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05 Oct 2015

OFI: Where Are The Elite Teams?

by Chad Peltier

After Week 5, it looks like we know even less about the 2015 college football season than we thought we did. There isn't any clear top team in the country and even picking a consensus top four is difficult. Sure, powerhouses like Ohio State, TCU, Florida State, and Baylor are undefeated, but one-loss teams like Alabama, Ole Miss, Stanford, and USC are all challenging for a spot. LSU, Oklahoma, and Utah are surprise names. And Michigan and Florida, both in their first years with new head coaches, are finding surprising success and undefeated records -- the Wolverines recorded another shutout, this time over Maryland, and the Gators dominated Ole Miss with defense and Will Grier's best day of his young career. The previous top two teams, Michigan State and Ohio State, both struggled to put away Purdue and Indiana, which caused the Spartans to fall in the AP Poll while the Buckeyes held on to the top spot.

Much like the Big Ten, it's hard to tell if we've got a playoff contender in the ACC. Florida State doesn't look confident with Everett Golson, and without Dalvin Cook (who exited the game with a day-to-day hamstring injury), lose their effectiveness on the ground. While Clemson knocked Notre Dame from the undefeated ranks, the Tigers managed to allow the comeback and sophomore quarterback Deshaun Watson completed less than 50 percent of his passes.

We have some clarity about narrowing conference races (Iowa and Michigan are very alive in the Big Ten; Oklahoma joins TCU and Baylor in the Big 12; Clemson and Florida State may have a two-team race in the ACC; while Alabama, LSU, Florida and potentially Georgia are at the top of the SEC).


  • From Notre Dame and Clemson's big matchup of the weekend, the end result didn't exactly match most of the normal box score statistics. Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer definitely won the DeShone-Deshaun battle, as the Irish quarterback threw for 321 yards compared to Watson's 97 yards (4.4 yards per attempt). The Irish and Tigers had equal third-down conversion rates (33 percent), and Notre Dame outgained Clemson by 41 yards. However, Notre Dame had very poor drive efficiency with three fumbles and a -4 turnover margin, and it wasted a scoring opportunity by punting from the Clemson 40-yard line. The Irish were also fairly inefficient on a per-play basis despite racking up the yards, with a 33 percent success rate on the ground and 49 percent through the air.

  • Regarding Alabama-Georgia, three things stand out. First, many writers now must retract their obituaries of the "Alabama Dynasty" following the Ole Miss loss (how often have we seen a Nick Saban-coached Alabama team lose an early-season game only to win the national championship?). Second, the parallels with 2008 should be fresh in the minds of most Georgia fans. The last time Alabama visited Sanford Stadium, the Tide shocked a blackout crowd as underdogs. In that game, the Crimson Tide delivered the knockout blow early, rushing out to a 31-0 lead at halftime. The Tide bottled up star Georgia running back Knowshon Moreno, who ended with 34 yards on nine carries as quarterback Matt Stafford was forced to throw the ball 42 times to try and catch up. The Tide didn't have very much success on the ground either, but quarterback John Parker Wilson was extremely efficient, completing 13-of-16 passes for 205 yards. There hasn't been a blackout since (the animosity towards alternate jerseys was solidified after the 2011 Boise State debacle in the Georgia Dome). This most recent loss to the Tide didn't hurt quite as badly because the 2008 game was relatively much more unexpected. While Moreno was inefficient on the ground, at least Stafford moved the ball through the air. In this loss, the offense as a whole could not get going, with Greyson Lambert playing like he did in the first half against Vanderbilt rather than the NCAA single-game efficiency record holder. Nick Chubb had 146 total yards, or 7.3 yards per carry, but had just 3.3 yards per carry if you take out his garbage time 83-yard run. Further, he had just a 30 percent opportunity rate against a Tide front seven that clearly made its claim to be the best in college football. Georgia was also similarly inefficient on third down in both games -- 31 percent in 2008 and 18 percent in 2015. That led to an absolutely astounding ten three-and-outs in 18 possessions, or on 56 percent of Georgia's drives. Finally, it's clear that this Alabama team can improve even further. They had three one-play touchdowns (a blocked punt, a pick-six, and a 45-yard pass to Calvin Ridley), but were just 1-of-12 on third-down themselves. But when you see that many one-play scores and are efficient on first and second down, you just don't see too many third downs anyway.
  • The No. 1 team in the country according to the AP and Coaches' Polls, Ohio State, once again underperformed against an overmatched opponent, this time against Indiana. The issues are fairly clear: inconsistency at quarterback; wide receiver depth; dealing with odd fronts; turnovers; and inefficiency in the red zone. Those problems have manifested themselves in the advanced stats box scores as problems with converting scoring opportunities, low third-down conversion percentages, drive inefficiency, and poor success rates. Cardale Jones was a respectable 18-of-27 for 245 yards, which seems like a good day for him, but he had just a 48 percent success rate and two turnovers. This was poor considering Indiana's defensive passing IsoPPP ranking. Ezekiel Elliott had 23 carries for 274 yards, with 195 of those yards on three second-half carries as the offense switched to a gap-blocking scheme. Despite 71 percent of his yards coming on just three carries, Elliott was fairly efficient for the rest of the day, with a 43 percent success rate overall. The issues were on third down, where the Buckeyes were just 2-of-14 (of course, their mean yards to go on third down was eight). In six scoring opportunities the Buckeyes racked up only 13 points, meaning that they averaged less than a field goal out of every opportunity. Of Ohio State's four touchdowns, three were from explosive runs outside of Indiana territory. Those are a lot of woeful inefficiencies, but just fixing the turnover problems (the Buckeyes are currently 101st in turnover margin per game) would be a big improvement.
  • Many quarterbacks lead their teams in rushing in certain weeks. Braxton Miller often competed to be the leading rusher for Ohio State in 2012-2013. Keenan Reynolds leads his Navy this season. Tom Herman's quarterback, Greg Ward Jr. at Houston, leads for the Cougars. Chad Kelly at Ole Miss ideally does not lead the Rebels in rushing, but that's what happened last weekend as Kelly led the Rebels in both attempts and total yards (2.7 yards per carry). The Rebels were unable to consistently move the ball on the ground, while the Gators' stellar cornerbacks mostly locked down Kelly's receivers, including Laquon Treadwell. The Gators were far from efficient on the ground too -- Kelvin Taylor had a 26 percent success rate -- but quarterback Will Grier more than made up for the Gators' rushing inefficiency.
  • It is very strange to not have a Wisconsin running back in the top ten rushers. Taiwan Deal, in place of the injured Corey Clement, is 98th among running backs this season in yards per game but is only averaging 4.5 yards per carry. A Wisconsin running back has been in the top 20 rushers every year since 2010, when John Clay fell to 32nd. But against the Hawkeyes, Deal and Dare Ogunbowale ran for just 87 total yards. A Badgers offense without a workhorse running back is no offense at all.


  • Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State.. The switch to a gap-blocking scheme in the second half seemed to be the trick for the Ohio State offensive line, who began creating opportunities for Elliott in the second half -- and once given the opportunity, Elliott's jets are second to none as he raced for scores of 55, 65, and 75 yards. That gave Elliott his career high, tying Keith Byars for second in school history in single-game rushing yardage.
  • Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU.. Fournette takes his weekly Honorary Fournette Honor Roll Chair spot with his third straight 200-plus-rushing yard performance against Eastern Michigan. While this one felt like a gimme considering Eastern Michigan was one of the worst teams in the country in run defense, Fournette still ran for an absurd 233 yards with a 62 percent success rate.


  • Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M. Garrett and John Chavis have turned the Aggies defense around, and Garrett was responsible for two tackles for loss, a sack, a forced fumble, and a pass breakup against Mississippi State.
  • B.J. Goodson and Kevin Dodd, LB and DE, Clemson.. Goodson locked up Clemson's win with a fumble recovery and interception in the second half to stymie the Irish rally. Dodd posted insane numbers with 3.5 tackles for loss, a forced fumble, and two sacks.
  • Clemson's offensive line.. The Tigers offensive line didn't allow a sack of dual-threat quarterback Deshaun Watson even with Jaylon Smith, Sheldon Day, and Max Redfield on the Irish defense.

Posted by: Chad Peltier on 05 Oct 2015

4 comments, Last at 27 Sep 2017, 2:21am by HappyBirthdayLines


by Will :: Tue, 10/06/2015 - 12:35am

Cardale Jones only had one turnover. The other two Ohio State turnovers were both fumbles by Jalin Marshall.


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