30 September 2009
I ran across an interesting item this afternoon from the SEC blog Team Speed Kills where they talk about items that are contrary to conventional wisdom. The relevant portion:
Alabama's offense isn't any better than it was last year. A series of sluggish games in the middle of 2008 and the disappointment of back-to-back losses in the SEC Championship Game and the Sugar Bowl make us forget that Bama looked really explosive at the start of last season. In fact, Alabama's not averaging that many more points a game this year, putting up 162 (34, 40, 53, 35) through its first four as opposed to 144 (34, 20, 41, 49) by the same point last year. Alabama has yet to play any of the teams (Kentucky, Ole Miss, Tennessee, LSU and Florida) that held it below 30 points last year. When it comes to scoring offense, the Tide is ranked third in the SEC this year; at this point in 2008, it was ranked second.
My first thought was "that's got to be crap." But they have statistics! I brought my own after the jump.
By that single metric, Alabama's offense is not appreciably better. Alabama has scored only 18 more points through the first four games. That's 4.5 points per game. So, it hasn't been a scoring offense explosion. Point taken.
However, Alabama did not ever "look really explosive at the start of last season". Sorry folks - save a couple of big runs from Glen Coffee and one from Roy Upchurch in the Arkansas game (did they use linebackers last season?), no scoring play was longer than 20 yards in the first four games of last season. Compare that with seven scoring plays of over 20 yards this season. That's more than double the number of big scoring plays. Clearly, Alabama has been much more explosive.
Now, let's compare scoring numbers when we take only offensive points into account. Alabama's defense and special teams added 27 points in the first four games of last season. This year? Zero. I'm not counting any turnovers that resulted in easy points in either spot - only two Javier Arenas returns (an interception and a punt), one blocked punt and a Justin Woodall pick-six. So, offensive scoring is up 45 points this season. That's better than 11 points each game.
Finally, TSK wholly ignores yardage. Alabama did put up gaudy numbers early in the 2008 season, rushing for 239, 86, 281, and 328 in the first four games. Those are impressive numbers. So impressive, in fact, that Alabama has rushed for 35 less this season. However, on the flip side, the Tide has hung another 301 yards on opponents through the air this season. That's a total offense improvement of 266 yards for the season - just less than the entire Tulane game a season ago (318). It's 66+ yards a game. Not too shabby.
And, when you factor in the significant increase in garbage time in the second game of the year (this year FIU vs. Tulane last year), the Tide's starters were on the field more last year. And produced less. With a substantially less explosive attack.
But the scoring offense numbers aren't through the roof! Sometimes that doesn't tell the whole story.
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