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LSU Tigers vs. Alabama Crimson Tide Five Factors Review

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Let's do the postmortem.

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

The Alabama Crimson Tide went into its game against the LSU Tigers with a clear goal in mind: stop Leonard Fournette. If it could keep him bottled up, then it'd take its chances with Brandon Harris. Those chances, as it turned out, heavily favored the home team.

This review is based on the Five Factors of winning, and it ends at Alabama's field goal early in the fourth quarter that made the score 30-10. Why? Because that's when the game entered garbage time by the Football Outsiders definition of it. LSU's later touchdown did technically bring it back out of garbage time, but because Bama ran out the clock from there, I'm still leaving it out. Also, sacks count as pass plays.

Explosiveness

Team Runs 10+ Pct. Passes 20+ Pct. Explosive Pct.
LSU 1 5.3% 2 11.8% 8.3%
Alabama 7 17.5% 1 4.2% 12.5%

Neither team was able to break many big plays, although Alabama's run game did the best job of it. Harris was the common theme on LSU's side, having thrown both explosive passes and carried it on the explosive run.

Efficiency

The main measure here is success rate.

Team Run SR Pass SR Overall SR Red Zone SR
LSU 21.1% 23.5% 22.2% -
Alabama 35.0% 41.7% 37.5% 30.8%

It's hard to win a game when only one out of five offensive plays is a successful one and you also don't get into the red zone at all over the course of the first three quarters.

Bama's run game was a little boom-or-bust, with a nice explosive rate but a below average efficiency. The pass game was the opposite, generating almost no big plays but moving the ball at an efficient rate.

Team 1Q SR 2Q SR 3Q SR
LSU 11.1% 42.9% 7.7%
Alabama 40.0% 31.6% 40.0%

I lumped in the three fourth quarter plays that Alabama had in the scope of this review into its third quarter figure.

If it felt early that LSU had no shot despite the score being close, this is why. The Tigers only had one success play in the quarter, Travin Dural's 37-yard reception. The other eight plays were made up of incompletions, Fournette getting stuffed, and a sack.

The second quarter was when Harris actually made some plays, and the Tigers accordingly had a pair of scoring drives. On the touchdown drive, he had two success carries and hit Dural on the long scoring pass. On the field goal drive, he connected on a 13-yard pass to Malachi Dupre and had a 16-yard run. A question for Cam Cameron would be why those two drives contained the only three carries Harris had on the game. Having him carry the ball seemed to be working and was a part of the only two sustained drives the team had, but hey, I don't get paid a million bucks a year.

Efficiency by Player

Player Comp. Pct. Pass Eff. Yards/Att Sacks Pass SR
Brandon Harris 26.7% 91.3 6.7 2 23.5%
Jake Coker 71.4% 137.4 7.9 3 41.7%

I'm going to do things out of the order I normally use here. Take in this table, and then look at the next one.

Player Carries YPC Rushing SR
Leonard Fournette 15 0.9 0.0%
Brandon Harris 3 9.7 100.0%
Darrel Williams 1 5.0 100.0%

I completely get why Alabama's coaches wanted to make Harris beat them with his arm. It's a mystery to me why LSU's coaches agreed to those terms. And that goose egg for Fournette tells you something both about how dedicated to stopping him the Tide was and how bad a game the Tiger offensive line had.

Anyway, Coker was the stereotype of an Alabama game manager. He didn't throw a touchdown, but he didn't throw any picks. He moved the ball solidly, if not spectacularly. Going up against LSU's good defense, that's what you want. He delivered.

Player Targets Catches Yards Yards/Target SR
Travin Dural 7 2 77 11.0 28.6%
Malachi Dupre 2 2 23 11.5 100.0%
DeSean Smith 1 0 0 0.0 0.0%
John Diarse 1 0 0 0.0 0.0%
Tyron Johnson 1 0 0 0.0 0.0%

I was going to make a snarky comment about how LSU can only have two good receivers at a time like how there can only be two Sith in the Star Wars universe, but Harris was so inaccurate that it wouldn't have matter much anyway. And while Dural and Dupre are a nice combo, they're not Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham, Jr. I would have thought some of the other guys who got reps last year would have stepped up by now, but Dural and Dupre have 60% of the team's receptions and probably more than that of the total targets.

Player Targets Catches Yards Yards/Target SR
Calvin Ridley 9 6 47 5.2 44.4%
ArDarius Stewart 5 3 47 9.4 40.0%
Richard Mullaney 4 3 28 7.0 50.0%
Kenyan Drake 2 2 28 14.0 50.0%
O.J. Howard 1 1 15 15.0 100.0%

The Alabama receivers were the same as their quarterback: solid, if unspectacular. LSU did a good job of preventing them from getting loose.

Player Carries YPC Rushing SR
Derrick Henry 27 4.8 40.7%
Kenyan Drake 10 6.8 30.0%
Jake Coker 3 1.7 0.0%

I can't figure out Kenyan Drake. He's either logging a low per-carry mark with a high success rate or a high per-carry mark with a low success rate. Anyway, Henry carried the load like you'd want him to, and he saved his near-customary fumble until after the game was out of hand.

Field Position

Team Avg. Starting Position Plays in Opp. Territory Pct. Of Total
LSU Own 22 8 22.2%
Alabama Own 36 35 54.7%

As with so many other things in this game, Alabama dominated the field position battle. More than half of plays run on the opponent side of the 50 is impressive.

Finishing Drives

A trip inside the 40 is a drive with a first down at the 40 or closer or a long scoring play from beyond. A red zone trip is a drive with a first down at the 20 or closer.

Team Drives Trips Inside 40 Points Red Zone Trips Points
LSU 9 2 10 0 0
Alabama 10 7 30 5 27

LSU's defense did both some bending—allowing seven of ten of Bama's drives to get inside the 40—and breaking—giving up points six of the seven. LSU did get points on the two scoring opportunities it had, but it only had the two.

Turnovers

Harris's interception to start the second half was the only one captured in the scope of this review, and it set the tone for the rest of the game from there. Henry did give LSU a touchdown with a fumble later, but he made up for it by carrying the ball a ton on the ensuing drive that ran out the clock.

Overall

It seems clear to me that Alabama made good use of its bye week heading into the game to scout LSU. While Bama's defensive front had a great game and the LSU offensive line had a bad one, it also seemed that the Crimson Tide defense knew exactly what the Tigers planned to do on many downs before the ball was even snapped. If that's the case, then that's good film review and coaching on the part of Nick Saban and his staff.

I'm at a loss for what exactly LSU did with its extra time to prepare. Given a bonus week of work, the Tigers just went out and did exactly what they've done all year. I guess there is merit in not trying to fix what isn't broken, but it was clear early that Alabama was beyond ready for what they wanted to do. There wasn't really a counterpunch either. LSU found some success in the second quarter, but it felt like some of that was just the random number generator that is Harris's arm randomly generating some good plays in a cluster. Harris carrying the ball helped some too, but LSU abandoned that line of attack as suddenly as it appeared.

LSU's defense fought the good fight, but there's only so much it can do when the offense only averages 12 plays per quarter. That's right—the Tigers only ran 36 total plays in the first three periods not counting a kneel down just before halftime. LSU still doesn't have a quarterback, and it's near impossible to beat Alabama without one.

Alabama will remain in the selection committee's top four, and Ole Miss's loss to Arkansas takes away the scenario of an 11-1 Crimson Tide not even winning its division a la 2011. No one has won the SEC in back-to-back seasons since Tennessee in 1997-98, but right now, that drought looks more in danger than ever.