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Arkansas vs. Alabama Box Score Breakdown

No surprise, it was ugly.

Arkansas v Alabama Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Well, that went about as expected.

Alabama was slightly merciful, keeping Damien Harris at just 9 carries. He could have had 250 yards if Nick Saban wanted him to get that many. The end result was a 41-9 final that was about what most expected.

There is some good news. First, if you bet on Cole Kelley, you won. The Tide were 31.5-point favorites when the news that Austin Allen was out came down. Oddsmakers quickly moved the line up, allowing to reach as high as 37 points in Alabama’s favor. If you waited to jump on Arkansas +37, you made money, because the Hogs covered.

There’s more good news. From the preview:

I’d like to see the Hog secondary end Hurts’ no-interceptions streak. That would be a nice consolation prize in what will otherwise likely be a beatdown.

Thank you Kevin Richardson!

Okay, onto the bad news.

Unlike the South Carolina game, which featured a similar score margin, this was a total and complete beatdown. The Hogs never stood a remote chance. The only reason it wasn’t worse before Saban called off the dogs was the fact that other than Harris’ 75-yard run on the first play of the game, the Hogs kept the Tide out of big plays, which is pretty much what we expected to happen.

Lots of conclusions:

  • Arkansas couldn’t run the ball, at all. It’s worth noting that Alabama was selling out to stop the run with the backup quarterback in, but still, those numbers are pitiful. Kelley had zero help. The Hogs were utterly useless on first down and even got stuffed near the goal line (again).
  • Alabama’s offense did as it pleased, for the most part. Arkansas’ defense got off a decent start after the 75-yard run. They held on a short field after the punt issue on the offense’s first drive. They held the Tide under 50% success in the first quarter, and to 0.0 EV in the second. Sosa Agim, De’Jon Harris, and Dre Greenlaw all had some good moments. Still, the Hogs did very little to slow the Tide down. In the third quarter, Alabama countered Arkansas’ surprisingly-successful pressure packages and posted a 92.3% success rate to turn “easy victory” into “blowout victory”.
  • I’m not really impressed with Jalen Hurts. I hate to be sour grapes after a 32-point loss, but Hurts wasn’t impressive. The Hogs picked him off and held him to negative Passing EV. He did a little bit of damage with his legs, but still. That said, Hurts being pedestrian may not be a problem for Alabama this year after watching Clemson flail against Syracuse.

In addition to the Alabama-induced problems, Arkansas also had other problems. A missed extra point, a bad punt snap, and 2.44 points lost to penalties can’t be blamed on the opponent. It’s that kind of stuff that’s sinking the Bielema era as much as the offense and defense.

I feel bad for Cole Kelley, who finished with minus-15.8 EV only because he had 53 action plays. That calculates to minus-0.29 EV per play, which is slightly better than the offense as a whole, so there’s that.

Also, and I’ve said this before, but I guess I have to keep saying it: Devwah Whaley should NOT be in the mix at running back. He’s having a sophomore slump, or something (I tend to think he’s been betrayed by Arkansas’ strength-and-conditioning program). In four games against Power 5 opponents, Whaley has ranked 3rd, 3rd, 2nd, 3rd, and 3rd out of the three backs in EV. That’s not a coincidence.

Here’s how the Hog offensive players stack up in total season EV:

  • Jonathan Nance +21
  • Jordan Jones +15
  • David Williams +4
  • Deon Stewart +3

And the bottom of the list:

  • Devwah Whaley -14
  • Austin Cantrell -7
  • Cole Kelley -5

Again, I feel bad for Kelley. I have to calculate EV by myself, so I’m limited in what I can do, but I’d like to calculate a new statistic, first noted at MGoBlog and called Points Above Normal (PAN). PAN takes the average EV for each team calculates each performance against it. So if Auburn’s defense is allowing 0.15 EV per rush attempt for the season, and the Hogs get 0.19 EV per rush, then they have +0.04 PAN (0.19 - 0.15); or, essentially, they got 0.04 EV above Auburn’s normal output. If the Hogs do that on 50 attempts, that comes out to +2 PAN: a simple, easy-to-read, opponent-adjusted calculation of performance. It would be interesting to see how Arkansas’ passing and running games did against Alabama’s average. I’d like to start using that at some point, although it may be next year due to the time required to calculate it.

Up next is Auburn. LSU found out that if you stop Auburn’s run, the Malzahn passing games comes apart too. I don’t think Arkansas can stop Auburn’s run, but if for some reason they can, it could be game on in Fayetteville.