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Big Plays Often Decide Big Games: Advantage Alabama Against Georgia?

All Things CW charts explosive plays, gives the latest on some of the Crimson Tide's biggest issue, and takes a closer look at the coaching turnover in the SEC.

It's a chart-happy version of All Things CW, as we help get you ready for the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta on Saturday,

One thing that the Alabama and Georgia offenses have in common is that they're at their best when getting a lot of different playmakers involved, especially in the passing game. 

But Alabama has the more explosive offense, especially with sophomore quarterback Bryce Young, who two weeks ago set the Crimson Tide single game passing record, and talented wide receivers Jameson Williams and John Metchie III.

Meanwhile, Georgia standout receiver George Pickens is trying to come off a torn ACL, and quarterback Stetson Bennett is known as more of a game manager. He's had his fair share of big plays, but hasn't had a 300-yard game this season. 

Alabama's offense was making real strides until last week's game at Auburn, where it was unable to score until the fourth quarter. With Williams disqualified (a nice way of saying he got kicked out of the game), and running back Brian Robinson Jr. sidelined by a lower leg injury, Alabama had to go to plan B, C, and so on, against Auburn and was fortunate to pull out the four-overtime win. 

But in a game like this, explosive plays are often huge, and could be an Alabama advantage. 

Nick Saban defines an explosive play as a run of 13 yards or more, and a pass 17 yards or more. The goal for the offense is to get at least nine in each game. 

Here's how the Crimson Tide has fared this season on both sides of the ball: 

Explosive plays: Offense

Opponent, Run, Pass = Total

Miami 4, 5 = 9

Mercer 4, 7 = 11

Florida 1, 4 = 5

Southern Miss 6, 10 = 16

Ole Miss 3, 5 = 8

Texas A&M 6, 8 =14 

Mississippi State 3, 8 = 11

Tennessee 3, 8 = 11

LSU 1, 5 = 6

New Mexico State 3, 6 = 9

Arkansas 4, 13 = 17

Auburn 1, 6 = 7 

Explosive Plays: Defense

Miami 2, 3 = 5 

Mercer 0, 3 = 3

Florida 7, 5 = 12 

Southern Miss 1, 4 = 5

Ole Miss 0, 3 = 3

Texas A&M 2, 6 = 8

Mississippi State 0, 4 = 4

Tennessee 0, 3 = 3

LSU 1, 2 = 3

New Mexico State 1, 2 = 3

Arkansas 3, 7 = 10

Auburn 1, 2 = 3

There have been some hiccups along the way, but both the offense and defense have been trending in the right direction. Explosive plays, and limiting them on defense, are big reasons why the the Crimson Tide is seventh nationally in total offense and total defense. 

There's Turnover, And Then There's the SEC

Only four SEC programs haven't hired a new football coach over the past two years: Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky and Texas A&M.  

Behind Saban, who is now the dean of the league by a good six years, Mark Stoops is second followed by Kirby Smart. Every other coaching staff has been turned over since 2018. 

Since Saban arrived at Alabama in 2007, Tennessee has had the most changes, followed by Arkansa and Florida. Of those three, only the Gators have managed to beat the Crimson Tide during that time frame, but not since 2008. 

Remember, this is before Oklahoma and Texas join the league ... 

Read More

SEC Coaching Changes During Saban Era (2007-)

Tennessee: Phillip Fulmer (1992-2008), Lane Kiffin (2009), Derek Dooley (2010-12), Jim Chaney (interim 2012), Butch Jones (2013-17), Brady Hoke (2017), Jeremy Pruitt (2018-20), Josh Heupel (2021).

Arkansas: Houston Nutt (1998-2007), Reggie Herring (interim 2007), Bobby Petrino (2008-11), John L. Smith (2012), Bret Bielema (2013-17), Paul Rhoads (interim 2017), Chad Morris (2017-19), Sam Pittman (2020-21).

Florida: Urban Meyer (2005-10), Will Muschamp (2011-14), D.J. Durkin (interim 2014), Jim McElwain (2015-17), Randy Shannon (interim 2017), Dan Mullen (2018-21), Greg Knox (interim 2021), Billy Napier (2022).

Ole Miss: Ed Orgeron (2005-07), Houston Nutt (2008-11), Hugh Freeze (2012-16), Matt Luke (2017-19), Lane Kiffin (2020-21).

Vanderbilt: Bobby Johnson (2002-09), Robbie Caldwell (2010), James Franklin (2011-13), Derek Mason (2014-2020), Todd Fitch (interim 2020), Clark Lea (2021).

Auburn: Tommy Tuberville (1999-2008), Gene Chizik (2009-12), Gus Malzahn (2013-2020), Kevin Steele (interim 2020), Bryan Harsin (2021).

Mississippi State: Sylvester Croom (2004-08), Dan Mullen (2009-17), Greg Knox (interim 2017), Joe Moorhead (2017-19), Mike Leach (2020-21).

South Carolina: Steve Spurrier (2005-15), Shawn Elliott (interim 2015), Will Muschamp (2016-2020), Mike Bobo (interim 2020), Shane Beamer (2021).

Kentucky: Rich Brooks (2003-09), Joker Phillips (2010-12), Mark Stoops (2013-21).

LSU: Les Miles (2005-16), Ed Orgeron (2016-21), Brian Kelly (2022).

Missouri: Gary Pinkel (2001-15), Barry Odom (2016-19), Eliah Drinkwitz (2020-21).

Texas A&M: Kevin Sumlin (2012-17), Jeff Banks (interim 2017), Jimbo Fisher (2018-21).

Georgia: Mark Richt (2001-15), Kirby Smart (2016-current).

Negative issues

To update some of the Crimson Tide's problems we've been charting this season: 

Penalties: Alabama had seemed to turn a corner with its penalty problems, only to have a whopping 11 flags for 129 yards at Auburn, and that doesn't include the running into the kicker penalty in overtime that was declined. The Crimson Tide was called for the following infractions: face mask (Dallas Turner, Jordan Battle), personal foul (Emil Ekiyor Jr.), pass interference (Battle), holding (Evan Neal), targeting (Williams), block in back (Damieon George Jr., Ja'Corey Brooks), roughing the passer (Turner), delay of game (Bryce Young), and illegal formation.

Alabama is tied for 106th in the nation in penalties per game (7.25), and is 114th in penalty yards (67.67 per game). It's on pace to top the Saban-era highs of 95 for 855 (65.77 average) set in 2019. Incidentally, last year the national champions had 78 flags for 625 yards (48.08 average). 

Drops: Alabama's problems with drops have spread from the tight ends to the wide receivers. There's now a three-way tie for the team "lead" with five between Jahleel Billingsley, John Metchie III (albeit one would have been a tough catch against Auburn) and Williams, one ahead of Cameron Latu. Interestingly, three of Williams' have been on the first pass thrown to him in a game, so maybe he's kind of like a baseball hitter who needs to first see a pitch before swinging away. 

Alabama Dropped Passes By Game

  1. Miami 1
  2. Mercer 2
  3. Florida 1
  4. Southern Miss 1
  5. Ole Miss 0
  6. Texas A&M 7
  7. Mississippi State 2
  8. Tennessee 3
  9. LSU 1
  10. New Mexico State 1
  11. Arkansas 2
  12. Auburn 3

You change those drops to completed passes and Young's completion percentage goes up to 74.6 percent, which would have him challenging Will Rogers of Mississippi State (75.1) for best in the nation. Instead, he's 11th. 

Fumbles: The Crimson Tide has had 16 fumbles, but only six lost season, which is pretty remarkable considering all the time Young has been hit lately.

 Sacks allowed: Auburn notching seven sacks brought up the season total to 37. Opponents notched just 19 last season and 12 the previous year. It's the most Alabama's had since 2005. The 43 allowed in 1996 are the most on record. 

Now For Some Positive ... 

• Sophomore linebacker Will Anderson Jr. is almost certain to finish the season leading the nation in tackles for a loss. With 30.5, he's averaging 2.5 per game, and no one else is above 1.8. He's a close second in sacks as both he and Army linebacker Andre Carter II have 14.5, but Anderson has played one more game (Army will play Navy next week, and at 8-3 is bowl eligible). 

• Even though the Crimson Tide offense struggled last week, it's still second in the nation in third-down conversions at 53.9 percent. Coastal Carolina is at 54.1, and the Chanticleers don't play again until their bowl game. FYI, Georgia is 14th in third-down conversion defense at 32.1 percent. 

• Next time you see Brooks on the field in a support role, watch the way the freshman wide receiver blocks. Even though he got called for a block to the back against Auburn, he's had impressive blocks on offense in each of the last two games.

• Speaking of Brooks, Alabama essentially ran a practice play of his 28-yard touchdown catch. Two snaps earlier, the Crimson Tide had the same matchup with cornerback Jaylin Simpson lined up one-on-one with Brooks. It looked like the route was a hitch-and-go, only Brooks didn't go and Young threw the ball to no one in the end zone. On the next play, Young got flushed out of the pocket and threw the ball away. So on third-and-10, offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien went back to the matchup he liked and this time they connected for one of the most memorable plays in Iron Bowl history.  

The Latest in the NFL ... 

• When Mac Jones of the New England Patriots was named the Offensive Player of the Month in the NFC for November, he was the first former Crimson Tide quarterback to win the award. Also, his six straight wins is the league's longest active winning streak.

• With the addition of long-snapper Carson Tinker, the Raiders have moved into the lead for most former Crimson Tide players in the NFL this season with five, plus another two on the practice squad. The Patriots are second with four active Alabama players, plus another on the practice squad. Kenyan Drake, Josh Jacobs, Alex Leatherwood and Damion Square are all on the Raiders' roster, with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Lester Cotton Sr. on the practice squad. The Raiders needed a long snapper because Trent Sieg was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list, making his status uncertain for Sunday's game against Washington.

• Two former Crimson Tide players are leading their position groups in Pro Bowl fan voting: NFC cornerback Trevon Diggs, and AFC safety Kareem Jackson. Ok, who had that in their preseason predictions? 

Tide-bits  

• As of midnight, the cheapest ticket available on SI Tix for the SEC Championship Game was $448 in the upper deck of an end zone. TickPick reported that the average purchase price was $850, which is 274 percent more expensive than the next priciest championship on Saturday between the Big Ten’s Michigan and Iowa ($227). Historically, the next priciest SEC Championship games were in 2019 ($372) and 2020 ($364). Overall, 57 percent of the purchases in TickPick have a Georgia zip code. 

• Five players were named the finalists for the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award on Tuesday, including Young. What was telling were the other four finalists: Jordan Davis (Georgia), Aidan Hutchinson (Michigan), Kenny Pickett (Pittsburgh) and Kenneth Walker III (Michigan State). It didn't include Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud, who is believed to be Young's top competition for the Heisman Trophy. 

SI Sportsbook has Young listed as the Heisman Trophy favorite at -200, but BetOnline tried an interesting experiment and created a keyword association map based on geo-tracked Twitter data over the last four weeks. It included more than 200,000 tweets, hashtags and direct keyword phrases about who should win the Heisman Trophy this season. Queries were run in each state, and the player’s name most associated with those terms then "won" that state. The results weren’t all that close, with Young leading in 26 states, and Stroud in 16.

Heisman Frontrunners Per BetOnline

  • Bryce Young, Alabama -220 (5/11)
  • Aidan Hutchison, Michigan +550 (11/2)
  • CJ Stroud, Ohio State +625 (25/4)
  • Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh +1400 (14/1)
  • Will Anderson Jr., Alabama +2000 (20/1)

• The odds of Alabama men's basketball winning the NCAA Tournament dropped from preseason 20/1 to 33/1. Saturday's opponent, Gonzaga, is still considered the favorite at 9/2. 

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Christopher Walsh's notes column appears weekly on BamaCentral.