Possibly the closest Super Bowl matchup in history also poses the question: how much does it mean when certain aspects of an NFL team improve dramatically in the second half of the season?
16 Jan 2012
by Bill Connelly
The 2011 college football season came to a close last Monday night with a brutally impressive, if less than aesthetically pleasing, shutout win by Alabama. The team we projected as No. 1 about five months ago finished the season No. 1, even if the route from Point A to Point B was a bit confusing and controversial. It isn't every year that the best team is also the champion (sometimes pesky things like "unexpected losses" get in the way), but one way or another it played out in 2011.
This was one of most simultaneously entertaining and maddening seasons on record. Off-the-field controversies (primarily the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State, obviously) cast a pall on the proceedings; so did ongoing playoff debates, "pay the players" arguments, injuries, and recruiting scandals. Honestly, that stuff is becoming part of the territory at this point. We managed to blame the BCS for everything, from the lack of a playoff (the BCS is an effect, not a cause) to poor BCS title game ratings (because as we all know, tournaments never lead to ugly finales), which is unsurprising as some will rail against the BCS at all costs. Really, though, there was plenty to enjoy if you looked for it. A truly exciting, likeable quarterback won the Heisman, there were enough exciting games to fill a top-100 list, and again, there is always something to be said for the best team winning the top prize.
(There's also something to be said for the likely Plus One arrangement on the horizon, even if it won't actually scuttle any of the current complaints. We'll all just throw our outrage toward Clearly Deserving Team No. 5 instead of Clearly Deserving Team No. 3 ... but I cynically digress. As FO readers probably know, I'm all for a playoff. I just don't totally hate the current system either. I am nothing if not a walking contradiction.)
Most box scores this season were posted at Football Study Hall, but since this is a special occasion (the end of the season), we'll take a look at Alabama-LSU II here.
|Close %||93.8%||STANDARD DOWNS|
|Field Position %||52.2%||9.1%||Success Rate||48.9%||26.9%|
|Close Success Rate||43.1%||22.0%||Success Rate||27.3%||11.1%|
|Close Success Rate||37.9%||21.7%||Turnover Pts||10.2||26.6|
|Close PPP||0.35||0.12||Turnover Pts Margin||+16.4||-16.4|
|Line Yards/carry||3.01||2.11||Q1 S&P||0.692||0.359|
|Close Success Rate||47.2%||22.2%|
|Close PPP||0.28||-0.06||1st Down S&P||0.753||0.385|
|Close S&P||0.753||0.161||2nd Down S&P||0.908||0.220|
|SD/PD Sack Rate||0.0% / 16.7%||0.0% / 30.8%||3rd Down S&P||0.278||0.190|
|Projected Pt. Margin: Alabama +35.5 | Actual Pt. Margin: Alabama +21|
It was a hectic and rather rewarding bowl season at SBN. Catch up on everything here if you like, but here are some highlights.
Florida State. They were just young enough and just injured enough to slip up when they shouldn't have, but on a play-for-play, drive-for-drive basis, they were almost as good as they were projected to be. That usually results in wins galore, but not always. Still, that is typically a sign of good things to come (hence the strong ranking here).
BYU (10 spots, from 47th to 37th). They ended up moving the ball relatively well against a good Tulsa defense, and they are young enough to dream on in 2012.
Florida (nine spots, from 39th to 30th). Though still certainly lacking on offense, the Gators were strong enough on defense and (especially) special teams to keep Ohio State at bay in the
Urban Meyer Gator Bowl in Jacksonville.
Missouri (eight spots, from 33rd to 25th). The Tigers crept into the top 25 by physically dominating a North Carolina squad that went from explosive in the opening minutes to demoralized by the second quarter.
Auburn (eight spots, from 60th to 52nd). For 60 minutes, the Tigers looked more creative and explosive than they had since Cam Newton left. It was a trying year for the defending champions, but it ended on a high note.
Others: SMU (65th to 55th), Marshall (97th to 87th), Baylor (36th to 29th), Louisiana Tech (46th to 39th), Mississippi State (50th to 43rd).
Pittsburgh (12 spots, from 35th to 47th). For all intents and purposes, their head coach broke up with them via text message in the weeks leading up to the BBVA Compass Bowl. They played like it in the opening minutes, quickly falling behind SMU by three touchdowns and never recovering.
Clemson (12 spots, from 24th to 36th). Oh, that defense. If Dabo Swinney can find a nice replacement for deposed coordinator Kevin Steele, the Tigers could be good in 2012. That is far from a given.
Nebraska (nine spots, from 17th to 26th). Torched by South Carolina receiver Alshon Jeffery, the Huskers' offense (never one for playing from behind) couldn't gain enough to keep the Huskers afloat.
Virginia (eight spots, from 57th to 65th). They traded haymakers with Auburn for a quarter-and-a-half, were floored by a series of momentum plays (long run, end-around, surprise onside kick), and that was that.
Others: North Carolina (41st to 49th), Florida International (53rd to 60th), Georgia Tech (42nd to 48th), Ohio State (32nd to 38th).
Honestly, there were quite a few, but my favorite might have come on the first day of bowls. Nothing screams "This is college football!" more than the ending to the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl between UL-Lafayette and San Diego State. In a minor bowl with an odd sponsor, ULL kicker Brett Baer, who had already missed two extra points on the day, bombed in a 50-yard field goal at the buzzer to give the Ragin' Cajuns their first-ever bowl victory. With the celebration that followed, you'd have thought that the Cajuns had just won the national title.
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