A Beginning Is A Very Delicate Time

Here’s another guest post from the notorious P.A.B., statmeister extraordinaire.  Could game one of the 2014 bring good Tidings….?


A Beginning Is A Very Delicate Time:

A Look at the Tide’s 2009 and 2014 Opening Games


The question

How did the Crimson Tide’s victory in the 2014 season opener against the West Virginia Mountaineers compare to other first games during Coach Saban’s tenure?

The nitty-gritty

Put together a scores-based summary of all opening games since Coach Saban took the reins in T-Town. If any game appears similar to the 2014 game, dig deeper into the statistics.

Scores-based summary

Since Nick Saban became head coach in 2007, the Crimson Tide has an 8-0 record in opening games. Five games have been played on neutral fields – AT&T Stadium in 2012 and the Georgia Dome in 2008, 2009, 2013 and 2014. Five opponents have been from the so-called “power conferences.”

A quick review of the scores reveals:

  • Total points scored: 325 Average: 40.6 points/game
  • Total points allowed: 97 Average: 12.1 points/ game
  • Average margin of victory: 28.5 points per game

Looking at individual games:

  • Most points scored: 52 vs. Western Carolina (2007)
  • Most points allowed: 24 vs. Virginia Tech (2009)
  • Fewest points scored: 33 vs. West Virginia (2014)
  • Fewest points allowed: 3 vs. San Jose State (2010)

That’s an impressive run of victories, considering the level of competition with five “national exposure/season kickoff” games contested at neutral sites. Being nationally relevant year after year brings responsibilities and challenges.   No one can accuse the Tide of scheduling patsies, ducking the spotlight or refusing to travel.

The 2014 opening game, however, is something of an outlier. During Coach Saban’s tenure:

  • 33 is the fewest points scored
  • 23 is the second-most points allowed (24 by Virginia Tech, 2009)

10 is tied for the smallest margin of victory (34-13 vs. Virginia Tech, 2009)

Let’s compare the Tide’s offensive efforts between the 2009 game versus the Hokies with this year’s contest against the Mountaineers.

                                       2009                                                         2014

Time of possession:        37:02                                                       37:47

Total yards:                     498                                                             538

Offensive plays:             79 ; 22 first downs                               82 ; 30 first downs

Passing:                        230 yards, 15/30, 1 TD!                       250 yards, 24/33, 0 TD

Rushing:                       268 yards, 49 att., 2 TDs                     288 yards, 49 att, 3 TDs

3rd-down efficiency:      6/17 (35%)                                          9/16 (56%)

Turnovers:                     1 INT, 1 FMBL                                       1 INT

Penalties:                      10: 83 yards                                           7: 49 yards

In the 2009 game, Tide special teams allowed a 98-yard kickoff return (TD) in the first quarter. In 2014, a 100-yard kickoff return (TD) by West Virginia came in the second quarter. (Eerie.)

Good things from the 2014 game: 1) better third-down efficiency, 2) more rushing yards on same number of attempts, 3) fewer turnovers and 4) fewer penalties and penalty yards. Bad things: 0 passing TDs despite more attempts and a better completion percentage.

Overall, the offensive stats from the 2009 and 2014 opening games are very close. Both games were against above average opponents at the Georgia Dome and ended as 10-point victories. The 2009 season resulted in an undefeated BCS national champion. Might 2014 do the same?

By the Way

The observation that “A beginning is a delicate time” is taken from the movie Dune (1984). That film is based, of course, on the sci-fi masterpiece novel of the same title, written by Frank Herbert.   Dune (1965) won the Hugo and Nebula Awards and is among the best selling sci-fi novels of all time. If the 1984 film is not to your liking, look for the 2000 TV mini-series that was broadcast on the Sci-Fi Channel (as it was known then).


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