Finally!! It’s a game week where I can write about things of Arkansas interest!
Honestly, I just shook my head at all the estimations people made about Arkansas’ offense keeping Kenny Hill and Texas A&M on the sidelines as the key to victory over A&M. Sure, it would help, but the numbers were perfectly clear. A&M was scoring 55 points per game with only 26:00 of possession time (and those points scored were ALL offensive points). For Arkansas to win with an offense-on-the-field strategy, the Hogs could hold the ball 38 minutes and A&M would still be in the mid-thirties in all likelihood. Arkansas would have had to make every possession count to win with that strategy. I tweeted that what the game really came down to were defense and separately, offensive errors.
The Hogs held the ball 37:00 in regulation, and A&M put up 28 points in 23 minutes. Arkansas’ defense played wonderfully for three quarters, but the thing that’s made Razorbacks Fans skittish about the Hogs’ secondary for the last two seasons reared its ugly way in the fourth quarter. Two huge plays of 86 and 59 yards were critical. A&M’s defense held the Hogs’ offense to 3 fourth quarter 3-and-outs while the Hogs missed a 43-yard field goal try.
In the off-week SEC teleconference, Coach Bielema attributed the fourth quarter woes to lack of depth as opposed to conditioning. Actually, the question was put to him in that fashion. There wasn’t a third option posed by the questioner, and Bielema didn’t offer a third option. A fair estimation is that Coach B meant “lack of depth on defense,” but he wasn’t going to come out and say it. On offense, the Razorbacks could use some depth at wide receiver, but otherwise, the Hogs are a nice two deep on the offensive line (with maybe a small chink in the armor at center, maybe), as deep as the team’s ever been at tight end, at running back the team is set, and the Hogs aren’t switching out quarterbacks. Randy Ramsey didn’t travel to Texas A&M, and Henre’ Tolliver was out of the game in the first quarter from “friendly fire” when Brandon Allen threw a pass out of bounds hitting Tolliver in the eye.
In a way, though, the comment was an artful dodge. If a grinding, ball-control offense is going to be the game, the offense must grind and control the ball in the fourth quarter, and the two-deep had better be in the condition for those minutes and more. In the fourth quarter the offensive line wasn’t moving the A&M defense off the line of scrimmage as well, but that’s not picking on them. For the past few years, how many times have the Razorbacks had critical short-yardage situations where the Hogs can’t push the ball up the middle when they need to?
Some of this HAS to be in the preparation for the third and fourth quarter play calling and half-time adjustments. The worst possible thing to do is what’s expected in those situations. That’s not to say to do something goofy like a tight-end reverse but give the line angles. Trust Korliss Marshall to hold on to the ball and let his fresh legs make the opposing defense run to the outside. The main points are, regardless of how it’s executed, plan as best as possible for the fatigue and add some new wrinkles in the third and forth quarters.
This week, it IS a different story. Just understand what the story is.
The last time that Alabama lost two conference games in a row was to LSU and Mississippi State on November 3 and November 10, 2007. The only other time that a Nick Saban coached SEC team lost two conference games in a row was in 2001 when LSU lost to No. 7 Tennessee and No. 2 Florida in back-to-back road games.
Nick Saban SEC teams have lost to 8 unranked opponents: UAB (2000), Ole Miss (2001), Auburn (2002), Arkansas (2002), Florida (2003), and FSU, Miss St., ULM (2007) with the last time occurring on November 17, 2007 when the Tide took a 21-14 loss to ULM. Since then, Alabama is 51-0 against unranked opponents.
The overall official record between Arkansas and Alabama over a total series of 25 games is that Alabama leads the series 15 wins versus 8 wins for Arkansas. We are sure that you will hear other versions of that record, but it accounts for Alabama wins in 2005 & 2007 which the Tide had to vacate (they still count as Arkansas losses) and the 1993 Bama win which was later deemed a forfeit.
Despite last Saturday’s loss, Alabama is strong in many areas where it matters. Whether you look at Performance Standards of BCS Champions or A Tough Evaluation of the Hogs’ Chances for a BCS Championship the analysis always starts with scoring defense. A college football champion on average is ranks between 5 and 10 allowing about 14 points per game over the course of a season. Bama isn’t far off that mark now allowing about 16 points per game. In total defense a champion standard allows about 275 yards per game or so. This season the Tide allows only 265 total yards on average. When it comes to team passing efficiency defense, Alabama has a slight blemish. Its score of 114 ranks 7th in the SEC. In rushing defense, the standard is about 95 yards per game while Alabama allows only 65 yards rushing per game this season. The Tide’s 37 points per game is close to a champion standard although the 37-39 points per game over championship seasons continues to creep upward as does offensive passing efficiency. But there, the Tide’s current passing efficiency rating of 167 even exceeds the more recent pass-happy champion number of 154.
If there’s any weakness it’s found in turnovers. A champion average is +1 while the Tide sits currently at -0.8. They’ve coughed up the ball 9 times while gaining 5 on the season. (For this post sort by Ala. Nat. Rk.)
|Statistic (# Ranked Teams)||Ala. Nat. Rk.||Ala. SEC Rk.||Ala. Value||Ark. Nat. Rk.||Ark. SEC Rk.||Ark. Val.||National Leader||Value||SEC Leader||Value|
|3rd Down Conversion Pct (125)||2||1||0.571||14||4||0.491||Georgia Tech||0.581||Alabama||0.571|
|3rd Down Conversion Pct Defense (125)||10||3||0.281||78||11||0.411||Louisville||0.231||Tennessee||0.247|
|4th Down Conversion Pct (123)||54||6||0.5||29||3||0.667||5 teams tied||1||Georgia||1|
|4th Down Conversion Pct Defense (121)||1||1||0||15||4||0.286||Alabama||0||Alabama||0|
|Blocked Kicks (28)||28||5||1||Rutgers||5||Mississippi St.||3|
|Blocked Kicks Allowed (124)||1||1||0||1||1||0||67 teams tied||0||10 teams tied||0|
|Blocked Punts (5)||4 teams tied||2||MSSt./ Vanderbilt||1|
|Blocked Punts Allowed (108)||1||1||0||1||1||0||107 teams tied||0||14 teams tied||0|
|Completion Percentage (125)||7||1||0.689||75||10||0.589||Oregon||0.732||Alabama||0.689|
|Fewest Penalties (125)||73||11||35||24||3||25||Wyoming||17||Mississippi St.||23|
|Fewest Penalties Per Game (125)||80||12||7||25||3||5||Navy||3.17||Mississippi St.||4.6|
|Fewest Penalty Yards (125)||53||8||266||27||4||230||Wyoming||146||Tennessee||162|
|Fewest Penalty Yards Per Game (125)||56||9||53.2||34||5||46||New Mexico St.||29||Tennessee||32.4|
|First Downs Defense (125)||7||2||71||51||9||102||TCU||59||Florida||70|
|First Downs Offense (125)||21||3||136||37||7||124||Texas A&M||169||Texas A&M||169|
|Fumbles Lost (125)||102||13||6||38||6||3||Missouri||0||Missouri||0|
|Fumbles Recovered (108)||65||8||3||65||8||3||FIU||13||Florida||8|
|Kickoff Return Defense (125)||103||10||23.15||80||8||21.16||Tulsa||13.69||Mississippi St.||18.13|
|Kickoff Returns (125)||18||4||24.88||3||2||30.91||West Virginia||31.54||Missouri||31.14|
|Net Punting (125)||9||3||42.27||20||5||40.22||Utah||45.2||LSU||43.39|
|Passes Had Intercepted (125)||25||4||3||13||2||2||4 teams tied||0||Auburn||1|
|Passes Intercepted (120)||108||12||2||68||9||4||Louisville||12||Ole Miss||10|
|Passing Offense (125)||24||3||314.2||109||13||167.8||Washington St.||523||Texas A&M||395.2|
|Passing Yards Allowed (125)||29||5||200.8||94||11||263.8||San Jose St.||89.6||Ole Miss||152.4|
|Passing Yards per Completion (125)||26||4||14.15||35||6||13.32||Georgia Tech||18.42||LSU||17.91|
|Punt Return Defense (125)||24||5||4||55||10||6.6||Purdue||-1.25||Georgia||0.67|
|Punt Returns (125)||28||4||12.22||48||7||9.33||Georgia Tech||25.33||Auburn||23|
|Red Zone Defense (120)||101||12||0.9||83||7||0.857||Temple||0.444||Mississippi St.||0.538|
|Red Zone Offense (125)||57||10||0.846||45||7||0.864||5 teams tied||1||Auburn||1|
|Rushing Defense (125)||3||1||64||51||7||139.4||Louisville||58.3||Alabama||64|
|Rushing Offense (125)||21||5||240.4||6||1||316.6||Navy||340.5||Arkansas||316.6|
|Sacks Allowed (125)||9||3||0.8||2||1||0.2||New Mexico St.||0||Arkansas||0.2|
|Scoring Defense (125)||12||3||15.8||71||12||25.8||Stanford||8.6||Ole Miss||10.2|
|Scoring Offense (125)||29||6||37||7||3||44.6||Baylor||51||Texas A&M||47.8|
|Tackles for Loss Allowed (125)||37||8||4.8||8||1||3.6||Cincinnati||2.5||Arkansas||3.6|
|Team Passing Efficiency (125)||8||3||167.68||33||7||148.76||Oregon||202.25||Mississippi St.||176.84|
|Team Passing Efficiency Defense (125)||38||7||114.9||85||12||135.38||Temple||81.39||Ole Miss||82.11|
|Team Sacks (125)||81||10||1.8||94||13||1.6||Utah||5.6||Missouri / MSSt.||3.6|
|Team Tackles for Loss (125)||66||9||5.8||66||9||5.8||Utah||10.2||Tennessee||8.4|
|Time of Possession (125)||6||1||34:42||17||2||33:04||Michigan St.||36:25||Alabama||34:42|
|Total Defense (125)||3||1||264.8||74||10||403.2||Louisville||230.2||Alabama||264.8|
|Total Offense (125)||9||2||554.6||28||5||484.4||Marshall||595.6||Texas A&M||583.2|
|Turnover Margin (125)||102||13||-0.8||42||9||0.4||Temple||2.5||Florida||2|
|Turnovers Gained (125)||102||13||5||79||11||7||FIU||21||Florida||15|
|Turnovers Lost (125)||63||9||9||14||3||5||Washington||1||Missouri / Georgia||4|
|Winning Percentage (121)||15||5||0.8||51||11||0.6||10 teams tied||1||MSSt./Auburn/ OM||1|
Source: stats.ncaa.org (Note: Frequently there are multiple national leaders in categories. The SEC team was chosen or the first one in the list was chosen. Others were omitted.)
Despite all of that, at this point in the season, it matters somewhat whom a team has played. Champion stats are over the course of the champions’ seasons and then the champions’ seasons were averaged. Over the long haul, strength of schedule hardly matters when half of the statistical group comes from the toughest conference in the country and those outside the conference aren’t meeting the standards.
Alabama faced West Virginia (3-2) in Atlanta in the first game of the season and won 33-23. After that Bama’s victories were over Florida Atlantic (2-4), Southern Miss (2-4), and talented but dysfunctional Florida (3-1) before losing last week to Ole Miss (5-0).
Alabama only put up 10 points on offense with a touchdown on defense coming from an uncalled face mask call which cascaded into a fumble and scoop and score. Stat for stat, other than where it counted, Alabama did better. Ole Miss put up 13 unanswered points in the fourth quarter.
Team 1st 2nd 3rd 4th Total
Alabama 45 62 48 30 185
Opponents 23 17 20 19 79
Interestingly, Alabama hasn’t scored much in the fourth quarter this season with 17 of the 30 fourth quarter points coming against Southern Miss. It’s not really Saban’s style to continue to pile on points when it’s not necessary, but still, against West Virginia and Ole Miss they put up 3 fourth quarter points. On the other hand, they outscored opponents by 62-17 in the second quarter.
Ole Miss found a way to win with a tough defensive line and a passing game that came alive. Knowing what the Hogs are facing, the next post will cover what Razorbacks need to do to beat the Crimson Tide.
Photo credit: alabamaintel.com