Stats & Info: NCF

Perine breaks a not-so-long-standing record

November, 22, 2014
Nov 22
Melvin Gordon’s single-game FBS rushing-yards record lasted one week.Oklahoma freshman Samaje Perine broke that mark by rushing for 427 yards and five touchdowns in the Sooners’ 44-7 rout of Kansas.

Gordon had set the record with 408 yards on Nov. 15 against Nebraska. The man whose record Gordon broke, LaDainian Tomlinson, had held the record for 5,474 days.

Perine’s progression through the record books went like this …

First he broke Greg Pruitt’s 43-year-old school record for rushing yards in a single game with 294. Next was the Big 12 record (378), set by Troy Davis of Iowa State against Missouri in 1996.

Then came the freshman record of 386 yards, set by Marshall Faulk of San Diego State against Pacific in 1991.

Last, but certainly not least, was Gordon’s mark.

This marked the second time that the FBS record was broken twice in the same season. The last instance was in 1991, when Faulk rushed for 386 and Tony Sands of Kansas topped that with 396 yards against Missouri.

Perine also became the first FBS player to rush for more than 200 yards in both halves.

Stat of the day: yards in big chunks
Perine had eight 20-yard runs for the game, one more than Gordon.

Perine had more 20-yard rushes on Saturday (eight) than 19 FBS teams have had all season.


Top stats to know: Heisman contenders

November, 18, 2014
Nov 18

Scott Olmos/USA Today SportsAgainst the blitz and on deep balls, Marcus Mariota is among the best.
The competition for the Heisman Trophy might be down to two junior offensive stars: Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon and Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. We take you inside their numbers, providing context and perspective to their accomplishments.

That’s a lot of yards: Gordon set the FBS single-game record with 408 rushing yards against Nebraska. Penn State (388), Washington State (316) and Wake Forest (173) all have fewer than 400 rushing yards this season in conference play. Gordon had six rushes in the game that gained at least 35 yards, which is more than 85 FBS teams have had for the entire season.

Sanders’ record in trouble? Gordon leads the FBS in rushing yards (1,909). If he stays on his current pace (190.9 rushing YPG) and Wisconsin makes it to the Big Ten Championship, Gordon would break Barry Sanders’ record for most rushing yards in a season, set in 1988 when Sanders won the Heisman. To be fair, Sanders set the record in 11 games and Gordon is on pace to do it in his 14th game.

The undisputed yards-per-rush king: With his 16.3 yards-per-rush average on 25 carries against Nebraska, Gordon set the FBS record for most yards per rush in a game with 25 or more carries. For the season, he is averaging 8.6 yards per rush, on pace to break the FBS record for yards per rush in a season (7.8) with at least 215 attempts set in 1983 by Heisman winner Mike Rozier. For his career, Gordon is averaging 8.29 yards per carry, on pace to break the career yards-per-rush average record (8.26) set by Army’s Heisman winner Glenn Davis from 1943-46.

The new “Mr. Outside”: Davis was known as “Mr. Outside” during his days at Army. Gordon might be the modern-day version. He is averaging a Power 5-high 10.9 yards per carry outside the tackles this season and has 19 such runs that gained 20 yards or more. No other FBS player has more than 16 total 20-yard rushes.

Teams should try the Leathernecks’ blueprint: Gordon has run for at least 100 rushing yards in nine of 10 games this season, including his last eight, the longest active streak in the FBS. The one team to hold Gordon to fewer than 100 yards was Western Illinois, which currently ranks 41st in the FCS in opponent yards per rush and 35th in yards per game.

A touchdown machine:
Mariota has been responsible for 38 touchdowns this season, tied with Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett for most in the FBS. Mariota has been responsible for four or more touchdowns in an FBS-high seven games.

If he has four touchdowns Saturday against Colorado, Mariota will move past USC’s Matt Barkley, who was responsible for 41 touchdowns in 2011, for the Pac-12 record. He would also be two shy of Barkley’s career record of 122. We should mention that Mariota was responsible for a career-high seven touchdowns against Colorado last season, which tied the Pac-12 record for a regulation game.

Keeping good company: Mariota leads the FBS in Total QBR (90.9) this season after ranking second in each of the previous two seasons. Since 2007, every player who has led the nation in Total QBR is either a Heisman winner or a current starting NFL quarterback.

Mariota has an FBS-high seven games this season with a Total QBR of at least 90, and no player in our QBR data set (since 2004) has had more such games in his career than Mariota.

Good things happen when he passes: Mariota leads the nation in yards per attempt (10.0) this season and ranks second in touchdown percentage (11 percent) and interception percentage (1 percent).

Blitzing is a bad idea: On plays with five or more pass rushers, Mariota is completing 72.6 percent of his passes, the highest for a Power 5 quarterback with at least 40 attempts. For his career, he has 25 touchdowns and three interceptions in such situations.

One of the best deep balls in the nation: Marcus Mariota is completing 53.7 percent of his passes thrown 15 yards or longer, second-best among Power 5 quarterbacks this season behind Clemson’s Deshaun Watson and 16 percentage points higher than the Power 5 average.

Inside Zach Terrell’s impressive day

November, 18, 2014
Nov 18
Who is Zach Terrell?
He is a 6-foot-1, two-star quarterback for Western Michigan who just posted one of the most efficient single-game quarterback performances in last 10 seasons.

On Saturday against Eastern Michigan, Terrell completed 17-of-19 passes for 357 yards (18.8 yards per attempt) and four touchdowns. He also ran for a touchdown and 41 yards on six rush attempts.

Terrell’s first incompletion did not come until the Broncos were leading 41-0, and he became the sixth player this season to account for five or more touchdowns before halftime. Overall, the Broncos scored a touchdown on all six of their offensive drives in the first half, marking the fifth time this season that an offense had a perfect first-half touchdown percentage.

If you are looking for one blemish, Terrell converted ONLY seven of eight third downs. In the third quarter, with Western Michigan leading by 48 points, Terrell ran for eight yards on third and 10.

Based off these impressive numbers, Terrell posted a 99.94 Total QBR, the third-highest single-game mark in the last 10 seasons (min. 20 action plays). The two quarterbacks who posted higher single-game numbers are in the NFL.

This is not one lucky game. Terrell ranks 12th in the FBS in Total QBR, the highest ranking of any Group of 5 quarterback. Before accounting for the competition faced, only Marcus Mariota has a higher raw QBR than Terrell. He has posted a Total QBR of 70 or more in five straight games, tied for the second-longest streak the FBS, and has already led Western Michigan (7-3) to six more wins than it had last season.

As we look back on Week 12, there is no doubt we will remember the impressive rushing performances; three players ran for at least 300 yards, including Melvin Gordon’s record-breaking 408 yards.

In Kalamazoo, Michigan, however, there is one quarterback performance worth noting that may not be matched for years.

Conference races gaining clarity

November, 18, 2014
Nov 18

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.

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.

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.

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.

This week's conference clinching scenarios

November, 17, 2014
Nov 17
With the college football season entering the homestretch, here is a look at the potential conference clinching scenarios that can take place this week.

(Note: There could still be co-champs in the various divisions. These scenarios simply specify who will play in conference championship games unless otherwise noted)

American Athletic
Memphis clinches co-championship with a win AND losses by both Cincinnati & UCF

ACC Atlantic
Florida State has clinched

ACC Coastal
Georgia Tech clinches with a Duke loss

Big Ten East
Ohio State clinches with a win OR a Michigan State loss

Big Ten West
Wisconsin clinches with a win AND a Minnesota loss

Conference USA East
Marshall has clinched

Conference USA West
Louisiana Tech clinches with a win OR a Rice loss

MAC East
Bowling Green has clinched

Mountain West (West)
Nevada clinches with a win AND a San Diego State loss

Pac-12 North
Oregon has clinched

Pac-12 South
USC clinches with a win AND an Arizona State loss

SEC East
Georgia clinches with a Missouri loss

SEC West
Alabama clinches with losses by Mississippi State AND Ole Miss

Sun Belt
Georgia Southern clinches co-championship with a Louisiana-Lafayette loss
(Georgia Southern is idle)


Top stats to know: Seminoles rally again

November, 16, 2014
Nov 16

Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY SportsJameis Winston used his second-half magic to lead the Seminoles to another come-from-behind win.

Florida State used yet another second-half rally to win its 26th straight game, 30-26 over the Miami Hurricanes. Here’s how the latest second-half reversal played out for the Seminoles Saturday night.

* Florida State trailed at halftime for the sixth time in its past 11 games dating to last season’s BCS title game. The Seminoles did not trail at halftime in the first 15 games of their current 26-game winning streak.

* The Seminoles won their third game this season in which they trailed by at least 15 points, something no other FBS school has done more than once. Florida State is the first team since the 2005 UCLA Bruins to win three games in a season when trailing by at least 15 points at any point during the game.

* Jameis Winston once again became a different quarterback in the second half of the game. Winston threw for 184 yards and a touchdown in the second half as the Seminoles outscored the Hurricanes 20-3. The second-half Houdini act is nothing new to Winston. In the five games his team has trailed in the second half, he’s completed 70 percent of his passes after halftime, with 8 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.

* Brad Kaaya was the star of the first half, throwing for 240 yards and 2 touchdowns as Miami jumped out to a 23-10 halftime lead. However, Kaaya threw for only 76 yards in the second half with no touchdowns and an interception as Miami failed to score a touchdown. The difference was the way Miami handled Florida State’s blitz. After Kaaya went 5-of-6 for 150 yards and 2 touchdowns against the blitz in the first half, he was just 1-for-6 for 9 yards in the second half when Florida State dialed up the pressure.

* The Seminoles have won five in a row over the Hurricanes for the first time since 1995-99, a stretch in which Florida State finished each season ranked in the top four of the AP poll, including a national championship in 1999.

Top stats to know: Tide contain Bulldogs

November, 15, 2014
Nov 15

John David Mercer-USA TODAY SportsAlabama's two red zone interceptions in the second half were crucial in the Tide's win over Mississippi State.

Alabama delivered a major shakeup to the College Football Playoff picture with its 25-20 win against Mississippi State on Saturday. Here’s what you need to know about the Bulldogs’ worst offensive game of the season.

• Dak Prescott had accounted for an SEC-high 30 touchdowns entering Week 12, including 11 touchdowns in three games against ranked opponents. Against the Tide, who led the country in touchdowns allowed, Prescott was held to fewer than three touchdowns for the second time in his last 11 games.

• Prescott especially struggled throwing the ball downfield on Saturday. He completed 3-of-11 passes with no touchdowns and two interceptions on passes thrown 15 yards or longer downfield. Those are his most incompletions and interceptions on such passes in a game in his career.

• Mississippi State reached the red zone on six of its final seven drives, but Prescott threw as many interceptions in the red zone (two) against Alabama on Saturday as he had in his previous 31 games combined (16 starts). Entering the game, Prescott had 19 touchdowns and two interceptions in his career in the red zone.

• Josh Robinson was held to 37 rushing yards and a season-low 16 yards after contact (1.3 YAC per rush). Entering the game, Robinson ranked second in the SEC in yards after contact (530) and yards after contact per rush (3.6).

• All season, Mississippi State did its work between the tackles. However, Alabama limited the Bulldogs to 75 yards on 24 runs inside the tackles, including 31 yards after contact. Entering the game, Mississippi State led all Power 5 teams in yards per game, yards per rush and yards after contact on runs between the tackles.

Top stats to know: Gordon rushes to record

November, 15, 2014
Nov 15

Jeff Hanisch/USA Today SportsMelvin Gordon broke the FBS record for rushing yards in a game. LaDainian Tomlinson had held the record.

Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon didn’t touch the ball once in the final quarter, but that didn’t stop him from setting the FBS single-game rushing record with 408 yards against Nebraska on Saturday. Here are the top stats to know on Gordon’s record-setting day.

* Melvin Gordon’s 408 yards eclipsed the FBS record set by TCU’s LaDainian Tomlinson in 1999 against UTEP, when he ran for 406 yards on 43 carries. Gordon eclipsed the record on 25 carries. No other rusher in the top five on the single-game rushing list had fewer than 37 carries on their big day.

* Gordon finished with 16.3 yards per carry, the FBS record for a rusher with at least 25 carries in a game. The record was held by Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey, who had 14.6 yards per rush against Colorado in 2012. Carey had 366 yards on 25 carries that day.

* Gordon shredded Nebraska every time he got outside the tackles Saturday. He ran for 262 yards on nine rushes outside the tackles, an average of 29.1 yards per carry, and six of his nine attempts went for 25 yards or more. He also had 72 yards after contact when he got outside the tackles.

* Gordon’s record means the Badgers have their imprint all over the FBS rushing records. Ron Dayne is the all-time leading rusher in FBS history with 6,397 yards, and Montee Ball’s 77 rushing touchdowns are most all-time by an FBS player.

* Just how impressive was Gordon’s day? Wake Forest has played 10 games this season and has rushed 317 times for 341 yards.

Top stats to know: Saturday's key games

November, 14, 2014
Nov 14
No. 1 Mississippi State at No. 5 Alabama, 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday
FPI projection: Alabama with 74 percent chance to win

Matchup to watch: Amari Cooper vs. Mississippi State secondary

Cooper ranks second in the FBS in receiving yards (1,215) and leads the nation with 22 receptions of 20 yards or more. He has been responsible for an FBS-high 48 percent of the Crimson Tide’s receiving yards. He will face a Mississippi State defense that has allowed 35 completions of 20 yards or more, tied for the most in the SEC.

However, the Bulldogs have the nation’s best red zone defense, with opponents scoring a touchdown on 32 percent of their possessions. This is an area where Cooper has struggled. He has been targeted 15 times in the red zone, resulting in six receptions (40 percent completion rate) and two touchdowns (13 percent). The FBS averages in the red zone are 52.9 percent and 25 percent, respectively.

Player to watch: Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott. Prescott has been responsible for an SEC-high 30 touchdowns this season. On third down, he leads the FBS with nine passing touchdowns and is tied for second with five rushing touchdowns.

Stat to know: Alabama 194, opponents 33. That is the cumulative score of Alabama’s four home games this season (plus-40.3 PPG margin).

Alabama outgained Texas A&M by 430 yards in its previous home game. It was the FBS-best third time this season (all at home) that Alabama has outgained its opponent by at least 425 yards. Only Baylor, which achieved it last season, has had more in a season since 2004.

No. 9 Auburn at No. 15 Georgia, 7:15 p.m. ET Saturday
FPI projection: Auburn with 50.03 percent chance to win

Matchup to watch: Auburn's rushing offense outside the tackles vs. Georgia's rushing defense

On runs outside the tackles this season, Auburn leads the SEC in yards per game (149.1) and runs of 10 yards or more (49), and is tied for the lead in touchdowns (13). Georgia has allowed 6 yards per carry on such runs, third-worst in the SEC. In their two losses, the Bulldogs allowed a combined 392 rushing yards outside the tackles, 28 more than they allowed in their seven wins.

Player to watch: Georgia's Todd Gurley. The running back is returning from a four-game suspension for violating NCAA rules regarding signing autographs for payment. He is averaging an SEC-high 8.2 yards per rush, and is on pace to be the third SEC player to average more than 8 yards per rush in a season with at least 100 carries. The others are Arkansas’ Felix Jones (8.7) in 2007 and Auburn’s Brent Fullwood (8.3) in 1986. Gurley is averaging 4.0 yards after contact per rush, the most by any Power 5 running back with at least 60 rushes.

Stat to know: Auburn has allowed an SEC-high 35 points off turnovers in its past four games, going 2-2. During their 5-0 start, the Tigers did not allow any points off turnovers.

No. 8 Ohio State at No. 25 Minnesota, noon Saturday
FPI projection: Ohio State with 80 percent chance to win

Matchup to watch: Ohio State's zone-read game vs. Minnesota's rushing defense

Ohio State leads the Big Ten in yards (1,166), touchdowns (12) and runs of 10 yards or more (42) on zone-read plays. The Buckeyes average 5.9 yards per carry on such plays, including 7.3 when quarterback J.T. Barrett keeps it.

Minnesota has allowed a Big Ten-high 6.3 yards per rush on zone-read plays, including seven runs of 20 yards or more. Only Texas A&M has allowed more such runs (nine) among Power 5 schools. And Minnesota has faced only one of the conference’s top 5 zone-read rushing offenses. That team, Purdue, ran for 249 yards and 11.3 yards per rush on zone-read carries against the Gophers.

Player to watch: Ohio State's J.T. Barrett. He will be playing his 10th career game on Saturday and already sits atop an impressive list of statistics. He is responsible for 34 touchdowns in nine games, most by an FBS player who debuted in the past 10 seasons, through their first 10 career games. Those 34 touchdowns are also more than twice as many as either Braxton Miller (15) or Terrelle Pryor (14) had in their first 10 games with the Buckeyes and the most by anyone in the past 10 seasons (one more than Johnny Manziel).

Stat to know: Ohio State has won 36 of its past 38 games against Minnesota, including 12 straight on the road and eight straight overall. The combined score of their past five matchups: Ohio State 198, Minnesota 45.

No. 16 Nebraska at No. 20 Wisconsin, 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday
FPI projection: Wisconsin with 64 percent chance to win

Matchup to watch: Nebraska's rushing offense vs. Wisconsin's rushing defense

Nebraska is averaging 280.7 rushing yards per game, second-most in the Big Ten (behind Wisconsin). The only time the Cornhuskers were held to fewer than 100 rushing yards this season (47 against Michigan State), they lost. On the other hand, Wisconsin is 6-0 when it allows fewer than 100 rushing yards, and 1-2 when it does not.

Player to watch: Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon. He leads the FBS with 166.8 rushing yards per game this season, including seven straight 100-yard games, the longest active FBS streak. He has averaged 7.9 yards per rush in his career, on pace to break the FBS record for a player with at least 400 career rushes, set by 1983 Nebraska Heisman Trophy winner Mike Rozier (7.2).

Stat to know: If Nebraska wins, it will be the seventh time in seven seasons under coach Bo Pelini that Nebraska has won nine or more games. Only Oregon has a longer such streak.

No. 19 Clemson at No. 22 Georgia Tech, noon Saturday
FPI projection: Georgia Tech with 51 percent chance to win

Matchup to watch: Quarterback Deshaun Watson vs. Georgia Tech's secondary

Watson is starting after missing Clemson’s past three games with a hand injury. He is completing 56.8 percent of his passes thrown 15 yards or longer, best of any Power 5 player. On such throws, he is tied for the ACC lead in touchdowns (nine) and is tied for second in completions (25).

Georgia Tech has allowed opponents to complete 43.4 percent of their passes thrown 15 yards or longer, second-worst in the ACC. The only ACC defense that is worse is North Carolina, a team Watson had five touchdowns against on throws of 15-plus yards.

Player to watch: Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas. Thomas leads the ACC and ranks sixth in FBS in Total QBR (82.5), and is one of five FBS players who are leading their teams in both passing and rushing yards this season.

Stat to know: Georgia Tech has the fewest three-and-out drives (eight) in the FBS this season. The Yellow Jackets are converting an FBS-best 59 percent of their third-down attempts.


Top RBs square off in Madison

November, 13, 2014
Nov 13

USA Today SportsWisconsin's Melvin Gordon and Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah are two of the top RBs in the nation.
When Nebraska faces Wisconsin in Madison on Saturday, two of the top three active FBS leaders in rushing yards, Ameer Abdullah and Melvin Gordon, will square off.

Nebraska is hopeful that this matchup will occur, as it is in some jeopardy. Abdullah suffered an MCL sprain to his left knee on Nebraska’s second drive in its 35-14 win against Purdue.

If Abdullah can play, it should be an exciting matchup of two Heisman candidates. Here is a deeper look at each player and how they excel on the field.

Ameer Abdullah
Since becoming the primary running back last season after Rex Burkhead moved on to the NFL, Abdullah has had an FBS-high 17 100-yard rushing games and has not been held to fewer than 100 yards in consecutive games.

In fact, in that time, he has the same number of games with more than 200 yards (five) as he has games with fewer than 100, and that includes the Purdue game in which he had six carries before leaving with an injury.

Abdullah is one of the most versatile backs in the nation. Since the start of last season, he has the second-most rushing yards (1,429) inside the tackles among Power 5 players behind Minnesota’s David Cobb and the second-most (1,511) outside the tackles behind Gordon.

This season, he is one of five Power 5 players who have gained at least 500 yards in both directions.

He can also make plays in the passing game, highlighted by his game-winning 58-yard touchdown reception against McNeese State. Abdullah entered the Purdue game with 19 touchdowns from scrimmage this season, tied for the most in the FBS with Western Michigan’s Jarvion Franklin. He has since dropped to a tie for third.

Melvin Gordon
Gordon is having a Heisman-worthy season. He leads the FBS with 166.8 rushing yards per game, including seven straight 100-yard games, the longest active FBS streak.

What sets Gordon apart is his breakaway speed and the ability to make big plays. He has averaged 7.9 yards per rush during his career, on pace to break the FBS record for a player with at least 400 career rushes, set by Nebraska’s Heisman winner Mike Rozier (7.2).

Gordon has 10 runs of 40 yards or more this season, including four touchdowns. The only player in the last 10 seasons with more such runs in a season is California’s Jahvid Best in 2008 with 11. Only Oregon’s LaMichael James and Northern Illinois’ Garrett Wolfe have more (22) in a career than Gordon (20).

Like Abdullah, Gordon can make big plays inside and outside. He leads all Power 5 running backs in rushing yards outside the tackles and has the most touchdowns inside the tackles.

Gordon has accomplished this against defenses designed to stop him. Gordon has had 83 rushes with eight or more defenders in the box this season, third-most among Power 5 running backs. On such plays, he leads all Power 5 players in yards per rush (8.4), yards (695) and runs of 20 yards or more (10), and is tied for third in touchdowns (10).


Chubb great; what does Gurley bring back?

November, 13, 2014
Nov 13
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesTodd Gurley can make a big impact in his return.
Nick Chubb has done an admirable job stepping in for the suspended Todd Gurley in Georgia’s last four games. In his time as the starter, Chubb was 10th in the FBS in rushes per game (25.5), fourth in rush yards per game (167.8) and tied for fifth in rushes of at least 10 yards (17). He has rushed for at least 140 yards in each game.

As good as Chubb has been, the numbers appear to show that Gurley has been better. Regardless, perhaps the most important thing for the Bulldogs is that they have both of them available heading into Georgia’s final SEC game, Saturday against Auburn.

During Gurley’s absence, Chubb has been responsible for 61 percent of the Bulldogs’ rushes and 78 percent of their rush yards, both highest in the SEC since Week 7. Georgia posted a 3-1 record during that time. The loss was against Florida, when all Chubb did was run for 156 yards and average 7.4 yards per carry.

With Gurley as its starter, Georgia averaged 288.8 rush yards per game (second in the SEC), which is almost 75 more than with Chubb as starter. In the first six weeks of the season, Gurley led the SEC and ranked in the top 3 of the FBS in most statistical rushing categories.

Gurley, who ranks third on Georgia’s all-time career rushing list behind Herschel Walker and Garrison Hearst, brings different dimensions to Georgia’s rushing attack: the ability to break free at any point and sheer physicality.

He showcased his breakaway speed in the season opener against Clemson, totaling 293 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns (three rushing, one on a kick return). Gurley became the fourth player in the last 10 seasons to have at least three rushing touchdowns and one kickoff return touchdown in a game. His 198 rush yards against Clemson are even more impressive considering the Tigers have not allowed more than 80 rush yards to any other player this season.

Gurley averaged 4.0 yards after contact per rush before his suspension, most among Power 5 running backs (min. 40 rushes). Gurley had nine runs in which he gained at least 10 yards after contact, which is still tied for the most among Power 5 running backs despite his absence the last month.

His ability to make something out of nothing is what sets Gurley apart. Gurley has been hit at or behind the line of scrimmage on 25 rushes but still gained 4.0 yards per rush in those situations, compared with 1.0 yards per rush for Chubb on 46 such rushes. The Power 5 average for such runs is 0.5 yards per rush. Gurley lost yards in those situations on 7-of-25 rushes (28 percent), 11 percentage points better than Chubb.

Gurley rejoins the Bulldogs for a pivotal matchup against Auburn. Although Georgia trails Missouri in the SEC East standings, FPI projects that Georgia has a 60 percent chance to win the division. If Georgia makes it to the SEC Championship Game, who knows what the Bulldogs can accomplish with the dynamic running back duo of Chubb and Gurley?


Key matchup: Prescott vs Alabama 'D'

November, 12, 2014
Nov 12
Butch Dill/Getty ImagesDak Prescott has eluded defenses all season.
There will be a lot to gain when Mississippi State travels to Tuscaloosa. If Alabama wins, it can win the SEC West without depending on a loss from another team. If Mississippi State wins, it would then need only to win one of its final two games to take the division. FPI projects that Mississippi State currently has a 98 percent chance to win either of those games (vs. Vanderbilt and at Ole Miss).

Probably the most intriguing matchup in the game is Dak Prescott, one of the top two players in ESPN’s latest Heisman Watch, against an Alabama defense that ranks third in defensive efficiency.

The Tide are the only FBS team that has held each of its opponents to fewer than 25 points this season. In comparison, Mississippi State has scored at least 34 points in eight of its nine games, and Prescott has accounted for at least three touchdowns in all eight of those games.

The only game that Mississippi State’s offense was stymied was a 17-10 win against Arkansas on Nov. 1, a game played a week after Prescott was seen wearing a walking boot on his left foot.

This is a matchup of strengths. Prescott has accounted for an SEC-high 30 touchdowns, 19 more than Alabama’s defense has allowed in nine games. Alabama’s FBS-low 11 touchdowns allowed are as many as Prescott has accounted for in three games against ranked opponents.

Below is a breakdown of specific areas where Prescott and Alabama will be tested.

When Prescott runs
Running against Alabama is a tough proposition. During Nick Saban’s eight-year tenure as coach, Alabama has allowed the fewest rushing yards per game (91.0) and yards per rush (2.9) in the FBS. In that time, the Tide have allowed an FBS-low nine players to rush for at least 100 yards, none of them quarterbacks.

If any quarterback is going to rush for 100 yards against Alabama, it might be Prescott, who has had eight such games since the start of last season, tied for the second-most by an FBS quarterback behind Navy’s Keenan Reynolds. Prescott ranks in the top three among FBS quarterbacks in most rushing categories this season. He is third in yards (779), tied for first in touchdowns (11) and tied for second in first downs (52).

One scenario to watch is when Prescott runs the ball between the tackles. Mississippi State is averaging a Power 5-high 174.3 rush yards per game between the tackles. On such runs, Prescott is second in the SEC in yards (667) and yards per rush (7.6), and he leads the conference with nine touchdowns (minimum 40 rushes).

In comparison, Alabama has allowed an SEC-low 68.4 rush yards per game and two touchdowns between the tackles. Last week, the Tide held LSU to a season-low 3.1 yards per rush up the middle.

Third down
On third down, Prescott has been responsible for an FBS-high 14 touchdowns and is converting a first down on 52 percent of his plays. The FBS average for third-down conversion percentage is 41 percent.

Alabama’s defense ranks eighth in the SEC in third-down conversion percentage (36 percent) but has been a different team at home. At home, the Tide have allowed their opponents to convert 18 percent of their third downs, which leads the FBS. Away from Tuscaloosa, the Tide have allowed a 46 percent third-down conversion percentage, tied for 86th in the FBS.

Big plays
Prescott has an SEC-high 45 plays, including 15 touchdowns, of 20 yards or longer. He has at least three plays of 20-plus yards in every game this season, including 17 against three ranked opponents. Alabama has allowed an SEC-low 25 plays (three touchdowns) of 20 yards or longer. The Tide have held their opponents to fewer than three 20-yards plays in four of nine games.

Alabama’s ability to stop big plays should be a determining factor against Mississippi State. The Bulldogs have gained 47 percent of their total offense on 20-yard plays, which is the highest percentage in the SEC and fifth-highest percentage in the FBS.

Something has to give
Mississippi State and Alabama rank first and second in Strength of Record and Game Control, respectively.

At 9-0, Mississippi State has the best resume in the country, but FPI projects that Alabama is the strongest team in the nation on a neutral field. We will learn a lot about these teams Saturday, but Alabama’s ability to stop Prescott should go a long way toward determining which team has the upper hand in the SEC West.

Breaking down the conference races

November, 10, 2014
Nov 10
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 each 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 with the most likely conference winners.

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, if they get there.

Duke is in the driver’s seat in the Coastal Division, one game ahead in the loss column over Miami and Georgia Tech. The Blue Devils hold the head-to-head tiebreaker versus Georgia Tech, and although they lost to Miami, 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 Baylor’s win against Oklahoma, the Bears' chances 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 chance 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 4 percent chance to win the Big 12 because of its schedule. The Wildcats have to go on the road to face West Virginia and Baylor, but things could get interesting if the Cats beat Baylor in the final week of the season.

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 the 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 at 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 two teams finish with the same record, UCLA owns the head-to-head tiebreaker and would face Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game -- a game the Ducks would have at least a 70 percent chance to win, per FPI.

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. Ohio State not only 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 also 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 prime position to win the division and to likely face Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game.

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 three teams -- Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi State -- have a 15 percent chance or better 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 will 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: OSU tops Michigan State

November, 9, 2014
Nov 9
A 300-yard passer? Check.

A 100-yard rusher? Check.

A 100-yard receiver? Check.

No. 14 Ohio State had all the ingredients for a big offensive game and had no trouble scoring in topping No. 8 Michigan State 49-37.

The 86 points were the most combined points in a matchup between the teams and surpassed the 75 scored in Ohio State's 54-21 win in 1969.

It was the 21st consecutive regular-season, Big Ten win for Ohio State. That's the longest win streak in conference history.

Ohio State got its first win against an AP Top-10 team since the 2011 Sugar Bowl against No. 8 Arkansas.

This was the first time Ohio State had players with 300 passing yards, 100 rushing yards and 100 receiving yards in the same game in nearly eight years. The most recent instance was against Michigan on Nov. 18, 2006.

The 49 points tied the most allowed by the Spartans under head coach Mark Dantonio and matched the 49 scored by Penn State in 2008 and Alabama in 2011.

Ohio State’s 568 total yards was the most allowed by Michigan State since the 2010 Alamo Bowl against Texas Tech.

Key to victory: Ohio State’s rushing attack
Ohio State gained 284 yards on designed runs, the most allowed in a game by Michigan State the past two seasons.

Ezekiel Elliott and J.T. Barrett each ran for 100 yards on designed runs. The Spartans had allowed one 100-yard rusher coming into Saturday (Tevin Coleman, Indiana).

This is the first time Michigan State gave up four or more rushing touchdowns since the 2011 Capital One Bowl against Alabama.

Barrett’s five scores
Barrett threw for three touchdowns and ran for two more.

It was his second game this season with multiple passing touchdowns and multiple rushing touchdowns. Only four other FBS quarterbacks entered the day with multiple such games -- Marcus Mariota, Everett Golson, Nick Marshall and Paxton Lynch.

The most recent player responsible for five touchdowns against Michigan State was Minnesota's Adam Weber in 2009.

Cook can't find Lippett
Spartans quarterback Connor Cook failed to throw a touchdown pass to Tony Lippett, the Big Ten’s leading receiver, for the second time this season.

Cook completed 1-of-5 passes targeting Lippett in the first half. Lippett finished with five catches on 10 targets for 64 yards. That's 47 yards below his season average.


Stats to know: Six ranked CFB games

November, 6, 2014
Nov 6
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.