Cavalcade of Whimsy
Oct. 23, 2012
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- Oct. 23, Part 1 - Is
Collin Klein worth the hype?
The C.O.W. airing of the grievances followed by the feats of strength
Ten quirky stats and interesting under-the-radar nuggets …
10. "Whoa! Slow down there maestro. There's a NEW Mexico?"
Last year, New Mexico's running game was almost non-existent, averaging just 113 yards per game with ten touchdowns. The offense failed to crank out more than 168 rushing yards in any game and only barreled in for multiple touchdowns in two games. Things are a wee bit different this season under new head coach Bob Davie.
Not only is the Lobo offense rocking on the ground – ranking fifth in the nation averaging 297 yards per game with 26 touchdowns – but it has a burgeoning superstar in junior Kasey Carrier, who's coming off a 338-yard, three-touchdown day against Air Force and has scored nine touchdowns over the last three weeks. Overall, under Davie, the offense has rushed for 302 yards or more in six of the eight games while falling below last year's 168-yard mark just once (Texas Tech). Another part of the reason for New Mexico's big turnaround is …
9. Turnover margin
The 4-4 Lobos are 13th in the nation in turnover margin with a +1.25. The top 12 teams in turnover margin are a combined 79-4, and none of the 12 has more than one loss. Soak that in for a moment.
Oregon, Louisville and Ohio State are the only unbeaten teams to not be in the top 12 in turnover margin. Alabama is tied for third, but it would be just fine if it didn't own the statistic, but teams like Mississippi State (No. 1), Ohio (No. 2), Rutgers (No. 3), Kansas State (No. 7), Oregon State (No. 8), Florida (No. 9) and Notre Dame are living off of taking the ball away and not screwing up. It's not a stretch to suggest that none of those teams would be unbeaten if they weren't as good as they are at not giving up the ball.
8. Ack! It's high school all over again!
FIU can't score. To keep with the New Mexico theme, the Lobos were dead last in the nation last season in red zone efficiency scoring a mere 61% of the time on drives inside the 20. This season, FIU, who was 25th in the nation in scoring inside the red zone putting points on the board 87% of the time, is scoring a pathetic 53% of the time. It's not a problem with field goals, with Jack Griffin hitting a not-miserable 6-of-10 shots; it's the offense. It's a main reason why the Golden Panthers are one of the biggest disappointments of 2012 going 1-7 three losses by a touchdown or less.
And who's air-tight when it comes to finishing off drives? Clemson, Oklahoma, Alabama and Louisville have combined for just two losses with each of them failing just once inside the 20. However, while Florida, Florida State and Louisiana Tech are top teams that are great in the red zone, Wyoming is fifth and Indiana is tied for sixth.
7. As if the Crimson Tide wasn't nasty enough
Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson waged an epic battle to see who'd finish with the most efficient passing season in the history of college football. Wilson ended up winning out with a whopping 191.78, while RGIII was a close second with a rating of 189.48. This year, Alabama's A.J. McCarron is the nation's most efficient passer, checking in at a tremendous 183.63, which would've put him third last year behind two of the greatest seasons of all-time. How good has McCarron been? Along with 16 touchdown passes with no picks, he's pitching a scoring pass on a whopping 10.39% of his throws. Meanwhile, the next four quarterbacks in passing efficiency – Collin Klein, Nick Florence, Geno Smith and Seth Doege – are all in the Big 12.
6. Who's protecting the quarterbacks?
Air Force has only thrown the ball 74 times this season, but it's still impressive that the offensive line still has yet to allow a sack. While that's good, it's even better when teams that wing the ball around the yard are keeping their quarterbacks upright. North Texas has thrown the ball 198 times and has only allowed three sacks, while Tennessee has one of the nation's best passing attacks and has only given up three sacks in 256 attempts. J.W. Walsh might be out for the year with a knee injury, but Oklahoma State has allowed just three sacks in 237 pass attempts.
While San Jose State and San Diego State will probably end up being bowl eligible, the bottom 11 of the bottom 13 teams in pass protection won't go to a bowl. Florida is 105th in the nation allowing 21 sacks and South Carolina is 102nd, but the Gators aren't throwing well.
5. Sinning just doesn't matter too much
Penalties don't always matter when it comes to having a successful season. USC is doing fine, and it's dead last in the nation by a full penalty per game behind unbeaten Rutgers. Oregon State is unbeaten and LSU is having a big year, and those two are tied for 113th in the country committing 8.5 sins per game. Oregon is getting penalized eight times per game and Florida is getting flagged 7.86 times per game.
Kansas State is tied with Central Michigan for the fewest penalties committed, and that's a key part of the Wildcats' formula, but Boston College stinks and it has committed the fifth fewest penalties. Kansas isn't setting the world on fire, and it's seventh. Of the top 12 teams that have made the fewest errors, five have losing records and teams like East Carolina, Wake Forest, UCF, Navy and Air Force are effectively also-rans.
However, not committing penalties is always a decent sign of a team that's focused and disciplined, and yeah, it is telling that Mississippi State and Alabama are 15th and 16th, respectively.
4. Keep it moving, keep control.
Third down conversion percentage is my No. 1 favorite stat and it's the one I look to first in all the box scores. Everyone likes to make a big deal out of turnovers, but to me, converting a third down play to keep the chains moving and control the clock is almost the same thing. It might not be as devastating in terms of field position, but at times it can be almost as demoralizing.
Air Force might not be that great, but it leads the nation converting 57% of its chance with the ground game, while Marshall is third in the nation and tends to connect through the air. Unbeaten Louisville is second in the nation, Kansas State is sixth, and no team in the top 20 in the stat has a losing record.
There are some aberrations. USC is miserable at converting on third downs, ranking 115th in the nation and hitting on just over 30% of its chances. However, most the teams bad on third downs are bad overall, with Eastern Michigan ranking last – converting 26.7% of its chances – and Missouri, Auburn, Hawaii, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest, Boston College and Idaho all under 30%.
3. Boot and cover
Four of the unbeaten teams are in the top 14 in fewest punt returns allowed, and Kent State, Northern Illinois and Texas A&M are among those allowing next to nothing on returns. While it's one of the only bright spots in a dismal Auburn season – ranking second allowing just one yard per return – it's another part of the Kansas State puzzle, giving up just seven yards on two returns. Florida has revolved its season and the defense around the ability of Kyle Christy to pin teams deep, giving up just 1.85 yards per return, while teams are having a harder time trying to keep up the pace against Oregon, who's allowing a mere 3.13 yards per try. And then there's Mississippi State.
With the Alabama game coming up, and with so many other big games ahead, keep an eye on MSU and what it's able to do with its punting game. On seven returns, the Bulldogs have blasted punt returners pushing them back for -.57 yards per try on the season.
So who stinks at covering punts? Pitt is giving up a whopping 22.29 yards per try and Syracuse is giving up 21.25 yards per try. Washington is the only team to allow more than one punt return for a score.
2. Florence and the machine
Robert Griffin III won the 2011 Heisman because of the way he was able to pull out wins in magical fashion against TCU and Oklahoma, but he also won because of the phenomenal numbers. However, his replacement, Nick Florence, is more than holding his own statistically and is showing that the Art Briles system really does work.
Florence won't touch RGIII's rushing numbers, but he's bombing away and he's making the offense special averaging a whopping 10.26 yards per attempt; RGIII averaged 10.68 yards per try last year. However, Florida is averaging more yards per completion averaging 15.68 yards per try than RGIII's 14.75. Currently, Denard Robinson is averaging more than 15 among the top 100 passers. Yardage-wise, stretched out over RGIII's 13 games, Florence projects to finishing with 4,134 yards to RGIII's 4,293. Just as interesting to note, Florence is project to throw the same number of touchdown passes – 37 – as the Heisman winner.
He also has a terrific playmaker on the other end of his plays. There isn't a more dynamic playmaker than Terrance Williams, a big, talented, athletic receiver who's averaging 21.5 yards per grab making 47 catches and nine scores with two touchdowns five games in a row before coming up with a touchdown on a ten-catch,183-yard day against Texas.
This all leads into one key thing emerging as the 2012 season goes on …
1. Baylor is the most interesting college football team in the world
The Bears might not be very good, and they might need to come up with a few upsets to get to a bowl game, but no team is so good at what it's good at while being so bad at what it struggles with. Baylor is the Adam Dunn of college football teams; you're getting a home run or a strikeout. There's no in between, and it's a lot of fun.
The Bears bomb away better than anyone in the country, leading the nation in passing averaging 391 yards per game, but that's because the offense has to keep up with a defense that ranks dead last in scoring defense and total defense. The Bears are terrific in the red zone, missing on just four trips inside the 20, but the defense is a disaster when teams get deep coming up with just two stops in 28 tries. 120th in the nation in punt return yards allowed, giving up 15.4 yards per try, while the punt return game is solid coming up with 10.6 yards per pop. 119th in the nation in pass efficiency defense, the offense is third in the nation in passing efficiency.
You will never, ever get cheated with a Baylor game. Someone is going to put up lots of points, someone will do something big and splashy, and in the end, there will be lots and lots of statistics.
Random Acts of Nutty … Provocative musings and tidbits to make every woman want you and every man want to be you (or vice versa) a.k.a. things I didn't feel like writing bigger blurbs for.
- What's a sign that you're improving as a program? Teams start to duck you. Vanderbilt could've at least given Northwestern more than an It's-Not-You-It's-Me letter to get out of their future matchups.
- Tommy Tuberville has Texas Tech rocking, while Auburn is a disaster. Michigan is doing fine, but Rich Rodriguez is doing wonders with Arizona and West Virginia is melting down. It hasn't been a bad time to be a spurned head coach.
- Notre Dame, any and all tradition you cling to so dearly to gets knocked down a few pegs every time Crazy Train blares across the loudspeakers.
- Wyoming couldn't seem to lose a close game in 2011, winning five games by eight points or fewer on the way to an 8-4 regular season and a bowl appearance. This year the Cowboys are 1-6 overall and 1-4 in games decided by a touchdown or less.
C.O.W. shameless gimmick item … The weekly five Overrated/Underrated aspects of the world
1) Overrated: Concern over Oklahoma State's offense with the loss of J.W. Walsh … Underrated: Torn ACLs in the ACC
2) Overrated: Indiana starting to get interest from some big recruits … Underrated: Actually getting them to sign
3) Overrated: Everett Golson starting against Oklahoma ... Underrated: Oklahoma defensive tackle Stacy McGee returning
4) Overrated: The Kenny Guiton throw ... Underrated: The Chris Fields catch
5) Overrated: Florida State vs. Miami ... Underrated: Florida State vs. Miami in the ACC championship
"Oh, see, I made Louis a bet here. See, Louis bet me that we couldn't both get rich and put y'all in the poor house at the same time. He didn't think we could do it. I won." … ATS: 23-12, 5-3 last week. See the double-digit home dog, be the Double-Digit Home Dog. While I believe in the system, it does occasionally require some judgment. I'm not taking Auburn +14 over Texas A&M or Wyoming +16.5 over Boise State.
- Wake Forest +12.5 over Clemson
- UTSA +22 over Utah State
- Kansas +21 over Texas
- New Mexico State +30 over Louisiana Tech
- New Mexico +13 over Fresno State
Sorry this column sucked, it wasn't my fault … I was ready to be more interesting items, but the officials from the Florida State-Miami game screwed up the ten second run-off.
- Oct. 23, Part 1 - Is
Collin Klein worth the hype?