Stats & Info: Alabama Crimson Tide

Alabama looks to add to first-round legacy

March, 12, 2014
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Alabama leads all schools in total players selected in the NFL draft since 2010 and its 13 1st-round picks over that span are seven more than any other school. The Crimson Tide, who host their Pro Day today, will likely add to that total this season.

What key players will look to show off their skills?

Quarterback, AJ McCarron
McCarron is Alabama’s all-time leader in career completions, passing yards, touchdown passes, and wins as a starting quarterback. His 36 wins trail only David Greene (42) and Peyton Manning (39) for the most in SEC history.

McCarron was 36-4 as a starter at Alabama with all four of his losses coming against opponents ranked in the top 15 of the BCS standings, including two opponents in the top four.

He posted an above-average Total QBR in 37 of 40 career starts, including all 17 of his starts against top-25 opponents.

McCarron will likely show off his nice touch on the deep ball.

Over the last two seasons, McCarron completed 55 percent of his passes thrown 25 yards or longer, the highest completion percentage among quarterbacks from automatic-qualifying conferences. His 53 attempts resulted in 17 touchdowns and no interceptions.

Linebacker, C.J. Mosley
Mosley became the third Alabama player to win the Dick Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker. Each of the previous Tide players to win the award (Derrick Thomas and Rolando McClain) would become first-round NFL draft picks.

Mosley led Alabama in tackles each of the last two seasons. Since 2008, each of the three previous players to lead the Tide in tackles (McClain, Mark Barron and Dont'a Hightower) went on to become first-round NFL draft picks.

Mosley recorded at least 100 tackles in each of the last two seasons, leading the Crimson Tide in tackles in eight of 13 games.

Left Tackle, Cyrus Kouandjio
Kouandjio started all 27 games at left tackle for Alabama the last two seasons. He is the sixth offensive lineman under Nick Saban to be named at least a consensus All-American at Alabama. Each of the five previous players were drafted including first-round picks Andre Smith (Bengals in 2009) and Chance Warmack (Titans in 2013).

The Crimson averaged 6.8 yards per rush when running left last season, including 4.6 yards before contact (they averaged 3.4 yards before contact when running up the middle and 4.0 yards before contact when running right).

Free Safety, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
Clinton-Dix was a consensus All-American and first-team All-SEC for Alabama in 2013.

He looks to become the fifth Alabama defensive back selected in the first round under Nick Saban and the second safety, joining Barron who was taken seventh overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2012.

According to Stats Ice, Alabama’s opponents completed 6-of-23 passes (26 percent) when targeting Clinton–Dix this season, the lowest completion percentage against any AQ player with at least 20 targets.

Did You Know?
Alabama has had 3 players selected in the first round in three straight drafts (only USC 1980-83 and Miami 2001-04 have done that).

Top stats to know: National signing day

February, 4, 2014
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ESPN Stats & InformationAlabama has gotten the players it has wanted under Nick Saban.
ESPNU will cover national signing day wall to wall, with 11 hours of live coverage Wednesday from 8 a.m. ET to 7 p.m. ET and reporters at a dozen different campuses.

There will be 13 live TV announcements from top prospects in the ESPN 300 starting at 8:10 a.m. ET.

Here are some of the top storylines from a statistical perspective:

Alabama will be the best, again
Alabama is in line to sign the No. 1 class in the country for the third straight year. ESPN has given just 15 recruits in the country a five-star rating this year, and five of them are committed to Alabama.

Every draft-eligible top-15 recruit to pick Alabama under coach Nick Saban was eventually selected in the first round of the NFL draft.

Alabama has nine recruits who are ranked in the top three at their position nationally, including both the No. 1 and No. 2 centers. The Crimson Tide have commitments from players ranked first or second in their state from nine different states, including the top two players from the state of Alabama.

Alabama has had the top class since Aug. 14 and has not relinquished that spot in ESPN’s evaluations.

Likewise, the SEC dominates
The SEC enters signing day with seven of the top 10 classes in the country and four of the top five. No conference has ever had four of the top five or seven of the top 10 classes since ESPN began rankings in 2006.

Vanderbilt is the only school in the conference without a top-40 class.

From 2006 to 2013, the SEC signed more than twice as many ESPN 300 recruits as any other conference (416 for SEC and 200 for ACC).

Entering signing day, nine of the 13 committed five-star recruits have committed to SEC schools.

Name to know: Leonard Fournette
The top player in the class of 2014 is running back Leonard Fournette from New Orleans, and he is already committed to LSU.

LSU lost 65 percent of its carries and 64 percent of its rushing yards from last season after several of its running backs, most notably Alfred Blue, Jeremy Hill and J.C. Copeland, declared for the NFL draft.

Fournette is the first No. 1 offensive prospect since Matt Barkley was the top-ranked recruit in the 2009 class.

How important is a top recruiting class?
In the past eight seasons, the team with the top recruiting class averaged about 10 wins in its next season. These teams saw the biggest jump in win total three years after signing the class.

Two of the top classes during that span, Florida in 2006 and Florida State in 2011, won the BCS National Championship three years later.

Nine of Florida State's 11 defensive starters in the BCS National Championship were ESPN 300 recruits, including all three of its defensive line starters who were ranked in the top 20. Additionally, ESPN ranked 2013 Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston as the No. 1 QB in the class of 2012.

Each of the past six national champions had at least one top-five class in the three years before winning the title. Five of the past six national champions had at least two such classes.

The past six champs also had top-25 classes in all three years before winning the national championship.

What does it mean to be a top-300 recruit?
Sixty percent of ESPN 300 top 10 prospects from the 2006 to 2009 classes were taken in the NFL draft.

Notable top-10 recruits who were drafted include Percy Harvin, Matthew Stafford, Eric Berry, Julio Jones, A.J. Green, Patrick Peterson and Dre Kirkpatrick.

Of the ESPN 300 recruits ranked in the top 150 from the 2006 to 2009 classes, 27 percent were selected in the NFL draft. Defensive ends have had the most draft success, with 18 of 53 (34 percent) selected.

Over the past 25 years, the No. 1 recruit according to SuperPrep magazine and ESPN 300 (from 2006 on) was drafted in the first round seven times. Three of the No. 1 recruits were not drafted.

Eight of the 25 players selected to the 2014 Associated Press All-American team were ESPN 300 recruits, including four players ranked in the top 20.

Top stats to know: Oklahoma vs. Alabama

January, 2, 2014
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ESPN.com's Football Power Index (which rates the relative strength of teams) ranks Alabama
well ahead of Oklahoma. Full FPI analysis can be found here
The Allstate Sugar Bowl pits two of the premier programs in the history of the sport. What are the top stats to know in this Oklahoma-Alabama matchup?

1. These are two of the winningest programs in bowl history. Their combined 61 bowl wins are the most by any two teams in a bowl game. Alabama’s 34 are the most of any team.

2. The Alabama defense, even after allowing 393 yards in the loss to Auburn, is one of the stoutest in the country by both traditional and advanced measures. It ranks second in the country in points allowed per drive, percentage of drives ending in a touchdown or field goal, and points per game.

If Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops gets aggressive and goes for it against Alabama on fourth down, watch out. Alabama is allowing just a 22.2 percent conversion rate (4-for-18) on fourth down this season, tied for the best in the FBS.

But there’s an interesting breakdown within that: On fourth-and-4 or longer, opponents are 0-for-10. On fourth-and-3 or shorter, opponents are 4-for-8.

3. The Oklahoma quarterback picture remains in flux. Stoops has said the call between Blake Bell and Trevor Knight will be a game-time decision. Both have been injured at various points during the season, but it was Bell who led the game-winning drive in Oklahoma’s Bedlam rivalry win against Oklahoma State.

Total QBR gives Bell the edge this season (his is 56.7; Knight’s is 46.7), though Knight has been much more effective as a rusher, averaging better than 7 yards per carry.

The Sooners have traditionally been a pass-happy offense under Stoops, but they have a different identity this season.

They’re averaging 235.8 rushing yards per game, the most by any Oklahoma team in the Stoops era. That’s 25 rushing yards more per game than the previous high (208.4 in 2004).

Stoops, by the way, has “hit for the BCS cycle”: He’s reached all four BCS bowls and the BCS National Championship. He is the only coach to do so since the BCS began in 1998.

4. For Alabama’s AJ McCarron, one of the most successful college quarterbacks in history, this will be his final collegiate game. He won’t have a chance for another national championship, but he does have an impressive list of accolades.

• Starting quarterback for national champions in 2011 and 2012 seasons; redshirted during 2009 national championship season

• 36-3 career record as Crimson Tide's starting quarterback (most wins in school history)

• Alabama career leader in passing yards (8,632) and touchdown passes (75)

• Maxwell Award winner, Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award winner, Heisman Trophy runner-up this season

5. The previous time these blue-blood programs met was a home-and-home series in 2002 and 2003. Oklahoma swept the series, winning 37-27 in Norman (Oklahoma was AP No. 2, Alabama was unranked), then 20-13 in Tuscaloosa (Oklahoma was AP No. 1, Alabama was unranked).

Eventual Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jason White threw for 259 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in the 2003 meeting.

The bowl winners will be ...

December, 19, 2013
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With bowl season upon us, we can project the winners of the 35 Football Bowl Subdivision bowl games using the Football Power Index.

FPI is a predictive measure of team strength that uses the elements of team offensive, defensive and special-teams performance (adjusted for opponent) that correlate most with future results.

We can use each team’s FPI and the site of the game (all bowl games are treated as neutral) to calculate the expected point differential in a matchup and the percentage chance of each team winning.

In prior years, FPI has done reasonably well in projecting bowl winners (taking the team with the higher chance as the “winner”), getting about 65 percent of games right since 2004.

There have been some lean years in the past, but FPI has been quite good in the three most recent bowl seasons, accurately projecting 70 percent of winners in those games.

FPI takes into account only a team’s on-field performance to date in the given season. It doesn’t explicitly take into account players who are out with injuries or for other reasons, coaching movement before the bowls or differing levels of motivation that are sometimes thought to exist in bowl games.

In the 2013 regular season, starting with games on Sept. 26, FPI accurately projected 74 percent of winners.

FPI believes there to be a very clear favorite (80 percent or more to win) in four of the five BCS matchups, with Ohio State and Clemson as the most evenly matched BCS opponents.


The projections for all 35 bowl games this season are below. A couple of things that stand out:

The two most-lopsided matchups, according to FPI, involve a Pac-12 team facing a Big 12 opponent from Texas. FPI has Oregon as 91 percent likely to defeat Texas in the Valero Alamo Bowl and Arizona State as 91 percent likely to beat Texas Tech in the National University Holiday Bowl.

The most-even matchup, according to FPI, is Kansas State versus Michigan in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, with the teams separated by a little more than a point in FPI (the Wildcats are 53 percent favorites). The closest “high-profile” bowl game is the AT&T Cotton Bowl between Oklahoma State and Missouri, with the Cowboys 54 percent likely to win, according to FPI.

The Vizio BCS National Championship is the only bowl game with both teams ranked in the top 10 in FPI. Three other games involve two FPI top-20 teams: Wisconsin-South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl; Oklahoma State-Missouri in the Cotton Bowl and Ohio State-Clemson in the Discover Orange Bowl.

BPI Talk: Duke is not a top-25 team

December, 17, 2013
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The Duke Blue Devils came into the season as a preseason Final Four contender, but after losses to Kansas and Arizona and a one-point win over Vermont, the Blue Devils are ranked No. 31 in BPI.

Duke's BPI game score in its six-point loss against Arizona (ranked No. 4 in BPI) was higher than two of its wins (vs East Carolina, vs Vermont). Other than its wins over No. 40 Michigan and No. 63 Alabama, Duke doesn't have any other wins over teams ranked in the top 180.

Duke has the best adjusted offensive efficiency according to KenPom.com, but its adjusted defensive efficiency ranks 101st.

Is Wisconsin the best team in college basketball?
The Wisconsin Badgers rank No. 1 in BPI after starting 12-0 with five wins over top-50 BPI teams -- St. John's, Florida, Saint Louis, West Virginia and Virginia. Their five wins against top-50 teams are the most by any team. Kansas and Davidson are the only other teams that have even faced five top-50 teams.

Wisconsin has the 11th-most difficult schedule according to BPI. Seven of their 12 wins are against top-100 opponents and none of them are against teams outside the top 175.

The Badgers have been successful playing a slow pace (17th-fewest possessions per game). Two of their three worst BPI game scores this season have come in the two games in which they played at the fastest pace (at Green Bay, vs North Dakota).

Michigan State barely cracks the top 25
The Michigan State Spartans, previously ranked No. 1 in the AP Poll, come in at No. 24 in BPI. The Spartans only have one loss, but it was by far their worst BPI game score and it came against their second-best opponent (No. 23 North Carolina).

Why else is Michigan State's BPI lacking? The Spartans have five wins against teams ranked outside the BPI top 100. Three of those wins are by 15 points or fewer, including two by single digits, and one of the five wins is against No. 338 McNeese State. Also, they haven't played a single true road game yet.

Welcome to the top 10, Saint Mary's
The undefeated Saint Mary's Gaels are ranked No. 8 in BPI, and it's not due to any wins over top-notch opponents. The Gaels haven't faced a single top-50 team yet, but five of their eight wins came against top-100 opponents and six of their eight wins are by double digits.

Saint Mary's has performed well against top-100 teams, posting a BPI game score higher than 95 in four of those five wins.

Why isn't Pittsburgh ranked yet?
The Pittsburgh Panthers are ranked No. 9 in BPI but aren't in the top 25 in the AP Poll. The Panthers are 10-0 with each of those 10 wins coming by at least nine points and nine of the wins coming by at least 17 points.

Pitt doesn't have any top-50 wins, but the Panthers do have two wins against teams just outside the top 50 (No. 51 Penn State, No. 55 Stanford). Their three best BPI game scores came against their three best opponents -- Penn State, Stanford and Texas Tech (No. 110).

Pitt is one of seven teams ranked in the top 20 in both adjusted offensive efficiency and adjusted defensive efficiency according to KenPom.com, along with Louisville, Oklahoma State, Arizona, Wisconsin, Kansas and North Carolina.

BPI Rankings

All six finalists have made Heisman case

December, 13, 2013
12/13/13
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Melina Vastola/USA TODAY SportsFlorida State fans have made their pick, but Jameis Winston is just one of six Heisman finalists.
Six Heisman Trophy finalists will head to New York for Saturday’s ceremony, the most that have received invites to the ceremony since 1994, when there were also six. The last time there were more was in 1988, with eight.

Although the favorite entering the ceremony is Florida State QB Jameis Winston, all six have made a solid case for why they are the best player in the country this season.

QB Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois
Although Northern Illinois' bid to be a BCS buster was ended in the MAC championship game, Lynch’s dual-threat ability kept the Huskies in it all season. He had 321 rushing yards against Western Michigan, the most by a quarterback in FBS history, breaking his own record of 316 set earlier in the year against Central Michigan.

Lynch ended the season with 1,881 rushing yards, also an FBS record for a quarterback.

QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Manziel’s bid to join Archie Griffin as the only other multiple Heisman winner saw a transformation of his game. While his 2012 season was built more on his legs, his 2013 campaign saw him develop as a passer.

Manziel added a yard to his yards per attempt (from 8.5 in 2012 to 9.5 in 2013). His touchdown percentage also increased from 6.0 percent in 2012 to 8.4 percent this year. Also in 2013, 63 percent of his completions this season have gone for a first down or a touchdown, compared to 57.6 percent last year.

RB Tre Mason, Auburn
Even after a 1,000-yard rushing season last year, Mason wasn't on the short list of Heisman contenders until he finished the season with five straight 100-yard rushing games, including 304 against Missouri in the SEC championship game, the fifth-highest total all-time in an SEC game.

Mason’s 2,137 all-purpose yards this season broke the Auburn school record, previously held by Bo Jackson. Mason’s 22 rushing TDs this season also set a school record.

QB AJ McCarron, Alabama
This is McCarron’s third season as Alabama’s starting quarterback, and he’s improved every season. His opponent-adjusted QBR was 76.7 in 2011, 81.5 in 2012 and 83.5 this season.

He was even better against SEC competition. In conference games, McCarron had an 86.4 opponent-adjusted QBR, tied for the best in the conference. Fellow Heisman candidate Manziel was third (85.5).

RB Andre Williams, Boston College
This season, Williams became just the 16th player in FBS history to run for at least 2,000 yards in a season, and the first since Donald Brown did so for Connecticut in 2008.

Williams also showed big-play ability. He had 26 runs of at least 20 yards, the most by an FBS player since Kevin Smith had 26 in 2007. His 11 touchdowns on such runs are the most for any player in the last 10 seasons.

QB Jameis Winston, Florida State
Winston is the clubhouse leader for the Heisman, and as the FBS leader in opponent-adjusted QBR (90.9), he has good reason to be. The leader in opponent-adjusted QBR in three of the last six seasons went on to win the Heisman, including Manziel last year.

Winston has also showed a clutch presence on the field throughout the year. On third downs, Winston has a 98.9 Total QBR, leading all FBS quarterbacks. Over the last 10 seasons, the highest third-down Total QBR in a completed season was also 98.9, by Andrew Luck in 2010.

If the four-team playoff started this year …

December, 11, 2013
12/11/13
12:57
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Getty ImagesWhat teams would join Florida State and Auburn if there were a playoff this year?
If there were a four-team playoff this year, the current version of the Championship Drive Ratings would suggest that the four most deserving teams on résumé alone are Stanford, Florida State, Auburn and Michigan State.

Stanford is the highest-rated team in the current version of the Championship Drive Ratings on account of putting together a great performance against a top-five schedule. In the 10 years for which we have play-by-play data, no team with a schedule rated in the top five has done as well -- taking into account wins and average win probability -- as Stanford this year. An average FBS team would have won less than four games against Stanford’s schedule and would have had an average in-game win probability well below the Cardinal’s 72 percent.

If we are specifically interested in rating top teams’ résumés (and we generally are), one potential modification to this method would be to look at things from a top-team perspective rather than an average-team viewpoint. So instead of looking at how an average team would do against these teams’ schedules, how would a team at the 90th percentile -- such as Clemson this season -- do? The below chart helps answer this question.


The expectations rise against each of these team’s schedules, obviously, but now Auburn’s and Florida State’s results look more impressive relative to schedule than Stanford’s résumé. At the same time, going 11-2 against Stanford’s schedule would have been harder even for a top team than going 12-1 against Michigan State's schedule or 11-1 against Alabama's slate.

If you want to go beyond pure résumé and look at how strong the teams actually are, take a look at the Football Power Index top five: Florida State, Oregon, Alabama, Stanford and Baylor. Auburn is eighth, and Michigan State is quite a bit lower.

There is no exact answer here, but if you combine the numbers above with the stated goals of the College Football Playoff committee to value strength of schedule and conference champions, it’s pretty clear that Florida State, Auburn and Stanford -- yes, even with two losses -- should each earn a spot in the playoff. Each of those teams has a very solid résumé from either a top team or an average team perspective, and all three are rated strongly by FPI.

The fourth spot gets a bit trickier. From either the average team or top team perspective, Michigan State’s résumé of wins and losses alone is about as impressive as Alabama’s, and the Spartans have a conference championship that the Tide don’t. On the other hand, FPI shows that Alabama is quite clearly the stronger team, so if you put the résumé criteria aside at that point and just pick the better team, Alabama would be the choice.

BCS bowl games at a glance

December, 8, 2013
12/08/13
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The final BCS standings were released Sunday along with matchups for all of the remaining bowl games. Here are some tidbits to prepare you for the five BCS games.

Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio
4 Michigan State Spartans vs 5 Stanford Cardinal
January 1, 2014, at 5 ET on ESPN

Michigan State: First Rose Bowl appearance since the 1987 season and its first appearance in a BCS bowl. The Spartans have reached a bowl game in all seven seasons under head coach Mark Dantonio after making no bowl appearances from 2004-06.

Stanford: Second consecutive appearance in the Rose Bowl (def. Wisconsin 20-14 last season). The Cardinal are making back-to-back Rose Bowl appearances for the first time since 1970-71. Stanford has reached a BCS bowl in four straight seasons after making just one from 1998-2009.

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
15 UCF Knights vs 6 Baylor Bears
January 1, 2014, at 8:30 ET on ESPN

UCF: First BCS bowl berth in school history. Won 11 games this season, tied for the most in school history (also won 11 in 2010).

Baylor: Like their opponents in the Fiesta Bowl, the Bears receive their first BCS bowl berth in school history. Baylor looks to extend a school-record 11 wins this season to 12 in this game.

Allstate Sugar Bowl
11 Oklahoma Sooners vs 3 Alabama Crimson Tide
January 2, 2014, at 8:30 ET on ESPN

Oklahoma: Ninth BCS bowl appearance, second-most all-time. The Sooners are 3-5 in BCS bowl games, snapping a five-game losing streak with a win in the 2011 Fiesta Bowl vs Connecticut.

Alabama: Third straight BCS bowl appearance and fifth in the last seven seasons under Nick Saban. The Crimson Tide will make their first Sugar Bowl appearance since the 2008 season (lost to Utah in that game).

Discover Orange Bowl
12 Clemson Tigers vs 7 Ohio State Buckeyes
January 3, 2014, at 8:30 ET on ESPN

Clemson: First BCS bowl appearance since 2011, when the Tigers played in the Orange Bowl. Those two games mark the only BCS bowls in school history. Speaking of history for the Tigers, they will make a school-record ninth straight appearance in a bowl game.

Ohio State: Tenth BCS bowl appearance, most all-time. The Buckeyes will make their first Orange Bowl appearance since the 1976 season against Colorado. Their last BCS appearance came in a 2011 Sugar Bowl win over Arkansas.

Vizio BCS National Championship Game
1 Florida State Seminoles vs 2 Auburn Tigers
January 6, 2014, at 8:30 ET on ESPN

Florida State: After beating Northern Illinois in last year’s Orange Bowl, the Seminoles return to a BCS bowl game. It marks their first back-to-back BCS bowl appearances since 2002-03. This will be their first BCS Championship Game appearance since 2000 and fourth overall.

Auburn: Second BCS Championship Game appearance, first since winning the national title over Oregon in the 2010 season. This marks the third BCS bowl appearance for the Tigers, who are unbeaten in such games thus far.

Auburn, San Jose State best of Week 14

December, 3, 2013
12/03/13
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Week 14 had two of the best finishes of the season as Auburn ran back a missed field goal to defeat Alabama and Ohio State stopped a two-point conversion attempt to beat Michigan.

With the help of ESPN’s new college football metrics (see explanations here), ESPN Stats & Information takes a look back at the best performances of Week 14 and the decisions of Nick Saban and Brady Hoke at the end of those games.

Best individual performances

• Brett Hundley had a career-high 98.4 opponent-adjusted QBR in UCLA's 35-14 win at USC. Hundley converted 7-of-13 third-down plays, including four rushes for 57 yards and a touchdown.

• David Fales posted a 97.3 opponent-adjusted QBR in San Jose State's 62-52 upset of Fresno State. Fales passed for a school-record 547 yards and was responsible for seven touchdowns. He is the fourth FBS player in the last 10 seasons to throw for at least 500 yards, account for seven touchdowns and not turn the ball over in a game.

• Nick Marshall had a 95.0 opponent-adjusted QBR in Auburn’s 34-28 win against Alabama. Marshall ran for 99 yards and one touchdown against the Tide, the most rushing yards Alabama has allowed by a quarterback in the Nick Saban era.

• Braxton Miller posted a 95.0 opponent-adjusted QBR in Ohio State’s 42-41 win at Michigan despite completing just six passes. Miller ran for 153 yards and three touchdowns on 16 rush attempts, resulting in a 98.2 Total QBR on running plays. Since the middle of October (Week 8), Miller has the second-highest opponent-adjusted QBR in the nation behind Jameis Winston.

Best team performances

Offense - San Jose State added 36.7 expected points on offense in its 62-52 win against Fresno State. The Spartans scored a touchdown on seven of their first 10 drives, including six passing touchdowns longer than 15 yards. They are the ninth team in the last 10 seasons to have six passing touchdowns of this distance in a game.

DefenseHouston held SMU (which had previously averaged 30.8 points per game) scoreless in its 34-0 win on Friday. The Cougars forced four turnovers and held the Mustangs without a first down on 53.3 percent of their drives. As a result, Houston added 33.3 expected points to its net scoring margin on defense, its most defensive EPA in the last 10 seasons.

Special Teams – Auburn added 11.5 expected points to its net scoring margin on special teams, the highest special teams EPA allowed by Alabama under Nick Saban. The Tigers were the beneficiaries of four missed field goals, a blocked punt and a missed field goal returned 100 yards for a game-winning touchdown. Additionally, Auburn punter Steven Clark had two punts downed at the 1 yard line.

Analysis of Saban/Hoke decisions

Saban’s decision to attempt a 57-yard field goal: Given that Nick Saban was trying to win the game in regulation, he made the correct decision in attempting the long field goal. In the last 10 seasons, teams have made 28 percent of their fourth-quarter go-ahead field goals from around this distance and none had been returned for a touchdown by the opponent prior to this game. In comparison, only two percent of all Hail Mary attempts have been converted at the end of games. So, Alabama had a better chance of winning by attempting a long field goal than by throwing a Hail Mary, or kneeling and going to overtime.

Hoke’s decision to attempt a two-point conversion: With an extra point pending and Michigan trailing 42-41, Brady Hoke elected to attempt a two-point conversion with 32 seconds remaining. Based on analysis of similar situations, Hoke slightly increased Michigan’s chance of winning with this decision. Had the Wolverines tried a point-after kick, they would have had about a 44 percent chance of winning. With the Wolverines going for two points after the touchdown, they had about a 45 percent chance of winning based on the success rates of similar situations in the past 10 seasons. Given the Wolverines’ status as a heavy underdog against their rival, Brady Hoke’s decision should not be questioned.

Top stats to know: BCS standings shake-up

December, 1, 2013
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What are the top stats to know among all the changes to come from this week's edition of the BCS standings?

Seminoles jump to No. 1
Florida State moved to No. 1 in the BCS standings.

This is the eighth time that Florida State has been No. 1 in the BCS. That is the sixth-most all time. This is the second season that Florida State is ranked No. 1. It also happened in 1999, when the Seminoles went 12-0 and won the national championship.

Aside from Florida State’s dominance over Duke (18-0 in series all time), the Seminoles have another streak on the line against the Blue Devils in the ACC championship game (Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC): FSU is 4-0 all time as the No. 1 BCS team. The only team with more wins and no losses as the No. 1 team is Tennessee (5-0).

However, Duke is 2-0 versus BCS-ranked teams this year (beat No. 23 Miami and No. 13 Virginia Tech). Before this year, Duke was 0-13 versus BCS-ranked teams.

The Buckeyes move to No. 2
Ohio State is ranked second or higher for the first time since it was No. 1 in the final standings of 2007. The Buckeyes are ranked in the top two for the 23rd time, passing USC for third-most all time.

The past four schools that needed to win a game on championship weekend to stay in the BCS top two won. That snapped a streak from 2006 to 2009 in which five of the seven teams in the BCS top two to play on championship weekend lost.

Stunning win nets Auburn one-spot bump
Auburn is ranked No. 3, its highest BCS ranking since it was No. 1 in the final standings of 2010.

Could Auburn still make the BCS National Championship Game?

Of the 30 previous teams to play for the BCS championship, eight entered the final weekend of the regular season outside the BCS top two, and four of those schools moved up after winning the SEC championship game.

However, Auburn jumping over an undefeated Ohio State team (assuming both win their conference championship games) would be unprecedented: No one-loss team has finished ahead of an undefeated BCS-AQ (automatic-qualifying) conference team.

Auburn and its SEC title game opponent, Missouri, are a combined 3-0 in previous BCS-top-five matchups. (Auburn defeated No. 1 Alabama on Saturday and Oregon in the 2010 BCS National Championship Game; Missouri defeated No. 2 Kansas in 2007).

It will be the fourth SEC championship game with both teams ranked in the top five of the BCS, but the first without Alabama.

Alabama falls to No. 4
Alabama is the second team to drop out of the BCS top two after at least six weeks at No. 1.

The only other school to do that was Florida, which was No. 1 in the first seven weeks of the standings in 2009 before losing to Alabama in the SEC championship game. The Gators fell to No. 5 in the final standings.

Northern Illinois hanging in
With Fresno State's loss over the weekend, Northern Illinois is now the only school from a non-AQ conference ranked in the top 16.

It also remains ahead of a projected champion from a BCS-AQ conference (Central Florida) and is thus in position to gain an automatic BCS bowl berth if it is either in the top 16 and ahead of a BCS conference champ or is ranked in the top 12 of the final standings.

If the Huskies reach a BCS bowl game this year, it would be a rare feat. They would be one of just four teams from non-AQ conferences to reach multiple BCS bowls and the second to do it in back-to-back years, joining TCU (2009 and 2010).

Northern Illinois is undefeated but has not risen above No. 14 this season. No team that was undefeated and ranked at the time of the final standings finished worse than 12th in the rankings. (Marshall was 12-0 and No. 12 in 1999.)

Auburn's miracle return wins Iron Bowl

November, 30, 2013
11/30/13
9:05
PM ET

John David Mercer/USA TODAY SportsChris Davis returned a missed field goal for the winning score in Auburn's Iron Bowl victory.
The “Iron Bowl to end all Iron Bowls” certainly lived up to the hype with perhaps one of the most memorable endings in college football history. Chris Davis returned a missed field goal for the winning touchdown with no time remaining to give Auburn the 34-28 victory, ending Alabama’s perfect season and sending the Tigers to the SEC Championship game next weekend.

This game was already billed as one of the most important in the long history of the Alabama-Auburn rivalry, as it marked the second time that the teams met as AP top-5 foes, the first time meeting as BCS top-5 opponents, and was the first Iron Bowl in which the winner would clinch the SEC West and the division’s bid to the SEC Championship Game.

Davis trumped all of that history with his miracle touchdown run, just the second time he has reached the end zone in his career. His other score was an 85-yard punt return touchdown vs Tennessee earlier this year in a game that was also tied at the time (13-13).

Deja vu for Alabama?
For Alabama, this loss may have a familiar feeling to it. The Tide are now 7-5 in November games vs FBS teams since 2010, and 34-1 in August, September and October during that span. The only other time Alabama lost as the BCS No. 1 team with two weeks or less left in the regular season was exactly five years ago today, when the Tide lost to No. 4 Florida in the 2008 SEC Championship game.

However the BCS No. 1 or No. 2 losing this late in the season is not unprecedented. It had happened 12 previous times before Saturday but not since Florida in 2009. Only two of those teams to lose went on to make the BCS National Championship game – Oklahoma in 2003 and LSU in 2007.

Auburn runs over Alabama
Besides the missed field goal and the return for a touchdown, the biggest key to victory for Auburn was its ability to exploit Alabama’s fourth-ranked rushing defense.

The Tigers rushed for 296 yards, the most allowed by the Tide since November 19, 2011, when they gave up 302 to Georgia Southern, and the most by an SEC team since Arkansas had 301 rush yards in 2007.

The Tigers were successful in getting to the edges against the Tide, gaining 150 of those 296 yards outside the tackles. Alabama entered the game allowing an SEC-low 43.9 rushing yards per game outside the tackles, with no opponent gaining more than 81 such yards in any game.

Auburn also controlled the line of scrimmage, averaging 4.2 yards before contact per rush, nearly three yards more than Alabama’s SEC-best 1.5 yards before contact per rush allowed entering this game.

Who's No. 1
With Alabama’s loss, Florida State is now poised to take over the No. 1 spot in the BCS rankings. The last time Florida State was the BCS No. 1 was 1999, which is also the last time the Seminoles won the national title.

Key matchup: Alabama D vs. Auburn's run

November, 29, 2013
11/29/13
10:23
AM ET

US PresswireAuburn has scored at least four rushing touchdowns in each of its past six games.

This year's "Iron Bowl of all Iron Bowls” features a matchup of strengths as Auburn’s rush offense is pitted against Alabama’s rush defense.

Under new coach Gus Malzahn, Auburn leads the SEC in rushing yards, yards per rush and rushing touchdowns. The Tigers have 21 more rushing touchdowns than they had all of last season, and they have scored at least four rushing touchdowns in six straight games.

Alabama’s defense leads the SEC in rushing yards, yards per rush and rushing touchdowns allowed. The Tide have allowed five total rushing touchdowns this season, and they are the only FBS team that has not allowed an opponent to rush for multiple touchdowns in a game.

The key to Auburn’s success has been its ability to create holes, particularly using the zone read, which has led to big plays on the ground.

Space to Run
Auburn has won the battle at the line of scrimmage. The Tigers average 209.5 rushing yards per game before first contact, most among teams in BCS AQ conferences. To put that into perspective, 97 FBS teams do not average 209.5 total rushing yards per game. The AQ average for rushing yards before contact per game is 97.0.

On designed rushes, the Tigers are averaging 4.6 yards per rush before first contact, best among AQ-conference schools. They have made it at least 5 yards past the line of scrimmage before initial contact on an SEC-high 31 percent of these rushes.

How Alabama matches up: The Tide have allowed an SEC-low 44.3 yards before contact per game and 2.0 yards before contact per designed rush. The Tide have allowed just 13 percent of their opponents’ rushes to gain 5 yards before first contact.

Zone Read
Auburn has utilized a zone read on 43 percent of its designed rushes this season, the second-highest percentage in the SEC. The Tigers lead the SEC in yards (1,589), yards per rush (7.2) and touchdowns (18) on zone-read rushes.

When Nick Marshall keeps the ball on the zone read, he has gained 657 yards and has seven touchdowns. He is averaging 9.4 yards per rush on such plays, best among BCS AQ quarterbacks with at least 25 such rushes.

How Alabama matches up: No quarterback has gained more than 22 yards on zone-read rushes against the Tide. Overall, Alabama’s opponents have averaged 3.6 yards per rush and have one rushing touchdown on 78 zone-read plays.

Big Plays
Auburn has 64 rushes of 15 yards or longer this season, second-most in the FBS, behind New Mexico (66). The Tigers have at least three such rushes in every game except one, a win against Mississippi State.

How Alabama matches up: Alabama has allowed just three rushes of 15 yards or longer all season, on pace to be the lowest total in the past 10 seasons. The Tide are able to limit long runs because they do not miss tackles, and they limit their opponents after contact.

Alabama has 30 missed tackles this season, 16 fewer than any AQ conference team. The Tide also have allowed an SEC-low 40 yards after contact per game.


Saturday’s Iron Bowl
Something has to give on Saturday; Auburn has rushed for at least 200 yards and two touchdowns in 10 of its 11 games this season, and Alabama has not allowed any of its opponents to rush for 200 yards or two touchdowns in a game.

Though Marshall has shown the ability to throw the ball, Auburn’s game plan is predicated on its running game. The Tigers run on 69 percent of their plays, the highest percentage for a non-triple-option offense, and have not attempted fewer than 35 rushes in a game.

If Alabama can shut down Auburn’s running game, the Tide may find themselves one win away from a third straight trip to the BCS National Championship. However, if Auburn can run the ball, the Tigers may be able to pull the upset against their biggest rival.

Reynolds, Fresno State among week's best

November, 26, 2013
11/26/13
1:25
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AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezKeenan Reynolds ran all over the field for Navy this weekend.
Week 13 had its share of big-time performances as Navy’s Keenan Reynolds rushed for an FBS quarterback-record seven touchdowns, Wyoming’s Brett Smith accounted for a FBS single-game high eight touchdowns and Fresno State’s Derek Carr threw for a school-record seven touchdowns.

With the help of ESPN’s new college football metrics (see explanations here), ESPN Stats & Information takes a look back at the best performances of Week 13 and ahead to the chances of Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State remaining undefeated.

Best Individual Performances
In the past, this article has used opponent-adjusted QBR to rank the best individual performances of the week. Total QBR is a rate stat that measures efficiency. In Week 13, Kevin Hogan (98.0), Clint Chelf (97.8) and Braxton Miller (97.1) had the top three opponent-adjusted QBRs of Week 13.

Points above average (PAA) is another stat that can be used measure the top individual performances. PAA totals the number of points that a player contributes to his team’s net scoring margin above what an average quarterback would have.

PAA is a counting stat (rather than a rate stat) that accounts for both efficiency and the number of plays. If a quarterback has a high PAA, he was likely efficient and involved in a lot of plays. Week 13 featured four of the top 10 single-game PAAs of the season:

Keenan Reynolds (19.0 PAA) rushed for seven touchdowns in Navy’s 58-52 triple-OT win over San Jose State on Friday night. Reynolds set an FBS record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in a game, a mark previously held by Dee Dowis (Air Force, 1989) and Craig Candeto (Navy, 2002).

Brett Smith (18.6 PAA) threw for a single-game school-record seven touchdowns and 498 yards while leading Wyoming to a 59-56 overtime win against Hawaii on Saturday. Smith also ran for 142 yards and a touchdown. Smith’s 640 yards of total offense and eight touchdowns are the most by an FBS player in a game this season.

Marquise Williams (16.4 PAA) tied the school record for passing touchdowns (five) and was third in single-game total offense (469 yards) by halftime in North Carolina’s 80-20 rout of Old Dominion. He helped the Tar Heels rack up a school-record 721 total yards of offense in a game that did not even last 60 minutes.

Derek Carr (15.8 PAA) threw for 522 yards and a school-record seven touchdowns in Fresno State’s 69-28 win against New Mexico. He had the third-most passing yards and tied Brett Smith for the most passing touchdowns in a game this season.

Best Teams Performances
Offense – Fresno State added 48.7 expected points to its net scoring margin on offense in its 69-28 win against New Mexico, the highest offensive EPA in a game this season. The Bulldogs racked up a school and league record 822 yards of total offense and averaged 9.9 yards per play.

Defense– Oklahoma State contributed 17.5 expected points to its net scoring margin on defense in its 49-17 win against Baylor. The Bears were averaging 61.2 points and 684.8 yards per game entering the game, but were held to 17 points and 453 yards by the Cowboys. Oklahoma State is the first team to hold Baylor to a below-average offensive efficiency rating in a game in the last three seasons.

Special TeamsNebraska added 12.5 expected points on special teams in its 23-20 win against Penn State. The Cornhuskers blocked a punt and returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown. They were also the beneficiaries of a missed extra point in the first quarter and missed field goal in overtime.

Looking ahead to rest of the season
After Baylor lost to Oklahoma State on Saturday, there are three remaining undefeated teams from BCS AQ conferences vying for a spot in the BCS National Championship. Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State are all deserving of a spot in the title game, but at least one will be left out.

What are the chances that all three teams will be undefeated entering bowl season? According to projections run by Analytics Specialist Alok Pattani, there is a 29 percent chance that all three teams will be undefeated after their conference championships.

Alabama has the toughest remaining schedule. The Tide have to play on the road at Auburn on Saturday, and if they win, against either Missouri or South Carolina in the SEC Championship. There is a 46 percent chance that the Tide win both of those games.

Florida State has the easiest remaining schedule, and there is an 87 percent chance that it wins its remaining two games.

So, while Ohio State appears to be on the outside looking in, there is a 60 percent chance that either Alabama or Florida State does not win out. Keep these projections in mind as Alabama heads to Auburn, Florida State travels to Florida (Noon ET, ESPN) and Ohio State goes to Michigan (Noon ET, ABC) on Saturday.

Top stats to know: BCS Standings

November, 24, 2013
11/24/13
9:30
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There was some movement, albeit not at the very top, in the BCS Standings heading into this weekend's slate of Rivalry Week games.

Alabama on the verge
Alabama is about to reach and surpass a couple of notable BCS milestones if it can get one more win.

The Crimson Tide now has 11 wins as the No. 1 team, one shy of the most all-time. Oklahoma and USC both have 12 wins.

Alabama is in the top three for the 37th week, tied with Oklahoma for the most all-time.

This Saturday’s Iron Bowl between Alabama and No. 4 Auburn will be the first time these teams have met when both ranked in the top five of the BCS. It is only the fourth time they will play each other as BCS-ranked foes. Auburn has actually won two of the previous three meetings.

The big gainers
No. 3 Ohio State remained in that position, but went from being .0792 points behind No. 2 Florida State to .0497 points behind.

The Buckeyes are ranked in the top-3 in three consecutive weeks for the first time since they were No. 1 the first four weeks of the 2007 season.

Other schools in the top 10 were able to move up a couple of spots with the losses by Baylor and Oregon.

Auburn jumped two spots to No. 4, its highest BCS ranking since it was No. 1 in the final standings of 2010. The only other season it was ranked in the top five with two weeks or less remaining was in 2004 when it was ranked No. 3.

Missouri got a three-spot bump from No. 8 to No. 5. This is the second time in school history that the Tigers are ranked in the top 10 in six straight BCS standings. They also had a six-week run in 2007.

Oklahoma State also jumped three spots, from No. 10 to No. 7. It is the school’s highest ranking since the final standings of 2011 when it was No. 3.

Baylor, Oregon drop
Baylor slipped five spots, from No. 4 to No. 9. Its 49-17 loss to Oklahoma State was the third-largest by a BCS top-four team.

Oregon also plummeted from No. 5 to No. 13.

Oregon had been in the top 10 in 32 straight weeks, the longest active streak and six standings shy of the longest all-time streak set by USC from 2002-06.

The importance of NIU’s jump
Northern Illinois jumped from No. 16 to No. 14. This is its second-highest BCS ranking (only bettered by a No. 10 in 2003).

Northern Illinois jumped ahead of Fresno State for the first time this season (.0496 points ahead. This is very important because:

A non-automatic qualifying (non-AQ) school is guaranteed a BCS Bowl berth if it is in the top 16 and ranked ahead of a champion of a BCS conference in the final standings; or is ranked in the top 12 of the final standings.

However, no more than one such team from the non-AQ group shall earn an automatic berth in any year, unless non-AQ teams finish both No. 1 and No. 2 in the final BCS Standings.

Welcome aboard
No. 24 Duke is ranked in the BCS Standings for the first time in school history.

Looking ahead: Rivalry games
Michigan is playing a top-3 BCS Ohio State team for the fourth time, but it’s the first time it will be unranked in such a matchup. Ohio State has won two of the three previous games (2002 and 2006); Michigan’s win came in 2003.

The “Palmetto Bowl” between No. 6 Clemson and No. 10 South Carolina will be the first game between them when both are ranked in the top 10 of the BCS.

Saturday’s Florida-Florida State game will be the second time that Florida takes on a BCS top-two Florida State team. The Seminoles won the only other such matchup -- in 1999, No. 1 Florida State defeated No. 4 Florida 30-23.

It will be the third time an unranked Florida team plays a BCS-ranked Florida State team. The teams split the previous two meetings, with Florida beating No. 8 Florida State in 2004 and No. 22 Florida State beating Florida in 2010.

Top stats to know: BCS Standings

November, 17, 2013
11/17/13
9:38
PM ET
A look at the most significant notes to come from this week’s BCS Rankings:

Stanford’s decline
Stanford dropped from No. 4 to No. 9 with its loss to USC, the biggest drop of any school this week.

The Cardinal are ranked in the top 10 in each of the first five BCS standings releases for the second time in school history.

They were ranked in the top 10 in each standings in 2011.

Five straight for Alabama
Alabama is No. 1 in the first five BCS standings for the first time in school history. This is the 15th week that Alabama is No. 1, tied for second-most of any team.

Alabama now as 10 wins as the No. 1 team, third-most all-time. Oklahoma and USC lead with 12 such wins.

No. 2 Florida State and No. 3 Ohio State stayed in the same positions.

Ohio State is ranked in the top 3 in consecutive weeks for the first time since the final two weeks of the 2007 season.

Looking ahead: Oklahoma State vs. Baylor
Saturday night’s game between No. 10 Oklahoma State and No. 4 Baylor will be the fourth matchup of BCS top-10 Big 12 teams in the last five seasons. If recent history is any indication, it should be a blowout – the victory margin in the previous three meetings was an average of 35 points per game.

Unbeaten and unrecognized
Fresno State and Northern Illinois are both undefeated but have not risen above No. 14 this season. No team that was undefeated at the time of the final standings finished worse than 12th in the rankings (Marshall was 12-0 and No. 12 in 1999).

Welcome back
No. 24 Ole Miss is ranked ranked in the BCS for the first time since Nov. 22, 2009, when it was No. 25. This is its highest ranking since it was No. 19 in the final rankings of 2003.

No. 25 Minnesota is ranked in the BCS for the first time since Oct. 26, 2008, when it was No. 17.

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