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Graphing the Tide vs. Georgia: ROLL TIDE WOOOOOOOO!

Efficiencies and explosiveness were basically tied, so the turnover (and a few other factors) won the game.

NCAA Football: SEC Football Championship-Georgia at Alabama
Isaiah Bond was the main man, again.
Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

Box Score: Alabama vs. Georgia

Stat Alabama Georgia
Stat Alabama Georgia
Points 27 24
Total yards 306 321
Rush yards 114 78
Rush attempts 41 31
Yards per rush 2.8 2.5
Pass yards 192 243
Pass attempts 13-23 21-29
Yards per pass 8.3 8.4
1st downs 20 19
3rd down eff 3-13 4-12
4th down eff 2-2 2-2
Turnovers 0 1
Tackles 41 39
Sacks 2 4
Penalties-Yds 3-36 5-56
Possession 31:09 28:51

Wow. Roll Tide! I didn’t think I was going to write this version of the article: the advanced metrics favored the quite-efficient Georgia Bulldogs in this one. In fact, behind ESPN+’s paywall, SP+ still calls the Bulldogs the team with the better statistical profile.

But the Tide turned things around and won the thing. While the rhythm of the game felt different at times, the numbers both on the box score and in the advanced metrics mostly agree with the scoreboard, in that it was a close game. On the margins, it looked like the Dawgs would’ve won this one in a close game — see total yards, 3rd down efficiency, and sacks — but close games get decided in many ways. In this one, it seems to have been:

  1. Yards per rush (YPR) — 2.8 yards per rush isn’t very high! But it was higher than Georgia got, and it represents Alabama leaning on the run game to stay ahead in this one.
  2. Time of Possession (TOP) — obviously burning some clock at the end was critically valuable for Bama
  3. Kickers (special teams) — no, this isn’t in the box score, but our kicker made his FG and theirs didn’t.
  4. Field position — it’s subtle, but one way you win despite having fewer yards than the opponent is just that, having better field position on average.
  5. Penalties — it wasn’t perfect, but penalties favored the Tide slightly (a little discipline, a little luck) and influenced yardage in important moments. All in all, Georgia accrued more penalty yardage in a close game.
  6. Turnovers — speaking of field position, that 2nd-half fumble by Georgia deep in their own territory was a crucial mistake. It game Alabama a free 3 points that they ended up needing (though, c’mon guys, we couldn’t have gotten a few more points down there?). Given the amount of dropped INTs in this one, turnovers could’ve forced this to be more decisive, too.

Not seeing graphs below? Tap here to fix it.

Team Success Rates over time (cumulative)

The Advanced metrics fall in line here, with Georgia gaining a slightly higher efficiency than Alabama (46% to 45% SR), while Alabama had the slightly higher Explosiveness Rate 13% to 12% XR). Though, if you exclude the clock-burners at the end, the Tide actually had a 48% on that last 9-yard Milroe run.

It took a while for the Alabama offense to get going in the 1st quarter — your dear columnist was as disappointed and enraged as you, believe me — but once things picked up, the Tide cumulatively more efficient than the Dawgs for a little over 2 quarters. Explosiveness was a dead heat after the Tide managed to catch up at the end of the first half (see: 4th-and-4 to Bond).

Georgia started strong on both counts — what a gut-punch of a first drive! — but then drifted throughout the rest of the game. Their efficiency did rally towards the end, with two good drives (albeit also aided by 4th down conversions) dragging their cumulative Success Rate out of “average” territory and into something more positive.

Rushing and Passing Success (cumulative)

RTDB! Alabama found success on the ground early after discovering that Jalen Milroe was, apparently, not going to have a good night through the air. Alabama’s first rush was a dud, but then their next six (and next 9 of 10) rushes were all successful.

Meanwhile, Alabama’s passing game was woeful, with five unsuccessful passes to start the game. Fortunately, that XR leap had to come from somewhere, and indeed Milroe started finding deep targets in the 2nd quarter. In fact, of Alabama’s eight explosive plays in this game, seven were passes, and five of those were in the 2nd quarter. That first half was a clinic in executing a boom-or-bust passing game (which I’m not sure is what coaches really god for, but we’ll take it).

Rushing rate (cumulative)

RTDB, part II. Again, Alabama came out shaky on passes, so reverted to the run quickly. Once they did, they laid on it for a quarter and a half before drifting into a more balanced offense later on. Part of this must’ve been an adjustment to Georgia’s halftime adjustments, but if we’d lost this one then it’d be kinda easy to say “it was working when we ran the dang bawl Pawwwllll, why’d we stop!?”.

Per what appaers to be their 2023 usual, Georgia ran a very balanced offense for most of the game but had to lean on the passing game (apparently mostly to their benefit) in the 4th quarter.

Success and Explosiveness by Play Type

And there it is, simplified: Alabama was better at rushing the ball, but notably less efficient passing the ball. Good thing Milroe’s “meh” passing efficiency still came bundled with his now-usual explosiveness.

I kept calling Georgia’s passing offense “solid, but boring” during this game — accurate throws to quick 5-yard outs on 1st down, etc. — and I guess statistically that’s what this ends up looking like ... a more efficient, but less explosive passing game.

Play Map: Yards and Result by Play

This one wasn’t as erratic as that mess in Jerdin-Hare last weekend — both teams found success in each quarter — but the 3rd quarter for both teams does feel a little empty.

That Average Extra Yards metric this week is interesting: neither team printed a particularly good number by the end, but Georgia led slightly in that metric for much of the game. Part of that was a big boost from the longest play of the game — Arian Smith’s 51 yard catch — but overall, Alabama just gained the “extra yards” in the moments that it needed them the most, and Georgia did so less.

Success and Explosiveness by Quarter

2023 Alabama’s offense is always good for about a half of football, and it turns out that in this one — despite the first two drives — it was the first half. Alabama’s rushing game bounced back after the early 3-and-outs, posting two quarters of efficiency advantage over the Dawgs. Georgia did post a nice explosiveness number in the 1st — based basically on that excellent first drive — but Alabama ripped back the XR advantage in the 2nd quarter.

The 3rd quarter was a lull for both teams, but unfortunately more so for Alabama: whether it was adjustments, protecting a lead, or just the ol’ “we only have 2 good quarters in us” effect, we just couldn’t get anything going then. A sub-30% SR is really bad.

Both teams also bounced back in the 4th quarter, with Georgia especially rallying to try to take back the W. The efficiencies look good, but the damage was already done on turnovers and special teams.

SR, XR, and Play Count by Drive

The drives chart is odd and telling. Alabama’s offense managed to win this game (and get nearly 30 points) while having five 3-and-outs ... four of which included no successful plays. When things weren’t working for Alabama, they really weren’t. We just had to give up and hope for better on the next drive.

Fortunately, we strung together a few good ones in a row relatively early on, before falling asleep until the last two drives of the game. I’m not sure if this is a “coaching football is a chess match” kind of thing, or if it’s just another expression of the Tide’s Jekyll and Hyde routine this season, but it was certainly an emotional roller coaster.

As for Georgia: they had plenty of short and sad drives of their own: two 3-and-outs, three “4-and-outs” (when they get one 1st down but then fail after), and two 5-play drives. The managed to keep things interesting with explosive drives early (2) and late (19), and then two long “classic Georgia” efficiency drives (8, 21). All in all, they weren’t as extreme as Alabama in their performance swings, but they had more disappointing drives than the Tide, which was enough in a close game.

Success and Explosiveness by Down

The Milroe magic on 3rd down was absent in this game, as we reversed again our season trend of slightly elevating our SR on 3rd down. Instead, we posted what might be a season low on 3rd down, with a pathetic 23% 3rd down SR and our lowest XR across downs.

To their credit, the Alabama defense held Georgia to their lowest SR on 3rd downs too, though again they were more even across downs while the Tide flailed from great to gone.

Those 4th downs ended up netting out at 2/2 per team, but obviously every one of them felt monumentally consequential in this game. (I really thought we had Georgia dead-to-rights on the first of their 4th down attempts, which wouldn’t been lovely for our margin of victory).

Success and Explosiveness in the Red Zone

For the second week in a row, Alabama flipped (for the negative) another season long trend and underperformed in the Red Zone. We’ve been finding wins in the Red Zone all season long and then Auburn and Georgia just made that difficult.

That the Dawgs were efficient between the 20’s shouldn’t be surprising, given their high efficiency numbers all year. They also underperformed in the Red Zone — those late stops ‘til 4th-and-goal loom large here — but slightly outperformed Alabama.

Interestingly, each team accrued explosive plays in the Red Zone, which is numerically unlikely!

Success and Explosiveness by Distance to go

Well there we go, at least one season-long positive trend we could hold on to! Alabama was efficient from short yardage again, doing enough in mostly the run game to keep the chains going.

Alabama outperformed the Dawgs at distance, too, with some of that Milroe Magic sprinkled on the early downs and “and long” situations.

The middle distances were really inefficient for Alabama — though that 7-for-7 XR at 3-6 yards out is an interesting comment on playcalling — for reasons that aren’t clear to me. It just seemed like for the Tide offense, you either knew a drive was going to be good or not right away, and these middling-distance downs were indicators that things weren’t necessarily going well this drive (give up, insert coin, try again).

Top Rushers

I was pretty worried about Jase McClellan being out. Yeah, he’s been less than “remarkable” for games and stretches this season, but he’s an all around great back and has fought for important yards on almost every touch he’s gotten.

I think we did miss Jase in moments, but Roydell Williams and Jam Miller did us proud in this one, leading a rushing attack that was both more efficient than the passing game (by far), and more efficient than the Dawgs. Roydell’s 50% SR on 16 attempts is pretty solid against a good defense in a championship game, and Jam followed up with a 44% SR on 9 carries.

The difference-maker, of course, was once again Jalen Milroe, with a 60% SR on QB runs and scrambles, including a crucial explosive play late (that 30-yard rush off the left that nearly sealed the game on its own).

Top Passers

Speaking of Milroe, he also occasionally passed the ball ... but not often well. It’s not the first game we’ve seen Milroe throw so few passes — he was just 12/23 for a 52% passing SR, including an unsuccessful receiption in there — but his prior performances tended to be the “play action” type that netted higher efficiencies.

So, for the first time in a while — maybe all of 2023, aside from the Texas game — I have to give the opposing QB the nod for having the better game.

That said, Milroe is a very explosive passer by nature of his patience and route selection, so he still netted more explosive passes than Carson Beck, even on fewer attempts, fewer catches, and fewer successful catches.

Top Receivers

Isaiah Bond is the man, and gets the article image for the second week straight. Against Auburn, He got it for essentially tying Jermaine Burton, but with one more explosive play (and an absolutely huge one).

But this week, it’s for being easily the outstanding receiver for Alabama: his five successful catches included 2 explosive ones (40% XR), which then included both the early 4th down conversion (yeah, maybe review would’ve overturned that one), and the late almost-TD.

Only one other receiver, Jermaine Burton (2) recorded multiple catches in this one. But honestly we’re seeing another continued trend here, with ball distribution contributing to explosive plays ... that series of dark crimson “1” bars is something we’ve seen almost every week. It’s either a Milroe-ism or a Tommy Rees thing that a lot of explosive plays tend to come from “unlikely” receivers.

Alabama tacklers vs. Georgia

Team Player SOLO TOT
Team Player SOLO TOT
Alabama Terrion Arnold 5 6
Alabama Malachi Moore 5 5
Alabama Trezmen Marshall 4 5
Alabama Caleb Downs 4 4
Alabama Jihaad Campbell 4 4
Alabama Deontae Lawson 4 4
Alabama Dallas Turner 3 4
Alabama Tim Smith 3 3
Alabama Jaylen Key 3 3
Alabama Justin Eboigbe 2 3
Alabama Jaheim Oatis 1 2
Alabama Kool-Aid McKinstry 0 2
Alabama Quandarrius Robinson 1 1
Alabama C.J. Dippre 1 1
Alabama Tim Keenan III 1 1
Alabama Chris Braswell 0 1
Alabama Kristian Story 0 0
Alabama Trey Amos 0 0

Another week with tacklers data is another good week. For better or for worse, a few of our top tacklers this week were defensive backs, with Terrion Arnold leading the way (plus Malachi Moore and Caleb Downs, and Jalen Key following). I’m guessing that the Dawgs leaning late on the pass and doing a lot of passes to the edges on early downs contributed to this lean towards DBs.

Otherwise, the linebackers absolutely showed up: Trezmen Marshall had something of a breakout game versus his old school, and Jihaad Campbell and (a banged-up) Deonte Lawson also put in four shared tackles apiece.

The DL and outside linebackers largely fill out the rest of the list, with an apparent recording error giving credit to TE C.J. Dippre for another tackle. Great job, C.J.!

All in all, it’s simply astounding we’re here. I was hoping that the result would make itself obvious more quickly — and really stretching a hope that the Tide would have a breakout game and really show out. But don’t you know it, it was two good teams that were projected to have a close game ... and a close game we got.

The data doesn’t reveal anything particularly departing from the scoreboard, but I think it’s fair for a Georgia fan thinking about the “almost had” moments and mistakes in this one. Sure, I saw the same dropped INTs that you did, but in a close game — close on the scoreboard and in the metrics — things really do come down to a few decisions, a few calls, a few bounces. And despite our constant “growing pains” this year, the Tide has gotten just enough to get to the Playoff. A “miracle season” for a team that’s recently gotten more used to “dominant routine” instead. It’s been a stressful one, with so many close games, but when it’s been fun, it’s been real fun.

Roll Tide all, and Happy Holidays. I’ll see you after the break for what might just turn out to be two more games (if we keep getting better, and keep getting the bounces). On to the Rose Bowl.