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26 Oct 2015

OFI: Two Drop from the Undefeated Ranks

by Chad Peltier

This wasn't supposed to be a big week for college football. There was only one matchup between ranked teams (Texas A&M-Ole Miss), and that ended up being a snoozer. Instead we were treated to two games that weren't decided until the fourth overtime; two top-ten undefeated teams picking up their first losses; a historic loss that unfortunately opened up yet another head coaching job; and yet another game decided by a non-offensive score with no time left on the clock. Thank you, college football.

Let's start with that last point. Many are calling Georgia Tech's blocked field goal return another "Kick Six," or comparing it to last week's "Big House Blunder" (or whatever you want to call it). While it was certainly an improbable finish for Florida State to pick up its first loss, I'd argue it's not on the same level as the Kick Six, and definitely not as crazy as last week's Michigan State win. In both of the other cases, the last-second win was in a rivalry game, with Michigan State and Auburn picking up wins over their most-hated enemies. While Georgia Tech has played Florida State tough recently, it's a stretch to call the ACC pair rivals. Second, the Spartans were all but dead when they snagged the errant punt and returned it for a touchdown. The Georgia Tech-Florida State game was tied up and headed for overtime, similar to the Auburn-Alabama game. That doesn't take away from Georgia Tech's win, however.


  • Miami suffered its worst defeat in school history with a 58-0 drubbing from Clemson that ended with Al Golden's firing on Sunday. Many saw this as an inevitable coaching change, but it certainly puts Miami -- a school with a lot of history and an excellent recruiting footprint but outdated facilities and questionable institutional support -- in a competitive coaching market. Clemson was the straw that broke the camel's back, as their smothering defense held Miami to just six first downs and a 22 percent third-down conversion rate. Three interceptions didn't help, but even without the turnovers, Miami's offense was completely hapless, averaging just 1.8 yards per carry and 2.6 yards per passing attempt.

  • Indiana-Michigan State might have the most deceptive box score from the weekend. Looking at the 52-26 final margin, you might think that the Spartans had total game control from the beginning, with maybe a garbage-time score for the Hoosiers near the end. But the Spartans actually led by only five points until there were five minutes left in the fourth quarter, when they would go on to score three consecutive touchdowns in under four minutes. The Hoosiers are now 0-4 in conference, but took both Michigan State and Ohio State down to the wire. That is, Indiana is much more competitive than their conference record would indicate. But there's also some reason to be concerned about the Spartans. Michigan State was always extremely efficient on defense -- the premier example of a break-don't-bend shutdown cover-four defense -- under defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, but now the Spartans are ranked 38th in defensive S&P+. While they are now 78th in passing IsoPPP (which might be expected given their injuries and how much reliance the Spartans' defensive scheme is on cornerback play), the Spartans are also 46th in rushing S&P+. They have two big challenges left during the regular season that could exploit this: Ohio State, with Ezekiel Elliott, and Penn State, with Saquon Barkley. Both J.T. Barrett and Christian Hackenberg can target Spartans corners with one-on-one matchups, as well.
  • We're out two more undefeated teams after Utah and Florida State went down in Week 8. Let's break these down in a little more detail. The bookies and the numbers agreed on the Trojans over the Utes, but not exactly on how it happened. The Utes were fairly efficient -- Travis Wilson completed two-thirds of his passes for 7.1 yards per attempt and Devontae Booker averaged 4.4 yards per attempt -- but four interceptions did the Utes in. Those picks (three by freshman linebacker Cameron Smith) (!) turned into two Trojans touchdowns, one missed field goal, and the end of the game. Thirty-six percent of the Utes' drives ended with an interception, and another 15 percent were three-and-outs. But outside of the Utes' poor drive efficiency and turnovers, Cody Kessler had an extremely efficient night, and JuJu Smith-Schuster had yet another explosive game as the Trojans' leading receiver (he is also the Pac-12 leading receiver, and is 18th in the country in average yards per catch). Second, while Florida State lost on a last-second special teams error, the Seminoles still didn't put themselves in a position to win the game. This likely had to do with Dalvin Cook's quiet night. Cook was the most explosive running back in the country coming in to the game, but his longest run on the night was just 17 yards and he averaged only 4.8 yards per carry the rest of the night. He finished with just a 41 percent success rate.
  • Urban Meyer's Buckeyes made the switch to J.T. Barrett, and he delivered in a big way in his first start of the season. Barrett had a 72 percent passing success rate as he connected on three explosive passes, and he also ran for 101 yards with a 69 percent rushing success rate. This created six scoring opportunities in nine drives, with two of their drives as explosive touchdowns from outside the Rutgers 40-yard line. The Buckeyes offense then averaged 5.8 points per scoring opportunity -- I'd say they seem to have figured out their red zone offense.


  • Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA: This won't be the last time that the freshman quarterback is in the Honor Roll. The top overall quarterback recruit won a head-to-head battle with projected top quarterback pick of the NFL Draft, Jared Goff. Rosen completed 34-of-47 passes for 399 yards, no interceptions, and three touchdowns in their Thursday night win.
  • Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis: Lynch battled with Rosen for the top quarterback performance of the week, completing 73 percent of his passes for 446 yards, albeit against the 91st-ranked passing S&P+ Tulsa defense.
  • Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State: Battling with Goff and Lynch for the top quarterback slot in next spring's NFL Draft, Cook passed for 398 yards on 7.7 yards per attempt with no interceptions in the win over Indiana.


  • Cameron Smith, LB, USC: The freshman Trojans linebacker had three interceptions and returned them for 122 yards in a huge night for USC in their upset win over Utah. Those were his first interceptions of the season, but Smith is 57th in the country in total tackles already in his short career.

Posted by: Chad Peltier on 26 Oct 2015