A Statistical Comparison

The admonition that "Figures can lie and liars can figure" actually pre-dates the current scandals of business and accounting. It also fails to recognize that there is value (and interest) in comparative numbers. More disheartening to our task is the bemoaned, "Statistics are for losers."

There is no denying that both Alabama (3-6) and Mississippi State (4-6) have been losers this year. An examination of their statistical "achievements" underscores the difficulties.

Alabama's statistics are skewed by the Crimson Tide having played a total of seven overtime periods. Instead of the 20 points allowed to Tennessee in regulation, statistically Alabama's defense is shown as having given up 51 points in that game. Of course, instead of the 20 Bama scored in regulation, the Crimson Tide is credited with 43 points in that game.

It is worth noting that one team's schedule might be considerably more difficult than the schedule of another team. Alabama has played five top 25 teams, including number one ranked Oklahoma, while Mississippi State has played one.

Through games of November 1, here are Alabama and Mississippi State standings in the Southeastern Conference in various categories:

Alabama ranks eighth in the SEC and 62nd nationally in scoring offense at 26.4 points per game (the Tide's Shaud Williams leads the SEC in touchdowns with 13), while Mississippi State is 11th in the league and 74th nationally at 24.8. Bama is ninth in the conference, 67th in the nation, in scoring defense, allowing 26.8 points per game, while the Bulldogs are last in the league and 110th nationally, giving up 36.4 points per game.

Alabama is third in the SEC and 39th nationally in rushing offense, 172.2 yards per game (with Shaud Williams leading the league and ranking 11th in the nation at 116.8 yards per game). Mississippi State is 11th in the SEC and 72nd nationally, rushing for 135.4 yards per game. Bama is fifth in the SEC, 33rd nationally, in rushing defense, holding opponents to 121.8 yards rushing per game, while the Bulldogs are last in the league and 94th in the nation, giving up 186.9 ground yards.

Mississippi State is fifth in the SEC and 46th in the nation in passing offense, 238.2 yards per game, while Alabama is 11th in the SEC and 87th in the nation, 187.6 yards per game. (State's Justin Jenkins is the league's top receiver, averaging 6.25 receptions and 95.1 yards per game.) The Tide is 10th in the SEC and 67th in the nation in pass defense, allowing 226.3 yards per game, while the Bulldogs are 11th in the SEC and 111th in the nation, giving up 289.5 yards per game.

The Bulldogs are seventh in the league and 63rd nationally in total offense, 373.6 yards per game, while Bama is 11th in the conference, 74th nationally, 359.8 yards per game. The Tide is sixth in the conference and 42nd in the nation in total defense, allowing 348.1 yards per game, while Mississippi State is last in the league and 112th in the nation, giving up 476.4 yards per outing.

Charles Jones (#20) leads Alabama with three interceptions.

With the league's top kickoff return man in Nick Turner, the Bulldogs rank second in the SEC and seventh in the nation in kickoff returns, 25.7 yards per runback, while Alabama is 10th in the SEC and 75th nationally, 19.6 yards per return. State is a little better than Bama in punt returns as the Bulldogs rank ninth in the league and 54th in the nation, 9.8 yards per return, while Alabama is 11th in the SEC and 67th in the nation, 9.2 yards per return.

In punting, Mississippi State is 10th (34.6 yards) and Alabama 11th (34.4).

Coaches consider turnover margin to be one of the critical statistics. Alabama ranks ninth in the SEC and 51st in the nation with plus one. (Bama has nine fumble recoveries and six interceptions, 15 takeaways, and nine interceptions, five lost fumbles, 14 turnovers.) Mississippi State is 11th in the SEC and 108th in the nation at minus nine. (The Bulldogs have recovered 11 fumbles and made five interceptions, 16 takeaways, but suffered 11 lost fumbles and 14 pass interceptions, 25 turnovers.)

Alabama is seventh in the SEC in first downs with 176 (81 rushing, 80 passing, 15 by penalty), while State is 12th with 148 (56 rushing, 78 passing, 14 penalty). The Bulldogs are also last in the league in preventing first downs, having given up 194 (85 rushing, 94 passing and 15 by penalty). Alabama is seventh against first downs, having allowed 164 (64 rushing, 91 passing, nine by penalty). Alabama ranks 10th in third down conversions, 48 of 134 for 35.8 per cent, while State is 12th, 35 of 108, 32.4 per cent.

Alabama is the league's second-least penalized team, 47.3 yards per game, while State is the most penalized, 86.6 yards per game.

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