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13 Oct 2014

OFI: Close Calls Are Good Enough

by Chad Peltier

Instead of unfiltered chaos, this past weekend highlighted just how difficult the inaugural playoff selection process will be. No teams -- no, not even the Rebels nor the Bulldogs -- have separated themselves from the pack. It's increasingly looking like an undefeated season may be all it takes to make the playoffs, while a single loss wouldn't necessarily disqualify anyone from contention.

Several teams are playing well enough for contention even outside of Mississippi: Florida State, Baylor, Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Ohio State, Michigan State, Oregon, Notre Dame, and Oklahoma are all within reach of leading their conferences. However, of this list, only Notre Dame, Florida State, and Baylor are undefeated, and either the Fighting Irish or Seminoles will drop to one loss after next weekend. And as Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney is quick to point out, we weren't even talking about teams like then-unranked Michigan State a third of the way through last season.

But the field is narrowing and the data on those contenders keeps growing. This week is the first time that the S&P+ and FEI (and F/+) rankings are devoid of any influence from preseason projections. That also means that we have opponent-adjusted numbers across all statistical categories.

So soak in the highlights and lowlights from last weekend, complete with all of the close calls, last-second wins, flops, and points off of turnovers you could hope for.


  • Unless you looked at the box score, you might have thought Georgia and recently promoted running back Nick Chubb just dominated Missouri in their 34-0 victory that put them on top of the SEC East. The major storyline after the game was that the Dawgs' stock was greatly rising, and it is true that they are in a good position to make the SEC Championship. However, it was not Chubb's 143 yards or Hutson Mason's 78 percent completion rate that won it for the Dawgs -- it was Maty Mauk's four interceptions and one fumble. Mason may have completed a high percentage of his passes, but his longest completion gained 14 yards and he averaged just 7.1 yards per completion (the Bulldawgs didn't have a play longer than 18 yards all day). Nick Chubb ran for 143 yards, but on 38 carries (which is impressive, no doubt, but inefficient nonetheless). Instead, what was truly impressive was the Bulldawgs defense. The defense held the Tigers to 0-for-7 on third downs, 4.6 yards per pass and 2.3 yards per rush, and generated turnovers that led to 13 points. The Dawgs could also afford to be inefficient on offense because their average starting field position was their own 41-yard line. With an average yards per possession of nearly 32 yards, the Bulldawgs consistently put themselves within field goal range. And because the Bulldawgs defense forced four three-and-outs, the Tigers only ran 43 total plays (of which 49 percent went for zero or negative yardage).
  • How did Alabama -- with its four four- or five-star running backs -- only have 66 rushing yards? Alabama had only a 25 percent success rate running the ball, averaged 2.1 yards per carry, and didn't have a single explosive rushing play on the day (long of 12 yards).
  • Mississippi State's statistics validate their top AP ranking -- but how did the Bulldogs seemingly come out of nowhere to defeat three ranked opponents in a row? Dan Mullen's squad has the best resume of any team in the country, and it's beginning to pick up conference wins in a division that is currently undefeated in out of conference play. The matchup with Auburn wasn't the prettiest win, but it's clear that style points aren't the goal right now for any team in the country -- simply winning is all you need. What Mississippi State did well is ensure that it took advantage of Auburn's sloppiness while minimizing the damaging effects of the offense's mistakes. The Bulldogs offense had three turnovers in a row between the end of the first quarter and middle of the second, but only allowed Nick Marshall and the Tigers to score six total points off of four turnovers. In contrast, Mississippi State was able to turn four Auburn turnovers into 21 points. The average starting field position on those three touchdown drives was the Auburn 27-yard line -- almost in the red zone already. Explain to me again how UAB scored 34 points on that defense?
  • The Baylor vs.TCU shootout was an interesting game even apart from the controversial pass interference call and last-second field goal. Baylor held the sixth-ranked Rushing S&P offense to just 4.5 yards per carry excluding the single 40-yard loss. Baylor had a -2 turnover margin and the two teams combined for 20 penalties for 227 yards. That is a great deal of inefficiency for such a high scoring game. The Bears converted just 28 percent of third downs, but went 4-of-6 on fourth-down tries.

TOP 25

1. Mississippi State
2. Ole Miss
3. Florida State
4. Baylor
5. Auburn
6. Alabama
7. Oregon
8. Notre Dame
9. Oklahoma
10. Georgia
11. TCU
12. Stanford
13. Ohio State
14. Michigan State
15. Texas A&M
16. Clemson
17. Oklahoma State
18. UCLA
19. Arizona
20. LSU
21. Wisconsin
22. Kansas State
23. Louisville
24. USC
25. Marshall

It is unbelievable, but the state of Mississippi is clearly at the top of college football. Ole Miss was first and Mississippi State was second in the F/+ rankings last week, but the Bulldogs' win over Auburn -- and their three total wins over ranked teams -- propels them to the top of the pack. Notre Dame and Florida State will fight it out next week for one of the top four spots. I thought about demoting Baylor for its defensive play against TCU, but with TCU entering Saturday's game 7th in F/+, it's difficult for me to drop them for a win against such a quality opponent. I have Stanford ranked much higher than the AP voters do, mostly due to their high F/+ (especially in the S&P+) rankings.


  • Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor. Sometimes I feel guilt putting a Baylor player on the Honor Roll since at least one Bear puts up insane numbers each week. But Petty's 510 yards passing and six touchdowns are too good to ignore.
  • Tyrone Swoopes, QB, Texas . The Longhorns haven't had consistent quarterback play since Colt McCoy graduated, so it's nice to see Swoopes have a career day with 334 yards through the air and 50 rushing. The next step will be in stringing these kind of performances together back-to-back.
  • Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin. Gordon had another 175 yards rushing and four touchdowns in what has become a standard performance for a Wisconsin running back. Reminds you of a Baylor quarterback or wide receiver making the Honor Roll so often.
  • Tevin Coleman, RB, Indiana. The Big Ten is loaded with running backs, but Indiana's Coleman might just be the best of them. On only 15 rushes against Iowa, he totaled 219 rushing yards.
  • Javorius Allen, RB, USC. What a week for running backs around the country. The Trojans have been inconsistent this season, but Allen is keeping the trains running with 26 carries for 205 yards.


  • Attendance at Miami home games. Miami has had attendance problems for a few seasons now, but the pictures that have popped up on social media show a completely dead stadium. The announced number of more than 43,000 was completely manufactured. Sure, attendance is a problem country-wide, but the Hurricanes have an exciting quarterback in Brad Kaaya and deserve some home attendance.
  • Flopping in college football. I thought college football would be immune to other sports' egregious displays of flopping, but we had two very lame attempts this weekend by LSU wide receiver Andre DeBose and Arizona kicker Casry Skowron. DeBose's attempt was in response to being touched in the facemask by a Florida defender, while Skowron's came after a kick and looked planned from the beginning.
  • Penn State offsides call on onside kick. Penn State fans can likely feel rightfully angry about the ending to the Michigan game. Not only had the offensive line allowed Michigan six sacks and 11 tackles for loss during the game, but the Big Ten refs threw a very questionable penalty flag on an onsides kick that Penn State had just recovered. Video and images don't show any player crossing the plane as the ball is kicked.


  • Emanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State. The emerging star had ten tackles, including 5.5 for loss, and two sacks against Kansas. Ogbah now has five sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss overall.
  • Cody Prewitt, DB, Ole Miss. The entire Ole Miss defense deserves some Lowsman love, but the captain's 75-yard interception return for a touchdown and seven tackles mean that he gets first dibs.
  • Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington. Thompson was everywhere for the Huskies with 11 tackles overall and a critical 100-yard fumble return for a touchdown in the win over Cal.

Posted by: Chad Peltier on 13 Oct 2014

1 comment, Last at 13 Oct 2014, 3:21pm by big10freak


by big10freak :: Mon, 10/13/2014 - 3:21pm

Wisconsin has disasterous special teams. I think the author may need to re-evaluate this ranking. Gordon can only do so much when Wisconsin is giving the other team the ball at Wisconsin's 45 to start drives on a regular basis.