Midseason Comparative Statistical Analysis of College Football’s Top 10 Teams

College Football

The midpoint of a football season is a time that calls for both reflection and projection.

At this point in the 2015 college football season, every FBS team in the country is at least halfway through their regular season schedule. There’s now enough to data and statistics to begin figuring out every team’s strengths and weaknesses and measure how the top team’s stack up against each other from a purely statistical standpoint.

Here at Gridiron Perspective, we use a certain power stat formula to attempt to get as close to a complete statistical description of a team as possible by measuring overall offensive production (scoring, efficiency, explosiveness), overall defensive prowess, special teams play and basic fundamentals for success (penalties, time of possession and turnover margin).

For each team, we analyze 30 key power stats and see how each team measures up against the national average on an eight-tier, eight-point scale ranging from elite to inferior.

If a team ranks in the top 16 nationally in a given stat, it’s awarded four power points; if it ranks 17-32, it’s awarded three points; 33-48 gets two points) and 49-64 gets one point. If it ranks below the national average in a certain stat, it’s penalized in descending order of each of the final four tiers: 65-80 (-1 point), 81-96 (-2 points), 97-112 (-3 points), 113-128 (-4 points).

Each team’s offense and defense is each measured in 11 key statistical areas: Yards Per Game, Points Per Game, Average Yards Per Play, Total Plays of 10 Yards or More, Total Plays of 20 Yards or More, First Downs Per Game, Total Touchdowns Scored, 3rd Down Conversion Percentage, Sacks Allowed/Created Per Game and Tackles For Loss Allowed/Created Per Game.

For Special Teams, there are five main stats analyzed: Average Kickoff Yardage, Average Punt Yardage, Average Kickoff Return Yardage, Average Punt Return Average and Field Goal Conversion Percentage.

Finally, the “Fundamentals” category measures a team’s Penalties Per Game, Average Time of Possession Per Game and Overall Turnover Margin.

It’s certainly not a perfect formula, since it doesn’t take into account quality of competition. That obviously matters when comparing a team like Utah, which has already beaten four teams that have at some point been ranked in the AP Top 25 this season, and Ohio State, which has only beaten one.

What it does do, however, is give a good indication of what a team’s main strengths and weakness truly are, and how the team stacks up overall on a national scale.

As the season goes on, the more data can be collected and analyzed and a more complete statistical picture of each team will start to take shape. For now, here’s a look at how the top 10 teams in the current AP Poll stack up in the midseason power stat comparative analysis.

*Note: All stats courtesy of CFBStats.com

Analyzing Myles Jack’s NFL Decision and Jim Mora’s Critical Comments

College Football

The blossoming period commences at different times for every great college football player. Some take a year or a few to adjust and develop to the level of competition, while others are capable of coming in and immediately making a name for themselves by making an instant impact.

Myles Jack is a member of the latter group.

Back in 2013, Jack arrived on the UCLA campus as a heralded 4-star recruit from Bellevue, Washington. He wasted little time proving to the Pac-12 what a special talent he truly was.

In his stellar debut season, the versatile 6’1’’, 245-pound running back/linebacker became the first ever player in conference history to be named both the league’s Offensive and Defensive Freshman of the Year.

He followed that performance up with a solid sophomore campaign, for which he once again earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors.

The highly-skilled two-way weapon entered the 2015 season as a preseason All-American and one of the most talked-about players in all of college football. Many analysts felt he was destined to be a future first-round pick in the 2016 NFL draft.

Unfortunately, Jack suffered a season-ending knee injury in practice just a few days after making a game-clinching interception in the Bruins’ 24-23 win over BYU in Week 3.

After weighing his options, the standout junior came to the decision to leave UCLA and pursue his dream of playing in the NFL. He officially declared for the 2016 NFL draft with a gracious thank you message to the Bruin faithful posted on his official Twitter account.

The reaction from the UCLA fan base was one of largely positive support. However, Bruins head coach Jim Mora took a more cautious route in his comments. The former NFL coach was open and honest about how he felt Jack’s decision was “very risky.

He’s taking his chips and is shoving them in the middle. We hope that he draws a good hand. As a guy who spent half his life in the NFL, I would move with great caution. When you play in three games, and that’s all the tape they have on you your junior year, I have been in 25 draft rooms and I have never seen anybody taken off of that.

I think it is very risky to do this. Having been on that side, there is going to be a lot of speculation on exactly what he is and where he fits.

As I told Myles on Sunday, NFL teams are very, very conservative. If there is any question whatsoever, they are going to pass on you in a heartbeat. They’re going to take the sure thing. I explained that to [Myles and his mother], but I felt like they had already made their decision.

It’s not surprising that Mora tried to dissuade Jack from entering the NFL. Obviously, the UCLA defense would be much better off in 2016 with its star linebacker returning to the lineup. The fact that Mora seemingly went out of his way to characterize the decision as so risky is a bit odd, though.

There’s one quote in particular that sticks out: “When you play in three games, and that’s all the tape they have on you your junior year, I have been in 25 draft rooms and I have never seen anybody taken off of that.”

Mora may be speaking from his perspective and his personal experience in draft rooms. But there are an abundance of recent examples that dispel the overall point he’s trying to make.

In the 2015 draft alone there were numerous players who barely played or didn’t even play at all in their final collegiate seasons, as well as players who were rehabbing from serious injuries who still went on to be picked highly and earn contracts worth millions of dollars in guaranteed money.

Todd Gurley was picked 10th overall by the St. Louis Rams even though he played in just six games his junior year at Georgia and was rehabbing from a torn ACL.

Marcus Peters was picked 18th overall by the Kansas City Chiefs even though he played in just eight games at Washington before being dismissed from the program.

Cedric Ogbuehi was picked 21st overall by the Cincinnati Bengals even though he was rehabbing from a torn ACL he had suffered in Texas A&M’s bowl game.  

Dorial Green-Beckham was picked 40th overall by the Tennessee Titans even though he didn’t play in a single game as a junior after being dismissed from Missouri and denied the right to play after transferring to Oklahoma.

It’s certainly not a long shot for a player to be drafted highly even if his final season was abruptly cut short.

Just ask Sam Bradford.

After being limited to just three games during his junior season at Oklahoma due to a shoulder injury, Bradford went on to be selected No. 1 overall in the 2010 NFL draft. The six-year, $78-million contract he signed was the richest rookie contract in NFL history. In fairness to Mora, though, he was not in an NFL war room for the 2010 draft to witness Bradford going No. 1 overall, since he had been fired at the conclusion of the 2009 season after going 5-11 in his only season as the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks.

Ultimately, yes, it’s clearly somewhat of a risk for Myles Jack to declare early for the NFL draft after experiencing a serious season-ending injury. But it’s not nearly the kind of against-all odds-type of risk that his now former head coach tried to paint it as.

The injured linebacker has over six months between now and the 2016 draft weekend to rehab his knee and gain back the type of dynamic speed and athleticism that made him a standout on the field.

Jack gave Mora and UCLA 29 games of great football, and he would have given the Bruins even more if it wasn’t for an unfortunate injury. The least Mora could have done is show more support for his star player’s decision to chase his dream by giving him a more positive, less critical sendoff.

College Football Week 5: Picks and Predictions For Every Saturday Game

College Football

The fifth Saturday of the 2015 college football season offers a few interesting matchups. However, there are two games in particular that clearly stick out on the slate: Notre Dame vs. Clemson and Alabama vs. Georgia.

The bout between the Irish and the Tigers and the inter-divisional SEC clash between the Crimson Tide and the Bulldogs are today’s must-watch matchups. From a betting perspective, though, there’s plenty of other intriguing action to take a look at. 

Here are the picks and predictions for every Saturday college football game of Week 5.

Saturday’s Super Six Picks

  • Missouri Tigers (-3)

  • Baylor Bears (-17)

  • Iowa State Cyclones (-17.5)

  • Southern Miss Golden Eagles (-16)

  • Notre Dame Fighting Irish (+2)

  • Stanford Cardinal (-13.5)

*Note: All Betting Lines Courtesy of Covers.com

*Only games involving two FBS teams are included

Matchup Total Picks
Minnesota at Northwestern (-4.5) 39.5 MINN (+4.5), OVER
Iowa at Wisconsin (-6) 45 WISC (-6), UNDER
Purdue at Michigan State (-21.5) 54 MSU (-21.5), OVER
Michigan (-14.5) at Maryland 45 MICH (-14.5), UNDER
Houston (-6.5) at Tulsa 81 HOU (-6.5), OVER
UCF at Tulane (-1) 44 UCF (+1), OVER
South Carolina at Missouri (-3) 41.5 MIZZ (-3), UNDER
Pittsburgh at Virginia Tech (-4.5) 44.5 PITT (+4.5), UNDER
Army at Penn State (-25.5) 45 PSU (-25.5), UNDER
Texas at TCU (-15) 73.5 TCU (-15), OVER
West Virginia at Oklahoma (-6.5) 59.5 OKLA (-6.5), UNDER
Kansas at Iowa State (-17.5) 59.5 ISU (-17.5), UNDER
Louisville at NC State (-3.5) 47 LOU (+3.5), OVER
Ohio (-2.5) at Akron 44.5 OHIO (-2.5), UNDER
Toledo (-6.5) at Ball State 54 TOL (-6.5), OVER
FIU at UMass (-3) 56 FIU (+3), OVER
Northern Illinois (-3) at CMU 51.5 NIU (-3), OVER
Ohio State (-22.5) at Indiana 66.5 OSU (-22.5), UNDER
Western Kentucky (-7) at Rice 72 WKU (-7), OVER
Baylor (-17) at Texas Tech 89 BAY (-17), UNDER
UNC at Georgia Tech (-7) 62.5 GT (-7), UNDER
Miami (Ohio) at Kent State (-10.5) 43.5 KSU (-10.5), UNDER
Air Force at Navy (-5.5) 49.5 NAVY (-5.5), OVER
Old Dominion at Marshall (-18.5) 53.5 MARS (-18.5), UNDER
Bowling Green (-8) at Buffalo 67.5 BUFF (+8), OVER
Wyoming at Appalachian State (-25) 53 APP (-25), UNDER
Florida State (-20) at Wake Forest 44 WAKE (+20), UNDER
Boston College at Duke (-7) 37 DUKE (-7), UNDER
Alabama at Georgia (-1.5) 51 GEOR (-1.5), OVER
East Carolina (-6) at SMU 67 ECU (-6), OVER
Nebraska (-6) at Illinois 56.5 ILL (+6), UNDER
San Jose State at Auburn (-20) 56 AUB (-20), OVER
Washington State at Cal (-17.5) 73.5 Cal (-17.5), OVER
Kansas State at Oklahoma State (-7) 49.5 OSU (-7), UNDER
Eastern Michigan at LSU (-44.5) 59.5 LSU (-44.5), OVER
Vanderbilt (-2) at Middle Tennessee 48 VAND (-2), OVER
Ole Miss (-7) at Florida 49.5 MISS (-7), UNDER
Colorado State at Utah State (-4) 49 CSU (+4), OVER
Arkansas at Tennessee (-6.5) 53 ARK (+6.5), OVER
North Texas at Southern Miss (-16) 66.5 SMISS (-16), OVER
Louisiana at Louisiana Tech (-16.5) 60 LT (-16.5), UNDER
UNLV at Nevada (-6.5) 57.5 NEV (-6.5), UNDER
South Alabama at Troy (-7) 61.5 SA (+7), OVER
Georgia Southern (-6) at UL-Monroe 47.5 ULM (+6), UNDER
Idaho at Arkansas State (-22) 60 ASU (-22), OVER
Arizona State at UCLA (-13.5) 61 UCLA (-13.5), UNDER
Miss. State at Texas A&M (-5.5) 63 TAMU (-5.5), OVER
Notre Dame at Clemson (-2) 50 ND (+2), UNDER
UTSA (-4) at UTEP 57.5 UTEP (+4), UNDER
N.M. State at New Mexico (-12.5) 67.5 NM (-12.5), OVER
Oregon (-7) at Colorado 70 OREG (-7), UNDER
Hawaii at Boise State (-25) 55.5 HAW (+25), UNDER
Fresno State at San Diego State (-8.5) 54 SDSU (-8.5), OVER
Arizona at Stanford (-13.5) 60.5 STAN (-13.5), UNDER

Notre Dame vs. Clemson: Preview, Analysis and Prediction

College Football

Is it too early to begin drawing parallels between this year’s Notre Dame team and the 2012 Irish squad that went undefeated and made it all the way to the national championship game?

In just four games of action, the Irish have displayed the kind of attributes you look for in a potential national title contender.

The offense has been consistently potent, averaging 41 points and 531 yards per game. The unit’s 7.59 yards per play average currently ranks sixth overall in the nation.

Though the defense as a whole hasn’t been as dominant as the Manti Te’o-led defense of 2012, the team’s top three defenders—LB Jaylon Smith, DL Sheldon Day and CB KeiVarae Russell—have all looked like the difference-making impact players they were projected to be.

The team’s early-season resume is one that already includes a blowout victory over a high-profile opponent (38-3 win over Texas in Week 1), a gut-check close-call scary survival last-minute win on the road (34-27 victory at Virginia) and a statement showing against a top-15 team (30-22 win over a then No. 14-ranked Georgia Tech squad).

Overall, it’s a group that talent-wise looks like it could be on par with that 2012 team, and potentially (if the defense continues to gel and QB DeShone Kizer continues to grow in the starting role he’s been thrust into) could end up being even stronger.

If Brian Kelly’s squad wants to prove that it is indeed a legitimate national title contender, a win in Saturday’s showdown against No. 12 Clemson in a hostile Death Valley environment is a good way to really get that proverbial ball rolling with some serious momentum.

When Notre Dame announced its “arrangement” with the ACC back in 2013, this game is the kind of big-time matchup the Irish were hoping would spice up their football schedule.

This one’s got all the necessary ingredients to create that special level of intrigue and anticipation: Prime-time, two top-15 teams going against each other in one of the sport’s most hallowed venues, and ESPN’s College GameDay will be there to cover the day’s events from start to finish.

Notre Dame enters their bout with the Tigers with a 4-0 record and a No. 6 ranking in the current AP Poll. However, the Irish also enter the contest as a slight underdog, as most Vegas sports books currently have Clemson as a one or two-point favorite.

The fact that Clemson was installed as a slight favorite isn’t surprising. The Tigers have one of the most talked-about quarterbacks in college football: Deshaun Watson, a great home-field advantage, a defense that currently ranks in the top 10 in both total defense and scoring defense, plus a bye week in Week 4 gave them even extra time to prepare.

On paper, this would appear to be a truly tough test for the Irish. However, if you’ve watched these two teams play at all this year, then it’s easy to see that Notre Dame is the superior squad in this clash.

Though the Irish lost starting QB Malik Zaire for the season, they’ve got more than enough talent to overcome, persevere and succeed.

Hot-shot NFL prospects and All-American candidates such as LT Ronnie Stanley, WR William Fuller and the standout defensive trio of Smith, Day and Russell are the stars who routinely make the headlines. But it’s emerging standouts such as QB Deshone Kizer, RB C.J. Prosise and LB Joe Schmidt that make this year’s Irish squad so intriguing.

They’re the players who have to step up and shine in a game of this magnitude. Judging from their performances thus far, they’re ready to do just that.

Brian Kelly knows what it’s like to navigate a team through potential pitfalls and lead a group of players to the promised land that is the national championship game. Kelly knows he’s got a special collection of talent that’s capable of special things this year. On Saturday night, he’ll get to unleash it in a spotlight game in front of a prime-time national audience.

Prediction: Notre Dame 26, Clemson 21