Prelude to the SEC Championship: Tide and Gators in 2015

The Notorious PAB is back this week with a statistical breakdown of Alabama and Florida over the course of 2015.  There’s some wonderfully detailed information in here but make sure you scroll down to the “Events and Trends” section as it tells a very interesting tale.  We sincerely appreciate his efforts this year as it’s been a great addition to the blog – enjoy!

 

Prelude to the SEC Championship:  Tide and Gators in 2015

Introduction

Our goal is to set the stage – well, part of it, anyway – for the 2015 SEC Championship Game.  As usual, we’ll look at game and season statistics, leaving other aspects to more-qualified analysts.  While the section about overall SEC statistics is revealing, the most valuable comparisons are in the sections on how Bama and the Gators performed against common opponents from the SEC East and West.

These figures can be found on the Interweb or easily calculated.  But our affection for you, Bama Lighthouse reader, is such that we want to provide you “one-stop shopping” and throw in a little moderately relevant commentary as well.

CFP Rankings Update

The December 1 rankings for the College Football Playoffs have just been released:

  • Bama 11-1                 #2                    Same as previous week
  • Florida 10-2             #18                  Down 6 spots from previous week

Florida State moved up from 13 to 9;  Auburn is unranked.

The Tide and Gators in SEC Championship Games

In 1991, the SEC expanded to 12 programs by adding the South Carolina Gamecocks to the East Division and the Arkansas Razorbacks to the West Division.  After expansion, the SEC became the first NCAA Division I conference to hold a championship football game after the regular season.   All major conferences, except the Big 12 – to its occasional detriment, followed.

On December 5, the Crimson Tide and the Florida Gators will meet in the Georgia Dome to determine the 2015 champion.  Given how often these two programs have competed in this game, the theme song might well be “Hello, Old Friend,” although “friend” is probably a tad charitable.

Head-to-head, the record through 2014 is: Gators 4 wins and Bama 3 wins.

1992                Bama 28                      Gators 21

1993                Gators 28                    Bama 13

1994                Gators 24                    Bama 23

1995                Gators 34                    Bama 3

1999                Bama 34                      Gators 7

2008                Gators 31                    Bama 20

2009                Bama 32                      Gators 13

In addition, Gators defeated Auburn, 28-6, in 2000, and bested Arkansas, 38-28, in 2006.  Bama won over Georgia, 32-28, in 2012 – perhaps the best big-time college football game of that season – and 42-13 over Mizzou in 2014.   (No mean accomplishment by the Tigers, who joined the SEC on July 1, 2012.)

Counting the upcoming 2015 title game, there have been 48 slots for teams.  Bama and the Gators together have made 20 appearances and secured 11 wins.

(“Hello, Old Friend” was the first single from Eric Clapton’s No Reason to Cry album, released by RSO in the autumn of 1976. If you’re not a Slowhand fan, an alternative is “Old Friends” by Simon and Garfunkel.)

Florida Gators – 2015 Schedule and Results

Non-conference opponents are in italics.  SEC Divisions are indicated.

9/5       New Mexico State       Home                          31-6     WIN                 1-0 overall / 0-0 SEC

9/12     East Carolina               Home                          61-13   WIN                 2-0 overall / 0-0 SEC

9/18     Kentucky (East)           Away                           14-9     WIN                 3-0 overall / 1-0 SEC

9/26     Tennessee (East)         Home                          28-27   WIN                 4-0 overall / 2-0 SEC

10/3     Ole Miss (West)          Home                          38-10   WIN                 5-0 overall / 3-0 SEC

10/10   Missouri (East)            Away                           21-3     WIN                 6-0 overall / 4-0 SEC

10/17   LSU (West)                  Away                           28-35   LOSS                6-1 overall / 4-1 SEC

10/31   Georgia (East)             Jacksonville, FL            27-3     WIN                 7-1 overall / 5-1 SEC

11/7     Vanderbilt (East)         Home                          9-7       WIN                 8-1 overall / 6-1 SEC

11/14   South Carolina (East)  Away                           24-14   WIN                 9-1 overall / 7-1 SEC

11/21   Florida Atlantic           Home                          20-14   WIN (OT)         10-1 overall / 8-1 SEC

11/28   Florida State                Home                          2-27     LOSS                10-2 overall / 8-1 SEC

Scoring and Scoring Defense

All games  :  10-2

Total points scored:  303                                            Average:  25.3 ppg

Total points allowed:  168                                          Average:  14.0 ppg

Margin:  +135 points                                                  Average:  +11.3 ppg

Most points scored:  61 vs. East Carolina (W)            Fewest points scored:  2 vs. Florida State (L)

Most points allowed:  35 vs. LSU (L)                           Fewest points allowed:  3 vs. Mizzou (W) & Georgia (W)

Non-conference  :  4-0

Total points scored:  114                                            Average:  28.5ppg

Total points allowed:  63                                            Average:  10.5 ppg

Margin:  +54 points                                                    Average:  +13.5 ppg

Most points scored:  61 vs. East Carolina (W)            Fewest points scored:  2 vs. Florida State (L)

Most points allowed:  27 vs. FSU (L)                           Fewest points allowed:  6 vs. New Mexico State (W)

SEC East :  5-0

Total points scored:  123                                            Average:  20.5 ppg

Total points allowed:  63                                            Average:  10.5 ppg

Margin:  +60                                                               Average:  +10.0 ppg

Most points scored:  28 vs. Tennessee (W)                Fewest points scored:  9 vs. Vanderbilt (W)

Most points allowed:  27 vs. Tennessee (W)              Fewest points allowed:  3 vs. Mizzou (W) & Georgia (W)

SEC West :  1-1

Total points scored:  66                                              Average:  33.0 ppg

Total points allowed:  45                                            Average:  22.5 ppg

Margin:  +21 points                                                    Average:  +10.5 ppg

Most points scored:  38 vs. Ole Miss(W)                    Fewest points scored:  28 vs. LSU (L)

Most points allowed:  35 vs. LSU (L)                           Fewest points allowed:  10 vs. Ole Miss (W)

Bama and Gator –  SEC Stats                       

Total offense                                       Bama                                       Gators

Total yards                                          5056                                        4223

Yards/game                                        421                                            352

Passing yards                                      2582                                        2579

Passing yards/game                         215.2                                        214.9

Rushing yards                                    2474                                       1664

Rushing yards/game                       206.2                                        137.0

Points                                                  414                                            303

Points/game                                        34.5                                         25.3

Touchdowns                                        43                                            37

In terms of yards, Bama’s offense has been remarkably balanced: 51% from the pass and 49% from rushing.  In contrast, the Gators are more “pass heavy:” 61% from their aerial attack and 39% on the ground.  Make no mistake: in the context of contemporary offenses, a 61/39 split is quite reasonable.  But with Bama, “the song remains the same” (documentary about Led Zeppelin):  run the ball; play tough, disciplined defense; and limit mistakes.

Passing yards per game are incredibly close with Bama at 215.2 ypg against 214.9 ypg by the Gators.  The rushing efforts, on the other hand, strongly favor the Tide: 206.2 ypg vs. 137.0 ypg.  Here we see the impact of Derrick Henry, who leads the SEC with 1797 rushing yards (6.1 yards/carry and 22 TDs).  Any who doubt that can confer with the Auburn defense.

Passing                                                Bama                                       Gators

Attempts                                             354                                          356

Completions                                        242                                          210

Completion rate                                  66.5%                                      59.0%

Yards                                                   2582                                        2579

Yards/attempt                                     7.1                                           7.2

Yards/game                                        215.2                                       214.9

TDs                                                      16                                            18

INTs                                                     10                                            7

Sacks                                                   17                                            37

Bama has a higher completion rate (66.5% vs. 59.0%) and more completions (242 vs. 210).  The Gators have more TDs (18 vs. 16) and fewer INTs (7 vs. 10).  We mentioned above that yards/game are essentially the same.  But look at the sacks… the Gators gave up 20 more sacks than Bama.  That does not bode well for Florida, which will be led by a backup QB – albeit one who now has significant game experience – against what is very probably the best front seven in big-time college football.

Rushing                                               Bama                                       Gators

Attempts                                             503                                          462

Yards                                                   2474                                        1644

Yards/attempt                                     4.9                                           3.6

TD                                                           27                                            19

Yards/game                                        206.2                                       137.0

Bama made 8.9% more rushing attempts than the Gators (503 vs. 462).  That 8.9% translated into 33.5% more yards (2464 vs. 1644) because the Tide was more productive on a per attempt basis – 4.9 vs. 1.3 – which works out to 36.1% better.  It’s good to be effective; it’s good to be efficient.  But when a team is both and strongly committed to an area of the game, accomplishments like those reached by the Bama running game are possible.

Looking at touchdowns, Bama’s very balanced yardage production generated 27 by rushing (63%) and 16 by passing (37%).  The Gators, despite a 61/39 yardage split in favor of passing, scored 19 TDs (51%) on the ground and 18 (49%) through the air.

First downs                                          Bama                                       Gators

Total                                                    265                                          213

Rushing                                               131                                          88

Passing                                                115                                          116

Penalty                                                  19                                            9

Third downs                                 60/168 (35.7%)                       68/182 (37%)

Fourth downs                                10/22 (45.5%)                         14/24 (58%)

Here again, we see evidence of Bama’s offensive balance: 49% of first downs by rushing and 43% generated by the passing game.

Field goals, PATs                                 Bama                                       Gators

Field goals                                           19/27 (70.4%)                         7/16 (43.8%)

PATs                                                    49/49 (100%)                          34/39 (87.2%)

If the SEC title game comes down to a late-game field goal, the numbers say that the Tide has a definite edge:  more attempts (in-game experience counts) and a significantly higher success rate.  A lot of other numbers, however, strongly suggest that such a scenario will not happen.

Defense                                               Bama                                       Gators

Sacks                                                   41.0                                         38.0

Sack yardage                                      259                                          277

Passes defended                                60                                            48

INTs                                                     15                                            14

Yards off INTs                                  442                                          247

TD off INTs                                          4                                              2

Fumbles recovered                             8                                              10

Bama enjoys only a slight edge in sacks (41 to 38) and the Gators have accumulated more sack yardage.   That was a bit of a surprise, given all the praise – on balance, very well deserved – that the Tide’s front seven has garnered.  INTs are about the same.  Bama has 33% more passes defended (60 vs. 48), and that makes sense: as opponents find their run games shutdown, more passes are attempted, in desperation and/or late in games.  The one statistic that really stands out is yards gained after interceptions.  Bama has 79% more such yards than Florida (442 vs. 247) and indicates that Bama INTs, in general, produce much larger shifts in field position.

Games vs. Top Non-Conference Opponents

Our original intent was to look at how the Tide and Gators fared against their respective opponents from the Power 5 Conferences: Wisconsin from the Big 10 and Florida State from the ACC.  But the circumstances of these games are so dissimilar that we’ve decided that a detailed comparison would not add much value.  This decision is based the following:

  • Bama’s game against the Badgers was a spotlight kickoff game – the Advocare Classic – and was played on a neutral field. Bama was ranked 3 and Wisconsin 20 in the AP preseason poll.  Since then, Wisconsin has been placed no higher than 25 in the CFP rankings and was not ranked in Week 13.

 

  • The Gators contest with Florida State came at the end of the regular season and is one of the top in-state rivalry games in big-time college football. It was a home game for the Gators.  The Seminoles climbed in the CFP rankings as the game drew nearer:  16 in Weeks 10 and 11, 14 in Week 12 and 13 in Week 13.

We will point out one key aspect of each game.   In the contest against Wisconsin, the Tide gave notice that its rushing defense was already in mid-season form.  The Badgers were held to 40 net yards rushing (64 gained, 24 lost), in 21 attempts for a 1.9 net yards/rush average.  Bama allowed two rushing first downs and zero rushing TDs.  The Badgers, a program known for massive O-linemen and productive runners, was rendered one-dimensional.

Facing the Seminoles, the Gators made it into the red zone three times and came away with no points. Despite running 79 plays (21 more than the Seminoles), Florida generated only 262 yards of total offense (3.3 yards/play).  RB Kevin Taylor did his part and more, gaining 136 yards on 24 carries for a stellar average of 5.7 yards/carry.  The Gators longest play from scrimmage gained 22 yards.

Games vs. Common SEC East Opponents

Bama vs. Georgia       10/3     Away                           38-10 WIN       4-1 overall / 1-1 SEC

Rush Pass Pass Comp
Att Yards Avg TDs Comp Att Rate Yards Ints TDs
Bama 47 189 4 2 11 16 69% 190 0 1
Georgia 38 193 5.1 1 11 31 35% 106 3 0
Red Red Red
Tot 3rd 4th Zone Zone Zone
Yards Plays Avg Points Down Down Trips TD FG
Bama 379 63 6 38 1/12 0/2 2 1 1
Georgia 299 69 4.3 10 3/17 0/0 1 0 1

 

Gators vs. Georgia      10/31   Jacksonsville, FL          27-3 WIN         7-1 / 5-1 SEC

Rush Pass Pass Comp
Att Yards Avg TDs Comp Att Rate Yards Ints TDs
Gators 48 258 5.4 2 8 19 42% 155 0 1
Georgia 22 69 3.1 0 15 34 44% 154 4 0

 

Red Red Red
Tot 3rd 4th Zone Zone Zone
Yards Plays Avg Points Down Down Trips TD FG
Gators 413 67 6.2 27 7/16 0/1 4 2 0
Georgia 223 56 4 3 2/12 0/2 2 0 1

 

= = = =

Bama vs. Tennessee   10/24   Home                          19-14 WIN       7-1 overall / 4-1 SEC  

Rush Pass Pass Comp
Att Yards Avg TDs Comp Att Rate Yards Ints TDs
Bama 42 117 2.8 2 21 27 78% 247 1 0
Tennessee 39 132 3.4 1 13 22 59% 171 0 1
Red Red Red
Tot 3rd 4th Zone Zone Zone
Yards Plays Avg Points Down Down Trips TD FG
Bama 364 69 5.3 19 5/12 0/0 4 2 2
Tennessee 303 61 5 14 7/13 0/0 3 2 0

 

Gators vs. Tennessee  9/26     Home                          28-27 WIN       4-0 overall / 2-0 SEC  

Rush Pass Pass Comp
Att Yards Avg TDs Comp Att Rate Yards Ints TDs
Gators 28 109 3.9 2 23 43 53% 283 1 2
Tennessee 51 254 5 2 12 19 63% 165 0 1
Red Red Red
Tot 3rd 4th Zone Zone Zone
Yards Plays Avg Points Down Down Trips TD FG
Gators 392 71 5.5 28 3/15 5/5 3 3 0
Tennessee 419 70 6.0 27 7/16 1/1 4 2 2

= = = =

Games vs. Common SEC West Opponents

Bama vs. Ole Miss      9/9       Home                          37-43 LOSS      2-1 overall / 0-1 SEC

Rush Pass Pass Comp
Att Yards Avg TDs Comp Att Rate Yards Ints TDs
Bama 42 215 5.1 2 32 59 54% 288 3 3
Ole Miss 32 92 3.9 2 18 33 55% 341 0 3
Red Red Red
Tot 3rd 4th Zone Zone Zone
Yards Plays Avg Points Down Down Trips TD FG
Bama 503 101 5 37 11/20 1/4 6/6 5 1
Ole Miss 433 65 6.7 43 4/14 1/2 4/4 2 2

 

Gators vs. Ole Miss     10/3     Home                          38-10 WIN       5-0 overall / 3-0 SEC

Rush Pass Pass Comp
Att Yards Avg TDs Comp Att Rate Yards Ints TDs
Gators 34 84 2.5 1 24 29 83% 271 0 4
Ole Miss 33 69 2.1 0 26 40 65% 259 1 1
Red Red Red
Tot 3rd 4th Zone Zone Zone
Yards Plays Avg Points Down Down Trips TD FG
Gators 355 63 5.6 38 8/16 0/0 5 3 2
Ole Miss 328 73 4.5 10 5/14 1/2 3 1 1

 

= = = =

Bama vs. LSU              11/7     Home                          30-16 WIN       8-1 overall / 6-1 SEC

Rush Pass Pass Comp
Att Yards Avg TDs Comp Att Rate Yards Ints TDs
Bama 55 250 4.5 3 18 24 75% 184 0 0
LSU 26 54 2.1 1 6 19 32% 128 1 1
Red Red Red
Tot 3rd 4th Zone Zone Zone
Yards Plays Avg Points Down Down Trips TD FG
Bama 434 79 5.5 30 7/15 1/2 6 3 2
LSU 182 45 4 16 3/11 0/0 1 1 0

 

Gators vs. LSU             10/17   Away                           28-35 LOSS      6-1 overall / 4-1 SEC

Rush Pass Pass Comp
Att Yards Avg TDs Comp Att Rate Yards Ints TDs
Gators 31 55 1.8 1 17 32 53% 271 0 2
LSU 41 221 5.4 3 13 19 68% 202 0 2
Red Red Red
Tot 3rd 4th Zone Zone Zone
Yards Plays Avg Points Down Down Trips TD FG
Gators 326 63 5.2 28 6/16 2/4 3 3 0
LSU 423 60 7.1 35 7/14 1/1 4 4 0

 

= = = =

In Closing –  Events and Trends

November was not kind to the Florida Gators.  Off the field, the one-year suspension levied against QB Will Grier was upheld by the NCAA.  On the field, the Gators were clearly trending down.  Looking at November games…

Record:  Bama:  4-0                Gators:  3-1

Bama defeated two CFP-ranked SEC West teams, LSU (#2) and Mississippi State (#17).  Bama won its so-called tune-up game against Charlestown Southern by 50 points (56-6).  In the Iron Bowl, the Tide found itself in a close game at Auburn – 9-6 at halftime – then rode workhorse RB Derrick Henry’s 271 yards to a 29-13 victory.  If young Mr. Henry’s performance did not secure a second Heisman Trophy to be put on display at The Capstone, then – as Bill Murray declared in Stripes –“something is seriously wrong…”

(Our pre-Iron Bowl projection was that Auburn would likely be held to about 14 points, so we feel good about that.  On the other hand, we were off by 10 points or so with respect to offense, thinking that Bama could get into the high 30s.  Day job has been retained and no one is headed to Vegas.)

The Gators faced one opponent ranked by the CFP committee – Florida State at 14.  In the tune-up game, Florida Atlantic took Florida into OT before the Gators prevailed 20-14.  Finally, the Gators put in a poor showing in their rivalry contest against the Seminoles, falling by the rather ignominious score of 27-2.  That’s 2 as in “a safety, no points scored by the offense.”

  • Points scored – Bama: 146;   Avg  5 ppg              Gators:  55;  Avg  13.8 ppg
  • Points allowed – Bama: 41;  Avg  3 ppg               Gators:  62;  Avg  15.5 ppg
  • Margin – Bama:  +105 :  Avg  +26.2 ppg             Gators:  -7;  Avg -1.7 ppg

In the final month of the season, the Tide improved average scoring by about a field goal (36.5 ppg vs. 33.0 ppg) and tightened average points allowed by just over a TD (10.3 ppg vs. 16.6 ppg).  A team that was already playing well became more productive on both sides of the ball.  Such improvement late in the season against quality opponents is one hallmark of an elite team.

In contrast, the Gators scoring dropped off by just over 17 points: 13.8 ppg vs. 31.0 ppg.  (There’s a formal football term for such a situation: YIKES!)  Florida’s defense held fast, giving up, on average, less than one more field goal per contest: 15.5 ppg vs. 13.3 ppg.  We note that the Gators were 6-0/4-0 SEC and had just defeated Mizzou, 21-3, when Grier was suspended by the NCAA.  More evidence – if any were needed – that the more competitive the football is, the more QB play matters.

Looking at recent key events (in-state rivalry games) in context (trends during November), Bama appears much stronger than the Gators going into the SEC championship.  A win in Atlanta should put the Tide securely in the “final four” CFP teams, provide the opportunity to compete for National Championship Number 16 and be the motivation for a prelude-to-the-CFP entry.

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