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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Mike Evans is really good at football

I start with the obligatory disclaimer: Alabama won the football game. They have the best team in the country and will probably win another national championship. AJ McCarron did exactly what he was supposed to in this game. The offensive line either made the necessary adjustments after Virginia Tech or the A&M front seven is an embarrassment to the SEC (probably a bit of both). T.J. Yeldon is a man, except for his annual tradition of fumbling against A&M at the worst possible moment. Nick Saban is a defensive genius; he needs only 10 months of preparation to take the nation's most talented defense and hold a 6'1" - 200 lb quarterback to under 100 yards rushing and 500 yards passing. Bow before the rolling Tide.

But as a football fan, that's not interesting. What is interesting is that Mike Evans had 279 receiving yards on 9 targets and Manziel had the second most yards by an SEC player in the history of the conference, and they did  it against the two-time defending best defense in the country. I hope to break down Manziel's performance in a part two, but here I focus on Mike Evans:

Since 2005 (where my play-by-play data begins), players have gained 200 yards receiving 170 times and and 250 yards 24 times. Evans' 279 yards ranks 12th over that period. Looking over the list of the top 20 games by receiving yards, a few things stand out. First, most of these were against bad defenses. That's not to say the accomplishment is unimpressive, but we should keep the strength of the competition in mind. Some receivers amassed their numbers against solid defenses: Marqise Lee and Austin Hill both topped 250 in the same game; Cobi Hamilton gained over 300 yards against a good Rutgers defense; Dezmon Briscoe's 269 against Oklahoma is notable. But Mike Evans had 279 yards receiving against the best defense in college football.

Second, Mike Evans is the only player on this list in single digits in targets. His 31 yards per target is 7.5 more than any other on the list. Manziel could have targetted Evans more often, but Kevin Sumlin also noted that much of what they were able to do on the ground was based on Alabama's approach to containing Evans defensively. Unfortunately, this is the kind of contribution I have no way of measuring (for now).

While this post is about Evans, Jheranie Boyd against LSU deserves a little attention
No player has gained more receiving yards on 9 or fewer targets in a single game (see above), but there is a better way of handling this. I calculated yardage totals for any 9 consecutive targets to a player in the same game. For example, if a player was targeted 12 times in a game, I would look at targets 1-9, targets 2-10, 3-11, and 4-12 independently. Still, Mike Evans' 279 yards in the most since 2005. In fact, the gap between Evans and the second best (27 yards) is as big as the gap between the second best and the 20th best series of 9 consecutive targets. And, as I've said before in this post, Mike Evans did it against Alabama. Quod erat demonstratum, Mike Evans is good at football.

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