Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

Most Recent FO Features

SmithAle05-QB.jpg

» 2017 ALEX: Midseason Report

The latest ALEX update looks at the recent draft class that is struggling, the unusual Chicago strategy, and what's gotten into Alex Smith? We also looked at Tyrod Taylor's declining ALEX, but rising conversion rate that Buffalo just sent to the bench.

02 Nov 2015

One Foot Inbounds: Upsets Avoided

by Chad Peltier

There weren't many big changes in the college football landscape this week, with many top-25 teams taking their bye weeks and very few upsets among those that did play. The only top-25 upsets of the week were a Thursday night game with North Carolina over Pitt, and then the referee-aided Miami win over Duke, but otherwise there were just scares. In fact, it was really the week of almost-upsets. Washington State found an excellent defense to come within two points of Stanford, Michigan won over Minnesota by just three points, Temple came within four points of Notre Dame, Clemson's defense allowed 41 points to N.C. State, and UCLA only won by four points over Colorado. Even though College GameDay visited Philadelphia for the Temple-Notre Dame game, few picked Temple to keep it close. But turnovers and an inefficient run game held back the Irish offense, as the Owls made a game of it.

The Duke-Miami upset deserves further mention because it should have been on the list of near-upsets rather than one of the two actual upsets of the weekend. The game ended with one of the most insane final plays we have seen in college football -- and the third in three weeks! -- but it ended up being too good to be true. After eight increasingly-improbable laterals, Miami defensive back Corn Elder finished a 91-yard kickoff return for a touchdown -- but the officials made four critical errors (including a player being down before lateralling the ball) that should have negated the touchdown. How about that as a finish to a wild October of college football?

But outside of that officiating mess (and to be fair, the play was incredible even after acknowledging the errors), the weekend was really a prelude to a totally back-loaded November. The Big 12 will finally see all of its contenders (undefeated teams in Oklahoma State, TCU, and Baylor, as well as one-loss Oklahoma) play one another in what will essentially amount to be a playoff quarterfinal or default conference championship series. Ohio State will find some (presumably) ranked teams with Michigan and Michigan State. Clemson will battle Florida State for the ACC Atlantic division. Alabama will hope to keep its own conference championship and playoff hopes alive against undefeated LSU. So while October was wild, with upsets and incredible finishes, the real action is probably still to come.

TOEDRAGS

  • Notre Dame really struggled on the ground against Temple. C.J. Prosise was held to 14 carries for 25 total yards, which amounts to a 21 percent success rate. His longest carry was for 12 yards, and it was his second carry of the game. Quarterback Deshone Kizer did have 143 rushing yards, but 79 of those yards came on a single breakaway run. Temple has the sixth-ranked rushing success rate and 18th-ranked rushing S&P+ defense in the country, but Notre Dame had the top overall rushing S&P+ offense in the country.

  • With Michigan's excellent overall play -- and third-place ranking in the S&P+ -- it's easy to forget that they're still in their first year under Jim Harbaugh. And more than that, the offense is an injury away from disaster. The Wolverines survived an inspired effort from Minnesota 29-26 after Jake Rudock was taken out of the game with a minor injury. With his absence, and backup Wilton Speight in his place, the Wolverines' offense was inefficient on the ground. Drake Johnson and De'Veon Smith continue to be the top two running backs, but Smith struggled with nine carries for 15 yards as the rushing offense had just a 44 percent success rate and averaged 3.7 yards per carry. On the other side of the ball, the defense struggled with explosive plays. The defense was extremely efficient overall, holding Mitch Leidner to a completion rate under 50 percent, but it allowed explosive runs from Leidner and running back Rodney Smith, as well as explosive receptions to three different receivers, including two that were over 40 yards each. The defense is still first overall in defensive S&P+, but is 64th in nationally in unadjusted IsoPPP.
  • Stanford's offense had a rough go of it until David Shaw decided to go fully in on the quarterback run game. Shaw said after the game that "We had to lean on [Hogan] as a runner" as Hogan ran 14 times for 112 yards, including a 59-yard explosive carry against an atypically stout Washington State defense. The Cougars held Hogan to just 4.5 yards per pass and an interception, so the Cardinal needed every one of Hogan's 112 yards, and running back Christian McCaffrey's 107 as well.
  • It's a tough time right now in Bulldog country as Georgia dropped another conference game, this time to their rival Florida Gators. Both teams looked sloppy, but the Bulldogs even moreso as offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer made the decision to start a third quarterback, Faton Bauta. Bauta's debut was less than ideal, as he failed to complete half of his passes and threw three interceptions to the aggressive Gators defense. And the Georgia defense once again nearly allowed two Gators backs to cross the hundred-yard mark (Jordan Scarlett had nine carries for 96 yards). But there were opportunities for the Bulldogs even if they missed on nearly every chance they had to score more than just a field goal. In 12 drives, they only created three scoring opportunities, which averages to a point per scoring opportunity. The other two scoring opportunities ended in an end zone interception as well as a failed fourth-down try (and the latter drive started in the red zone!). The Bulldogs offense has no ability to keep defenders from stacking the box, and the results are felt in the run game as Sony Michel was held to 45 total yards and a 31 percent success rate. The play calling failed to attack the edges of the Florida defense, as Sony Michel was called on to run the same running plays Georgia called for Nick Chubb even though the two are vastly different running backs.

HONOR ROLL

  • Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson: Deshaun Watson had about as good of a day as a quarterback can have against N.C. State. Watson threw for 383 yards, five touchdowns, and no interceptions, and averaged nearly 13 yards per passing attempt. The Wolfpack pass defense isn't great by any means, but that performance -- along with 54 yards on the ground -- is enough to carry the Tigers over almost anyone.
  • Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU: Trevone Boykin's numbers are almost absurd. After throwing for 388 yards, three touchdowns, and no picks while averaging 8.3 yards per pass, Boykin is now fifth in the country in passing yards per game. In fact, Boykin was so efficient that opposing West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen was forced to give him a high five after the game because there was nothing more to say.
  • Sean Maguire, QB, Florida State: It was a day for the backups at Florida State as both Sean Maguire and freshman backup running back Jacques Patrick started in place of Everett Golson and Dalvin Cook. Maguire made a case for starting next week as well, as he threw for 348 yards and no interceptions while averaging nearly 10 yards per pass against the admittedly poor Syracuse defense.

LOWSMAN WATCH

  • Desmond King, CB, Iowa: Iowa's run defense may get most of the love (the Hawkeyes are fifth overall in rushing S&P+ defense compared to 39th in passing S&P+ defense), but Desmond King had a pick-six for 88 yards as the Hawkeyes held Maryland quarterback Perry Hills to just 74 total passing yards and three interceptions.
  • Corn Elder, DB, Miami. Corn Elder was the specialist who received the eighth lateral on Miami's final kickoff return touchdown. And even though the play should have been called back due to a player being down and an illegal block in the back, Elder showed incredible vision and speed to keep the play alive at the end. And Miami's Twitter account also deserves some love for their incredible response to the ACC's decision to suspend the officials after their incorrect calls:

    Posted by: Chad Peltier on 02 Nov 2015

    2 comments, Last at 03 Nov 2015, 6:10pm by yoyodyne

Comments

1
by techvet :: Mon, 11/02/2015 - 5:56pm

Regarding the comments on ND's rushing game, it is possible that one is drifting into the Barry Sanders arena, where teams would say, "We stopped Sanders for 45 yards on 15 carries, excluding the 50 and 80 yard runs he had."

It's agreed that Prosise was shut down for the whole game, but on the huge run by Kizer (and I haven't studied the play), if Temple was loading the box to stop Prosise and was keying on Prosise and Kizer broke through initial contain, then Temple deserves to have that run hung around their neck. (Per the story at ESPN.com, "Several Temple defenders converged on Prosise, but Kizer kept the ball and found a wide-open lane to sprint 79 yards for a touchdown.")

They gave up that run and that's on them. It's not like high school where some teachers would drop the lowest quiz grade. Every run counts.

Temple also gave up 299 yards in the air. Is that because they were loading the box to stop the run? I have no idea but I am just putting it forth as a possibility. Temple stuffed the run very well except for the one play and they deserve credit for a stout run defense that frustrated the Irish, but including that play, they gave up over 5 yards per carry.

2
by yoyodyne :: Tue, 11/03/2015 - 6:10pm

Calling 2 of the errors 'critical' is inane w/r/t the outcome. One was a celebration penalty for running on the field without a helmet after the TD. Does not negate TD, game over regardless.

1 of the 'critical' errors was the refs correctly picking up the flag for the non-foul at Miami.

Using the replay reviews available *at the time*, it was impossible to overturn the on-field call that Walton was not down.

But hey, no one would care if Duke won this way, and the Refs called 23 penalties on Miami [a Canes record and that's saying something!] to 5 on Duke, including reversing a Miami INT on Duke's final TD drive, 2 more DPIs on that drive which were fairly mysterious, and Sirk's TD run where he didn't get into the end zone.

But sure, let's have a Star Chamber decide days after the fact which penalties the referees missed on every scoring play and every possible scoring play. That will solve everything!

"The ACC did not include comment on Miami getting penalized an ACC-record 23 times against Duke, including several pass interference calls on the Blue Devils' final drive.

Those calls allowed Duke to keep its drive alive, and resulted in a 1-yard touchdown run by Thomas Sirk with six seconds left. The ACC made no mention about whether the officials made the right call on that touchdown run, also questionable because it was unclear whether Sirk crossed the plane of the goal line." ~espn.com