Bama versus the SEC in 2015

Introduction

In this entry, we update our summary of offensive production by Bama’s opponents, adding information from the Tide’s game on 10/24 versus the Tennessee Volunteers.  For reasons known only to athletic department schedulers and dayologists (calendar experts), the “Third Saturday in October” fell on the fourth Thursday this year.   Unfortunately for Big Orange fans yearning to belt out a victorious “Rocky Top” in Bryant-Denny Stadium, the Saban-era dominance (9-0) over the Vols continued, albeit with some tense moments.

Also, for those of you at the intersection of “interested in marching band formations” and “curious about famous mathematical forms,” – and we know you’re out there – the Volunteers band gave us a treat at halftime.  Surely you all appreciated the flat disk with evenly-radiating arms that moved across the field: a fine rendition of a logarithmic spiral if there ever was one.   (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logarithmic_spiral)

Season record to date

AP Final Bama
Date Opponent Conference   Poll Score Record AP Poll
9/5 Wisconsin Big10 20 35-17 (W) 1-0 3
9/12 Middle Tenn Conference USA NR 37-10 (W) 2-0 2
9/19 Ole Miss SEC – West 15 37-43 (L) 2-1; 0-1 SEC 2
9/26 UL – Monroe Sun Belt NR 34-0 (W) 3-1 12
10/3 Georgia SEC – East 8 38-10 (W) 4-1; 1-1 SEC 13
10/10 Arkansas SEC – West NR 27-14 (W) 5-1; 2-1 SEC 8
10/17 Texas A&M SEC – West 9 41-23 (W) 6-1; 3-1 SEC 10

10/24     Tennessee          SEC – West                 NR        19-14 (W)       7-1; 4-1 SEC             8

Going into the game, Bama, at 8, was the top-ranked one-loss team in the AP Poll.  There were two major upsets over the weekend.  Florida State, which was ranked 9, lost to unranked Georgia Tech (22-16) and – more importantly – Utah,  undefeated at 3, lost to USC (that’s the other USC… the private university located in Los Angeles), 42 – 24. So look for Bama to move up a bit in the AP poll.

Ole Miss, the only team to win against the Tide this season, defeated Texas A&M, 23 – 3 in Oxford.   For strength of schedule considerations, this is probably a wash: Rebels win (good), but Aggies lose (bad).

Now the schedule sets up very nicely for the Tide.  The team has a bye week, then faces off against LSU in a huge game to be played in Tuscaloosa.  (Huge game?  Bama vs. LSU… is there any other kind?)  Additional time for preparation, rest and recuperation, and home cookin’ – Dreamland, anyone? – before a showdown with the Bayou Tigers in Bryant-Denny.  Big-time college football, SEC West style, at its most glorious… it’s hard to beat that.

The first College Football Rankings come out November 3.  One week later, those rankings will reflect the outcome of the Bama/LSU game and give us our first indication of which SEC team could make the final four.

Rushing  against Bama

Rushing Net Yards/ First Rushing Fumbles
Opponent Attempts Yards Rush Downs TDs Lost
Wisconsin 21 40 1.9 2 0 0
Middle TN 31 86 2.8 3 0 3
Ole Miss 32 92 2.9 6 2 0
UL – Monroe 31 9 0.3 1 0 0
Georgia 38 193 5.1 12 1 1
Arkansas 25 44 1.8 1 0 0
Texas A&M 25 32 1.3 2 0 0

Tennessee                 39             132          3.4              11               1                   0

The Volunteers netted the most rushing yards, 132, since the Georgia Bulldogs amassed 192 three weeks ago.  Rushing efficiency was also good: 3.4 net yards/rush was second only to (you guessed it) Georgia, 5.1 net yards/rush.  By comparison, Bama averaged 2.8 net yards/rush.  The Vols put one rushing TD on the scoreboard, ending a two-game stretch when the Tide D pitched shutouts.

Setting aside Middle Tennessee and UL-Monroe, Wisconsin, Arkansas and Texas A&M have zero rushing TDs.  Ole Miss has two, while Georgia and Tennessee have scored two combined.

Bama’s run defense certainly remains the rock on which its defense is founded.  To its credit, the Big Orange rushing game gave a good account of itself, being efficient and giving up no fumbles.

Passing against Bama

Pass Pass Comp Net Yards/ First
Opponent Attp Comp % Yards Comp Downs TDs INTs
Wisconsin 39 26 67 228 8.8 12 2 1
Middle TN 41 23 56 189 8.2 11 1 1
Ole Miss 33 18 55 341 18.9 8 3 0
UL – Monroe 43 20 47 83 4.2 5 0 2
Georgia 31 11 35 106 9.6 4 0 3
Arkansas 32 15 47 176 11.7 8 2 1
Texas A&M 45 22 49 284 12.9 13 1 4

Tennessee             22           13             59          171         13.2            11            1           0

If anyone has the sneaking suspicion that “Less is More” appeared in bold letters on the passing game pages of the Vols’s game plan, don’t feel alone.  Whatever the strategic motivation, Tennessee passed little, but generated considerable production.

Tennessee had the fewest passing attempts of the season, 22, but completed 13 for a 59% rate. That completion rate is second highest to Wisconsin’s 67%.  But now look at the results: Wisconsin averaged 8.8 net yards/completion, while Tennessee reached 13.2 net yards, topped only by Ole Miss at 18.9 net yards.  Wisconsin got 12 first downs from 228 net yards; the Volunteers realized 11 first downs on 171.

Texas A&M had as many completions as Tennessee had attempts, but to little avail.  Only two more first downs, the same number of passing TDs, and four more INTs (three of which were of the dreaded pick-six variety).

The run/pass balance was pretty good: 39 rushes and 22 passes for a 64/36 split percentage-wise.  The Volunteers  production of 3.4 net yards/rush made that possible.  Tennessee, unlike other opponents, was not forced into a one-dimensional offensive effort.

Offensive efficiency of opponents

Total Yards/ First Red Zone Points
Opponent Yards Plays Play 3rd Downs 4th Downs Downs Trips : TDs : FGs Off TO
Wisconsin 268 60 4.5 6 – 14 0 – 0 14 4 : 2 : 1 0
Middle TN 275 74 3.7 6  – 19 1 – 1 14 3 : 1 : 1 14
Ole Miss 433 65 6.7 4 – 14 1 – 2 14 4: 2 : 2 0
UL – Monroe 92 74 1.2 3 – 20 1 – 4 6 0: 0 : 0 7
Georgia 299 69 4.3 3 – 17 0 – 0 11 1 : 0  : 1 7
Arkansas 220 57 3.9 5 – 16 0 – 1 9 1 : 1 : 0 3
Texas &M 316 70 4.5 7 – 18 0 – 1 15 2 : 1 : 1 24

Tennessee            303         61          5.0             7 – 13                 0 – 1              20                 3 : 2 : 0                  0

Tennessee achieved the best third-down conversion rate against Bama so far this season (54%).  The Tide’s 5/12 effort on third downs comes out to 45%.    The run/pass balance noted above produced 20 first downs.  The Volunteers gave up 0 points on turnovers, but failed to convert on three field goals of 43, 51 and 51 yards.  Not a “chip shot” among them, for sure.

Are there lessons to be gleaned?  One, Bama won a game against an always-motivated SEC rival despite its lowest-scoring effort of the season. Kudos go to the defense, once again.  Two, Tennessee was able to achieve balance and not abandon the run game.  A bit more productivity – to go along with noted efficiency – and the Vols band might have enjoyed blasting a celebratory “Ricky Top” at max volume.

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Alabama versus A&M – Good Blocking and Bad Blocking

Here, we’ll take a look at what “a hat on a hat” looks like and then we’ll look at how A&M adjusted.

First, this is just outstanding blocking.  Brandon Greene (89) blocks down while Alphonse Taylor (50) and Dominick Jackson (76) pull.  Ryan Kelly is also able to get to the second level and wipe out a linebacker.  This is blocking at its best.

In this clip, we see double teams on both defensive tackles.  This opens up a massive running lane for Henry which he converts into a touchdown.

Later, A&M defensive coordinator John Chavis grew tired of seeing his tackles getting blown out at the point of attack and his linebackers getting wiped out on the second level.  So, Chavis decided to crowd the line of scrimmage, sending blitzes on either side of new center JC Hassenhauer.  Note the two linebackers that move up just before the snap.

Again, A&M is employing a run blitz.  This one comes off the corner while the middle linebacker shows blitz but doesn’t come.  Neither Taylor (50) nor Hassenhauer are able to pick up the defensive tackle, probably due to the fact that they thought the middle linebacker would blitz (you can see Hassenhauer looks at the LB and then belatedly tries to block #92.

So, Alabama adjusted late in the game by getting Derrick Henry outside of the interior pressure.  This was quite the gamble, though. Facing a 4th & 2, Alabama overloaded the right side of the line by moving Cam Robinson next to Dominck Jackson.  This left just Pierschbacher and tight end Brandon Green on the left side and neither of them blocked a soul.  Instead, the Bama offensive line shifted right while Derrick Henry went left…and outraced three Aggies to the corner for a first down.  Look at the mass of humanity the Aggies lined up over the center (note: Robinson probably should have been called for a hold here).

I love looking at this stuff as you can see A&M adjust their defense to stop the run and then you see Alabama’s adjustment to counter the Aggies’ counter move.  Fun stuff – hope you enjoyed taking a look at this!

Alabama versus A&M – Solving the Unblocked Defensive End

In today’s hurry up, no huddle world that we are living in, one of the primary blocking schemes is to leave a defensive end completely unblocked.  Now, defensive ends are typically the most athletic pass rusher on the team so leaving a man like this unblocked seems risky at best.  However, teams found the ends to play zone reads in a flat footed manner with them taking neither the quarterback nor the running back so there was no need to waste a blocking assignment on them.

Until this season, Alabama’s defense fell into this trap, as well.  However, apparently in the off-season the Tide began asking their ends to attack upfield and disrupt anything and everything that gets in their way.  We see this in the first clip where A&M leaves the end (Pettway – 57) unblocked at first, but they roll a guard over to seal him off from the QB.  The problem for the guard is that he’s moving laterally and therefore doesn’t have the leverage to hold off Pettway’s charge.  The result:  Pettway pushes the guard into the QB who then throws a pick six!

Next, we see Ryan Anderson (22) doing the same thing.  Once again, he has the upfield leverage and he uses this to defeat the block quickly and easily.

Leaving Jonathan Allen (93) unblocked is, shall we say, unwise.  Here, Allen bursts upfield and takes on both the back and the quarterback.  Awesome-sauce.

Lastly, we see Ryan Anderson (22) left unblocked.  This allows him to get into the backfield and disrupt the play, causing yet another tackle for loss.

Alabama is attacking on defense and any time you allow the defensive ends to get up the field unabated then bad things are going to happen for an offense.