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2018

Advanced Stat Preview: Alabama Offense

Alabama can still run the ball down your throat, but they don’t have to with Tua. He was unreal this season: 11.44 yards/attempt, 69.5% completion rate, 41 TD’s to 4 INT’s, only 12 sacks. I didn’t know someone could throw for 24/27 for 11.8ypa; 89% completion rate in a Playoff game. That’s crazy good even with receivers running free. Of course, Alabama has three great backs to run the ball. All average over 5.4 yards/carry. I wish we had Dexter Lawrence. However, usually my confirmation bias or cognitive dissonance kicks in to make me think we’ll win the game sooner, but it kicked in none-the-less. There’s a glimmer of hope to making Tua look human and winning the game.  

Tua Tagovailoa

Tua simply rips apart bad defenses. Looking at Alabama’s yards/pass attempt per game, it averages 13.7 yards against the bottom 10 defenses. They average 5.1 yards/rush against those teams, too. He also went off against Auburn for 11.4 yards/att., the number 16 team in S&P+ Passing Defense. I’m giving Tua/Alabama a break against Georgia due to Tua’s ankle injury, but they still averaged 7.2 yards/att. even if the completion rate was bad at 50%.

Alabama struggled offensively against exactly one team: Mississippi State. They rank second in S&P+ Passing Defense and 17th in Rushing. Alabama passed for 6.0 yards/att., 63% completion rate, and only ran for 3.2 yards/carry. A similar defense per the numbers, LSU, also limited Alabama’s passing to 7.0 yards/att. and 60% completion rate but gave up 7.6 yards/carry. Mississippi State sacked Tua 4 times for a rate of 14.8%. The only other game where he took multiple sacks (2) was against Georgia. We’re going to have to win with our front four. Not just limiting an excellent rushing attack, but pressuring Tua and testing his ankle.

I’m not sure how Alabama got Tua as healthy as they did in time for the Orange Bowl, but his leg is not 100%. He had a clean pocket all night and only took one sack. Based on his responses in that article, it sounds like it still hurts. Clemson needs to make him uncomfortable early on. Hopefully it’s with the front four since he’s so good at finding the open receiver. How much Venables blitzes is one of my big questions.    

Rushing

It’s been so long since a team ran over a Brent Venables defense I have a hard time seeing it happen. Saban will rotate Damien Harris, Najee Harris, and Josh Jacobs. All are fresh having rushed less than 10 times per game on average. Of course, their offensive line is excellent. Yes, they are missing starting left guard Deonte Brown due to suspension, but Lester Cotton made eight starts this year and can play. We’ll need Albert Huggins to control his gaps, not just go after Tua.

Wide Receivers

Jerry Jeudy, Jaylen Waddle, and Henry Ruggs are excellent receivers who will play in the NFL. Their fourth leading receiver is their TE Irv Smith. He’s 6’4”, 240 lbs. and has 40 receptions for 667 yards on the year. Our LB’s and secondary will have their hands full. We need them to play just as well as they did against Notre Dame, if not better. I’m concerned about blitzing after watching Alabama run slants for TD’s against Oklahoma. Again, we need our DL to dominate.

Bottom Line

We absolutely have to win in the trenches on defense to slow Tua and this offense. If we don’t, we lose the game. If we do and can limit their run game and pressure Tua, I like our chances. The rating systems I track all have Alabama’s offense at number 2, behind Oklahoma’s. S&P+ has their defense at 12, but most others have it at 2 as well. We need Trevor Lawrence to be on, our DL to win their match ups, and our secondary to be solid.  

Because Christian Miller is likely out and Tua is still not completely healthy, there is a good chance we get all three. I think the odds of Clemson winning are probably 40%. Alabama is the favorite for good reasons. I would not be surprised by, and almost expect, a dominant performance by Lawrence and our wide receivers. How well our OL handles Buggs and Q. Williams will play a big part in that. Tua and Alabama’s wide receivers will be a huge test for our secondary. I think they’ve come a long way over the course of the year and Clemson will give Alabama a huge challenge.

Statistics

Updated after bowls except FEI
Updated post bowls
Updated post bowls except FEI
Data pre-bowls
Data pre-bowls

Data from Footballoutsiders.com, SBNation.com, and CFBstats.com

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