NCF Nation: Next Level

Chelf, Cowboys defense dominate Baylor

November, 24, 2013
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Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesClint Chelf and the Oklahoma State defense were too much for Baylor Saturday

It was a decidedly un-Baylor-like performance where the Bears got shut down by Oklahoma State, managing just three points through the first three quarters of the game. Baylor didn’t score a touchdown until there was 14:04 left in the fourth quarter, and by then the Bears were trailing 35-3.

Oklahoma State’s 32-point win is the third-largest win against a BCS top-four team. The last time a BCS top-four team lost by a margin that wide was 2008, when Oklahoma blew out No. 2 Texas Tech by 44.

Baylor came into the game averaging an FBS-best 61.2 points per game but was held to 17 points, Baylor’s fewest points in a game since December 29, 2010 against Illinois in the Texas Bowl. Baylor has lost 37 straight road games against AP-ranked opponents, with its last road win against an AP-ranked opponent coming in 1991.

Clint Chelf threw for a career-high 370 yards, his second career 300 yard game. His other one? It came against Baylor last year.

How was he so successful? He threw the deep ball well.

Chelf had nine completions on passes thrown 15 or more yards downfield Saturday, the most such completions in a game for a Big 12 quarterback this season. Chelf had twice as many completions, yards and touchdowns as Bryce Petty on such throws.

Petty entered the game as the Big 12-leader in completions, yards and touchdowns on passes thrown 15 yards or more downfield.

Chelf threw for all three of his touchdowns against five or more pass rushers Saturday, tied for the most touchdowns against the blitz by a Big 12 quarterback in a game this season.

Baylor entered Saturday as one of 16 teams without a turnover in the red zone. Against Oklahoma State, the Bears had two turnovers and didn’t score a touchdown in the red zone for the first time since Sept. 18, 2010 at TCU.

Baylor's offense was forced into four three-and-outs Saturday, its most three-and-outs in a game since Sept. 2, 2011 against TCU. The Bears entered the game with an FBS-low seven three-and-outs for the season.

Oklahoma State offense revived under Chelf

November, 19, 2013
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Oklahoma State enters its matchup with fourth-ranked Baylor (Saturday, 8 ET on ABC) riding a six-game win streak, and is averaging nearly 48 points per game over the last four games since Clint Chelf took over as the starting quarterback. One important part of its recent offensive success has been an increased reliance on the run.

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.

Chelf, Wisconsin rate among best of week

November, 19, 2013
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Clint Chelf/USA TODAY SportsClint Chelf rated the best of any quarterback last week.

Week 12 featured some of the craziest endings of the year. Auburn completed a 73-yard touchdown with 25 seconds remaining to defeat Georgia, UCF scored 10 points in the final 2:04 to beat Temple, and Michigan slid its way to a game-tying field goal and eventual win against Northwestern.

With the help of ESPN’s new college football metrics (see explanations here), ESPN Stats & Information takes a look back at the best performances of Week 12 and ahead to next week’s matchup between Baylor and Oklahoma State.

Best Individual Performances
Clint Chelf had a season-high 97.3 opponent-adjusted QBR in Oklahoma State’s 38-13 win at Texas, with his rushing proving critical. Chelf ran for a career-high 95 yards and six first downs against the Longhorns.

Jameis Winston had a 95.0 opponent-adjusted QBR in Florida State’s 59-3 win against Syracuse. It was his seventh game with an opponent-adjusted QBR of 90 or higher, most in the FBS this season. Winston completed his first 10 passes of the game and threw for 277 yards and two touchdowns in the first half.

Blake Bortles posted a 89.0 Total QBR against Temple, but when adjusted for the strength of Temple’s defense that number falls to 70.7. Bortles led UCF on a game-tying and game-winning drive in the final two minutes of the game. In the fourth quarter, he threw for 202 yards and two touchdowns and had a 96.6 Total QBR.

Best Team Performances
OffenseWisconsin added 33 expected points to its net scoring margin on offense in its win against Indiana despite having a below average (negative EPA) passing offense. The Badgers ran for 554 yards and six touchdowns, the most rush yards by an FBS team in a game since last season, when Wisconsin had 564 rushing yards, also against Indiana.

DefenseBoise State added 25.7 expected points on defense in its 48-7 win against Wyoming. Entering the game, Wyoming averaged 33.6 points and 492 yards per game but was held to seven points and 210 yards against the Broncos. They had four turnovers and three failed fourth-down attempts in the game.

Special TeamsMichigan State added 9.3 expected points on special teams in its 41-28 win at Nebraska. Michigan State’s average drive started on its own 43 yard line, which was 21 yards closer to the goal line than Nebraska’s average starting field position. Michigan State punter Mike Sadler had three punts downed inside of the 10 yard line, and Michigan State forced a fumble in the second quarter on another punt.

Looking ahead to Week 13
Baylor heads to Stillwater (8 ET, ABC) in a matchup of top-10 opponents looking to grab a hold of the Big 12.

The biggest question heading into this game is whether Oklahoma State can slow Baylor’s offense. The Bears are averaging 61.2 points and 684.8 yards per game; they are on pace to break the FBS records for points (56.0) and yards (624.9) per game that were set by Army in 1944 and Houston in 1989, respectively.

In terms of offensive efficiency, Baylor is on pace to have the highest offensive efficiency in the past 10 seasons.

Oklahoma State ranks 10th in defensive efficiency and has been one of the top teams at creating turnovers. The Cowboys have forced 26 turnovers, tied for seventh most in the FBS, and have at forced at least one turnover in all 10 of their games.

Oklahoma State’s opponents have a 27.2 Total QBR this season, seventh lowest in the FBS. Yet, Oklahoma State has not faced an opponent who ranks in the top 20 in QBR. Bryce Petty ranks second in the FBS with a 89.9 Total QBR and has a Big-12 high 84.7 QBR in conference play.

Power rankings: Fresno State has BCS edge

November, 18, 2013
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The BCS Selection Process is clear:

The champion of Conference USA, the Mid-American Conference, the Mountain West Conference or the Sun Belt Conference (the "non-AQ group") will earn an automatic berth in a BCS bowl game if either:

A. Such team is ranked in the top 12 of the final BCS Standings, or
B. Such team is ranked in the top 16 of the final BCS Standings and its ranking in the final BCS Standings is higher than that of a champion of a conference that has an annual automatic berth in one of the BCS bowls.

However, no more than one such team from the non-AQ group will earn an automatic berth in any year, unless non-AQ teams finish both No. 1 and No. 2 in the final BCS Standings. If two or more teams from those conferences satisfy the provisions for an automatic berth, then the team with the highest finish in the final BCS Standings will receive the automatic berth.


This season, No. 15 Fresno State of the Mountain West Conference and No. 16 Northern Illinois of the Mid-American Conference are in prime positions to earn an automatic berth to a BCS Bowl game. Both teams rank in the top 16 of the BCS Standings and are ranked higher than No. 18 UCF, the highest-ranked team in the American Athletic Conference.

Only one non-AQ team will earn an automatic berth, so when evaluating the résumés of these two schools, conference strength is an important factor.

ESPN Stats & Information’s Conference Power Rankings can provide an objective measure of conference depth. According to these rankings, the Mountain West Conference is the strongest non-AQ conference from top to bottom.

The Mountain West has seven teams (out of 12) that are .500 or better, and is 18-8 against non-AQ opponents (including independent and FCS). Unlike other non-AQ conferences, the Mountain West does not have many weak teams.

The lowest ranked team in ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) from the Mountain Conference is No. 106 Air Force. In comparison the MAC and Conference USA each has at least six teams ranked below 106 in the FPI.

However, when looking at the top teams of each conference, the MAC has the most teams (5) and highest percentage of team (38 percent) with at least seven wins. Northern Illinois, Ball State, Bowling Green, Buffalo and Toledo are all bowl eligible and have at least seven wins.

When comparing Fresno State and Northern Illinois, voters will have to account for the strength of each team’s conference, their out-of-conference schedules and their dominance in their wins. Using ESPN’s new ratings systems, one can see that Northern Illinois has played a tougher schedule, but Fresno State has been more dominant in its games. It is up to the voters to decide which conference they believe is stronger and how much that affects their thinking.

This week, the MAC will be on display on Tuesday and Wednesday with three games on the ESPN family of networks -- Buffalo heads to Miami (OH) on Tuesday (8 ET, ESPNU), Kent State travels to Ohio on Tuesday (8 ET, ESPN2) and Northern Illinois will look to remain unbeaten at Toledo on Wednesday (8 ET, ESPN2). On Thursday and Friday, the Mountain West and Conference USA will have their time in the spotlight as Rice, UAB, UNLV, Air Force and San Jose State are all in action.

Auburn gets improbable win vs. Georgia

November, 16, 2013
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How unlikely was Auburn’s miraculous victory Saturday over Georgia?

Auburn had a 7.3 percent chance of winning before Nick Marshall threw a 73-yard touchdown pass to Ricardo Louis. The touchdown came on 4th-and-18 with 25 seconds remaining to give the No. 7 Tigers a 43-38 lead.

At the end of the play, Auburn had a 99.8 percent win probability, so that play increased Auburn’s win probability by 92.5 percentage points. Nebraska’s Hail Mary pass as time expired against Northwestern was the only play that had a greater increase in win probability this season.

Here are the top five plays in FBS this season in terms of win probability added:

• 97.2: On Nov. 2, Nebraska threw a 49-yard touchdown as time expired to win 27-24 against Northwestern.

• 92.5: On Saturday, Auburn threw a 73-yard touchdown with 25 seconds remaining to take a 43-38 lead against Georgia.

• 90.3: On Sept. 21, Florida Atlantic threw a 21-yard touchdown pass with 3 seconds remaining to tie the game against Middle Tennessee.

• 89.8: On Nov. 2, Rutgers threw a 33-yard touchdown with 35 seconds left to take a 23-20 lead against Temple.

• 74.7: On Oct. 5, South Alabama threw a 65-yard touchdown with 48 seconds left to go ahead 33-27 against Troy.

Auburn has now won 86 consecutive games when scoring at least 20 points. Its last such loss came in 1996 against Georgia.

Florida State versus Duke in ACC championship?
Florida State dominated its competition once again. For the second straight game, the Seminoles won 59-3, this time against Syracuse. Florida State is the first FBS team to score at least 59 points and hold its opponent to three points or fewer in consecutive games since the Seminoles did it in 1988.

Meanwhile, Duke now controls its own destiny on the path to the ACC championship game. The Blue Devils defeated Miami (Fla.) 48-30, their first time winning consecutive games against ranked opponents since 1989. The Blue Devils have won eight games in a season for the first time since 1994.

New NCAA record
After Division III Western Connecticut’s Octavias McKoy broke the NCAA single-game rushing record earlier this season with 455 yards, we now have a new record-holder. Cartel Brooks of Division III Heidelberg set a new NCAA record Saturday with 465 rushing yards.

Big Ten rises in conference rankings

November, 4, 2013
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After a fairly uneventful weekend, ESPN Stats & Information’s Conference Power Rankings remained relatively unchanged, other than a slight gain by the Big Ten.

The SEC

The SEC continued to build upon its lead in the rankings after five of its top teams rose in the AP Poll. The SEC now has six teams ranked in the top 13 of the poll. No other conference has more than two teams in the top 13. 11 of the SEC’s 14 teams (79 percent) are also ranked in the top 50 of the FPI, the highest percentage of any conference.

The Big Ten

The Big Ten gained 3.9 points in the conference rankings after its top teams won on Saturday. Michigan State held Michigan to -48 rushing yards and confirmed that it has an elite defense. As a result, the Spartans rose six spots in the AP Poll and eight spots in the FPI. Michigan State’s emergence is important for the Big Ten because there is a perception that Ohio State is the only elite team in the conference.

The Big 12

The Big 12 fell 3.7 points in the rankings after Texas Tech lost its second straight game. The Red Raiders have fallen 15 spots in the AP Poll in the past two weeks, including 10 spots after their 18-point loss to Oklahoma State. There are now four teams in the Big 12 with no more than one loss in conference play. Each of those teams plays at least two games against the other three teams to end the season. That chaos at the top of the Big 12 will begin on Thursday night when Oklahoma travels to Baylor.

Next Week’s Slate of Games
Next week features seven different games that will shape conference races:

--SEC: LSU travels to Alabama on Saturday in a game that could eliminate LSU from the race for the SEC West.

--Pac-12: Oregon heads to Stanford on Thursday (9 pm ET, ESPN) in a game that will likely determine the winner of the Pac-12 North.

--Big 12: As mentioned above, Baylor hosts Oklahoma on Thursday in its first major test of the season.

--ACC: Miami (FL) will look to bounce back against Virginia Tech on Saturday in a game that could go a long way towards determining the winner of the ACC Coastal division.

--Big Ten: Nebraska heads to Michigan on Saturday in a must-win game for the Cornhuskers if they want to keep pace with Michigan State in the Big Ten Legends division.

--American: UCF hosts Houston on Saturday (7 pm ET, ESPN2)in a matchup of the only two undefeated teams in AAC play. If UCF wins, it will have beaten Louisville and Houston, the two 7-1 teams in the American Athletic Conference heading into this weekend.

--MAC: Ohio travels to Buffalo on Tuesday (8 pm ET, ESPN2) with first place up for grabs in the MAC East.

These games may not necessarily have a major impact on the conference rankings, but they will help determine the strength of the best teams in each conference.

For a refresher on the formula for the conference power rankings, click here

Better Baylor QB: Bryce Petty or RG III?

October, 16, 2013
10/16/13
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USA TODAY SportsBryce Petty (left) is hoping to rival the success of former Baylor QB Robert Griffin III (right).
Robert Griffin III put Baylor on the map in 2011, accounting for 47 touchdowns and 4,992 yards en route to winning the Heisman Trophy. Griffin finished the 2011 campaign with an opponent-adjusted QBR of 83.2, fourth-best in the FBS that season.

Bryce Petty, in his first season as Baylor’s starting quarterback, has led Baylor to a 5-0 record and a No. 12 ranking in the AP poll. He has posted the second-highest opponent-adjusted QBR (95.1) in the nation. Since the start of the 2004 season, seven quarterbacks have finished with an opponent-adjusted QBR of at least 90 -- three went on to be No. 1 overall picks (Sam Bradford, Cam Newton and Andrew Luck) and one is last season’s Heisman Trophy winner -- Johnny Manziel.

Petty has put up numbers after four games that are comparable to Griffin’s. Petty has posted a Total QBR of at least 90 in four games this season, which already gives him more such games than Griffin had in 13 starts during his Heisman year.

Petty leads all FBS quarterbacks in pass yards per attempt (14.9), as Griffin did in 2011. They also have nearly identical numbers when it comes to completion percentage and pass yards per game.

A key to Griffin’s success in his Heisman season was his downfield passing. On passes thrown 15 yards or longer, Griffin led all AQ quarterbacks in 2011 with 23 touchdowns and had the third-highest completion percentage (minimum 20 attempts). In a smaller sample size this season, Petty is completing a higher percentage of such throws than Griffin and is averaging 28.4 yards per attempt, the highest among all AQ quarterbacks (minimum 10 attempts).

Petty has also performed better than Griffin did on third down. Petty leads the FBS in yards per attempt (17.0) while completing 70 percent of his passes on third down. Petty has converted 55 percent of his third-down pass plays (pass attempts + sacks) into a first down, the sixth-best rate among FBS quarterbacks.

Griffin completed 68 percent of his third-down passes and averaged 9.8 yards per attempt, both of which ranked in the top four of the FBS. Yet he converted on only 38 percent of his third-down pass plays, partially because he was sacked on nine third downs. Petty was sacked on third down for the first time last week against Kansas State.

Before anointing Petty the next RG III, there are two things to keep in mind:

1. Baylor’s first five games have been against FCS Wofford, Buffalo (85th-ranked pass defense), UL-Monroe (68th-ranked pass defense), West Virginia (58th-ranked pass defense) and Kansas State (62nd-ranked pass defense). Petty will have opportunities against better defenses because Baylor plays three of its last seven games against teams with a top-40 pass defense.

2. Petty is not utilized as much in the running game, averaging 44.8 fewer rush yards per game and 9.2 fewer rush attempts than Griffin did. Petty does have four rushing touchdowns, which puts him on pace to equal Griffin’s 10 touchdowns in 2011.

Midseason awards: Baylor leads the way

October, 15, 2013
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Best QB performance of the season: Bryce Petty vs. Buffalo – Sept. 7, 2013

Petty put up video game numbers against Buffalo, going 13-of-16 for 336 yards with two touchdowns. He threw no interceptions, was not sacked, and did not fumble. He also added a five-yard touchdown run for good measure. Add in the fact that Buffalo’s QBR allowed this season in all other games against FBS schools is 26.7, and Petty’s opponent-adjusted QBR for the game was 99.5 -- the best for any quarterback in a single game this season.

Most dominant performance of the season: Baylor vs. UL-Monroe – Sept. 21, 2013

The ESPN Stats & Information win probability model calculates the chance each team has to win at the start of every play. Taking the average win probability across all plays can give a good idea on how dominant the team was in the game. By this measure Baylor had the most dominant performance of the season against an FBS team. Its average win probability per play against UL-Monroe was 93.5 percent. By the end of the first 13 minutes, Baylor led 35-0 and had a 98 percent chance to win. It never looked back from there. Four of Baylor’s five wins have come with an average in-game win probability of 90 percent or higher.

Best offensive performance of the season: Baylor vs. West Virginia – Oct. 5, 2013

If the top quarterback game and the most dominant game weren’t enough, Baylor also put up the best offensive performance of the season in an entirely different game. Baylor put up 73 points against an otherwise above average defense in West Virginia. The Bears won the game by 31 points, and their rush EPA (expected points added) of +30 tells us that margin was almost entirely covered by Baylor’s ground attack. Overall Baylor’s offensive EPA in the game was +41. Adjusting for West Virginia’s above average defense, the Bears’ opponent-adjusted offensive EPA was +49 -- the highest for any offense in a single game this season.

Game changing play of the season: Ole Miss at Vanderbilt – Aug. 29, 2013

On the opening Thursday night of college football, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt gave us one of the most memorable games of the season. After surrendering the lead just seven seconds earlier, Ole Miss running back Jeff Scott rushed for a 75-yard touchdown to put the Rebels back ahead by three with 1:07 left in the fourth quarter. According to Stats & Info’s win probability model, this play took the Rebels’ chance of winning from 13 percent to 88 percent -- the largest one-play swing for any BCS-AQ school all season. After several wild swings in the fourth quarter, this play put Ole Miss ahead for good.

Winston's hot start has FSU among elite

October, 5, 2013
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Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesJameis Winston had five passing touchdowns against Maryland.
Jameis Winston has Florida State on its way possibly to its best season of the 21st century.

The redshirt freshman has been quite impressive in his first five games as the Seminoles' starting quarterback.

Winston had five passing touchdowns against Maryland, the most by a Florida State quarterback since Christian Ponder had five in 2009 against Georgia Tech.

Winston now has 17 passing touchdowns, the most by anyone in a player's first five career games over the past 10 seasons.

Winston joins Boise State’s Kellen Moore as the only FBS players over the past 10 seasons with a QBR of at least 75 in each of their first five career games.

In three ACC games, Winston has a 93.6 Total QBR, has completed 76 percent of his passes, and is averaging 360 passing yards per game with 13 passing touchdowns and one interception.

Heisman hopeful
How does Winston compare to past Heisman winners in their first five games of the season? He has more touchdowns responsible for (passing and rushing touchdowns) than Johnny Manziel (2012) and Cam Newton (2010). And he has fewer turnovers (two) than any of the past three Heisman winners –- Manziel, Robert Griffin III (2011) and Newton.

The rout was on
Winston’s superb play led the Seminoles to a dominant victory over No. 25 Maryland 63-0.

Florida State's 63-0 win over Maryland is tied for the largest margin of victory over a ranked team since the AP Poll began in 1936. In 1997, UCLA beat No. 11 Texas, 66-3.

It’s the largest margin of victory by any team in an ACC conference game.

It’s also the largest shutout win ever by Florida State over a ranked team.

The 5-0 Seminoles are idle next week before clashing with undefeated No. 3 Clemson on Oct. 19 at Death Valley.

Breaking down Manziel's NFL skill set

May, 2, 2013
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Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesWhat parts of Johnny Manziel's game need to improve for him to play in the NFL?
The NFL began to look more like the college game last season with mobile quarterbacks, zone-read options and spread passing attacks. With some work, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel has the tools to continue the evolution.

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.

Overall accuracy
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.

Downfield precision
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.

Ten plays that shaped the BCS race

December, 5, 2012
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Mark L. Baer/US PresswireManti Te'o and Notre Dame were involved in many of the moments that shaped the 2012 season.
Oct. 13: (7) Notre Dame stuffs Stepfan Taylor in OT to edge (17) Stanford
Down seven, Stanford had first-and-goal at Notre Dame’s 4. Taylor got stuffed four straight times, including a fourth-down run in which replays showed he may have crossed the goal line

Oct. 27: (5) Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o picks off Landry Jones to seal win over (8) Oklahoma
Leading 20-13 with less than five minutes left, Te’o intercepted a Jones pass at the OU 45. Te'o finished the campaign with seven interceptions, tied for second-most in the FBS.

Oct. 27: Jarvis Jones forces fumble near goal line to key (10) Georgia over (2) Florida
As Florida’s Jordan Reed was lunging for the end zone for a score that would have set up a game-tying two-point conversion attempt with a little more than two minutes left, Jones laid a hit on him that forced the ball to pop out and result in a touchback. The loss was Florida’s only of the season.

Nov. 3: Pittsburgh misses game-winning field goal in OT, falls at (3) Notre Dame
Notre Dame trailed 20-6 late in the third quarter, but fought back to force overtime. Pitt had a chance to spring the upset in the second OT, but Kevin Harper pushed the 33-yard field goal attempt. Everett Golson made the Panthers pay with a game-winning touchdown run in the third OT.

Nov. 3: (1) Alabama scores with 51 seconds left to win at (5) LSU
Trailing by three on the final drive, T.J. Yeldon took a screen pass 28 yards to the end zone to put Alabama up for good in a rematch of last season’s BCS title game.

Nov. 10: (1) Alabama jumps offside in final minute, allows (15) Texas A&M to run out clock
It was this upset that vaulted quarterback Johnny Manziel to the front of the Heisman race.

Nov. 17: Baylor shocks (1) Kansas State behind Lache Seastrunk’s 80-yard score
On a night that completely shifted the college football landscape, Baylor took out the nation’s top-ranked team in epic fashion. Up 21 points in the third quarter, Seastrunk’s 80-yard touchdown run put the game out of reach.

Nov. 17: (13) Stanford drills field goal in OT to stun (2) Oregon in OT
After Zach Ertz’s touchdown catch survived a replay review and tied the game, Jordan Williamson hit a 37-yard kick in overtime to hand the Ducks their only loss of the season.

Nov. 24: (1) Notre Dame uses goal-line stand to top USC, seal berth in BCS title game
Down 22-13 in the final minutes, USC had first-and-goal at the 1. ND did not allow the Trojans in the end zone, locking up a spot in the national championship game. On the season, the Irish allowed one rushing touchdown and five total touchdowns in goal-to-go situations, both of which ranked No. 1 in the FBS.

Dec. 1: (3) Georgia’s Chris Conley comes up short vs (2) Alabama in SEC title game
With Georgia driving down the field in the final seconds trailing by four, Conley caught a deflected pass at the Alabama 5. He fell down and could only watch as the Bulldogs’ championship hopes expired.

10 facts to know about Heisman finalists

December, 4, 2012
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US PresswireJohnny Manziel (left), Manti Te’o (center) and Collin Klein are the 2012 Heisman Trophy finalists.

  • 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.

Alabama powers its way to SEC title

December, 1, 2012
12/01/12
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John David Mercer/USA TODAY SportsEddie Lacy ran for 181 yards for Alabama.

Alabama won its first SEC championship since 2009, handing Georgia an SEC championship game loss for the second straight season.

The Tide got it done on the ground. They ran for 350 rushing yards, the most in SEC championship game history.

Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon became the first teammates to each run for 100 yards in SEC championship game history. Lacy’s 181 rushing yards are the third-most in the history of the SEC title game.

The Tide were committed to the run, as they ran the ball 51 times, two shy of the SEC championship game record of 53.

Two tight ends, too much

Alabama ran 36 times for a season-high 298 yards with two or more tight ends in the formation. The Tide ran out of this personnel package on 26 of their 34 second-half plays, gaining 199 yards and two touchdowns. Alabama averaged a season-high 5.5 yards before contact out of this formation.

AJ McCarron completed 8 of 9 passes for 114 yards and a touchdown with two or more tight ends in the formation.

Getting it done inside the tackles

Alabama outrushed Georgia 304-72 inside the tackles. The Tide averaged 8.0 yards per carry on such runs, including a season-high 13 that gained 10 yards or more. Lacy (172) and Yeldon (125) led the way for Alabama, with both running backs gaining over 100 yards inside the tackles for the second time this season. They also did it against Missouri.

Strong run game leads to play action

McCarron completed 5 of 7 passes off play action for 116 yards and a touchdown. McCarron has 11 touchdown passes off a run fake this season, six more than he had all of last season. Eight of the 11 touchdowns have been on passes thrown 20 yards or longer, including Cooper’s 45-yard touchdown against Georgia.

Georgia’s defense allowed a season-high 512 total yards, just the second time the Bulldogs allowed 500 yards in the past seven seasons. For the first time since at least 2000, they’ve allowed 300 rushing yards in three straight games.

Alabama will most assuredly face Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship Game on January 7, as the SEC goes for its seventh straight BCS National Championship.

Manziel the best scrambler in the business

November, 27, 2012
11/27/12
3:00
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Scott Halloran, Getty ImagesMissouri found out just how dangerous Johnny Manziel can be when gets outside the pocket.
Johnny Manziel finished his regular season in style, completing 32 of 44 passes for 372 yards and three touchdowns in Texas A&M's 59-29 win against Missouri. He also ran for 67 yards and two touchdowns.

Manziel’s 439 yards of total offense in the game pushed his season total to 4,600, breaking the SEC single-season record held by Cam Newton in his 2010 Heisman Trophy season.

When Newton broke the record in 2010, he supplanted Tim Tebow’s Heisman Trophy season in 2007.

Manziel has been putting up impressive numbers all season. He had three games in which he had at least 300 passing yards and 100 rushing yards, the most for any player in a single season since 2000.

The rest of the nation has had eight such games the entire season.

Manziel also has six games with at least two touchdown passes and two rushing touchdowns. That's tied with Tebow in 2007 for the most such games in a season since 2000. Collin Klein is second in FBS this season with three such games.

But what makes Manziel the Heisman front-runner has more to do with the style in which he plays than the raw numbers that he is amassing.

Manziel has an uncanny ability to make plays happen when things break down. As Alabama Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban told the media earlier this season: “He is very instinctive. He has a unique ability to extend plays and seems to know when to take off and run it.”

Look no further than Manziel’s “Heisman moment” against Alabama when he bobbled the ball then scrambled to his left and threw back across the middle for a 10-yard touchdown to Ryan Swope.

This season, Manziel has completed 60 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns when scrambling out of the pocket.

To put that into perspective, fellow SEC quarterbacks AJ McCarron, Zach Mettenberger, Aaron Murray and Connor Shaw have four passing touchdowns combined when forced out of the pocket and are completing just over 40 percent of their passes in those situations.

Against Missouri on Saturday, Manziel completed 10 of 12 passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns when forced out of the pocket, including 5 of 6 passes on third down.

Manziel also makes plays with his legs when forced to improvise. He has gained 784 of his SEC-leading 1,181 rush yards on scrambles.

That's 43 more yards scrambling than Braxton Miller, Marcus Mariota and Klein have combined. Manziel has scrambled for 35 first downs this season, including 20 first downs on third down.

On third down, Manziel has converted 50 percent of his running or passing attempts. As a result, Texas A&M leads FBS with a 55 percent third-down conversion rate.

In the Aggies’ win against Alabama, Manziel converted 9 of 13 third down chances (69 percent), which was the highest conversion percentage for a quarterback against Alabama in the last nine seasons.

Whether Johnny Football wins the Heisman is yet to be determined, but it is safe to say that he has scrambled his way to a freshman season to remember.

What is most impressive may not be the records that he has broken, but the style in which he has broken the records, something that is unlike anything that the SEC has ever seen before.

Irish could be No. 1 for 1st time since 1993

November, 18, 2012
11/18/12
1:23
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Thanks to upset victories by Baylor and Stanford, Notre Dame is in position to become No. 1 in the BCS standings for the first time ever.

The Fighting Irish haven’t been No. 1 in the AP Poll since November 1993.

Within minutes of each other, Baylor finished off its upset over No. 1 Kansas State and Stanford won in overtime over No. 2 Oregon.

This is the first time since 2007 that the team atop the BCS standings has lost in consecutive weeks.

That week, LSU lost to Arkansas on Nov. 23 and Missouri lost to Oklahoma on Dec. 1.

This is the third time in BCS history that the top two teams both lost on the same weekend.

Both previous instances happened in 2007. Missouri and West Virginia lost on Dec. 1 after LSU and Kansas lost the previous weekend (LSU lost on Friday, Kansas on Saturday on Thanksgiving weekend).

Kansas State's 28-point loss at Baylor is tied for the largest loss by a team ranked No. 1 in the BCS standings. Oklahoma lost to Kansas State by 28 points in 2003.

Kansas State is the fifth team ranked No. 1 in the BCS to lose to an unranked opponent. The Wildcats are the first BCS No. 1 to lose to a team with a losing record heading into the game.

How did Kansas State lose?

The Wildcats allowed 16 rushes of at least 10 yards against Baylor and three touchdowns on those rushes. Entering Saturday's game, Kansas State had not allowed more than six rushes of at least 10 yards in a single game and had not allowed a touchdown on rushes of at least 10 yards all season.

How did Oregon lose?

Oregon scored just 14 points against Stanford, its fewest points in a game since Sept. 3, 2009 against Boise State (lost 19-8).

Outside of Marcus Mariota’s 77-yard scramble in the first half, Stanford was able to limit Oregon on the ground. The Ducks had four rushes that gained 10 or more yards and did not make it past the line of scrimmage on 10 of their 43 rushes. It was the second straight game that the Ducks did not gain 200 yards after averaging 341.2 rushing yards per game in their first nine games.

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