Stats & Info: Montee Ball

Top things to know: NFL Draft RB prospects

April, 18, 2013

John David Mercer/USA TODAY SportsEddie Lacy is rated as the top running back prospect in the 2013 class by Scouts Inc.
Eddie Lacy
Lacy was the beneficiary of one of the top offensive lines in football. Lacy gained 65 percent of his yards before initial contact and averaged 4.2 yards before contact per rush. He made it at least five yards past the line of scrimmage without being touched on 35.8 percent of his rushes.

Lacy runs downhill with 64.7 percent of his rushes coming between the tackles. Lacy averaged 7.6 yards per carry on such running plays with about one in every four attempts going for at least 10 yards.

In comparison to former Alabama running back Trent Richardson, Lacy averaged 2.5 more yards per rush inside the tackles in his final college season.

Montee Ball
Ball was undoubtedly the most productive back in FBS over the last two seasons. Ball led FBS in rushing yards, rushing touchdowns and rushes of 15 yards or longer since the start of the 2011 season.

Ball gained 36.1 percent of his FBS-leading 3,750 yards on rushes outside of the tackles over the last two seasons. Ball averaged 7.1 yards per carry on such running plays with at about one in every four gaining at least 10 yards.

Andre Ellington
Ellington gained over 40 percent of his yards after contact in 2012 but struggled to gain tough yards against top competition. Ellington averaged twice as many yards after contact per rush against teams that did not finish the season ranked in the top 50 in total defense than he did against the five top-50 defenses that he faced.

Le’Veon Bell
Bell gained over half of his yards after contact and led BCS-AQ running backs with 921 yards after contact.

Marcus Lattimore
Lattimore gained 41 percent of his yards after contact in his career. Against SEC opponents, Lattimore was even better, gaining 43 percent of his yards after contact and averaging 2.0 yards after contact per rush.

Lattimore ran between the tackles on 78.9 percent of his career carries. He averaged at least 4.5 yards per carry inside the tackles in every season of his career. Lattimore was at his best in the fourth quarter, averaging 5.5 yards per run inside the tackles with 54.2 percent of his yards coming after contact.

Taylor gains tough yards in Rose Bowl win

January, 1, 2013

AP Photo/David HoodSenior running back Stepfan Taylor and the Cardinal won their first Rose Bowl since 1972.
The Stanford Cardinal defeated the Wisconsin Badgers in the Rose Bowl Game Pres. by Vizio, their first Rose Bowl win since January 1, 1972. Below is a look at how the Cardinal won their eighth straight game and why the Badgers' loss continued a discouraging trend for the Big Ten:

• Stepfan Taylor gained 50 of his team-high 88 rush yards after first contact in the Rose Bowl, including 32 of his 39 yards in the fourth quarter. It was his most yards after contact in the fourth quarter of any game this season and thanks to his touchdown in the first quarter, Taylor scored on the ground in five of Stanford’s final six games of the season.

• Stanford allowed a season-high 119 yards on carries inside the tackles in the first half against Wisconsin (5.4 yds per rush), including 76 yards on inside runs by Montee Ball. The second half was a different story, however, as Wisconsin gained just 13 yards up the middle and averaged just 1.4 yards per carry including just eight yards by Ball.

• With the loss, Wisconsin became the third team all-time and the first since Michigan from 1976-78 to lose the Rose Bowl in three consecutive seasons. The Badgers’ run is part of a stretch that has seen the Big Ten lose nine of its last 10 Rose Bowl appearances. The only Big Ten team to win a Rose Bowl during that span was Ohio State on January 1, 2010 against Oregon.

• Stanford did much of its damage on first down against Wisconsin, gaining an average of 8.2 yards per play and scoring both of its touchdowns on first down in the game.

The 8.2 yards per play marked the second-highest first-down average for the Cardinal in a game this season (8.5 vs Arizona) and was the most allowed per play by Wisconsin in a game since it gave up 11.5 to Oregon in last season’s Rose Bowl.

• Montee Ball’s performance was not forgotten in the defeat as he rushed for 100 yards for the 10th time this season (T-second most in FBS) and scored the last of his FBS-record 83 career touchdowns.

The Rose Bowl marked Ball’s 26th-career game in which he rushed for at least 100 yards and scored a rushing touchdown, most in the FBS since his freshman year of 2009. With the score, Ball also became the first player in history to score a touchdown in three separate Rose Bowls.

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.”

SEC title run tops 2012 storylines

August, 25, 2012

Derick E. Hingle/US PresswireA school from the SEC has won a record six consecutive BCS National Championships.

We’re less than a week away from the first college football Saturday of the season and there are certainly a lot of compelling storylines heading into the year. Among them is the question of whether or not the SEC can continue its run of dominance.

The SEC has won six straight and eight of the 14 BCS National Championships since the format was implemented prior to the 1998 season. During that span, no other conference has won more than two titles and the six consecutive championships are the most by any conference in college football history.

The SEC will have a good chance to extend its run in 2012 if the Preseason AP Poll is any indication. In all, six SEC teams were ranked in the Top 25 (T-most among all conferences) including five in the Top 10.

Off the field, the conference added new members for the first time since 1992 and both Missouri and Texas A&M will be tested against ranked opponents in their conference debuts. In Week 2, Texas A&M hosts No. 23 Florida (3:30 ET, ESPN) and Mizzou hosts No. 6 Georgia (7:45 ET, ESPN 2).

Across the country, the USC Trojans have completed their two-year bowl ban and enter the season ranked No. 1 in the AP Poll. Recent history is working against them (No preseason No. 1 has finished the year atop the poll since the 2004 Trojans), but they hope to become the first school since Oklahoma in 1975 to win a national championship in its first season following a bowl ban.

If the Trojans do win it all, it will likely be thanks to the play of Heisman contender, Matt Barkley. Barkley enters the season with over 9,000 passing yards and 80 touchdowns in 36 career starts (27-9) and is on pace to become USC’s all-time leader in passing yards, touchdowns and completions.

Like Barkley, Wisconsin's Montee Ball comes into the year with Heisman aspirations after a tremendous 2011 season. Ball’s 33 rushing touchdowns were the second most in a single season in FBS history and his 39 total touchdowns tied the FBS record set by Barry Sanders in 1988. He also set the FBS single season record with two or more scores in each of his first 13 games of the season.

At South Carolina, Marcus Lattimore is another running back garnering Heisman hype. Lattimore scored 11 touchdowns and had rushed for over 800 yards in seven games before suffering a season-ending knee injury against Mississippi State on October 15.

All three are certainly worthy of the praise, but perhaps the 2012 Heisman winner is not among the preseason favorites.

Over the last five years, winners of the trophy have included three sophomores (Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford, Mark Ingram), three first-year starters (Tebow, Ingram, Cam Newton), a pair of QBs with three regular-season losses (Tebow, Robert Griffin III) and a player from a program with very little winning tradition (Griffin III). Will another unknown crash the party in 2012?

Ball does damage rushing outside tackles

August, 20, 2012

Michael Hickey/US PresswireMontee Ball accounted for 39 of Wisconsin’s 82 touchdowns in 2011.
The two-time defending Big Ten champion Wisconsin Badgers look to continue their successful ways in 2012 with Heisman Trophy candidate Montee Ball at the forefront of their offense.

Ball played a major role in last year’s Big Ten Championship run, recording at least one rush or reception on 113 of the Badgers 165 drives. In fact, the Badgers had 13 drives last season where Ball’s combined rushes and receptions accounted for at least 76 percent of Wisconsin’s plays.

On those 13 drives, the Badgers averaged 5.08 points per drive. In comparison, there were 70 drives when Ball’s combined rushes and receptions accounted for 25 percent or fewer of the plays. On these 70 drives, the Badgers averaged just 2.44 points per drive.

In 2011 Ball was a scoring machine accounting for 39 of Wisconsin’s 82 touchdowns (47.6 percent). Ball’s 39 total touchdowns tied the NCAA single-season record for most touchdowns in a season set by Barry Sanders in 1988. Additionally, Ball set the single-season record for most consecutive games scoring at least two touchdowns as he scored two or more touchdowns in his first 13 games of 2011.

How he scored the touchdowns is a testament to Wisconsin’s offensive line. Ball scored 24 of his 33 rushing touchdowns between the tackles last season, including 13 touchdowns where he was not touched by a defender before reaching the end zone.

Wisconsin returns just five offensive starters, including two offensive linemen. The Badgers must replace All-American linemen Peter Konz and Kevin Zeitler, as well as one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the history of college football, Russell Wilson.

These losses will leave a heavy burden on Ball’s shoulders, singling him out as Wisconsin’s main threat. In turn defenses will likely test Ball by placing extra defenders in the box. Last season Ball averaged 4.7 yards per rush with eight or more men in the box, and 23 of his 33 rushing touchdowns came against this many defenders.

In comparison to the loaded box, Ball rushed for 6.9 yards per rush with seven or fewer men in the box.

Furthermore, Ball’s ability to run inside and outside the tackles shows his elusiveness against opposing defenses. The majority of his rushes (71.7 percent) were inside the tackles where he averaged 5.5 yards per rush; but he averaged an astounding 8.2 yards per carry when rushing outside the tackles.

If Ball is able to lead the Badgers to success in 2012, he will certainly enhance his chances of a Heisman trophy victory as well.

Offenses on display in Rose Bowl

January, 1, 2012

AP Photo
Wisconsin's Montee Ball and Oregon's LaMichael James lead two high-powered offenses into Monday's Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio.
There are only three FBS teams that have a quarterback ranked in the top 15 of passing efficiency and a running back ranked in the top 15 of rushing yards per game. Two are in the Rose Bowl-- the Oregon Ducks and Wisconsin Badgers on ESPN at 5 PM Monday (the other is Baylor).

Although both offenses are high scoring and balanced, they employ drastically different styles of play highlighted by speed, power and efficiency.

Oregon Offense
Oregon spreads the field and beats opponents with speed and big plays. The Ducks average just over two minutes per touchdown drive and over the past two seasons have scored 86 touchdowns on drives of less than two minutes, most in FBS.

The Ducks average 296 rushing yards per game, but it is their ability to break long rushes that makes them so dangerous.

Entering the bowl season, Oregon led the country with 20 rushes of 30-or-more yards and is a perfect 20-0 over the past two seasons when breaking at least one run of 30-plus yards.

LaMichael James leads the nation in rushing yards per game, but Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas have also been reliable ground options for Oregon. The trio of running backs has combined for 2,995 rushing yards and 33 rushing touchdowns. They are most effective rushing outside the tackles, where the trio averages 9 yards per rush.

Quarterback Darron Thomas adds another element to Oregon’s explosive attack. He has excelled throwing downfield this season, completing about 50 percent of his passes thrown 15-or-more yards in the air, with 12 of those passes going for touchdowns. Wisconsin has allowed only 24 completions of at least 20 yards this season (tied for fourth in FBS), but two of those completions were last-second passes that ruined the Badgers’ national title hopes.

Wisconsin Offense
Montee Ball enters the Rose Bowl as FBS’s top individual scorer with 38 total touchdowns this season. He has accounted for at least two touchdowns in every game and is one touchdown shy of tying Barry Sanders’ record for touchdowns in a season.

He'll be a key to Wisconsin’s offense, which mixes speed and power behind a bruising offensive line. The Badgers move the ball down the field at a slower pace than Oregon, averaging 2:53 per touchdown drive, but find the end zone at a similar rate to the Ducks.

The Badgers have one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the nation in Russell Wilson, who has thrown a touchdown in an NCAA-record 37 straight games. Wilson and Baylor's Robert Griffin III are both on pace to break the single-season passing efficiency record held by Hawaii's Colt Brennan.

Wilson has been effective with both his arm and his legs. He keeps plays alive for the Badgers, averaging 9.5 yards per scramble. Like Thomas, Wilson is completing close to 50 percent of his passes 15 or more yards downfield.

Wilson is a huge factor in Wisconsin’s success, but the heart of Wisconsin’s offense lies in its run game. Look for Wisconsin’s offense to make use of two tight-end formations to get Ball in the end zone. All 32 of his rushing touchdowns came in multiple tight-end sets.

Stats of the Game
In 2009 and 2010, Oregon has averaged 143 fewer rushing yards, 127 fewer total yards and 26 fewer points in their bowl games than their regular-season games.

The Big Ten is 1-7 in its last eight Rose Bowl games with it only win coming when Ohio State beat Oregon two years ago.

Kelly Kline/Heisman Trophy Trust/Getty ImagesRobert Griffin III becomes first Heisman Trophy winner in Baylor history

At the 77th annual Heisman Trophy presentation, Robert Griffin III did something that has never been done before as he became the first Heisman Trophy winner in Baylor history.

Griffin beat out Stanford quarterback, Andrew Luck, by 280 points. For comparison, last year’s winner Cam Newton beat Luck by 1,184 points.

This is the fifth time in the last six seasons that a quarterback has won the sport’s top honor.

Baylor is the sixth different school in the state of Texas with a Heisman, joining Texas, Texas A&M, Houston, TCU and SMU. No other state has had more than three schools with a winner (California, Florida).

Baylor is ranked 15th in the pre-bowl AP poll. It’s the lowest pre-bowl ranking for a Heisman winner’s team since Ricky Williams’ Texas squad was No. 20 in 1998, and the second-lowest in the last 25 seasons. Williams is also the last player from a Texas-based school to win the award.

Griffin is the first Heisman winner from a school that has never won a national championship since Wisconsin's Ron Dayne in 1999.

The junior quarterback has been Mr. Big Play, with half of his 36 TD passes having covered 35 yards or more. He's on pace to set the single-season passing efficiency record, thanks in part to his 10.8 yards per pass attempt, which is third-best in FBS history behind Michael Vick and Ty Detmer.

Griffin leads the nation with a passing efficiency rating of 192.3, which would be an NCAA single-season record if he can sustain it through his team’s bowl game. As good a mark as that is, Griffin has been even better when the game has been on the line.

When the game is in the second half, and the scoring margin is within eight points, his passing efficiency rating is 211.8, with seven touchdowns and only one interception.

When it came to pressure, Griffin handled it as well as any other quarterback in the nation. Griffin completed over 70 percent of his pass attempts when opponents blitzed this season with 11 touchdowns and no interceptions.

Griffin is the fifth Heisman winner from the Big 12 Conference and 29th quarterback ever honored.
Crystal LoGiudice/US PresswireLSU's Tyrann Mathieu is a Heisman hopeful because he was valuable both when he had the ball, and when he didn't.
The Heisman Trophy will be awarded at 8 pm ET on ESPN. Here's a statistical snapshot of the strengths of each of the finalists for the sport's most prestigious honor.

Andrew Luck, Stanford
Luck’s 2011 season stats are eerily similar to those of his 2010 season where he was the Heisman runner-up. His completion percentage, touchdowns and interceptions, yards-per- attempt, and number of 20-yard completions are nearly identical.

Luck did improve statistically in two areas.

On passes that went at least 10 yards down the field, he finished with 17 touchdowns and only three interceptions, an improvement upon his 16-to-7 ratio in 2010

Luck’s accuracy on play-action passes (73 percent completion rate) was a near-match for 2010 (72 percent), but an increase of how often he passed out of play action (from 22 percent of the time to 28 percent) resulted in his doubling the number of touchdowns he made on such plays, from eight to 16.

Stat to know:Luck is trying to become Stanford's first Heisman winner since Jim Plunkett (1970).

Robert Griffin III, Baylor

When it comes to pressure, Griffin handled as well as any other quarterback in the nation. Griffin completed over 70 percent of his pass attempts when opponents blitzed this season with 11 touchdowns and no interceptions.

Griffin excelled in 2011 with the deep ball, as much as anyone in the country. Griffin completed a higher percentage of his passes and threw more touchdowns than many other notable quarterbacks on throws of 25 yards or more downfield this season.

Griffin’s 17 touchdown passes of at least 50 yards over the last two seasons are the most in college football by a considerable amount, five more than Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones. Griffin leads FBS with 10 touchdown passes of at least 50 yards in 2011.

Stat to know: Baylor has never had a Heisman Trophy winner. If Griffin wins, Baylor will be the sixth different school in the state of Texas with a Heisman, joining Texas, Texas A&M, Houston, TCU and SMU. No other state has had more than three schools with a winner (California, Florida).

Trent Richardson, Alabama
What made Richardson so good this season was that he was tough to tackle. Nearly half of his rushing yards (767 of 1,583) came after contact. He broke for at least 10 yards at a rate of nearly once every six runs.

Richardson had 21 rushes of 15 yards or longer in SEC play this season, including three in the Iron Bowl against Auburn. Only Cam Newton has had more in SEC play (22) over the past eight seasons.

In his last chance to impress Heisman voters, Trent Richardson ran for a career-high 203 yards on 27 carries Saturday against Auburn.

Richardson showcased his versatility by gaining 100 yards after contact and by breaking five runs for at least 10 yards, including ones of 35 and 57 yards.

Richardson’s performance was reminiscent of Alabama’s Mark Ingram, who also excelled in his last chance to secure votes, rushing for 113 yards, 75 coming after contact in the 2009 SEC title game against Florida.

Stat to Know: Richardson and Mark Ingram would be just the third pair of running back teammates to both win the Heisman Trophy, joining Charles White (1979) & Marcus Allen (1981) from USC and Doc Blanchard (1945) & Glenn Davis (1946) from Army.

Tyrann Mathieu, LSU

Mathieu has only a pair of interceptions this season, but he has forced an FBS-high six fumbles.

Mathieu is also tied for the lead in the FBS with five fumble recoveries, two of which he returned for touchdowns.

LSU is ranked third in the nation in pass efficiency defense this season (93.1) and that has a lot to do with their play on the perimeter. Opponents have struggled to throw the ball towards the sideline against the Tigers, an area usually patrolled by Mathieu.

LSU finished the regular season having allowed 5.4 yards per pass attempt in 2011, tied for third-fewest in the nation. Teams were unable to stretch the field against the Tigers as they had more than twice as many interceptions (9) as completions allowed (4) on passes of 25 or more yards downfield this season.

Overall, LSU’s foes were 4-for-38, with just one touchdown on those sorts of throws. Teams in the BCS Top 25 were 2-for-20 with four interceptions.

Stat To Know: Mathieu would be the second Heisman winner from LSU, joining Billy Cannon (1959) and the second defensive player to win the Heisman, joining Charles Woodson.

Montee Ball, Wisconsin
Richardson is credited with getting his numbers against tough SEC defenses, but Ball’s opponents have stacked up to what Richardson has faced.

Wisconsin’s FBS opponents ranked an average of 68th against the run this season compared to 59th for Alabama’s opponents. Ball has only faced one fewer team that ranked in the top 50 in opponents rushing defense than Richardson did.

Ball also had more yards (1,759), touchdowns (32) and big runs (57 runs of at least 10 yards) than Richardson in 2011. Richardson finished with 42 runs of at least 10 yards.

Ball's strength was in blowing past opposing defenders. He was not touched by the defense on 18 of his 32 rushing touchdowns.

Also of note: Of his 32 rushing touchdowns, 23 came against defenses that were ready for him-- those that lined up eight or more men in the box.

Stat To Know: Ball leads FBS with 38 touchdowns this season. The last national scoring leader to win the Heisman was Eddie George in 1995.
On Monday the five finalists invited to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony were revealed. This year has featured one of the most interesting races for the Heisman as no one player has stood from the rest.

Here's a look at what a Heisman Trophy win -- or loss -- would mean to these players and their respective schools.

Trent Richardson, Alabama
Two seasons ago Trent Richardson was a part of a National Championship team with a Heisman Trophy winner, when running back Mark Ingram became Alabama's first winner. Richardson has nearly identical numbers to Ingram this season, and has already totaled 23 touchdowns compared to Ingram's 20 TD's.

If Richardson were to win the award it would put him and Ingram in some rare company. In the history of the Heisman Trophy only three times have two different players playing the same position at the same school won the award in a span of three seasons. It last happened when USC QB Matt Leinart won it in 2004 after Carson Palmer had taken home the award in 2002.

Andrew Luck, Stanford
Luck is listed second here as he finished second for the Heisman last season and Stanford has actually had the Heisman runner-up in each of the past two seasons (Toby Gerhart, 2009).

If Luck wins he would be the second player in Stanford history to win the award (Jim Plunkett, 1970) and join 1981 Herschel Walker as the only Heisman runner-ups to win the award the next season.

If Luck finishes second, Stanford would set a record. No school has ever had a Heisman runner-up in three consecutive seasons.

Montee Ball, Wisconsin
Montee Ball earned his invite thanks to his impressive numbers. Ball needs one touchdown in the Rose Bowl to tie Barry Sanders' FBS record for touchdowns in a season (39). Sanders won the Heimsan trophy during that 1988 season.

The last time a Big Ten player had 25 touchdowns was Eddie George during the 1995 season. George went on to win the Heisman trophy that year.

Robert Griffin III, Baylor
RGIII finished off a great regular season in which he threw 36 touchdowns compared to only six interceptions, while also leading Baylor to nine wins, its most since the 1986 season.

Griffin's invite is an accomplishment in its own considering he plays for Baylor. The Bears have only had one player finish in the top five of the Heisman vote in school history. In 1963 Don Trull finished fourth.

If Baylor's Robert Griffin III wins the Heisman Trophy this year, he will be just the third player since the BCS was established in 1998 to win the Heisman without his team playing in a BCS bowl game.

Tyrann Mathieu, LSU
The Honey Badger will take the trip to New York looking to join Charles Woodson as the only defensive backs to win the Heisman trophy.

Despite being a defensive player, recent history is on Mathieu's side to take home the award. Since 2003, seven of the past eight Heisman Trophy winners have come from the team at number one in the BCS standings entering the National Championship Game.

Jason O. Watson/US PresswireDavid Wilson is tied for the national lead in most 100-yard games.
The late-afternoon slate in college football featured a pair of winner-take-all games in which the winner took total control of humbled opposition.

In the case of the Virginia Tech Hokies rout of the Virginia Cavaliers, the Hokies won the ACC Coastal Division crown for the fifth time and won its 13th straight road game overall.

This was the eighth straight win for Virginia Tech against Virginia, one that made the Hokies 35-5 against its current divisional opponents since joining the ACC in 2004.

It was the 11th win of the season for Virginia Tech, marking the second time in team history that it won at least 11 games in consecutive seasons (it also did so in 1999 and 2000).

The loss was the second-largest shutout loss for Virginia against Virginia Tech in the history of the rivalry. The only larger one was a 48-0 drubbing in 1983.

David Wilson’s 153 yards rushing gave him 10 games this season with at least 100 yards. That’s tied with Western Kentucky’s Bobby Rainey (who had 217 yards Saturday in a win over Troy) for the most 100-yard games this season.

The Cavaliers had their bid for their first-ever five-game conference winning streak snapped.

The taking in the Wisconsin Badgers 45-7 win over the Penn State Nittany Lions was done by Montee Ball, who ran for four touchdowns, giving him 34 this season. That’s the second-most in FBS history, five shy of Barry Sanders single-season record set in 1988.

It was the second-worst loss for Penn State since joining the Big Ten back in 1993 (it lost 45-6 to Ohio State in 2000).

Wisconsin has won 16 straight home games, matching LSU for the longest active streak among FBS teams.

Penn State entered the day as a team poised to stop the Badgers quick-striking offense. The Nittany Lions entered the day having allowed only one touchdown drive all season that was accomplished in two minutes or less, but allowed three such touchdowns in this contest.

In other late-afternoon action:

Alabama scores, now sits
Alabama won the Iron Bowl by beating Auburn, 42-14. The Crimson Tide scored their most points against Auburn since a 48-21 win in 1977.
A.J. McCarron excelled throwing play-action passes, completing eight of nine passes for 113 yards and three touchdowns. McCarron’s eight completions off play-action set a new career high.

Alabama, ranked No. 2 in the BCS, will not play in the season’s final week.

This will be the sixth time that a team has been in the top two spots of the BCS and not played in the last week of season.

Each of the previous five went on to play in the national title game (in other words: none got passed in the standings).

James adds to his ledger
LaMichael James had a rushing touchdown in Oregon’s 49-21 win over Oregon State, the 49th of his career, tying former USC running back Charles White for third-most in Pac-12 history.

The touchdown also gave him 324 points in his career, passing former kicker Jared Siegel (323) for the most career points scored in Oregon history.

Darron Thomas threw four touchdown passes and became the fourth Oregon quarterback with 60 career passing touchdowns.

The 49 points tied for the third-most ever scored by Oregon against its “Civil War” rival.

Winless No More
Lastly, Florida Atlantic beat UAB, 38-35, and became the last FBS team to win a game this season. Running back Alfred Morris set school records with 198 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns.
Two more teams clinched division titles and trips to conference championship games, while another staved off elimination and set up a winner-take-all game next week, on a busy early afternoon slate of games across the country.

Big Ten
The Michigan State Spartans can book their plane tickets to Indianapolis, and they have their most-hated rival to thank for being crowned the first-ever champion of the Big Ten Legends Division.

The Spartans 55-3 blowout win over the Indiana Hoosiers, coupled with the Nebraska Cornhusker's loss to the Michigan Wolverines, means that the Spartans will play in the inaugural Big Ten Championship game December 3.

Playing in their final home game, seniors Kirk Cousins and B.J. Cunningham led Michigan State to its 14th straight home win and its second undefeated season at Spartan Stadium in as many years. This is the first time since 1955-56 the team has had back-to-back perfect home seasons.

Cunningham was on the receiving end for 132 of Cousins’ 272 yards and two of his three passing scores. Cousins has 60 career touchdowns throws, one shy of the Spartans record set by Jeff Smoker. Cunningham has 20 touchdown catches, tied with Plaxico Burress and Andre Rison for third-most in Michigan State history.

While the Spartans were taking care of business in East Lansing, the Wolverines exploded for four touchdowns in the second half against Nebraska en route to a 45-17 win in Ann Arbor.

Denard Robinson, who was averaging fewer than 60 yards per game on the ground in his first six Big Ten games, rushed for over 80 yards and two touchdowns while also throwing for two more scores. His four games with two rushing touchdowns and two passing touchdowns since the start of last season are matched only by former Auburn Tigers quarterback Cam Newton.

Needing a win to avoid elimination in the Big Ten Leaders division race, the Wisconsin Badgers rallied from a 14-0 first-quarter deficit to beat the Illinois Fighting Illini 28-17. The Badgers face the Penn State Nittany Lions next weekend in a game that will decide the champion of the Leaders division.

Montee Ball was the offensive star, running for over 200 yards while scoring three times (two receiving, one rushing). Ball has at least two touchdowns in every game this season, and he is the fifth player in FBS history with at least 30 total touchdowns in a season.

The Georgia Bulldogs started the season 0-2, but have rebounded to win their last nine games, including a 19-10 win over the Kentucky Wildcats that clinched the SEC East title and their first berth in the SEC Championship game since 2005.

The Bulldogs nine-game win streak is their longest in a single season since 1982, when they went 11-0 in the regular season under coach Vince Dooley before losing to Penn State in the Sugar Bowl.

Despite losing freshman starting running back Isaiah Crowell on the first possession of the game due to an ankle injury, Georgia still won the rushing battle 155-23 as Brandon Harton ran for a career-high 101 yards.

Short pass game key to Luck's success

October, 18, 2011

Chris Morrison/US Presswire
Andrew Luck is completing 80.1 percent of his passes thrown less than 10 yards, a slightly higher percentage than last year’s Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton (75.5 percent).

In order to win a Heisman Trophy, candidates must find a way to separate themselves from the competition. Each week, they are presented with one opportunity to showcase their skills and impress voters. One bad game can end a player’s Heisman aspirations, while one good performance can vault a player into the national spotlight. In Week 7, we saw several outstanding performances by potential Heisman Trophy candidates. Here are the candidates who helped themselves the most.

(1) Andrew Luck, Stanford Cardinal
Luck passed for over 300 yards for the second straight game in Stanford’s win against Washington State. Despite attempting more passes (12) of 20-plus yards than in any other game over the last two seasons, Luck found success keeping it short. Luck was 20-of-24 with three touchdowns and no interceptions on throws of 20 yards or fewer and 16-of-17 on throws shorter than 10 yards. For the season, Luck is completing 80.1 percent of his passes thrown less than 10 yards, a slightly higher percentage than last year’s Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton who completed 75.5 percent of the same throws.

(2) Trent Richardson, Alabama Crimson Tide
Trent Richardson set new career-highs with 183 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 17 carries in Alabama’s win over Ole Miss. Richardson ran through the Rebel defense with 127 of his 183 yards (69.4 percent) coming after contact, including 80 such yards on his 76-yard touchdown run. It was Richardson’s third 40-plus yard touchdown run this season, which is tied with LaMichael James for most in FBS.

(3) Kellen Moore, Boise State Broncos
Moore completed 26-of-30 passes for 338 yards and four touchdowns in Boise State’s win over Colorado State. It was Moore’s eighth career game with four or more touchdown passes, trailing only Houston’s Case Keenum (14) for the most in FBS since 2008. Moore did much of his damage against the Rams in shotgun formation, where he completed 19-of-22 attempts for 294 yards and a season-high three touchdowns. It was Moore’s highest completion percentage while in shotgun during a game over the last three seasons.

(4) Russell Wilson, Wisconsin Badgers
Wilson completed 12-of-17 (70.6 percent) passes for 166 yards and a touchdown in Wisconsin’s win against Indiana. Wilson has now completed at least 70 percent of his passes in all six games this season. The only other player to accomplish this feat this season is Baylor’s Robert Griffin III. No other FBS player that has played in at least four games has completed 70 percent or more of their passes in every game. Wilson showcased his versatility against the Hoosiers. He caught a 25-yard touchdown pass from running back Montee Ball in the second quarter and both of his rushing attempts gained 15 yards or more. For the season, 25 percent (6-24) of Wilson’s rushes have gained 15 yards or more.

(5) Landry Jones, Oklahoma Sooners
Jones passed for 363 yards and three touchdowns in Oklahoma’s lopsided win over Kansas. Jones has now passed for more than 300 yards in five of his six games this season, and has thrown at least three touchdowns in four of the six games. Jones completed seven-of-13 throws of 15-plus yards against Kansas, including three touchdowns. The seven completions and three touchdowns both tied career-highs. Jones was at his best when targeting Ryan Broyles on these throws. Broyles caught four of the seven passes and two of the three touchdowns.

(6) Robert Griffin III, Baylor Bears
Griffin III threw for a career-high 430 yards and three touchdowns in Baylor’s loss at Texas A&M. It was Griffin’s fourth game this season with at least three touchdown passes and 300 yards passing, which is tied for the most such games in FBS. Against the Aggies, Griffin was particularly successful using play action. Griffin completed 16-of-22 passes following a run fake for 252 yards and two touchdowns. On the season, 14 of Griffin’s 22 touchdown passes have followed play action.
No. 7 Wisconsin hosted No. 8 Nebraska in the Cornhuskers’ first Big Ten game Saturday night. In the first meeting between the two teams since 1974, the Badgers scored 34 straight points spanning the second and third quarters on their way to a 48-17 victory.

Nebraska loses to a Big Ten team for just the second time in its past 14 tries. Its last loss to a Big Ten team came in 2002 at Penn State.

Wisconsin QB Russell Wilson continued to have success throwing downfield against the Blackshirts defense.

He completed two-thirds of his attempts that traveled 15 or more yards from the line of scrimmage, including touchdowns of 36 and 46 yards in the second quarter.

Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez couldn't match that success -- he recorded his first career three-interception game Saturday and all three picks were on throws 15 or more yards downfield.

That opened up space for Montee Ball, who tied a career high with four rush touchdowns. He did that twice last season, both times in Big Ten play.

So far this season, Wisconsin has outscored its opponents by a combined 191 points and has yet to win by fewer than 30 points.

The plus-191 point differential is better than any of the past five BCS National Champions through their first five games.

Since 2000, Nebraska is 2-16 against top-10 teams (1-6 under Bo Pelini), allowing more than 33 PPG, while scoring fewer than 20. Eleven of those 16 losses have come by double digits including six by at least 20 points.

They haven't won a road game against a top-10 team since beating Washington 27-14 on September 20, 1997.
The Wisconsin running game was on the ball, or shall we say on the Ball, in Saturday's win over Michigan.

Though Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson danced and doged his way to the FBS record for most rushing yards in a season by a quarterback, that was overshadowed by the performance of Badgers running back Montee Ball.

Ball, who finished with 173 yards rushing, became the fifth player to rush for four touchdowns in a game against Michigan, an elite list that includes the likes of Vince Young and college football legend Red Grange. Wisconsin dominated on the ground throughout, rushing the ball on 33 of its 34 offensive plays in the second half. Ball's teammate, James White, added 181 yards rushing and two scores.

Ball's two touchdowns made it such that the Badgers now have three running backs who have each met the following statistical measures this season:

• rushed for 500 yards

• rushed for 10 touchdowns

• rushed for 100 yards in at least three games

It also was, according to the school, the second time in school history that two players have rushed for at least 150 yards in the same game. The only other time was against Wyoming on Oct. 6, 1973, when Billy Marek had 226 yards and Ken Starch had 184 yards.

Robinson did become the first player in NCAA history (not just FBS) with 1,500 passing yards and 1,500 rushing yards in a season. But that's a statistical footnote in defeat.

The other Big Ten team in the state of Michigan was more fortunate.

The Michigan State senior class set a school record for most wins by earning its 32nd against Purdue on Saturday, but this one may have been as tough as they come. It required a rally from 15 points down in the fourth quarter and kept alive hopes of a share of the first Big Ten title for the team since 1990.

Here's why that win for the No. 12 Spartans was huge.

If Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Michigan State all finish 7-1 in conference play, the BCS Standings will determine the Big Ten's automatic bid to the NCAA. Thus, no team has control of its fate. A Spartans loss would have changed matters significantly.

Michigan State's seniors broke the mark of the 1990 senior class, which finished with 31 wins. The Spartans reached 10 wins for the third time in school history and improved to 7-0 at home this season. The last time Michigan State finished unbeaten at home was when it went 6-0 in 1999.