In an effort to provide you with the the most detailed analysis on the interwebs, the Notorious PAB decided to delve into the two PAC 12 games the Tide and Aggies have played. Alabama, of course, opened the season against USC while Texas A&M opened against UCLA. Here is his additional analysis for the season openers….
Bama and Texas A&M Against Non-SEC Power Five Opponents
While perusing the Bama and Texas A&M schedules, we discovered an interesting coincidence. Both opened their respective 2016 campaigns against Pac-12 teams. Ranked teams, no less, and both representing institutions from sunny California. (Actually, the Pac-12 reaches inland all the way to scenic Boulder, Colorado; but then again, the Big 10 has 14 teams, so details like this are obviously not important when it comes to “branding.”)
In the spirit of “buy one, get one” and “half-price sale,” we’ve gone ahead and examined those games in some detail. If doing so adds any value, great. If it doesn’t, well… what do those hippies and celebs in La-La Land know about football anyway?
Performances Versus the Trojans and Bruins
To date, the Tide has played two non-FBS teams – Western Kentucky and Kent State – while the Aggies have faced one program from outside the Power 5 Conferences: Prairie View A&M. Not to discount the efforts put forth by the Hilltoppers, Golden Flashes and Panthers – much respect for all those young men – but we’re not going to include data from those games in this article.
Looking at non-conference, FBS opponents, both Bama and the Aggies opened their seasons against then-ranked teams from the Pac-12. Bama defeated the Southern California Trojans, 52-6 in the Advocare Classic on September 3 in AT&T Stadium. USC was ranked #20 going into that game. The Aggies bested the UCLA Bruins in one overtime, 31-24 on that same day, in a contest played at Kyle Field (their home stadium). The preseason AP poll had the Bruins slotted at #17.
Both USC and UCLA are now in the midst of disappointing seasons. The Trojans are 4-3 overall, 3-2 in the Pac-12. (To be fair, USC has played four Top 25 teams to date). The Bruins’ record is 3-4 overall, 1-3 in the conference. It is, however, specious reasoning to evaluate past events based on what we know and how we feel currently (ask any competent historian). So we’ll look a bit closer…
Bama vs. USC
Here’s what you need to know about Bama’s effort against the once-mighty (*) Southern Cal Trojans: (a) two freshmen played QB for the Tide; (b) USC was ahead 3-0 at the end of the first quarter; (c) the time of possession was essentially even – 29:17 for the Men of Troy, 30:43 for Bama; and (d) the final score was Tide 52 – USC 6. Even using “Common Core” math, that’s a 48-point difference.
Was it really that one-sided? Consider:
Total yards: Bama 465 USC 194
First downs: Bama 15 USC 11
Passing: Bama 12/18 ; 223 yards; 1 INT USC 18/37; 130 yards; 1 INT
Rushing: Bama 45 att ; 242 yards; 5.4 y/att USC 30 att ; 64 yards; 2.1 y/att
Third downs: Bama 6/15 (40%) USC 4/18 (22.2%)
Fourth downs: Bama 1/1 (100%) USC 0/2 (0%)
The only area of the game in which USC held any advantage was turnovers. Bama suffered one INT and one fumbles lost; USC threw one INT. Number of first downs was close (15 vs. 11), but that stat is skewed by four big-gain plays made by the Tide.
We’ll note three aspects of Bama’s play:
= balance: 223 yards passing and 242 yards rushing;
= efficiency: 60% pass completion rate and 5.4 yards/attempt on the ground;
= explosive plays: 39- and 71-yard TD passes; 46- and 71-yard runs.
Winning high-profile, national-audience, kickoff games at neutral sites against strong opponents is pretty much old hat to Coach Saban’s Bama squads. Even so, this one stands out. B E A T D O W N !
* “Once-mighty…” We think that’s fair: six Heisman Trophy winners; 80 consensus All-Americans; .700 overall winning percentage; 33-17 bowl record (.660); 38 conference titles; two BCS championship appearances (2004 and 2005) and one BCS title (2005); and some of the most stunning cheerleaders to ever pick up a set of pom-poms.
Aggies vs. UCLA
First things first: A&M’s 31 – 24 win over the Bruins in College Station was an upset. UCLA was ranked #16 in the preseason AP Top 25 poll, while the Aggies, with 81 points, were the second team below the cutoff (Miami/FL had 159 points). Ranking teams before any games are played is an inexact science at best, but this was an unexpected outcome.
Total yards: A&M 442 UCLA 468
Passing: A&M 22/42; 239 yards; 1 INT UCLA 26/47; 343 yards; 3 INT
Rushing: A&M 41 att; 203 yds; 5.0 y/att UCLA 40 att; 125 yds; 3.1 y/att
Third downs: A&M 4/15 (26.7%) UCLA 5/18 (27.8%)
Fourth downs: A&M 1/2 (50%) UCLA 1/2 (50%)
UCLA’s superior passing attack (+104 yards) was undercut by three INTs. A&M’s rushing was better, generating +78 yards on only one additional attempt. (The UCLA running game continues to be a serious problem.) Interestingly, A&M had fewer first downs – 23 vs. 28 – despite a heavier reliance on the run game (45.9% of its total yardage vs. 26.7% for the Bruins).
UCLA trailed 24-9 at the start of the fourth quarter, then the Bruins scored on a 9-yard TD run (4:19) and a 62-yard TD pass (2:39). In OT, the Aggies used eight plays to cover the 25 yards and add seven points. UCLA managed 20 yards on seven plays when they got the ball, failing to score.
This was an important win for A&M and started the Aggies on the path to their 6-0 start. But giving up two TDs in quick succession late in the fourth quarter is a red – or crimson, if you prefer – flag. A&M had the Bruins down, but could not keep them down. Given Bama’s big-play ability, having a modest lead as the clock winds down should give A&M cause for concern.
For a look at the original post, click this link to see the statistical analysis of the two common foes of Alabama and Texas A&M.