of 13 total (!) tackles is a lot of work on the young man. Roll Tide, Caleb.

Unfortunately, that your free safety was making so many tackles is not necessarily a good sign, as he was often chasing down a scrambling Jayden Daniels or a receiver trying to get more YAC. To Down’s credit (and to his teammates, too), at least those YAC attempts didn’t tend to work well after the initial gain or conversion.

The drop-off is steep after Downs, with unfortunately a few more DBs towards the top of that list (Arnold, Amos, Moore), but you’ve got some DL mixed in there as well (Justin Eboigbe has been especially effective of late), and then you have to look down surprisingly far to see some linebackers. That’s a little odd for the usual LB-heavy lean of this chart, so it likely says something bad about our ability to contain Daniels and co.

There’s also a player on our team named Brayson Hubbard! He’s a freshman defensive back and he managed to deliver a solo tackle in this (huge) game. I suppose accruing a few injuries — temporary or game-ending — will make a DC start getting creative with his subs. Thanks, Brayson.

Annnnd that’s the game. I’ll forever be relieved at the outcome of this one, but despite the multi-score victory, it was indeed the close statistical matchup that we feared it would be. With a little gumption and a little luck, we got the W and get to see the dream out for one more week.

I’ll see you next week at “surely a hangover game” against Kentucky. We’ll see a real defense, but maybe our “new” offense will continue to have answers. Roll Tide either way.