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Graphing the Tide vs. Vanderbilt: Big gaps, plus graphs from Clemson/Wake and USC/OSU

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Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

Some bonus charts to put all this Crimson in perspective

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Alright! Graphing is always a little easier when the Tide wins big. And they won big vs. longtime SEC titan Vanderbilt. The charts look generally good this week — obviously — but I pulled out a few highlights, plus a few from other top games, too.

Team Success Rates over time (cumulative)

The Tide offense started efficiently, with 50-60% success rates, and they really held on to that range for the entire game. It’s not the 60%+ sky-high SR’s we’d expect from a true cupcake, but this steadiness is kinda remarkable.

To some extent, the Explosiveness line followed a similar path. Though, anything above 20%, much less the ~30% marks in the first half, is extremely explosive, so holding this line pretty well through four quarters is especially powerful (even if it did drift during the closeout phase of the game).

Play Map: Yards and Result by Play

A lot of that explosiveness came — as it often does — from the passing game: just look at the dark triangles (explosive catches) through the first half and going into the 3rd quarter. The sheer ratio of explosive plays to any other play is pretty magnificent on the Crimson side of this chart.

As for the Commodores’ side? I’d advise against even taking a look; it’s pretty sad.

Play Map: USC at Oregon State (9/24/22)

Speaking of sad, let’s talk about a “top 6 team” that really should’ve lost on Saturday night. The Trojans offense did the bare minimum all game long to stay in this one, mailing in an eventual 17-14 victory on a paltry two touchdowns.

Oregon State was looking the part of an undefeated darling, with a lead for most of this game, plus the advanced metrics to bear: the Beavers were ahead in Success Rate, ahead in Explosiveness Rate, and had a positive Avg. Extra Yards line (shown here) for most of the game.

Unfortunately, OSU QB Chase Nolan also threw 4 interceptions (vs. zero turnovers the other way), and USC put together just enough of an end-game flurry to sneak out of Corvallis with a victory. Sigh.

Rushing rate (cumulative)

Anyway: back to the Tide. The passing emphasis was obvious to anyone watching, but the chart is still a bit stunning: as of six plays into the 2nd quarter, the Tide offense was passing the ball 84% of the time, with that moment being the end of a run of fifteen pass plays in a row.

Not only is it not your grandpappy’s football team: we couldn’t even imagine these kinds of numbers a handful of years ago (with backfield numbers from folks like Henry, Harris, Jacobs, the whole lot).

The Tide went into “clock burn” mode midway through the 3rd quarter, and you can see the shift immediately: the rush rate turns up quickly and the Tide manages to close the cumulative rate in the 40%’s. Saban’s postgame comments — as covered here on RBR — suggest that some of it was RPO or Bryce’s call. Regardless, it appears the staff was really trying to work on that passing game in this one!

SR, XR, and Play Count by Drive

It wasn’t all perfect, but these are some great drives!

The Tide posted a few quick-stike explosive drives (a few of which show up as “100% SR”)
Those were some really solid ~65% SR drives mid/late in the game, you love to see the consistency drive to drive.
Only one three-and-out on the day (plus the relative dud to open the game).
That second to last drive with 15 plays for a workmanlike 47% Success Rate, are a thing of clock-killing beauty.

Success and Explosiveness by Play Type

Running was good. Passing was great!

Success and Explosiveness by Down

We do see some hints of the Bryce Young + Bill O’Brien recipe here; it’s subtle, but Alabama was again leaning on strong late-down conversion rates to keep things moving. Not only was 3rd down the most efficient down for the Tide; it was the most explosive down, too, with a massive 33% XR. At least in this one the previous two downs — and even the 4th! — were above-average and respectable in efficiency.

Look, the Tide has lately gotten acceptably good at riding 3rd down success into victories, too, so we have less room to cast stones on this topic than we used to. Just consider last year’s win at Auburn, the SEC Championship victory over Georgia, and our high 3rd down SR’s in the Bill O’Brien era in general. But, that said, the absolute “grandmasters” of this tactic showed out again this week … let’s take a look at the Efficiency bo Down chart from Clemson’s overtime win at Wake Forest on Saturday:

SR/XR by Down, Clemson at Wake Forest (9/24/22)

This one was a “contemporary vintage” Clemson victory: they basically did everything they could to lose, played poorly on a down-to-down average, and did the ol’ “stumble around blindly for a few downs before you pull a big 3rd down play out of your bum.” And then the Tigers barely won in quadruple overtime.

They’ve ridden this formula to national titles in the recent past — call it the Trevor Lawrence special! — so I hope this is more of an “echo” and not resurgence of this Clemson trend. And it’s too bad, too: the Demon Deacons were more efficient and explosive and deserved this home win, but instead we get “a ranked victory” for a “top-5” Tigers team that should have an L.

Top Rushers

That’s a nice long rushers chart! None of these lines are eye-popping or incredibly efficient, but it’s awesome seeing success from so many backs … and five explosive rushes spread over 5 different backs! Some notes.

Jase McClellan looks awesome. I don’t know that it would’ve changed the title game, but I wish we’d had him off the injury list in the postseason to see if we could get some of this hybrid back (runner/catcher) magic going.
Jahmyr Gibbs got a big run but otherwise wasn’t featured!
Jamarion Miller was a bit of a surprise; sure, it was a blowout, and he wasn’t particularly efficient: but he collected a handful of awesome highlights (and some points!) in a pretty generous alotment . It’s a bit of a stretch, but I see a little bit of Mark Ingram in his running style.
Roydell Williams was good in limited touches
Trey Sanders got an explosive rush in his 50% SR on 4 attempts. I’m really hoping that he can have enough success and collect enough tape to get to the NFL. He’s had a long and difficult road in Crimson so far.
Jalen Milroe is very fast.

Top Passers

Milroe, though, is still not seeing enough opportunities (and/or, is not earning enough) to show out as a passer. He had 4 completions, but two of them weren’t for successful amounts of yardage, so this is another 30-50% SR, low-volume game for him. But, again: he is very very fast.

Top Receivers

And hey, another long chart! Seemingly everyone on the roster got a catch in this game.

Hello again Ja’Corey Brooks! I was disappointed to see us open the season without Ja’Corey being a starter, but maybe this is is comeback tour. Those five explosive catches, of six total, is a nuts ~83% explosiveness rate. If you squint a bit, it looks like a DeVonta Smith chart (here’s the Graphing the Tide from the 2019 Ole Miss game where Smitty had 7 explosive catches). Brooks gets the article image feature for this week (and the All Graphs article goes to a celebratory Dallas Turner, just as a general celebration of this defense).

Other notes:

Strangely, Jahmyr Gibbs’ receivers chart is better than his rushers chart!
In fact, there are four running backs on this receivers chart! That’s awesome.
Jermaine Burton and Traeshon Holden both had respectable lines — with two explosive catches for Burton. Hopefully they both remain reliable options, but I wouldn’t mind Ja’Corey Brooks taking over the “main guy” role, if it continues looking like this game.
Kobe Prentice did a miniature version of his explosive game 1 against Utah State. That first one was with four explosive catches … and it’s been too bad that we didn’t keep seeing that from Prentice in the games since, but I’ll happily take it if this is a signal of his resurgence. More explosive receivers, please!

See the All Graphs article for more from this game. Roll Tide! On to the Hogs.

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