Dallas Colleges: NCF Next Level
Getting back to the ground game
In the first six games, rushing attempts accounted for fewer than 45 percent of the Cowboys’ total plays; since then, Oklahoma State has called a run on nearly 60 percent of its plays. The ground game has been more explosive over the last four games, totaling 10 rushes of at least 20 yards, which is six more 20-yard runs than it had in the first six games.
The key to Oklahoma State’s success on the ground has been improved play in the trenches. It has averaged 2.3 yards before contact per rush in its first six games and was first contacted behind the line of scrimmage on more than a quarter of its carries. In the last four games, the Cowboys have totaled at least 130 yards before contact in three of four contests, and are averaging 3.3 yards before contact per rush.
Chelf has set career highs in rushing yards in three of four games since taking over as starter, averaging 72 yards per game and 10.7 yards per rush on designed runs. His signature play was a 67-yard touchdown run up the middle in Oklahoma State’s win over Texas Tech.
As noted in the graphic above, in the last four games, Oklahoma State is averaging 12 more points per game than in its first six games. Yet at the same time, the Cowboys are averaging 27.4 fewer yards per game in the last four games than they did in their first six games.
More efficient in the red zone
One reason for Oklahoma State’s increased efficiency on offense is that the team is doing a better job of getting into the end zone when inside the 20-yard line.
Oklahoma State has scored a touchdown on 90.5 percent of its red zone opportunities in the last four games, the sixth-best rate in the FBS since the start of Week 9. From Weeks 1-8, the Cowboys scored a touchdown on 64.5 percent of their red-zone opportunities, 51st among FBS teams.
Protecting the ball
Another reason for Oklahoma State’s improved offensive output is better ball protection. The Cowboys have turned the ball over on 6.5 percent of their drives in the last four games, down from 10.6 percent in the first six games. They are one of nine teams in the FBS without a lost fumble since the start of Week 9.
Oklahoma State’s recent success in the running game will be tested this weekend against Baylor. The Bears have added 63.5 expected points on opponents’ rushes, the second-best rushing defense EPA in the FBS. Rushing defense EPA is a measure of the contribution that it makes to its team’s net scoring margin when opponents run the ball.
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesJohnny Manziel looks to repeat his 2012 Heisman-winning campaign this season.
In preparation for the 2013 season, ESPN Stats & Info will take a deeper look at the top QBs entering the fall. The list is built off of Phil Steele’s list of top quarterback units. On Wednesday, we look at the top returning quarterback, Heisman-winner Johnny Manziel.
A Look Back at 2012
Manziel took the CFB world by storm last season, becoming the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy. Manziel set the SEC record for total yards in a season while accounting for more than 70 percent of the Texas A&M Aggies' total yards. He also had seven games with at least two pass and two rush touchdowns, the most by any player in one season since 2000.
Manziel had an uncanny ability to make plays happen when things broke down. He scrambled for 857 yards and 38 first downs on 86 scramble attempts, including an FBS-high 22 first downs on third down.
In terms of passing, Manziel completed 68 percent of his passes, which ranked ninth in FBS. He put his receivers in positions to run after the catch, which is why Texas A&M ranked sixth among colleges in AQ conferences in yards after the catch.
All of these factors resulted in Manziel ranking first last season in ESPN’s new Total QBR metric, which will be unveiled for college football this fall.
What’s Ahead for 2013?
The biggest question for Manziel heading into the 2013 CFB season is whether he can repeat his performance from a year ago. Recent history has proven that some of the top freshman quarterbacks have been able to repeat their successes even after the spotlight has been shined upon them.
Since 2006, there have been four quarterbacks who ranked in the top 10 in non-clutch weighted Total QBR during their freshman seasons –- Andrew Luck, Terrelle Pryor, Sam Bradford and Colin Kaepernick. Luck and Bradford went on to lead the nation in Total QBR in their sophomore seasons, and all four players ranked in the top 12 in QBR again before leaving for the NFL.
Pryor, in particular, can be used as a model to show that players can replicate strong scrambling seasons. After scrambling for 357 yards in 2009, Pryor went on to scramble for 356 yards and average 9.9 yards per scramble in 2010.
One area in which Manziel can improve heading into next season is his downfield accuracy. He completed less than 42 percent of his passes thrown more than 15 yards downfield, which ranked 40th out of 108 qualified BCS-AQ quarterbacks.
If Manziel's sessions with “quarterback guru” George Whitfield Jr. can improve his downfield precision, a second Heisman trophy may not be far from his grasp.
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesWhat parts of Johnny Manziel's game need to improve for him to play in the NFL?
Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick transformed the game with their speed and versatility, forcing defenses to adapt to a new style of play.
All three of those quarterbacks were also proficient passers. They each possess four qualities necessary to be a successful quarterback in the NFL: overall accuracy, ability to handle the blitz, downfield precision and composure under duress.
Manziel is skilled in all four categories, but he could improve in each next season to boost his draft stock if he decides to declare for the draft.
In 2012, Manziel completed 68 percent of his passes, which ranked ninth among FBS teams. He was at his best on short and intermediate passes, completing more than 76 percent of his throws within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage.
One of his greatest strengths was putting the ball in spots that enabled his receivers to run after the catch. Texas A&M ranked sixth among colleges in AQ conferences in yards after the catch, averaging 6.5 yards after the catch per reception.
Ability to handle the blitz
Opponents blitzed Manziel on fewer than 30 percent of his dropbacks last season.
Although Manziel’s completion percentage was significantly lower against the blitz, he exploited blitzing defenses with big plays.
Manziel averaged a play of 20 yards or more once every 6.4 dropbacks when opponents blitzed, compared with once every 8.5 dropbacks when they sent standard pressure.
His biggest plays came when scrambling, with him rushing for 389 yards and seven touchdowns on 32 scrambles against the blitz.
This is probably the one area Manziel could improve the most. Last season, he completed 38.7 percent of his passes of 20 yards or longer with eight touchdowns and four interceptions.
To put that into perspective, Griffin III, Wilson and Andrew Luck all completed a higher percentage of their passes on throws of this distance in their final year of college.
Manziel can learn from those quarterbacks, who all increased their completion percentages on throws of at least 20 yards downfield in their final college seasons.
Composure under duress
Last season, Manziel completed 51.4 percent of his passes when under duress, about 11 percentage points higher than the FBS average.
He was at his best when forced to improvise. Manziel ran for 857 yards and 10 touchdowns on 86 scramble attempts in 2012. He also threw for 581 yards and eight touchdowns when forced to throw from outside the pocket.
Many question whether this aspect of Manziel’s game will translate to the NFL, given his size and the speed of NFL defenses. At 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, Manziel is small for an NFL quarterback. Of the 49 NFL quarterbacks who attempted at least 30 passes last season, only three were 6-1 or shorter, and only one weighed 200 pounds or less.
In terms of the speed of NFL defenses, Texas A&M faced its share of NFL talent last season; 26 opposing defensive players were taken in the 2013 NFL draft.
Last season against Alabama, the top defense in the nation, Manziel ran for 92 yards. It was the most rushing yards the Crimson Tide had allowed to an opposing quarterback since Nick Saban became Alabama's coach in 2007.
- Johnny Manziel finished the regular season with 3,419 pass yards and 1,181 rush yards. His 4,600 yards of total offense broke the SEC single-season record set by Cam Newton during his 2010 Heisman Trophy season. When Newton broke the record, he supplanted Tim Tebow’s Heisman Trophy season of 2007.
- Manziel has been responsible for 43 touchdowns this season, tied with Tajh Boyd and Jordan Lynch for the most in FBS. He had six games with at least two touchdowns passing and rushing. That's tied with Tebow in 2007 for the most such games in a season since 2000. Collin Klein is tied for second in FBS this season with three such games.
- Manziel had 70 plays that gained 20 yards or more this season, 10 more than any other FBS player. He was tied for the eighth-most passes (52) and the second-most rushes (18) of 20-plus yards.
- Manziel gained 784 rush yards on scrambles, the most in the SEC. He had 13 scrambles that gained at least 20 yards, including seven touchdowns. No SEC player had more total rushes or touchdowns of 20-plus yards, let alone scrambles.
- Klein has scored a rushing touchdown in 11 straight games, the longest active streak in FBS. The only game that he did not have a rushing touchdown was against Missouri State, an FCS opponent. Since the start of last season, Klein has scored a rush TD in 23 straight games against FBS opponents. That is the longest such streak for any player in the last nine seasons.
- Since the start of last season, Klein has an FBS-best 37 rushing touchdowns in goal-to-go situations. Klein has had at least one such touchdown in 22 of 25 games during that time period, including in his last 10 games in which he has at least one such attempt.
- Klein has accounted for 69 percent of Kansas State’s yards and 66 percent of its offensive touchdowns this season. Klein’s percentages are slightly better than those of Robert Griffin III from his 2011 Heisman season at Baylor. Griffin accounted for 66 percent of Baylor’s total and 61 percent of its touchdowns.
- Manti Te'o has seven interceptions this season, tied for second-most in FBS and three more than any other linebacker. Te’o also has two fumble recoveries. His nine total takeaways are tied for the most in nation.
- Te’o has 103 tackles this season, 42 more than any other player on Notre Dame. He has just two missed tackles all season. As a team, the Irish have missed 61 tackles this season, the third-fewest among AQ schools.
- Notre Dame leads the nation in scoring defense (10.3 PPG) and is the only team that has not given up a touchdown drive longer than 75 yards this season. Every other FBS team has allowed at least three.
The Texas Longhorns are 4-0, ranked No. 11 in the AP poll and getting ready to host No. 8 West Virginia Mountaineers on Saturday.
In 2011, Texas had the best defense in the Big 12, leading the conference in rushing and passing defense. However, the first month of this season has been a different story.
|Longhorns DE Jackson Jeffcoat talks about the challenge they are facing in Geno Smith and the West Virginia offense, David Ash's growth as a quarterback and more.
In fact, the Longhorns are currently 58th out of 69 BCS-AQ teams in rushing defense, allowing 180 yards on the ground per game.
Texas is also allowing almost seven rushes of 10-plus yards per game this season, by far the worst in the Big 12, and third worst among all BCS-AQ teams.
The Longhorns pass defense, which was a huge strength a year ago, has been porous in 2012 as well.
In 2011, the Longhorns allowed just two touchdown passes of 20 yards or more, tied for fewest in the FBS with LSU and Alabama. Last week at Oklahoma State, Texas allowed two and has already surrendered five in the first four games. In fact, in their past six games the Longhorns have allowed seven touchdown passes of 20 yards or more.
Against Oklahoma State, Texas allowed 300 yards passing and 275 yards rushing in the same game for the first time since 1950.
With Geno Smith and the explosive Mountaineers offense coming to Austin, the Longhorns have very little time to fix their issues on the defensive side of the ball.
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