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» Varsity Numbers: Honing in

Bill Connelly again looks at which college football teams the F/+ ratings are sure about, and which teams remain a mystery (led by Appalachian State).

16 Sep 2010

SDA: The Unfriendly Road

by Bill Connelly, Brian Fremeau, and Robert Weintraub

Last weekend featured a series of big games and historical matchups, yet none of them actually produced very much excitement. Oklahoma romped over Florida State, Alabama methodically whipped Penn State, and Ohio State statistically dominated Miami. This week, there are no true marquee matchups, but the games themselves could be much more entertaining. Top teams like Texas, Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, and Arkansas face hostile environments away from home (in Lubbock, Knoxville, Tucson, Seattle, and Athens, respectively), while intriguing teams like Air Force and Clemson face rugged road tests as well. Which visiting teams can hold steady, and which will fall apart?

SDA Podcast (Third Time's The Charm)

We may have actually done it. In our third attempt at including a podcast in the Seventh Day Adventure column, we have succeeded. In the player below (iTunes subscriptions coming soon), Brian and Bill discuss the state of college football two weeks into the season, going from conference to conference and discussing surprises, disappointments, and how the next few weeks might play out.



Now, onto the games.

Previews

A few notes about this week's data tables:

  • All three of FO's primary measures -- FEI, S&P+ and the combined F/+ -- are still heavily weighted by the preseason projections. The projections will be phased out of the numbers by mid-season.
  • The situational data below (rushing, passing, standard downs, passing downs) is presented in raw S&P form, not the schedule-adjusted "+" form. These numbers have not been adjusted to account for the opponent, as there just haven't been enough games.
  • We have updated the standard- and passing-downs numbers to include 2010 data.

Cincinnati (+2) at N.C. State (Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

OVERALL When Cincinnati
Has the Ball...
When N.C. State
Has the Ball...
Category Cincinnati N.C. State
Cincinnati
Off
N.C. State
Def
Cincinnati
Def
N.C. State
Off
2010 F/+ Rk 42 53
2010 FEI Rk 49 47
2010 S&P+ Rk 36 57
2010 Rushing S&P Rk 31 44 4 85
2010 Passing S&P Rk 106 38 105 44
2010 Std. Downs S&P Rk 53 56 62 61
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
64.2% Run
(47th)
53.3% Run
(89th)
2010 Pass. Downs S&P Rk 99 29 32 49
Run-Pass Ratio
(Pass. Downs)
15.0% Run
(116th)
40.7% Run
(31st)

A somewhat disappointing team takes on an intriguing one when Cincinnati travels to Raleigh to face North Carolina State tonight. Cincinnati had high hopes, particularly on offense, despite the loss of quite a bit of talent. The remaining stars -- quarterback Zach Collaros and running back Isaiah Pead, in particular -- were supposed to dominate almost immediately, but it hasn't worked out that way. They've given up 10 sacks in just 68 attempts, which has resulted in a very poor Passing S&P. Meanwhile, N.C. State has recorded six sacks and three interceptions in wins over Western Carolina and a tricky Central Florida squad. No matter who is on the field, the run favors Cincinnati and the pass favors N.C. State. The game features two of the more intriguing dual-threat quarterbacks in the country in Collaros and N.C. State's Russell Wilson, though neither has lit the world aflame this season.

California (-3) at Nevada (Friday, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

OVERALL When California
Has the Ball...
When Nevada
Has the Ball...
Category California Nevada California
Off
Nevada
Def
California
Def
Nevada
Off
2010 F/+ Rk 37 64
2010 FEI Rk 27 63
2010 S&P+ Rk 45 63
2010 Rushing S&P Rk 24 25 2 4
2010 Passing S&P Rk 9 56 1 20
2010 Std. Downs S&P Rk 16 93 8 4
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
67.3% Run
(37th)
61.5% Run
(57th)
2010 Pass. Downs S&P Rk 42 7 8 9
Run-Pass Ratio
(Pass. Downs)
38.2% Run
(40th)
39.5% Run
(36th)

The Bears and Wolf Pack have combined for more than 200 points through the first two weeks of 2010, and their respective offenses have been dominant on the ground and through the air. Nevada's senior quarterback Colin Kaepernick, taking advantage of what seems like his seventh year of eligibility, has logged four touchdowns passing and four rushing. Cal's senior quarterback Kevin Riley ranks third in passer rating and has thrown seven touchdowns himself. Neither has been tested against anything resembling a defense to date, however, and they'll actually face some resistance Friday night. California's defense in particular has been outstanding -- 2.6 yards per play, 160 yards per game, top 10 in every S&P split category -- though again, untested, in routs over UC Davis and Colorado. The Bears hit the road in five of their next seven games starting in Reno, and a slip-up could derail a promising start. This is the Wolf Pack's biggest game until late November against Boise State.

No. 12 Arkansas (+2.5) at Georgia (Saturday, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN)

OVERALL When Arkansas
Has the Ball...
When Georgia
Has the Ball...
Category Arkansas Georgia Arkansas
Off
Georgia
Def
Arkansas
Def
Georgia
Off
2010 F/+ Rk 22 19
2010 FEI Rk 30 15
2010 S&P+ Rk 19 20
2010 Rushing S&P Rk 73 72 7 90
2010 Passing S&P Rk 34 30 13 39
2010 Std. Downs S&P Rk 6 41 2 90
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
44.9% Run
(111th)
58.6% Run
(69th)
2010 Pass. Downs S&P Rk 33 22 15 41
Run-Pass Ratio
(Pass. Downs)
37.2% Run
(44th)
42.2% Run
(30th)

Bulldogs defensive coordinator Todd Grantham probably flushed the game film of South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore running wild on his defense Saturday for two reasons. One, it was tough to re-watch all the missed tackles; and two, his unit faces an entirely different challenge this weekend, in the form of Arkansas and its high-powered offense led by quarterback Ryan Mallett. The Hogs have been inefficient despite cruising past weaklings in its first two wins. They have lost six straight to Georgia, however, and Mallett's home/road splits have been awful (30 touchdowns at home, five on the road, for example). Arkansas will be without the electric running back/kick returner Dennis Johnson, who suffered an awful-sounding "bowel injury" last week, presumably from a wicked hit and not too many enchiladas. Georgia wants to have its most dangerous weapon, wideout A.J. Green, back from suspension. The school is lobby the NCAA to reduce the ridiculous four-game penalty to a slightly less ridiculous two-gamer. Georgia and redshirt freshman quarterback Aaron Murray have had some flashes without Green but desperately need his big-play ability, especially with the middling running attack.

Air Force (+17.5) at No. 7 Oklahoma (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET)

OVERALL When Air Force
Has the Ball...
When Oklahoma
Has the Ball...
Category Air Force
Oklahoma Air Force
Off
Oklahoma
Def
Air Force
Def
Oklahoma
Off
2010 F/+ Rk 59 8
2010 FEI Rk 59 7
2010 S&P+ Rk 56 7
2010 Rushing S&P Rk 11 37 51 49
2010 Passing S&P Rk 35 42 47 24
2010 Std. Downs S&P Rk 3 28 26 56
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
83.1% Run
(4th)
61.1% Run
(59th)
2010 Pass. Downs S&P Rk 66 47 64 28
Run-Pass Ratio
(Pass. Downs)
81.8% Run
(2nd)
25.5% Run
(93rd)

The Falcons have been second-class citizens in the Mountain West during the last few seasons, but last weekend's romp over BYU was a head-turner and a statement that they may be ready to challenge the conference crown. Quarterback Tim Jefferson has the triple option attack running flawlessly, and running backs Asher Clark and Jared Tew have combined for nearly 350 yards on the ground. A trip to Norman is a challenge on an entire new level, of course, as shown by Florida State's prolific offense being harassed by Oklahoma last weekend. The Sooners gave up fewer than 200 yards in non-garbage possessions and allowed only five of 16 third-down conversions on the day. Offensively, quarterback Landry Jones is looking more and more comfortable each week, and playmaker DeMarco Murray has been electric out of the backfield.

No. 8 Nebraska (-3.5) at Washington (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

OVERALL When Nebraska
Has the Ball...
When Washington
Has the Ball...
Category Nebraska Washington Nebraska
Off
Washington
Def
Nebraska
Def
Washington
Off
2010 F/+ Rk 25 57
2010 FEI Rk 29 64
2010 S&P+ Rk 25 44
2010 Rushing S&P Rk 2 49 22 76
2010 Passing S&P Rk 78 86 2 25
2010 Std. Downs S&P Rk 2 39 54 55
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
69.6% Run
(27th)
48.3% Run
(103rd)
2010 Pass. Downs S&P Rk 43 107 3 63
Run-Pass Ratio
(Pass. Downs)
28.0% Run
(83rd)
42.9% Run
(26th)

Heading into the season, the storyline for this game was Jake Locker versus the stout Nebraska defense. With the emergence of Nebraska's redshirt freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez, the narrative has slightly shifted. Martinez rushed for a combined 284 yards against Western Kentucky and Idaho, while completing 66 percent of his passes for 242 yards. The "He's like Eric Crouch, only faster!" whispers have begun in Lincoln (the Huskers' fanbase is known for their even-handed, complete lack of hyperbole when it comes to football), but Washington will provide an interesting test. Husky Stadium will be a hostile environment for Martinez, but the Huskies' defense has been iffy thus far, particularly on passing downs. If they leverage Martinez into uncomfortable downs and distances, then let him off the hook, Nebraska will almost certainly win. Meanwhile, Locker has looked solid against BYU and Syracuse (receivers Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar have been great), but Nebraska presents what is likely the toughest defensive test he will face in 2010.

No. 10 Florida (-14.5) at Tennessee (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

OVERALL When Florida
Has the Ball...
When Tennessee
Has the Ball...
Category Florida Tennessee Florida
Off
Tennessee
Def
Florida
Def
Tennessee
Off
2010 F/+ Rk 2 39
2010 FEI Rk 1 48
2010 S&P+ Rk 2 30
2010 Rushing S&P Rk 51 66 50 55
2010 Passing S&P Rk 83 53 5 101
2010 Std. Downs S&P Rk 54 70 40 38
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
62.2% Run
(52nd)
68.3% Run
(33rd)
2010 Pass. Downs S&P Rk 82 31 4 96
Run-Pass Ratio
(Pass. Downs)
35.0% Run
(53rd)
32.1% Run
(67th)

Last year, the top-ranked Gators hosted a rebuilding, heavy underdog Vols squad, and were Kiffined into an ugly win. Now the Vols are hosting, but much to their surprise, they are once again rebuilding and a heavy underdog, under new coach Derek Dooley. Their lone hope is that Florida is also rebuilding, albeit with vastly superior talent. The Gators found a game plan against South Florida after scuffling for six quarters to begin 2010, getting sprint champ Jeff Demps the ball and letting him run wild. Florida's defense hasn't been an issue, with eight interceptions in two weeks, covering for quarterback Jeff Brantley's growing pains. Tennessee's strategy seems apparent -- run the ball behind Tauren Poole (162 yards against Oregon) and avoid turnovers. Florida's run defense has been iffy thus far, ranking 50th in Rushing S&P, so they might be able to keep it close enough to make Brantley beat them.

Clemson (+6.5) at No. 16 Auburn (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN)

OVERALL When Clemson
Has the Ball...
When Auburn
Has the Ball...
Category Clemson Auburn Clemson
Off
Auburn
Def
Clemson
Def
Auburn
Off
2010 F/+ Rk 13 12
2010 FEI Rk 11 21
2010 S&P+ Rk 18 10
2010 Rushing S&P Rk 3 45 28 30
2010 Passing S&P Rk 3 40 27 8
2010 Std. Downs S&P Rk 5 37 36 32
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
65.3% Run
(43rd)
78.7% Run
(8th)
2010 Pass. Downs S&P Rk 26 69 72 8
Run-Pass Ratio
(Pass. Downs)
43.3% Run
(24th)
47.4% Run
(15th)

These two Tigers separated by a few hours on I-85 somehow haven't played in the regular season since 1971 (the teams have played in bowls, most recently the Chick-Fil-A Bowl in 2007, with Auburn pulling out an overtime win). Allow us to say, it's about damn time. Auburn has found an identity after a few so-so seasons behind the Battering Cam -- powerhouse quarterback Cam Newton, who has accounted for seven touchdowns in two games. Newton has been the Abrams Tank version of Denard Robinson's F-22 fighter jet -- a new starter leading his team to 2-0 by running with gusto and passing well enough to keep defenses honest. It was Auburn's defense that pulled out the win at Mississippi State last Thursday, led by defensive tackle Nick Fairly, who had 1 1/2 sacks, a fumble recovery, and an interception. This game will be Clemson's true debut after two tuneups against tomato cans. It's also a fine opportunity to restore a touch of luster to the ACC's image, which was buried in a mudslide after last week's disaster. A win on the Plains would do wonders for both team and conference.

No. 6 Texas (-3) at Texas Tech (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, ABC)

OVERALL When Texas
Has the Ball...
When Tex. Tech
Has the Ball...
Category Texas Tex. Tech Texas
Off
Tex. Tech
Def
Texas
Def
Tex. Tech
Off
2010 F/+ Rk 5 21
2010 FEI Rk 6 24
2010 S&P+ Rk 6 21
2010 Rushing S&P Rk 29 111 19 50
2010 Passing S&P Rk 49 43 36 28
2010 Std. Downs S&P Rk 35 63 30 52
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
69.7% Run
(25th)
43.2% Run
(114th)
2010 Pass. Downs S&P Rk 74 58 37 22
Run-Pass Ratio
(Pass. Downs)
17.1% Run
(112th)
30.2% Run
(72nd)

In three of six trips to Lubbock, one of the toughest places to play in the country, Mack Brown's Texas Longhorns have returned to Austin with a loss. Tech fans should be well lubricated and in rare form this Saturday night for Garrett Gilbert's first official road game as Texas' starting quarterback. Both teams have looked good but not great thus far, with Tech struggling to run or stop the run and Texas still trying to figure out its go-to weapons at running back and receiver. The Red Raiders must limit the damage done on the ground, both when they have the ball (preseason darling Baron Batch is averaging just 3.4 yards per carry, and an offensive line that ranks 68th in Line Yards hasn't helped) and when they don't (wonderfully-named Longhorns back Fozzy Whittaker has averaged 7.1 yards per carry in two games). Meanwhile, Gilbert must maintain his composure in what will likely be the most hostile environment he'll face this season.

Notre Dame (+3.5) at Michigan State (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, ABC)

OVERALL When Notre Dame
Has the Ball...
When Mich. St.
Has the Ball...
Category Notre Dame
Mich. St.
Notre Dame
Off
Mich. St.
Def
Notre Dame
Def
Mich. St.
Off
2010 F/+ Rk 29 41
2010 FEI Rk 25 46
2010 S&P+ Rk 38 33
2010 Rushing S&P Rk 69 5 71 6
2010 Passing S&P Rk 61 39 87 56
2010 Std. Downs S&P Rk 69 18 64 14
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
52.2% Run
(93rd)
65.9% Run
(41st)
2010 Pass. Downs S&P Rk 56 76 99 34
Run-Pass Ratio
(Pass. Downs)
34.8% Run
(54th)
39.1% Run
(38th)

The Fighting Irish threw two end-of-half incompletions out the end zone last Saturday, and quarterback Dayne Crist apparently played through blurred vision in a narrow defeat at the hands of Michigan. Lately, a 1-1 record against the Michigans has been par for the course for Notre Dame -- they've knocked off one or the other in four of the last five seasons and haven't beaten both UM and MSU since 2004. Michigan State has notched decent wins over Western Michigan and Florida Atlantic, but the running game has been productive led by Edwin Baker's 300 yards in 32 carries through two games. The Irish were gashed on the ground by Michigan's spread option attack, though this will be a much more traditional test of Notre Dame's front seven.

No. 9 Iowa (-2) at No. 24 Arizona (Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

OVERALL When Iowa
Has the Ball...
When Arizona
Has the Ball...
Category Iowa Arizona Iowa
Off
Arizona
Def
Iowa
Def
Arizona
Off
2010 F/+ Rk 14 40
2010 FEI Rk 14 39
2010 S&P+ Rk 16 41
2010 Rushing S&P Rk 14 3 17 20
2010 Passing S&P Rk 11 3 25 17
2010 Std. Downs S&P Rk 20 5 11 17
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
69.6% Run
(26th)
52.9% Run
(90th)
2010 Pass. Downs S&P Rk 23 10 30 3
Run-Pass Ratio
(Pass. Downs)
45.5% Run
(17th)
8.8% Run
(120th)

Points and yards will come at a premium in the Saturday nightcap, as stellar defenses take the stage in Arizona. The Hawkeyes have surrendered only 14 points on the year, and the Wildcats haven't allowed anyone in the end zone yet. Less heralded perhaps than Ohio State's and Penn State's Monster Saturday matchups last weekend, this game still has conference and potential national implications for both teams. How will the quarterbacks handle the pressure? Ricky Stanzi has done nothing but win for the Hawkeyes, and both he and Arizona quarterback Nick Foles rank among the nation's leaders in completion percentage through Week 2.

Picks

The F/+ picks pushed ahead ever so slightly in Week 2, though Rob is a perfect 2-for-2 in Fred Edelstein Locks of the Week.

The Picks
(* - "Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week")
Visitor Spread Home Rob F/+
Cincinnati +2 N.C. State NC State Cincy
California -3 Nevada California California*
Arkansas +2.5 Georgia Arkansas Georgia
Air Force +17.5 Oklahoma Air Force Oklahoma
Nebraska -3.5 Washington Nebraska* Nebraska
Florida -14.5 Tennessee Florida Florida
Clemson +6.5 Auburn Clemson Clemson
Texas -3 Texas Tech Texas Texas
Notre Dame +3.5 Michigan St. Mich. State Notre Dame
Iowa -2 Arizona Iowa Iowa
Season-long Results
("Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week" record in parentheses)
Week Two
Season Total
F/+: 6-4 (0-1) 10-8-2 (.550) (0-2)
Rob: 5-5 (1-0) 9-9-2 (.500) (2-0)

Posted by: Bill Connelly on 16 Sep 2010

12 comments, Last at 18 Sep 2010, 2:46pm by glkatz81

Comments

1
by Jeff Fogle :: Thu, 09/16/2010 - 1:39pm

Rob had 5 winners last week, not 4; with Auburn, Michigan, Alabama, California, and Florida. And, you've probably noticed by now that the F+ picks aren't showing up in the chart in this first draft.

Scary to think "the pass favors N.C. State" when they were 10-30-0-105 in the air last week at Central Florida...

4
by Bill Connelly :: Thu, 09/16/2010 - 4:05pm

Rob's scores are fixed. One of these days I'll learn how to count to 10 correctly.

6
by Jeff Fogle :: Thu, 09/16/2010 - 9:31pm

Russell Wilson at the half: 17-25-0-252...

Did the whole Cincy team from last year graduate? A shell of last year's team to this point...

9
by Nicholas (not verified) :: Fri, 09/17/2010 - 10:05am

No, the majority of the team didn't graduate. The majority of the offense is back actually. The o-line lost two starters and they had two guys get drafted (Pike, QB and Gilyard, WR). Collaros played so well last year, most Cincy fans felt they'd be fine with him at QB and that USC transfer Vidal Hazelton would replace Gilyard adequately. But Hazelton is out for the year with an ACL tear, Collaros has been terrible and apparently the two guys we lost on the offensive line were amazing (or the guys replacing them are terrible) because our offensive line is a complete mess right now.

Realistically, I think the change in coaches has made a huge difference and that Butch Jones just isn't as good a coach as Brian Kelly.

10
by Jeff Fogle :: Fri, 09/17/2010 - 11:48am

Thanks N, agree with all of your points.

Defense ranked 67th in total yardage last year, offense 11th. It's like the offense fell back to where the defense is, and now we're looking at the 67th best team based on early results. Two poor results vs. Fresno State and NC State, and they only led Indiana State 12-7 at the half before wearing them down.

Oh, BC...Rob's full season mark should read 50% heading into the week on the corrected record. You guys corrected the won-lost record but left the old percentage.

2
by Scott P. (not verified) :: Thu, 09/16/2010 - 3:02pm

"Top teams like Texas, Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, and Arkansas face hostile environments away from home (in Lubbock, Knoxville, Tucson, Seattle, and Athens, respectively),"

Today's tip: take Panathenaikos and the points vs. the Razorbacks.

3
by Kevin from Philly :: Thu, 09/16/2010 - 3:51pm

I'll go against you on that one - no way does that team score more than three.

5
by Tom Gower :: Thu, 09/16/2010 - 4:21pm

Assuming I can count to 10 myself, I went 8-2 (1-0) last week, boosting my record to 12-6-2 (1-1). I'm now 3-1 on my counter-consensus picks, while all Rob-F/+ consensus picks are 6-5 on the year.

This week, I'll take NC State, Cal, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Washington, Florida, Auburn, Texas, Notre Dame, and Iowa. Washington and Auburn are the counter-consensus picks, and I'll give the Huskies another shot against a freshman quarterback making his first road start.

8
by zlionsfan :: Fri, 09/17/2010 - 12:42am

wish I'd posted early enough to take NC State, lol. 7-3 (1-0) last week, 11-7-2 (1-0) overall.

California, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Florida, Auburn, Texas*, Notre Dame, and Arizona.

11
by Will :: Fri, 09/17/2010 - 2:11pm

9-9-2 (.450)

Math is hard.

Will

12
by glkatz81 :: Sat, 09/18/2010 - 2:46pm

Newb question - how do you guys use above to pick games vs spread? Just curious as more a pro guy but quiet saturday so hopping around the FO website and saw this page.

Thanks.

Gabe