Stats & Info: Cody Fajardo

SEC QBs top challenge: Mountain West

August, 8, 2013

Derek Carr (left) and Chuckie Keeton (right) are among the top returning quarterbacks in the MWC.

The SEC returns 11 of 14 starting quarterbacks, including the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, the winner of two-straight BCS National Championships and the player on pace to break every major SEC passing record.

Yet, the SEC may not be returning the best crop of quarterbacks in the country. That honor could belong to the newly-revamped Mountain West Conference.

Nine of the 12 teams in the Mountain West Conference return their starting quarterbacks. Six of those quarterbacks were named to the Manning Award watch list, the most from any conference.

The Manning Award Watch List names the top 30 returning quarterbacks based on their 2012 Total QBRs.

Unlike other traditional quarterback stats, Total QBR uses all of a quarterback’s plays (passing, rushing, sacks, fumbles and penalties) and accounts for the context of the game (down, distance, score).

As a result, dual-threat quarterbacks, such as Nevada’s Cody Fajardo, are graded on both their passing and rushing abilities.

Of these top 30 quarterbacks, six will be in the Mountain West Conference next season – David Fales (San Jose State), Chuckie Keeton (Utah State), Fajardo, Brett Smith (Wyoming), Joe Southwick (Boise State) and Derek Carr (Fresno State). No other conference had more than five players named to the list.

Unlike traditional statistics, Total QBR accounts for the strength of opposing defenses. As a result, the SEC quarterbacks are rewarded for facing tougher competition.

Even with this opponent adjustment, the top five returning quarterbacks in the Mountain West Conference averaged almost exactly the same Total QBRs as the top five returning quarterbacks in the SEC. They also averaged more total yards per game and accounted for more of their team’s total offense than the group of SEC QBs.

The top three quarterbacks in the SEC –- Johnny Manziel, A.J. McCarron and Aaron Murray – are in a class of their own, but after Murray there is a big drop off in the next group of SEC passers.

Connor Shaw, the SEC’s fourth-ranked quarterback (23rd ranked returner overall), is coming off an injury and will likely split snaps with backup Dylan Thompson next season.

In comparison, the Mountain West Conference has five of the top 16 returning quarterbacks, and half of its quarterbacks rank in the top 25.

The additions of Fales and Keeton to the Mountain West Conference add depth. Fales completed an FBS-best 72.5 percent of his passes last season, and Keeton ran for 619 yards and eight touchdowns while leading the Aggies to 11 wins.

They will look to dethrone Carr, the unanimous first-team All Mountain West Conference selection who threw 37 touchdowns and seven interceptions last season. Southwick, Fajardo and Smith will all look to build upon strong 2012 seasons and contend for the title in the toughest quarterback conference in the country, according to QBR.

Rushing title on the line in Albuquerque

December, 14, 2012
Amid the elevation of University Stadium in Albuquerque, which sits almost a mile above sea level, the top two rushers in FBS will go rush for rush against each other Saturday in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl (1 p.m. ET, ESPN).

The Arizona Wildcats' Ka'Deem Carey leads FBS with 146.4 rushing yards per game. Nevada Wolf Pack running back Stefphon Jefferson is second in the country with 141.9 yards per game. Carey was an AP All-American first-team selection (along with Wisconsin’s Montee Ball), and Jefferson was a third-team selection.

A big game could lead to the FBS rushing title for either player, so let’s break down the pair head-to-head:

Big-play potential
Carey is tied with UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin for the FBS lead in rushes of at least 10 yards with 54.

He leads the country -- all of FBS -- in rushes of at least 20 yards with 20. Carey also has ripped off eight runs of at least 30 yards this season. All of those tallies are much higher than those of Jefferson, who has 11 runs of at least 20 yards. Edge: Carey

Jefferson has had his number called time and again in coach Chris Ault’s pistol-style offense; his 341 rushes are the second-most this season in FBS behind Michigan State’s LeVeon Bell. Jefferson has six games when he has run the ball at least 30 times. That’s tied with Bell for the most such games in FBS. By comparison, the most rushes Carey has had in a game this season is 29. Edge: Jefferson

Getting first downs
Their first-down totals are nearly identical (86-85 in favor of Jefferson), but Carey’s rate gets the upper hand. Carey has picked up first downs on almost 31 percent of his rushes this season compared with 25 percent for Jefferson. Edge: Carey

Jefferson has converted almost half of his goal-to-go rushes into touchdowns (17 TDs on 35 rushes). Carey has been no slouch (13 TDs on 36 rushes), but his 36.1 conversion rate is lower than Jefferson's. Edge: Jefferson

Chasing records
With one more rushing touchdown, Carey will tie the school record for most in a season with 21. With 9 more rushing yards, Jefferson will set the Mountain West Conference single-season record, and with 30 more yards he’ll set the school single-season record. Edge: Even

Teammate rushing threat
Nevada’s pistol offense also has another rushing threat in QB Cody Fajardo, who averages 89.1 yards per game. Combined, Jefferson and Fajardo are rushing for 231.1 yards per game – the highest total by any teammate duo in FBS. Carey’s top rushing teammate is also his quarterback, but Matt Scott’s average of 44.1 yards per game is less than half of Fajardo’s. Edge: Jefferson

The bowl game itself will have to decide this one. The backs are similar even in their height (Jefferson 5-11 to Carey 5-10), weight (Jefferson 210 to Carey 197) and jersey. Both wear No. 25. As Carey told the Tucson Citizen, “It’s going to be show time between me and him. There’s the game, and then it’s me vs him. I think it’s two games in one.”