Pac-12: ESPN Stats & Info

Marcus Mariota's numbers add up to Heisman

December, 13, 2014
Dec 13
9:09
PM ET

Steve Dykes/Getty ImagesMarcus Mariota has led Oregon to a Rose Bowl berth.

Marcus Mariota was arguably the second-best quarterback in college football in each of the previous two seasons.

This year, he’s not only been recognized as the best quarterback, but the sport’s best player as well.

Mariota easily won the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night, topping Melvin Gordon and Amari Cooper. Mariota had 2,534 total points, including 788 first-place votes. He received 90.9 percent of the possible points, the second-most in the trophy’s history. Gordon earned 1,250 points, and Cooper 1,023.

The history
Mariota is the first Heisman winner in Oregon history and the only Ducks player to finish first or second in the voting.

He’s the eighth player to win the Heisman in a season in which a previous Heisman winner at that position (in this case, Jameis Winston) also played.

He’s the first winner from a school in the Pacific Northwest (encompassing Oregon, Idaho and Washington) since Terry Baker of Oregon State in 1962.

Mariota became the ninth quarterback to win the Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award and Davey O’Brien Award in the same season, the third to do so in the last eight seasons, joining Tim Tebow (2007) and Cam Newton (2010).

Mariota and Winston will meet in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1. It will be the fourth time two players with Heismans will have faced each other in a game. The last instance was in the 2005 Orange Bowl when Matt Leinart and USC crushed Jason White and Oklahoma.

Quarterbacks have won each of the last five Heismans and 13 of the last 14 (excluding Reggie Bush's vacated award).

What Mariota does best
One of Mariota’s most lauded traits is his ability to find the end zone without turning the ball over. He has been responsible for 53 touchdowns this year and has committed five turnovers, the second-best margin (+48) by any Power 5 player over the last 10 seasons. Tebow (+49 in 2007, including +4 in the Citrus Bowl) is the only player with a better differential in that span.

Two of Mariota's 372 passes have been intercepted this year, just a shade above half a percent. If he can maintain that in the College Football Playoff, he would break the FBS single-season record (minimum 350 passes) that Kellen Moore set in 2009, when three of his 431 passes (0.7%) were intercepted.

Mariota does this and still throws the deep pass accurately. His 54 completions on throws 15 or more yards downfield are the most among Power 5 players. His completes 56 percent of those throws, a mark that ranks second.

Conference races gaining clarity

November, 18, 2014
Nov 18
9:09
AM ET

Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesMelvin Gordon and the Wisconsin Badgers have won five straight games to take the Big Ten West lead.

After another week of games with conference championship implications, the conference races are gaining clarity.

The Wisconsin Badgers took hold of the Big Ten West, and the Alabama Crimson Tide control the SEC West after significant divisional wins Saturday.

Using projections by ESPN’s Football Power Index, let’s break down how each of the Power 5 conferences are projected to finish, starting with the most likely conference winners.

ACC
FPI’s projected winner:
Florida State Seminoles (75 percent), Duke Blue Devils (15 percent), Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (10 percent)

After Miami’s loss to Florida State, there are three remaining potential conference champions in the ACC. Florida State has already clinched the ACC Atlantic, and FPI projects the Seminoles have a 75 percent chance to beat the ACC Coastal winner in the championship game.

Despite its loss Saturday, Duke remains the most likely ACC Coastal champion (69 percent) because of its schedule and the head-to-head win over Georgia Tech on Oct. 11, but FPI projects Georgia Tech, which is ranked 11 spots ahead of Duke in the FPI rankings, would give the Seminoles a tougher test.

Potential clinching scenarios this week: Georgia Tech clinches with a Duke loss.

Big 12
FPI’s projected winner:
Baylor Bears (74 percent), TCU Horned Frogs (22 percent), Kansas State Wildcats (4 percent)

FPI projects Baylor has a 68 percent chance to win out, best among the one-loss Power 5 teams. If the Bears win out (including a win over Kansas State on Dec. 6), they own the head-to-head tiebreaker over TCU and would be the Big 12 champion. Based on these facts, FPI projects Baylor has a 74 percent chance to win the Big 12.

Potential clinching scenarios this week: None.

Pac-12
FPI’s projected winner:
Oregon Ducks (69 percent), UCLA Bruins (15 percent), USC Trojans (9 percent), Arizona State Sun Devils (5 percent)

Oregon clinched the Pac-12 North division before last week’s games, but the South might be the most interesting division in the FBS. There are currently four teams in the Pac-12 South with two conference losses. FPI projects UCLA has the best chance to win the division because of its strength (highest ranking in FPI) and schedule. The Bruins have already beat Arizona State and Arizona, so if they beat USC on Saturday, they would be in great position to win the South. If USC defeats UCLA, however, the Trojans would become the favorite and would clinch the division with a loss by Arizona State earlier in the day. FPI projects UCLA has a 59 percent chance to beat USC at home.

Potential clinching scenarios this week: USC clinches with win AND Arizona State loss.

Big Ten
FPI’s projected winner:
Ohio State Buckeyes (61 percent), Wisconsin (36 percent), Minnesota Golden Gophers (1 percent)

Ohio State and Wisconsin are in control of their respective divisions. Ohio State has to win one of its remaining two games -- versus Indiana and versus Michigan -- to win the Big Ten East without the help of a Michigan State loss. FPI projects Ohio State has a 99 percent chance to win one of those games. The Big Ten West is a little more interesting, with Wisconsin still to face Minnesota. FPI projects Wisconsin has an 87 percent chance to win the division, but Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska are all still alive.

Potential clinching scenarios this week: Wisconsin clinches a berth in the conference championship game with win AND a Minnesota loss. Ohio State clinches a berth in the conference championship game with win OR a Michigan State loss.

SEC
FPI’s projected winner:
Alabama (46 percent), Georgia Bulldogs (39 percent), Ole Miss Rebels (8 percent), Mississippi State Bulldogs (4 percent), Missouri (2 percent)

The SEC remains the most wide-open Power 5 conference. Alabama’s win against Mississippi State added some clarity; if the Tide defeat Auburn on Nov. 29, they will win the SEC West (they can also clinch via losses by Ole Miss AND Mississippi State). FPI projects the Tide have a 76 percent chance to win the West, followed by Ole Miss (14 percent) and Mississippi State (10 percent). In the SEC East, Georgia would win the head-to-head tiebreaker over Missouri, but the Tigers currently have a one-game lead in the loss column. Georgia has completed its conference schedule, and Missouri has two remaining SEC games, so if Missouri loses at Tennessee or versus Arkansas, Georgia wins the division. FPI projects Missouri has an 85 percent chance to lose either of those games.

Potential clinching scenarios this week: Georgia clinches division with Missouri loss. Alabama clinches division with losses by Mississippi State AND Ole Miss.

Breaking down the conference races

November, 10, 2014
Nov 10
10:04
AM ET
After a weekend that featured six matchups between ranked teams, we have emerged with newfound clarity in the conference races.

Ohio State, Baylor, Oregon and Alabama each beat a top-20 opponent on Saturday and now controls its own destiny in conference races.

Using projections by ESPN’s Football Power Index, let’s break down how each of the Power 5 conferences are projected to finish, starting the with most likely conference winners.

ACC
FPI’s Projected Winner: Florida State (75 percent), Duke (19 percent)

Florida State has the best chance of any Power 5 school to win its conference. FPI projects that the Seminoles have a 99 percent chance to win their division and a 77 percent chance to beat the winner of the ACC Coastal division in the ACC Championship Game, should they get there.

Duke is in the driver’s seat in the Coastal division, one game ahead in the loss column over Miami (FL) and Georgia Tech. The Blue Devils hold the head-to-head tiebreaker versus the Yellow Jackets, and although they lost to Miami (FL), the Hurricanes still have Florida State left on their schedule.

Big 12
FPI’s Projected Winner: Baylor (72 percent), TCU (24 percent), Kansas State (4 percent)

After its win against Oklahoma, Baylor’s chance of winning the Big 12 rose from 27 percent to 72 percent. By most measures, TCU has a more impressive résumé than Baylor, but the Bears hold the head-to-head tiebreaker after defeating the Horned Frogs on Oct. 11 in an unlikely 21-point fourth-quarter comeback.

TCU (68 percent) and Baylor (67 percent) have the best chances among Power 5 one-loss teams to win out. If both teams run the table, Baylor will be the Big 12 champion.

FPI projects that Kansas State, which also has one conference loss, has a four percent chance to win the Big 12 because of its schedule. The Wildcats have to play West Virginia and Baylor on the road, but if they beat Baylor in the final week of the season, things could get interesting. FPI projects that there is a 29 percent chance that Baylor, TCU and Kansas State win their other remaining games, resulting in a three-way tie.

Pac-12
FPI’s Projected Winner: Oregon (71 percent), Arizona State (13 percent), UCLA (10 percent)

Oregon has already clinched the Pac-12 North, so its only barrier to a conference championship will come in that Pac-12 Championship Game. Arizona State, which is one of nine remaining one-loss teams, has a 51 percent chance to win the Pac-12 South, according to FPI, followed by UCLA (30 percent).

The Sun Devils have three remaining conference games, including a tough road test against rival Arizona on Nov. 28, while the Bruins have two. If these teams were to finish with the same record, UCLA owns the head-to-head tiebreaker, and would face Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship game – a game that FPI projects the Ducks have more than a 70 percent chance to win.

Big Ten
FPI’s Projected Winner: Ohio State (65 percent), Wisconsin (22 percent), Nebraska (11 percent)

Ohio State’s win against Michigan State on Saturday may have been the biggest win of the weekend in terms of conference championships. Not only did Ohio State put itself in a great position to win its division (FPI projects the Buckeyes have a 98 percent chance to win the Big Ten East), but it knocked its greatest competition out of the race.

One of the biggest games of this upcoming weekend in terms of divisional races features the top two teams in the Big Ten West – Wisconsin and Nebraska.

Because the game is in Madison, FPI projects that Wisconsin has a 64 percent chance to win. Whichever team wins will put itself in a prime position to win the division and likely face Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game.

SEC
FPI’s Projected Winner: Alabama (36 percent), Georgia (27 percent), Mississippi State (19 percent)

The SEC is the most wide open conference. FPI projects that there are three teams – Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi State – with more than a 15 percent chance to win the conference. No other Power 5 conference has more than two such teams.

In the SEC West, FPI projects that Alabama has a 50 percent chance to win the division, largely because it hosts its two biggest competitors – Mississippi State and Auburn – in the next few weeks.

On Saturday, Mississippi State heads to Tuscaloosa in a game with conference and playoff implications. The winner of this game will control its own destiny in the vaunted SEC West and have a great chance to play the SEC East champion in the conference championship game.

Like the SEC West, the East is also quite unsettled.

Although Georgia is currently behind Missouri in the SEC East standings, FPI projects that the Bulldogs have a 60 percent chance to win the division because Missouri has three difficult remaining conference games, while Georgia has one.

Stats to know: Six ranked CFB games

November, 6, 2014
Nov 6
12:23
PM ET
Saturday, there will be six games between teams ranked in the top 20 of the latest College Football Playoff rankings. Below are the stats you need to know heading into each game.

(4) Oregon at (17) Utah, Saturday 10 ET
FPI projection: Oregon 67 percent chance to win

Matchup to watch: Utah’s pass rush versus Oregon’s pass protection – Utah leads the FBS with 39 sacks and has had at least four sacks in an FBS-high six games. In the two games that Oregon allowed more than four sacks, the Ducks lost to Arizona and played a close game against Washington State. Not coincidently, those were the two games that left tackle Jake Fisher was sidelined with a knee injury. Fisher vs Utah DE Nate Orchard will be a specific matchup to watch as Orchard is tied for second in the FBS with 12 sacks.

Player to watch: How can Heisman candidate Marcus Mariota not be the player to watch? Mariota leads the nation in Total QBR (91.2) and touchdowns responsible for (34) and is averaging the second-most yards per pass (10.3) in the nation.

Stat to know: Oregon is 31-0 since the start of the 2012 season when it scores at least 30 points. Utah has held its last nine opponents, dating to last season, to fewer than 30 points, tied for the longest active streak in the FBS.

(5) Alabama at (16) LSU, Saturday 8 ET
FPI projection: Alabama 60 percent chance to win

Matchup to watch: LSU rushing offense against Alabama rushing defense - LSU has run the ball on an SEC-high 67 percent of its plays this season. The Tigers are 6-0 this season when they rush for at least 150 yards and 1-2 when they do not. They will have a tough test against an Alabama defense that has allowed the second-fewest rushing yards per game (78.1) and fewest rushing touchdowns (2) in the FBS.

Player to watch: Amari Cooper had a school-record 224 receiving yards in his last game, a 14-point win at Tennessee. Cooper has been responsible for 49 percent of Alabama’s receiving yards this season, the highest percentage for any FBS player. He also leads the nation with 20 receptions that have gained 20 yards or more and ranks second in receiving yards per game (141.5).

Stat to know: LSU has an FBS-high 24 come-from-behind fourth-quarter wins since Les Miles was hired in 2005. No other SEC school has more than 15 such wins.

(7) Kansas State at (6) TCU , Saturday 7:30 ET
FPI projection: TCU 36 percent chance to win

Matchup to watch: TCU’s big-play offense vs. Kansas State’s disciplined defense – TCU leads the Big 12 with 57 plays of 20 yards or longer. Those plays have gained 247.5 yards per game, second-most in the FBS behind Marshall. Conversely, Kansas State is tied for the second-fewest plays (22) and fourth-fewest yards (86.9) allowed on plays of 20 yards or longer.

Player to watch: Last week, Tyler Lockett passed Jordy Nelson for second on Kansas State’s all-time receiving yards list. He needs 156 more yards to pass his father, Kevin, for most in school history. He will likely be matched against TCU’s Kevin White, who helped shut down one of the top receivers in the nation, West Virginia’s Kevin White, last week.

Stat to know: Kansas State has seven turnovers this season (T-seventh in the FBS), four of which were of little harm because they came with the Wildcats leading by 24 or more points. TCU leads the nation with 26 turnovers forced and is one of two teams (Oregon) that has forced at least two turnovers in every game this season.

(14) Ohio State at (8) Michigan State, Saturday 8 ET
FPI projection: Ohio State 52 percent chance to win

Matchup to watch: Ohio State run game vs Michigan State run defense - Since its loss to Virginia Tech, Ohio State is averaging 295.3 rushing yards per game, fifth-most in the FBS. Michigan State ranks sixth in the FBS in rush yards per game allowed and has held five of its eight opponents under 100 rushing yards.

Player to watch: Jeremy Langford has rushed for at least 100 yards in 12 straight conference games, tied for the longest streak in the last 10 seasons with Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey. Last season against Ohio State, Langford gained 93 of his 128 rush yards after contact, the most yards after contact that Ohio State has allowed to a player in the last two seasons.

Stat to know: J.T. Barrett has been responsible for 29 touchdowns, tied for third-most in the FBS and on pace to break Braxton Miller’s school record of 36 set last season. Barrett has been responsible for at least four touchdowns in four of eight games this season. Michigan State has not allowed a player to account for four touchdowns since Taylor Martinez scored four in Nebraska’s win in East Lansing on Nov. 3, 2012.

(10) Notre Dame at (9) Arizona State, Saturday 3:30 ET
FPI projection: Notre Dame 52 percent chance to win

Matchup to watch: Everett Golson against Arizona State pressure package - Arizona State sends five or more pass rushers on 55 percent of opponents’ dropbacks, the second-highest percentage for a Power 5 team. On such plays, the Sun Devils rank third among Power 5 defenses in both yards per play (2.9) and sacks (16).

Golson has thrown four of his seven interceptions this season against a blitz, including both of his picks against Florida State. Golson has averaged 5.9 yards per attempt against the blitz this season, 1.2 less than the average for a Power 5 quarterback.

Player to watch: Golson has been responsible for 29 touchdowns this season, tied with Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett for third-most in the FBS and on pace to break the Notre Dame record for a season (39 in 13 games by Brady Quinn in 2006). In the Irish’s win last week against Navy, Golson became the first player in Notre Dame history to pass and rush for at least three touchdowns in the same game. Oklahoma’s Trevor Knight is the only other FBS player to accomplish that feat this season (vs Iowa State).

Stat to know: Notre Dame is 12-0 since the start of last season when it has one or fewer turnovers and 4-5 when it has two or more, including the Irish’s loss to Florida State this season. Arizona State is 4-0 this season when it has forced multiple turnovers.

(12) Baylor at (15) Oklahoma, Saturday 12 ET
FPI projection: Oklahoma 66 percent chance to win

Matchup to watch: Baylor’s pass offense vs Oklahoma’s pass defense - Baylor has a Power 5-high 17 touchdowns on passes thrown 20 yards or longer. Oklahoma has allowed the most touchdowns in the Big 12 on such passes but also is tied for the conference lead with four interceptions. Zach Sanchez has three of those four interceptions and will be matched up against one of Baylor’s explosive wide receivers. The Bears have four receivers who have gained 300 yards and are averaging more than 16 yards per reception.

Player to watch: Trevor Knight had his best statistical game of the season last week against Iowa State, accounting for a career-high 376 yards of total offense and six touchdowns. The Sooners probably will need another big game from Knight to match Baylor’s high-powered offensive numbers. Last season, with Blake Bell at quarterback for Oklahoma, Baylor won by 29 and held the Sooners to a 3.5 raw QBR, their lowest in a game since the 2005 season.

Stat to know: Baylor has never beaten Oklahoma in Norman in 11 games dating to the first meeting in 1974.

Power rankings: Big 12 solidly second

October, 13, 2014
Oct 13
9:19
AM ET

Tom Pennington/Getty ImagesBryce Petty and kicker Chris Callahan survived TCU. The teams are part of the top-heavy Big 12.
The “hot” debate entering the season was whether the Pac-12 could surpass the SEC as the top conference in the nation. The Big 12 was rarely mentioned as a top conference, however, despite returning the majority of its starting quarterbacks and having two of the top five defenses in ESPN’s preseason defensive efficiency rankings.

Five of the Big 12’s 10 teams are in the top 15 of The Associated Press poll, tied with the SEC (which has 14 teams) for the most top-15 teams in the nation. Baylor, TCU, Oklahoma, Kansas State and Oklahoma State all have one or fewer losses and a legitimate shot at the College Football Playoff.

All of those teams will not finish the season with one loss, but it’s worth noting that two of their losses came in close games against the teams that played for the 2014 BCS National Championship (Auburn defeated Kansas State and Florida State defeated Oklahoma State).

The bottom of the Big 12, however, is not as strong as that of the Pac-12 or SEC. The Big 12’s average FPI ranking, which is designed to measure a conference’s depth, ranks below that of those two conferences.

The SEC remains at the top of the conference power rankings. It has the top team in the AP poll (Mississippi State) and in the FPI (Auburn), the two components of these power rankings. The SEC West remains unbeaten against any team not in the SEC West as the Magnolia State has catapulted to the forefront of the college football world.

The Pac-12 will rise in the conference rankings if its top teams can continue to win. Last week, we discussed how the Pac-12 is missing an elite team. Oregon looked strong against UCLA, and the defenses of Stanford and Washington defenses looked solid against explosive offenses in Week 7. The issue is that the Pac-12 does not have a team in the top eight of the AP poll.

In other conference action, next week is a big one for the ACC as Notre Dame heads to Florida State. The Seminoles are the best team in the ACC, but if they lose to Notre Dame at home, the conference could take a big hit in perceived strength and in the College Football Playoff race.


Key matchup: ASU pass rush vs UCLA line

September, 24, 2014
Sep 24
9:54
AM ET

Icon SMIJim Mora (left) needs to find a way to stop Todd Graham's (right) blitzing scheme.
Since the Pac-12 was created in 2011, the winner of the UCLA vs Arizona State game has represented the Pac-12 South in the conference title game in every year.

Last season, UCLA allowed a season-high nine sacks and was outrushed by 72 yards in its loss to Arizona State. The nine sacks were the most the Bruins have allowed in any game in the last 10 seasons and are tied for the most for any team in the last two years.

With uncertainty at the quarterback position for both teams, the game may again come down to line-of-scrimmage control, particularly when UCLA has the ball.

In the past couple of seasons, the Sun Devils have boasted one of the best pass rushes in the nation, while the Bruins’ offensive line has struggled to protect its quarterback and run the football.

Arizona State pass rush
Since Todd Graham took over as head coach in 2012, Arizona State ranks second in the FBS behind Stanford with 99 sacks. Much of that success has come when sending added pressure.

Arizona State has blitzed on 43 percent of its opponents’ dropbacks since the start of the 2012 season, the second-highest rate among Power Five schools (Syracuse). The Sun Devils have the most sacks (54) and the highest sack percentage (12 percent) when bringing added pressure among Power Five teams during that span.

Last season Arizona State blitzed on 16 of Brett Hundley's 40 dropbacks (40 percent) and recorded seven of its nine sacks when sending added pressure.

The Sun Devils have continued to be more successful when sending added pressure this season; they are allowing almost five yards less per dropback and a completion percentage below 50 percent when blitzing compared with when they don’t blitz.

UCLA Offensive Line
Since taking over as the starting quarterback in 2012, Hundley has been sacked 97 times, 24 more than any other FBS quarterback. Hundley has been sacked 14 times in the two matchups against Arizona State, including nine times in his last matchup.

Moreover, Hundley has been knocked down 148 times since the beginning of last season. No other active Power Five quarterback has been knocked down in this period more than 124 times.

The Bruins’ offensive line has struggled to manage opponents’ blitzes this season, ranking second-to-last in the Pac-12 in yards per play (5.4) and allowing the most sacks (seven) when opponents send five or more pass rushers.

The Bruins have also struggled to create holes for ball carriers. They have averaged 1.6 yards before contact per rush this season, second worst in the Pac-12 to pass-heavy Washington State and almost a yard less than last season.

Although UCLA is favored by more than a field goal on the road, if the Bruins cannot protect their quarterback or find space to run it could be a long night in Tempe.

Do you believe in these early stories?

September, 11, 2014
Sep 11
11:52
AM ET
There are a number of hot on-field topics through the first two weeks of the college football season, subjects that have inspired a bit of debate among fans this week.

Let's look at these from the perspective of "buy" or "sell" and provide the statistical arguments for each.

USC as a national championship contender

The Trojans are 2-0 with a win against Stanford. They have won eight of nine games. Are you buying them as a national title contender?

Buy:
Defense wins championships. Led by All-American candidate Leonard Williams, USC leads the Pac-12 in points per drive (1.4) allowed since the start of last season.

The metrics like them. According to ESPN’s Football Power Index, USC is the eighth-best team in the FBS and has a 23 percent chance to win the Pac-12, second to Oregon. Of the seven teams ranked ahead of USC in FPI, four are from the SEC, which means at least three of those teams will lose at least once this season.

Kessler is playing well. USC is 8-1 in its last nine games, including two wins against Stanford. During that time, Cody Kessler has a Total QBR of 80.6, 13th-best in the FBS (min. 5 starts).

Sell:
Schedule is too tough. According to ESPN’s Football Power Index, USC has a two percent chance of winning out. The Trojans have the 18th-most difficult schedule remaining in the FBS, including all four teams that defeated them last season.

Too many turnovers. USC has had at least two turnovers in three of its last four games. In the last five seasons, FBS teams lose 60 percent of the time when they have two or more turnovers. The Trojans are 14-13 in such games.

Cannot sustain drives. USC has converted 38 percent of its third downs during the last two seasons, 83rd in the FBS.

Tennessee is back
Tennessee is 2-0 and has won both games by at least 15 points. Are you buying Tennessee as a team that can win 10 games this season?

Buy:
Vols have been playing some D. Tennessee has held its last four opponents to fewer than 20 points per game, tied for the longest active FBS streak. In those four games, the Volunteers have allowed 3.6 yards per carry and opponents have failed to gain yards on an SEC-best 31 percent of their rushes.

Sell:
We saw this last year and the two years before that. In each of the previous three seasons, Tennessee has started 2-0 and then lost to a ranked team by at least 10 points in its third game. In those three losses, the Volunteers were outgained by an average of 218 yards and allowed almost 8 yards per play (7.9).

The Vols travel to Norman to take on No. 4 Oklahoma Saturday night (8 ET/ABC).

Vols cannot throw the ball. In SEC play last season, Tennessee threw eight more interceptions (13) and was sacked seven more times (12) than it had passing touchdowns (5). The Volunteers had a Total QBR of 46.1 in SEC play, 11th in the conference.

Everett Golson as a Heisman candidate
Notre Dame is 2-0 and Everett Golson has been responsible for eight touchdowns. Are you buying him as a Heisman trophy candidate?

Buy:
He is right where he needs to be. Golson ranks fifth in the FBS in Total QBR this season. Each of the past five quarterbacks to win the Heisman Trophy was ranked in the top five of Total QBR in the season he won the award.

Heisman voters like touchdowns. Golson has been responsible for eight touchdowns this season, tied for third in the FBS. Starting with Tim Tebow in 2007, every quarterback who won the Heisman Trophy ranked in the top six of the FBS in touchdowns responsible for.

They also like exciting plays. Golson has completed 6-of-9 passes thrown 20 yards or longer this season, including three touchdowns. He had four such touchdowns and 16 such completions during the 2012 season.

Sell:
The Irish are too one-dimensional. Notre Dame had its fewest rushing yards (54) and averaged its fewest yards per rush (1.7) in any game the last two seasons last week against Michigan. The Irish finished the game with 12 yards before contact on 31 rushes. If Notre Dame cannot run the ball, it could put Golson in difficult situations to manage, such as third and long.

Lot of tough defenses on the schedule. Notre Dame still has to play four teams who rank in the top 15 in defensive efficiency since the start of last season. Which means Golson could have a difficult time compiling the stats needed to impress voters.

Texas A&M’s defense will hold up

Texas A&M is 2-0 and has allowed 31 points in two games this season. Are you buying that the Aggies defense will hold up and make them a title contender?

Buy:
Holding up is relative. Since Kevin Sumlin took over as head coach, Texas A&M has averaged the third-most points per game (45.6) in the FBS and the Aggies have the highest offensive efficiency in the nation.

They are getting off the field. Texas A&M is allowing opponents to convert 21 percent of their third downs this season, tied with Florida for 11th in the FBS.

They are tackling better. Texas A&M has allowed 36.5 rushing yards after contact per game this season, fewest in the SEC. Last season, the Aggies allowed an SEC-high 98.9 such yards.

Sell:
No offense can cover their blemishes. Texas A&M has allowed 30.0 points per game since the start of last season (15 games), including 35.6 in SEC play. Florida State was the only FBS team to score at least 30 points in every game last season, and no team in the last 50 years has scored more than 35 points in every game during a season.

They give up way too many big plays. Texas A&M has allowed 13 touchdowns on plays that gained 40 yards or more the last two seasons, most in the SEC and tied for 10th-most in the FBS. The Aggies allowed two such touchdowns in Week 1 against South Carolina.

UCLA’s line will cost the Bruins the Pac-12 championship

UCLA is 2-0, but it has been sacked nine times. Are you buying that UCLA’s offensive line will cost the Bruins a national title?

Buy:
Was Hundley just sacked again? UCLA has been sacked 97 times since the start of the 2012 season, tied for second-most in the FBS, including nine times this season. Brett Hundley has been sacked 51 times in his career on plays in which opponents have sent four or fewer pass rushers, the most for any Power Five quarterback in the last three seasons.

They don’t open any holes in the running game. UCLA is averaging 71.0 yards before contact per game this season, second-worst in the Pac-12 behind Washington State.

They give up too many pressures. UCLA’s quarterbacks have been pressured (hurried or knocked down) on a Pac-12-high 24 percent of their dropbacks the last two seasons.

They allow too many negative plays. The Bruins have 130 plays the last two seasons that have lost yards, third-most in the FBS.

Sell:
Hundley can cover up for their mistakes. Hundley has had 546 rushing yards on scrambles the last two seasons, second-most for any Power Five quarterback behind Johnny Manziel.

The team has overcome its line before. Despite the pressures and sacks, UCLA has averaged 36.7 points per game the last two seasons. The Bruins have an FBS-high 10 touchdowns on drives in which they were sacked at least once since the start of last season.

Big Ten plummets in conference rankings

September, 8, 2014
Sep 8
11:25
AM ET
The Big Ten’s struggles in Week 2 have been well documented. The conference lost all four of its games against opponents ranked in the top 50 of the Football Power Index, and its top win according to FPI came when Minnesota defeated No. 73 Middle Tennessee at home.

The next tier of Big Ten teams struggled too, as Nebraska, Iowa, Maryland, and Illinois all were tested into the fourth quarter against teams they were favored to beat.

The Big Ten is now 11-7 against non-conference FBS opponents, by far the lowest win percentage (61 percent) of any Power Five conference. Against other Power Five teams and Notre Dame, the Big Ten is 1-5 with an average point margin of -12 points per game.

The Big Ten’s difficulties begin at the top of the conference. The highest ranked Big Ten team in the Football Power Index is No. 22 Michigan, who lost 31-0 at Notre Dame on Saturday. Every other Power Five conference has at least two teams in the top 20 of the FPI, and the SEC has nine teams.

In the AP Poll, the other component of the conference power rankings, three of the four Big Ten teams ranked in the poll last week fell at least six spots.

As a result of the Big Ten’s dreadful weekend, the conference fell 17.3 points in the conference power rankings, the largest single-week plunge of any conference in the last three years.

On the flip side, the ACC rose by 7.2 points and jumped over the Big Ten for fourth place. The ACC went 11-0 in non-conference games in Week 2, bringing its non-conference win percentage to 87 percent in the first two weeks. Only the SEC (95 percent) has a higher non-conference win percentage.

The Pac-12 barely budged in the conference rankings, but Oregon's win against Michigan State may end up being the biggest win for a conference in terms of national perception this season. The Ducks showed that they could play a physical style of football against one of the toughest defenses in the nation.

Next week is a big one for the Big 12 as the conference has seven non-conference games against Power Five opponents. Oklahoma hosts Tennessee (8 ET, ABC), Iowa State travels to Iowa (3:30 ET, ESPN) and Texas Tech faces off with Arkansas (3:30 ET, ABC) in games that could help solidify the conference as the third-best in the nation.

The conference power rankings are a formula that equally weighs the rankings from the AP Poll and ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) in order to determine the best and worst conferences in the country. For more information on the rankings and FPI, click here and here.


Ducks run past Spartans in second half

September, 7, 2014
Sep 7
1:35
AM ET
How Ducks turned it around vs. Spartans:

 The Oregon Ducks won a battle of prolonged scoring runs against the Michigan State Spartans, wrapping up a 46-27 victory with a 28-0 outburst. Let’s look closer at how the Ducks turned things around in the second half and where the Spartans’ vaunted defense struggled.

Running game
After gaining 14 yards on 13 rushes in the first half, Oregon found space to run in the second half with 160 yards and two touchdowns.

The key to Oregon’s rushing after halftime was its ability to get outside the tackles, where the Ducks gained 130 of their 160 second-half rushing yards. In the first half, Oregon had -3 yards rushing outside the tackles.

While Oregon found space in the second half, the opposite happened for the Spartans.

Michigan State had 37 yards rushing in the second half after rushing for 86 yards in the first. The Spartans were contacted at or behind the line of scrimmage on nine of their 15 rushing attempts in the second half. They had three such runs on 21 attempts in the first half.

Mariota makes them pay downfield
Marcus Mariota was under duress on a career-high 17 dropbacks against Michigan State. But when he found time to throw, Mariota had success going downfield.

He completed 5-of-7 passes for 15 yards or longer, including all three of his touchdown passes. He was more aggressive going downfield in the second half, averaging 10.9 air yards compared with 5.6 in the first half.

Mariota's success downfield against Michigan State is notable because the Spartans allowed the lowest completion percentage on throws of 15 or more yards of any power five conference defense last season.

Mariota finished the game with 360 yards of offense and three passing touchdowns, setting a couple of school records in the process. His 69 career passing touchdowns moved him past Darron Thomas (66), and his 8,479 yards of total offense passed Bill Musgrave (8,140) for most in Oregon history.

Oregon’s 46 points were the most Michigan State has allowed since the 2011 Capital One Bowl against Alabama (49).

SEC extends lead in Power Rankings

September, 3, 2014
Sep 3
9:47
AM ET

AP Photo/Tony GutierrezSEC teams went 8-1 in Week 1 as the race for the national championship trophy began.
A quick refresher: Last week, ESPN Stats & Information released its preseason conference power rankings, a formula that equally weighs the rankings from the AP Poll and ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) in order to determine the best and worst conferences in the country. For more information on the rankings and FPI, click here and here.

After an exciting slate of non-conference games in Week 1, the SEC proved why it was considered the top conference in the nation entering the season. The SEC went 8-1 in non-conference games, the best winning percentage of any FBS conference.

Ole Miss, Georgia and LSU all beat opponents ranked in the top 50 in the preseason Football Power Index, while Tennessee and Alabama took care of business against improved FBS teams. What may be surprising is the way that some of these SEC teams won the games, though.

The SEC was not nearly as dominant in its wins as some may have expected. LSU had the lowest average in-game win probability (34%) of any team that won this weekend, and Alabama, Ole Miss and Georgia were all in one-score games in the second half.

Nonetheless, the SEC pulled out these wins and jumped 1.4 points in the conference power rankings. The strength of the top of the conference (six teams in top 15 of the AP Poll) is unmatched by any other conference.

Big Ten falls despite strong Week 1
The Big Ten had the second-best winning percentage in non-conference games of any of FBS conference. Notable wins include: Rutgers beating Washington State in Seattle, Penn State defeating UCF in Ireland, and Ohio State outlasting Navy in Baltimore.

However, the other nine wins for the Big Ten were against six FCS teams and three lower-tier FBS opponents.

The main reason that the Big Ten fell in the ratings, however, is that last week’s numbers were based off of the preseason AP Poll that did not account for Braxton Miller’s injury.

Ohio State struggled in the first half against Navy without Miller, and as a result, the AP voters dropped the Buckeyes from fifth to eighth despite a win. That was the second largest drop in AP ranking for a team that won last weekend (UCLA went from 7 to 11).

ACC falls further behind rest of Power Five
The ACC dropped five more points in the conference power rankings after Wake Forest lost to Louisiana-Monroe, Syracuse almost lost to Villanova, North Carolina struggled against Liberty and Florida State played a closer-than-expected game against Oklahoma State.

Clemson's loss to Georgia also significantly affected the ACC in the ratings because the top of the ACC is considered even weaker than when it began the season.

Florida State is the only team from the ACC ranked in the top 20 of the AP Poll; every other Power Five conference has at least three top-20 teams.

In terms of the bottom of the ACC, Syracuse, Boston College, North Carolina State and Wake Forest all have an FPI below zero (zero is considered an average FBS team by FPI). No other Power Five conference has more than two such teams.

Big Week for Big Ten/Pac-12
Week 2 is a big week to prove conference superiority. Highlighted by Michigan State traveling to Oregon, the Big Ten is a part of three marquee games next weekend.

Michigan will look to build upon a strong Week 1 at Notre Dame and Ohio State will look to prove it can be successful without Braxton Miller as it hosts Virginia Tech.

In the Pac-12, Oregon likely needs to win at home against Michigan State in order for it to stay alive in the playoff.

Also out west, USC and Stanford will meet in one of the top Pac-12 games of the season.

Mariota is a model of efficiency at QB

September, 2, 2014
Sep 2
11:51
AM ET

Jonathan Ferrey/Getty ImagesMarcus Mariota is one of the top dual threats in the sport.
Entering Week 1, Marcus Mariota was the favorite to win the Heisman, according to the ESPN Heisman Watch.

Mariota did not disappoint in his first game. He was responsible for 310 yards of total offense and four touchdowns, despite not playing in the second half of Oregon’s 62-13 win against South Dakota State.

Throughout his career, Mariota has been one of the most efficient and consistent FBS quarterbacks. He has ranked second in the FBS in Total QBR in each of the last two seasons.

His 87.3 career Total QBR is the second-best for any player with at least 20 starts in the last five seasons, behind Johnny Manziel.

Mariota has an FBS-high 13 games with a Total QBR of at least 90 since 2012.

Mariota makes Oregon go
The Ducks have been one of the most efficient offenses in the FBS, ranking third in this category in each of Mariota’s first two seasons.

They have scored on an FBS-high 45 percent of their drives since Mariota became the starter, best in the FBS.

When the ball is snapped to Mariota, Oregon averages 7.5 yards per play, the second-best for any quarterback who has taken at least 500 snaps (Jameis Winston is No. 1).

The Ducks have gained at least 10 yards on 28 percent of their plays with Mariota at quarterback, which is also second to Florida State and Winston.

Mariota makes plays
Mariota has been responsible for 82 touchdowns in his career, most for any Pac-12 player in the last three seasons and sixth-most for any FBS player.

During that time, he was responsible for at least three touchdowns in a game 18 times; only former Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch has had more such games.

Mariota takes care of the ball
Mariota has 10 career interceptions, tied for the third-fewest for any player with at least 20 starts during the last three seasons.

The only active player with at least 20 starts and fewer interceptions than Mariota is Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds, who has 502 fewer attempts. Mariota set the Pac-12 record with 343 consecutive passes without an interception.

Mariota can run
Mariota has rushed for 1,510 yards in his career and has averaged 7.3 yards per carry. Almost half (49 percent) of his carries have been designed quarterback runs.

On such plays, Mariota leads all Power Five quarterbacks with 10.1 yards per rush and is second to Braxton Miller with 17 runs of 20 yards or more.

Mariota is often not touched on these plays until he is well past the line of scrimmage, as he averages 8.2 yards before contact.

USC’s improved offense under Coach O

November, 13, 2013
11/13/13
3:30
PM ET

Matt Cashore/USA TODAY Sports
USC has improved offensively since Ed Orgeron took over for Lane Kiffin as head coach.
In an interview with ESPN Pac-12 blogger Kevin Gemmell, USC RB Javorius “Buck” Allen described USC’s transition to interim coach Ed Orgeron, “It hasn't been difficult. We all love Coach (Orgeron). He's a player's coach. He loves us, and he wants to see us happy and have fun. We really play off of that, and we want to win for him.”

USC is 4-1 under Coach Orgeron and its offense seems to have found an identity. USC has turned to its run game, led by Allen and Silas Redd, which has opened up the passing game for Cody Kessler and the Trojans.

Orgeron’s return to the run
USC is averaging 181.2 rush yards per game under Ed Orgeron, which is comparable to its average in the first five games of the season under Lane Kiffin. However, the Trojans are running more often on early downs and finding success in doing so.

In their past five games, the Trojans have run on 70 percent of their first-down plays, an increase of eight percentage points from their first five games. They have averaged 5.8 yards per rush and gained a first down on 22 percent of their first-down rushes in those games.

Success on first down has resulted in increased efficiency on third down. USC ranked 112th in the FBS through its first five games with a 28 percent third-down conversion rate. With Orgeron at the helm, the Trojans have increased that rate to 36 percent, including 52 percent in their past two games.

Buck Allen’s emergence
The biggest difference in USC’s running game has been the emergence Javorius “Buck” Allen. According to sources, Allen was one of USC’s most productive backs in training camp, but he did not get many carries at the start of the season. Those carries went to Tre Madden and Justin Davis, who were both productive, but recently went down with injuries.

Even before the injuries to Madden and Davis, Allen was given a chance by Ed Orgeron. In five games under Orgeron, Allen has gained 327 yards, including at least 130 in each of his past two games. He is averaging 8.8 yards per rush and has added an element of speed that complements the bruising style of Silas Redd.

Allen’s speed has allowed him to turn the corner on opposing defenses. He is averaging 11.4 yards per carry outside the tackles and seven of his 23 rushes have gained at least 10 yards. Overall, he leads the Trojans with seven rushing touchdowns, including four outside the tackles, despite ranking fourth on the team with 51 carries.

Improved QB play
Under Orgeron, USC is attempting more passes per game and its average pass distance is one yard farther downfield than when Lane Kiffin was the head coach.

Orgeron and new play caller Clay Helton have cut back on USC’s bubble screens, which were a staple of Lane Kiffin’s offense. After attempting more than five screens per game under Kiffin, USC has attempted just nine screens in five games (1.8 per game) under Orgeron and have relied more heavily on the arms of their quarterbacks.

Cody Kessler has responded to the increased responsibility by posting a 65.5 opponent-adjusted QBR in his past five games. He completed 81.6 percent of his passes and averaged 11 yards per attempt in his past two games against Oregon State and California.

The most noticeable difference for USC’s quarterbacks is on third down. In their past five games, they have converted a first down on 32 percent of their passing plays (pass attempts + sacks) and have a 54.1 Total QBR on third down. In comparison, they converted 22 percent of their passing plays and had an 11.1 third-down Total QBR in the first five games of the season.

USC’s quarterbacks will be challenged on Saturday against Stanford’s stout defense. The Cardinal rank seventh in adjusted defensive efficiency and are coming off of a game in which they held Oregon’s Marcus Mariota to a season-low 46.5 Total QBR.

What's wrong with the Stanford offense?

October, 16, 2013
10/16/13
6:45
PM ET
Stanford scored a season-low two offensive touchdowns in its 27-21 loss to Utah. It was the second straight week that the Cardinal set a new season low for offensive touchdowns. They have had nine three-and-out drives in their last two games, matching their total from their 4-0 start.

With the Cardinal taking on No. 9 UCLA, we take a look at what is wrong with their offense.

Stanford’s offense posted minus-0.9 expected points toward its scoring margin in its loss at Utah and minus-2.0 in its 31-28 win against Washington the previous week. (Expected points added are defined as the difference between the number of points a team scores in comparison to the points an average offense is expected to score given the same circumstances, such as number of drives, down and distance, field position, etc.) With a minus-2.9 EPA in those two games combined, it marks the first time the Cardinal have had a negative EPA in back-to-back games since David Shaw became the head coach in 2011.

This is the same Stanford offense that averaged 41 points and had a plus-12.5 EPA in its 4-0 start.

Where is Stanford struggling on offense?

Running game
One difference has been the running game. In their first four games, the Cardinal averaged 218 rushing yards and 5.3 yards per carry. They gained 41 percent of their rush yards after contact.

In the last two games, Stanford has averaged 161 rushing yards and 4.6 yards per carry. The Cardinal gained 27 percent of those rushing yards after contact, the second-lowest percentage by a Pac-12 team in the last two weeks, behind Oregon State (25 percent). They had season lows in rushing yards, yards after contact and runs of 10 yards or more in the loss at Utah.

On average, the Cardinal faced 7.5 defenders in the box on their running plays in the last two games. There were 32 runs on which the defense had eight or more defenders in the box. That is more such plays than eight Pac-12 teams have faced all season.

Secondary target
Ty Montgomery leads Stanford in receptions (31), receiving yards (514) and touchdowns receptions (5) this season. In the last two games, he has accounted for 54 percent of Stanford’s receiving yards but only 36 percent of its targets. During that stretch, Kevin Hogan is averaging 11 yards per attempt when targeting Montgomery and 5.3 when targeting any other player.

During Stanford’s 4-0 start, Hogan averaged 8.6 yards per attempt when targeting any player other than Montgomery, and he completed 60 percent of such attempts.

Looking ahead
Hogan will face UCLA for the third time in his career. In his previous two games (both wins), Hogan targeted his tight ends on 41 percent of his passes and his running backs on 27 percent. He averaged more than 8 yards per attempt throwing to both.

This season, Hogan has thrown a total of nine passes to his tight ends (7 percent of his targets) and 18 to his running backs (13 percent of his targets). He has 54 fewer yards targeting tight ends and running backs this season than he had in his two games against UCLA.

If he can find another target, it could go a long way toward Hogan continuing his success against UCLA.

Special teams carry the day for Stanford

October, 8, 2013
10/08/13
5:30
PM ET

Stephen Lam/Getty ImagesTy Montgomery returning the opening kickoff 99 yards for a score vs Washington Saturday.
Week 6 featured several exciting games. Georgia needed overtime and a fumble in the end zone to beat Tennessee, Ohio State came back from a 10-point second-half deficit to defeat Northwestern, and Jameis Winston continued his brilliance in his first game against a ranked opponent.

With the help of ESPN’s new college football metrics (see explanations here), ESPN Stats & Information looks back on Week 6 and ahead to this weekend’s matchup between Oregon and Washington.

We first look at how Stanford's special teams were the difference in its three-point win against Washington.

The Cardinal posted a +15.3 special teams EPA (expected points added is the contribution of each unit to team’s net points in a game) Saturday, the highest for any team in a game this season.

They returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and made their only field goal attempt. Additionally, Ben Rhyne punted six times for a career-high net average of 42 yards.

As a result, the Huskies’ average drive start was their own-23 yardline, almost 15 yards farther than the Cardinal’s average drive start. It was Washington’s worst starting field position differential of the season.

With a -2 and a -10.2 offensive and defensive EPA, respectively, Stanford would have lost to Washington by about 12 points if the Cardinal had an “average” special teams unit.

Best Individual Performances
Bryce Petty (97.1 Total QBR) has now posted a Total QBR of at least 90 in each of Baylor's first four games. Petty threw for 342 yards in the first half against West Virginia, as Baylor scored an FBS-high 56 points before halftime for the second time this season.

AJ McCarron (97.0 Total QBR) matched his career high with four touchdowns against Georgia State, all coming in the first half. McCarron only had one incompletion on 16 passes and led the Crimson Tide to touchdowns on all five of the drives that he quarterbacked.

Derek Carr (97.0 Total QBR) threw for 390 yards in the first half against Idaho, the most passing yards in a half by an FBS quarterback during the last two seasons. Carr threw five touchdowns, extending his FBS-leading streak of 25 games with a touchdown pass.

Connor Shaw (96.2 Total QBR) posted a Total QBR of at least 90 for the first time this season, despite playing with a shoulder injury that knocked him out of the UCF game the previous week. Shaw completed 17-of-20 (85 percent) passes against Kentucky, his third-highest completion percentage in 25 career starts.

For a full list of Total QBR leaders for the season and Week 6, click here.

Best Team Performances
Offense: Baylor. In a 73-42 rout of West Virginia, the Bears added 40.6 expected points on offense, which means if Baylor had an average offense, it would have actually lost by almost 10 points.

The Bears’ output was the most offensive expected points added in a single game against any FBS opponent this season. Baylor now holds the top two offensive EPA performance against an FBS opponent this season.

Defense: Texas Tech. The Red Raiders defense added 31.3 expected points on defense in a 38-point victory over Kansas. Texas Tech forced four fumbles (three lost), sacked the Jayhawks four times and held them to 3-for-16 on third downs.

Looking ahead to Week 7
Oregon is traveling north to face Washington. In addition to hosting the Ducks, the Huskies will also host College GameDay.

Oregon, primarily known for its offense, has added the most expected points on defense among FBS schools (99.7). Opposing quarterbacks have a Total QBR of 23.3 against the Ducks this season, sixth lowest in the FBS.

Washington quarterback Keith Price has a Total QBR of 73.5 this season, up from 40.9 in 2012. Price will look to continue his improvement against an Oregon team that held him to a career-worst 10.1 Total QBR last season.

In the next week, ESPN Stats & Information will be releasing two new team ratings: the Championship Drive Rating and the Football Power Index (FPI). You will find an explanation of these ratings here.

The Championship Drive Rating will attempt to answer the question, “which teams deserve to be in the playoff based on what they have accomplished this season?” by focusing more on their résumé than who would win head-to-head.

The Football Power Index looks to answer the question, “if two teams were to meet at a neutral site, who has the advantage?” This metric is based on all facets of the team and adjusting it for the strength of its opponents.

QB play could determine Pac-12 battle

October, 4, 2013
10/04/13
2:15
PM ET

USA TODAY Sports, Getty ImagesQuarterbacks Kevin Hogan (left) and Keith Price will be the focus Saturday night in Palo Alto.
Stanford will have revenge on its mind Saturday against Washington (10:30 p.m. ET/ESPN) since the Huskies dealt the Cardinal their only Pac-12 loss last season.

The focus on this year’s game will be on the quarterbacks as Stanford’s Kevin Hogan leads a much improved downfield passing game while Washington’s Keith Price has been getting better protection in the pocket.

Here’s a breakdown of both quarterbacks.

Kevin Hogan
Hogan would be hard-pressed to improve his team’s record. Since he took over the starting job last season against Oregon State, the Cardinal are 9-0.

That hasn’t been enough -- yet -- to earn Hogan regard among elite quarterbacks in the country, but it might soon be hard to leave him out.

First there are the statistical improvements. Stanford’s completion percentage, yards per passing attempt and third-down conversion rate through the air have all been boosted.

But the most impressive part might be the slate of opponents he’s run through. Five ranked opponents in those nine games (5-0 record), and that doesn’t even count Stanford’s Rose Bowl opponent last year, the Wisconsin Badgers, who weren’t ranked for that game.

Hogan has been superb against that tougher competition, posting a well-above-average QBR (at least 69 in each game, with a QBR of 50 considered average) except for the win against Oregon.

Keith Price
Through five weeks, Price has a Total QBR of 81.2, which is 40.3 points higher than last season. Price has the highest completion percentage in the Pac-12 and is one of four qualified quarterbacks in the FBS to improve their Total QBR from 2012 by more than 40 points.

One reason for Price’s improved numbers rests on the health of his offensive line. After injuries forced Washington’s projected starters to miss a combined 40 starts last season, the same unit has started every game together in 2013.

With continuity on the offensive line, Price has been sacked only three times this season, after taking 37 sacks in 2012, sixth most in the FBS.

Price has been under pressure (hurried, knocked down or sacked) 25 times in four games this season. In 2012, Price was pressured 114 times in 13 games, third most among AQ conference quarterbacks.

With the better protection, opponents are not getting to Price when they blitz, and he has been able to take advantage. Price has completed 82.1 percent of his passes against the blitz this season, the highest percentage among AQ quarterbacks (minimum 20 attempts).

The Huskies’ line has a tough test this week against Stanford, which has one of the nation’s best defensive units.

The Cardinal lead the nation in sacks (66) and percentage of rushes that gained zero or negative yards (33.7 percent) since the start of last season. They have 196 total pressures during that time, most among AQ defenses, and have had at least seven pressures in every conference game.

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