ACC: Baylor Bears
Joshua S. Kelly/USA TODAY Sports
Jameis Winston threw for a career-high 444 yards in Florida State's blowout win over Clemson.
With the help of ESPN’s new college football metrics (see explanations here), ESPN Stats & Information takes a look back at the Week 8 action.
Best individual performances
Marcus Mariota had a 97.4 opponent-adjusted QBR in Oregon’s 63-28 win against Washington State. He completed 10-of-12 passes and ran for a touchdown in the first quarter. As a result, his Total QBR never fell below 95 in the game. Mariota leads the nation with a 96.6 opponent-adjusted Total QBR this season.
Jameis Winston posted a 97.0 opponent-adjusted QBR after throwing for a career-high 444 pass yards and accounting for four touchdowns in Florida State’s 51-14 win at Clemson. Entering the game, Clemson’s opponents had a Total QBR of 27, ninth-best in the FBS. Winston is the first player in the last 10 seasons to throw for at least 300 pass yards and three touchdowns in each of his first four conference games.
Bryce Petty had a 96.3 opponent-adjusted QBR in Baylor’s 71-7 win against Iowa State. He has posted an opponent-adjusted Total QBR of 75 or higher in all of his games this season. No other player in the FBS can make that claim (minimum five games played).
AJ McCarron posted a season-high 95.3 opponent-adjusted QBR in Alabama’s 52-0 rout of Arkansas. McCarron completed 71 percent of his passes with three touchdowns and no interceptions, and his Total QBR never dipped below 85 in the game.
Explaining Jordan Lynch’s Total QBR:
Northern Illinois’ Jordan Lynch set the FBS single-game record for rush yards by a quarterback (316), but his Total QBR was ONLY a 85.5. Why? QBR is a rate stat, meaning it measures efficiency.
Lynch gained 471 yards of total offense, but he was involved in 62 passing or rushing plays (7.6 yards per play).
To put that into perspective, Mariota, the nation’s leader in opponent-adjusted QBR, is averaging 10.3 yards per play this season. Furthermore, Lynch threw a costly interception from the Central Michigan 15-yard line with the score tied. That interception decreased Northern Illinois’ win probability by 12 percentage points and took 3.5 expected points off the board.
For a full list of Total QBR leaders for the season and Week 8, click here.
Best team performances
Offense-- Florida State gained 565 yards of total offense and scored 51 points Saturday against Clemson. The Seminoles’ offense added 25.3 expected points in the game, meaning they contributed about 26 net points towards their 37-point victory. Adjusted for the strength of Clemson’s defense, which had allowed 16.2 points per game entering Saturday, Florida State had the highest opponent-adjusted offensive EPA of Week 8.
Defense—Baylor’s average margin of victory this season is a ridiculous 48.5 points per game, and both its offense and defense deserves credit. On Saturday, Baylor held Iowa State to seven points and 174 total yards (2.9 yards per play). As a result, its defense added 27.5 expected points, the most for any defense in Week 8. Overall, the Bears lead the nation in both offensive and defensive expected points added this season.
Special Teams—Alabama blocked a field goal and forced a fumble on the opening kickoff of the second half of its 52-0 win against Arkansas. The Tide’s special teams unit contributed 12.1 expected points, the most of any team in Week 8. Alabama is averaging 5.8 expected points added per game on special teams this season, most of any team in the FBS.
Looking ahead to Week 9
Oregon hosts UCLA (7 PM ET, ESPN) on Saturday in a game that will feature one of the top offenses in the nation looking to continue its success against one of the Pac-12’s best defensive units.
Oregon has scored at least 45 points in each of its first seven games of the season. They are the first major college football program to do that since Harvard in 1887. UCLA, which has the second-best scoring defense in the Pac-12 (19.2 PPG), hasn’t allowed more than 27 points in a game this season.
Tune in on Saturday to see of the Bruins can slow the Ducks offensive pace and jump back into the BCS discussion.
Does it seem like ... wait, there goes De'Anthony Thomas. Don't think he'll get caught from behind.
Does it seem like ... wait, would somebody please tackle Justin Blackmon?
Does it seem like there have been a lot of points this bowl season?
It's not just you. There have been a lot of points. More points than ever before. And by huge quantities.
So far, BCS bowl teams have averaged a total of 77 points in the Rose, Fiesta, Orange and Sugar bowls. That, folks, is nearly 26 points more than last year (51.6). And it's nearly 11 points better than the previous high of 66.3 from 2001-02.
Perhaps pairing two SEC teams in the title game has created a black hole sucking all defensive stinginess into the LSU-Alabama rematch, which you might recall went 9-6 with no touchdowns in their first meeting. West Virginia scored 10 touchdowns -- 10! -- against Clemson. Alabama gave up 12 TDs all season.
Speaking of Clemson: ACC. Well, well, well.
After the Tigers ingloriously fell 70-33 to the Mountaineers, we got our second story from the BCS bowl season: The ACC's insistence on throwing up on itself in BCS bowl games.
The conference that was once expected to challenge the SEC is now 2-13 in BCS bowl games. That's hard to do. You'd think in 15 BCS bowls the conference could get lucky at least five or six times. But no, it insists on making ACC blogger Heather Dinich, a genuinely nice person, into some sort of Grim Reaper every bowl season.
Heck, the Big East has won seven BCS bowls -- second fewest among AQ conferences -- but it's 7-7.
Of course, this all ties together, and we're here to bring out a bow, but first a warning: If you don't want to read about how good the SEC is for the 56,314th time this year, then stop reading. I'd recommend an episode of "South Park" or perhaps a John le Carré thriller as an alternative for passing the time.
We can all agree the SEC plays great defense right? Alabama and LSU will play for the title Monday with the nation's top-two defenses. Do you think perhaps that it's not a coincidence that the conference that is 16-7 in BCS bowl games plays great defense?
The only other AQ conference with a winning record in BCS bowl games is the Pac-12, which is 11-7. The Pac-12 isn't known for defense, either, but USC was when it won the conference's last national title in 2004.
The only team to win a BCS national title without an elite defense was Auburn in 2010, but the Tigers' defense seemed to find itself late in the season. Since 1999, eight national champions had a top-10 defense. Other than Auburn, the lowest-rated defense to win a BCS national title was Ohio State in 2002. It ranked 23rd in the nation in total defense.
Three of the four BCS bowl games have been thrillers. Two went to overtime. We've seen big plays all over the field in the passing game and running game. Yet, if things go according to script in the title game, we'll see none of that. We might not see more than a couple of plays that go for more than 20 yards. We might not see any.
Some might call that boring. It might seem that both offenses are so paranoid of making a mistake that they are stuck in mud, both in game plan and execution.
But, snoozefest or not, when the clock strikes zero a team from the SEC will hoist the crystal football for a sixth consecutive time.
That might say something about playing better defense.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Hello from Wake Forest, the smallest school in the BCS, where an eight-win season has suddenly become a disappointment.
It’s still a pretty quiet scene here, and game day traffic on Cherry Street consisted of the stoplights, but it’s still a cozy atmosphere and will eventually pick up considering a) it’s a beautiful, warm, sunny day for a football game, b) it’s a legitimate opener for both programs, and c) it should be a much closer game than last year’s 41-13 Wake win at Waco. Baylor returns 19 starters, the school’s most since 1969, and the Bears should be much better in Year 2 under Art Briles.
The jersey of choice here is obviously No. 11, Wake Forest quarterback Riley Skinner, but the spotlight is on Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, a.k.a. RG3. The Wake defense also needs be leery of No. 32, tailback Jay Finley. He led Baylor with 865 yards (72.1 per game) last year.
The biggest question, though, is obviously how Wake’s defense will look against them without its superstars.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich
The Wake Forest defense has done its homework. In addition to their routine study of game film, some of the Deacs looked up Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin on the internet.
|James Lang-US PRESSWIRE|
|The Wake Forest defense knows it will have its hands full with Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin.|
They know he goes by RG3. They read he might be the fastest quarterback in FBS history. (He’s also a world-class hurdler.) And they know the dual-threat quarterback will present a legitimate early challenge to a group that graduated seven starters on defense, including some of the most talented players to ever come through the program.
Wake Forest traveled to Baylor last year for the season opener and won, 41-13. Griffin came off the bench and made his collegiate debut in the second quarter, and remained the starter for the rest of the season. As an 18-year-old true freshman, Griffin was the youngest starting quarterback in the country, and he quickly matured into one of the best. With Griffin now more seasoned, and the entire team entering its second season under coach Art Briles, nobody in Winston-Salem is expecting an easy opener, especially considering the question marks that loom on defense.
Wake Forest is confident in its defensive line, but this year’s Baylor team will keep every unit on the Deacs’ defense honest, including a completely rebuilt linebacking corps, and a secondary that had to replace three starters.
“They present a lot of problems because they’re so athletic,” said Wake Forest defensive coordinator Brad Lambert. “It all starts at quarterback. … We played them last year, so that helps us, obviously, but we caught Robert at a good time. Last year was his first college game. He’s got 12 games under his belt now, so he’s going to be a different player coming in here than he was last year when he came in the game. We’ve had to focus on that a lot. I don’t know that you can ever stop him. You try and slow him down a little bit, keep him under control and avoid those big plays. That’s going to be the challenge for us.”
Griffin accounted for two-thirds of his team’s touchdowns last year (a school-record 28 of 46). He scored 13 rushing and 15 passing with just three interceptions. He set an FBS record 209 passes without an interception to start his career, and didn’t throw a pick until the ninth game of the season. Add on his 843 rushing yards, and it doesn’t seem like there’s much Griffin can’t do.
“He can definitely challenge all aspects of our defense,” defensive end Kyle Wilbur said. “He can throw the ball, as everyone can see. I just read something talking about him being the fastest quarterback to ever play college football, so it’s going to be a big challenge for us.
“I don’t think you can just contain one person. They’re starting to call Robert Griffin RG3 now. If we just surround him, then the wide receivers will have a breakout day on us, or the running backs will have a breakout day. I think we have to come with a balance and shut down everything.”
Linebacker Jonathan Jones, who has the daunting task of taking over for Butkus Award winner Aaron Curry, agreed.
“This is definitely, definitely an early test,” said Jones. “In one sense it’s a blessing we get to play them in the first game so we’ve had a little longer to prepare for them. They do a lot of things, throw a lot of things at you, and with Robert Griffin being the dual threat that he is, you have to have everybody have all eyes on him. Everybody has to be focused and in tune. This is not a game that’s going to be won by the front, or won by the defensive backs. We need a collective team effort on defense to try to contain this offense.”
And without the star-studded defensive cast of last year, it will likely take a collective team effort all season.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
|AP Photo/ Donna McWilliam|
|Riley Skinner throws a TD pass during the first half of Thursday night's game against Baylor.|
WACO, Texas -- Riley Skinner could joke a little about his relative place in Wake Forest's football history.
So when somebody told him that he became the Demon Deacons' winningest quarterback after his 41-13 victory over Baylor, the junior chuckled at his place in a school without much of a previous winning history
"It's not too impressive of a record, I guess," said Skinner, who rifled a career-best three touchdown passes to lead the victory. "It feels nice. I just hope I can add onto it a little."
Much like their undersized quarterback, the Demon Deacons persevered for a workmanlike victory.
And they made history doing it, winning their first game as a ranked team to start the season.
"I thought our coaches prepared our team well, but I was still nervous," Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said. "We've always played well as an underdog. But I was really concerned with the top 25 ranking coming in here."
The Demon Deacons played like they're familiar with such rankings. They jumped to a quick 17-0 lead and cruised to the easy victory as they spoiled Baylor coach Art Briles debut with the Bears.
And they proved something to themselves by doing it.
"Being ranked is nice, but it puts a target on your back," Skinner said. "People expect you to win this game. We knew it would be a tough battle. We played well, but they're still some things left we'll have to work on."
Interestingly, Grobe was an unsuccessful candidate for the Baylor job when Guy Morriss was hired in 2002. When he took over the Wake Forest job a year earlier, the Demon Deacon program could have been considered the Baylor equivalent in the Atlantic Coast Conference after compiling seven losing records during an eight-season span.
But he steadily built the program into the ACC champion two years ago, the school's first title in 36 years. He followed that team with one that overcame an 0-2 start last season to qualify for the Meineke Car Care Bowl. The Demon Deacons had back-to-back bowl teams for the first time in Wake Forest history.
And with a veteran lineup of 17 starters, the Demon Deacons needed to prove their ranking to a national television audience.
Skinner especially did that, completing 17 of his first 19 attempts. His only missed connections during that stretch came on a throwaway pass and a drop. And his performance showed the form that is leading many to call him the ACC's best returning quarterback this season.
"People were getting open and they were making it easy on me making their catches," Skinner said. "We need to be efficient to score a lot of points like this. Basically, we took what they were giving us. I was really happy how everybody played."
Grobe sounded more relieved than happy as he related how his team had little to go by as they prepared for new Baylor coach Art Briles before the game.
"Every coach's nightmare is opening on the road, especially against a good team in a major conference," Grobe said. "We knew that coach Briles does a great job wherever he is and knew he had some great players.
"But we had little knowledge about their X's and O's on offense and defense. We had to do a lot of adjusting as the game went on. It was a good win for us and a great challenge."
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
1. Can Wake Forest improve upon last year's nine-win season?
It's not going to be easy, and it's the first half of the schedule that's the most daunting. Baylor's been at the bottom of the Big 12 and has another new coach, but the best thing the Bears will have going for them on Aug. 28 is home field advantage. Mississippi is a tough game to call -- Houston Nutt knows what it takes to win in the SEC, but he took over a program that had four straight losing seasons. In order for Wake Forest to better its 2007 mark, it would appear wins against Clemson and at Maryland would be the key.
2. How will long will it take Trey Bailey to step out of Steve Justice's shadow?
Jim Grobe said he's "semi-comfortable" with Bailey at center right now. Bailey had a good spring, but the Demon Deacons got spoiled with Justice because he never committed any turnovers. Whether or not the snaps were out of the shotgun, Justice handled the ball well. Bailey has the intangibles -- the grit, the work ethic, and is often the dirtiest player coming off the field. The biggest issue is game experience, which can only come with time.
3. With only five starters returning on offense, who will be the Deacons' playmakers?
The guys on defense. Wake's entire secondary is back, including star corner Alphonso Smith. They've also got linebacker Aaron Curry, who led the nation in interception return yards last season. That's not to say running back Josh Adams -- the ACC's 2007 Rookie of the Year -- won't have another outstanding season, or that tight end Ben Wooster won't build upon his spring success, but Wake's defense accounted for a few touchdowns last year, too. Nine starters return to a defense that led the nation in defensive touchdowns last year. And those are the guys who are back.