Stats & Info: Ohio State

Pac-12 tops final conference rankings

January, 14, 2015
Jan 14
After posting a Power 5-best 6-3 record in bowls, the Pac-12 rose to No. 1 in ESPN Stats & Information’s Conference Power Rankings -- a system that equally weighs the rankings from The Associated Press poll and ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) to determine the best and worst conferences in the country.

The Pac-12 not only had the best record, but it also outscored its opponents by more than eight points per game in bowls. Oregon, Utah and Stanford won by 24 or more points, and UCLA, Arizona State and USC won hard-fought contests. After an impressive bowl season, which included a trip to the national championship, the Pac-12 finished the year with six teams ranked in the AP poll, tied for the most of any conference with the SEC.

As the Pac-12 excelled, the SEC’s top teams struggled through bowl season. The SEC West in particular -- which was 28-0 against nonconference opponents entering bowls -- went 2-5, including 0-4 in New Year’s Six bowls.

Although many were quick to bury the SEC, the Conference Power Rankings account for the entire season and all teams in the conference, and the strength at the bottom of the SEC is unrivaled in college football.

We learned throughout bowl season, however, that there is more parity across the top of conferences than might have been expected. Each Power 5 conference had two teams in the top 10 of the final AP poll, and all had a team ranked in the top six.

After Ohio State's 42-20 victory over Oregon Monday night, the national champion is from the Big Ten for the first time since 2002. The Big Ten’s reputation had taken a hit in recent years, but Ohio State helped dispel the myth that the Big Ten could not compete with other top conferences by taking down the SEC and Pac-12 champions on its path to the title.

Michigan State and Wisconsin also beat top-20 opponents to help the Big Ten post its first winning record in bowls since 2009. Even more impressive is that the Big Ten was a Vegas underdog in all 11 of its bowl games and was expected to win about four games, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index. After exceeding expectations, the Big Ten rose 6.1 points in the Conference Power Rankings, the biggest rise of any conference during bowl season.

Elsewhere, the Big 12 had the worst bowl record of any Power 5 conference. Besides TCU’s 39-point victory over Ole Miss, the Big 12 was outscored by an average of 10.7 points in its other six games. The Big 12 ended the year 3-12 against nonconference opponents ranked in the top 40 of ESPN’s Football Power Index, the worst record of any Power 5 conference.

Next year, expect another great competition between the Pac-12 and SEC for the top conference in the nation. The SEC’s weakness this year, inexperience at quarterback, should become a strength as nine of 14 teams are returning their starting QBs next season.

The Big Ten and Big 12 also should make a splash with TCU, Ohio State and Baylor ranked as the top three teams heading into next season in Mark Schlabach’s Way-Too-Early Top 25. Keep an eye out for ESPN’s Preseason FPI, which will be released this spring, to see where your team and conference rank heading into next season.

Ohio State's Braxton Miller back for 2014

August, 5, 2014
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesBraxton Miller could become Ohio State's winningest quarterback since 1960.
The 2014 college football season has the potential to showcase one of the most talented groups of quarterbacks in recent memory. Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Brett Hundley and Bryce Petty are all being talked about as potential first-round NFL draft picks, while Braxton Miller and Everett Golson have the chance to solidify their place in their respective school’s storied histories.

In preparation for the 2014 season and in conjunction with interviews conducted by ESPN CFB analyst Kirk Herbstreit, ESPN Stats & Info will take a deeper look at the top QBs entering the fall. Today, we take a look at Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller.

A look back at 2013
Braxton Miller had an outstanding junior season, becoming the first player in Big Ten history (since 1990 when the award was first given) to win the Offensive Player of the Year award in consecutive seasons. He was the only Power Five conference quarterback to throw for at least 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards last year. If Miller can accomplish that feat again, he will join Colin Kaepernick and become the second FBS quarterback in the past 10 years to reach those thresholds in three seasons.

Miller has rushed for at least 100 yards in 14 games since the start of 2011, second most among FBS quarterbacks. He had five such games last season, which tied for fourth among FBS quarterbacks. Miller has always been a prolific rusher, but he’s also improved as a passer every year at Ohio State. Miller’s completion percentage, passing yards and touchdowns have increased every season.

He was more willing to operate from the pocket last year. He attempted 85 percent of his passes from the pocket, nearly 20 percentage points higher than in 2012. His 19 touchdown passes from inside the pocket were tied for the most in the Big Ten with Indiana’s Nate Sudfeld and Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg.

A look ahead to 2014
With another 11-win season, Miller will pass Art Schlichter for the most wins (36) on record at Ohio State (the school first kept such records in 1960). Assuming Miller stays healthy, he has a good chance of passing Schlichter.

According to the ESPN Football Power Index, Ohio State has the best chance (41 percent) of winning the Big Ten, nearly 20 percentage points better than Wisconsin, and is projected for between 10 and 11 wins heading into bowl season. The Buckeyes have won 24 consecutive regular-season games, four shy of tying the Big Ten conference record.

The Buckeyes have big shoes to fill. They must replace six of 11 starters on offense, including league-leading rusher Carlos Hyde and four starters from an offensive line that combined for 135 starts.

Miller might have to shoulder more of the load. In the past, he has stepped up when his team needed him. Miller enters 2014 with six career game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime, including three last season. The six career game-winning drives are the most among returning FBS quarterbacks and five more than any other returning quarterback in the Big Ten.

One area in which Miller needs to get better is on third down. He ranked in the bottom third of the FBS in Total QBR (47.1) and completion percentage (50.9) on third down. Only Michigan’s Devin Gardner and Purdue’s Danny Etling were sacked more on third down than Miller (12) among Big Ten quarterbacks. Only two of the past 10 national championship quarterbacks have had a third-down QBR less than 70 in the season they won the title.

Read-option success paces Miller, Buckeyes

June, 25, 2013

Jamie Sabau/Getty ImagesBraxton Miller (left) and his read-option success helped lead Ohio State to a 12-0 season in 2012.
The 2013 college football season has the potential to showcase one of the greatest quarterback classes ever. Eight of the top 10 teams in last year’s final AP Poll return their starting quarterbacks, and every conference except the Big 12 returns either their first- or second-team quarterbacks from last season.

In preparation for the 2013 season, ESPN Stats & Info will take a deeper look at the top QBs entering the fall. Tuesday, we look at the reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, Braxton Miller.

A Look Back at 2012

Braxton Miller had a breakout sophomore season. He was one of five FBS players to gain at least 1,000 rush yards and 2,000 pass yards and his 105.9 rush yards per game were the fourth-most by both a Big Ten player and by an FBS quarterback.

Miller didn't subscribe to the Woody Hayes mantra of “three yards and a cloud of dust.” Instead, Miller finished with 10 rushes that gained at least 30 yards, tied for fifth-most in the nation. Five of those 10 rushes went for touchdowns.

Miller started all 12 games for the nation’s only undefeated FBS team last season and made an impact each time out. He scored a touchdown (rush or pass) in 11 of Ohio State’s 12 games and ran for a score of at least 30 yards in five games. The five games with a 30-yard rush TD were tied for the third-most among all FBS players, and second among quarterbacks (Johnny Manziel – 6).

One reason for Miller’s success was the way he was utilized by Urban Meyer. Miller averaged 13.8 designed runs per game, an increase of over seven per game from his freshman season. As a result, Miller led all BCS AQ-quarterbacks with 1,214 yards on designed-running plays last season.

It was more than just the quantity of plays called for Miller--it was also the design of them. Meyer used Miller on read option or zone-read plays on 35.2 percent of his carries.

Miller excelled on this play, averaging over eight yards per carry and scoring six touchdowns, including three longer than 50 yards. He finished the season with 676 yards on zone-read plays, 630 more than he had as a freshman.

What’s Ahead for 2013?

The question for Miller is can he continue to improve as a pocket passer. He made great strides last season, completing 59 percent of his passes from inside the pocket in Big Ten games. That is up nearly 13 percentage points from 2011.

He completed a career-high 83.3 percent of such passes against Michigan in the final game of last season. It was the third straight game that he completed at least 60 percent from inside the pocket, the longest such streak of his career.

Despite his improvement in the pocket, Miller struggled on third down in 2012. He had the lowest completion percentage on third down of any Big Ten quarterback with at least 60 attempts (48.7 percent). His 24 passing first downs on third down were the third-fewest for an FBS quarterback with at least 75 attempts.

If Miller can continue to develop in the pocket and become more efficient on third down, Ohio State could be looking at its record eighth Heisman Trophy winner.
A scan of the college basketball box scores each night guarantees all kinds of statistical oddities and standout performances. Here are some we found from Saturday.

Indiana State 78, Southern Illinois 68
Indiana State made all 12 of its 3-point attempts Saturday, the most 3-pointers without a miss in a single game in NCAA history. The previous record for most threes without a miss was nine, done by Minnesota against Penn State on Jan. 11, 2009.

Lipscomb 99, Stetson 91 (OT)
Lipscomb scored 25 points in the extra session, one shy of the NCAA Division I record for points in an overtime period. The record of 26 was done by Vermont on Jan. 24, 1998, against Hartford.

Duke 73, Maryland 55
Duke’s Miles Plumlee had 22 rebounds in 28 minutes off the bench, the most rebounds by a bench player since Sean May had 24 against Duke on March 6, 2005 (May did not start that game because it was North Carolina’s Senior Day). Plumlee is the first player this season with at least 20 rebounds in fewer than 30 minutes of playing time.

Michigan State 58, Ohio State 48
Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger had 17 points, 16 rebounds and 10 turnovers in the Buckeyes’ loss Saturday. It’s the first "triple-double" using points, rebounds and turnovers in Division I this season. Jerrell Williams of La Salle had the last one on Jan. 19, 2011, against Duquesne.

Kansas 81, Oklahoma State 66
The Jayhawks’ Jeff Withey had 18 points, 20 rebounds and seven blocks in the win. He’s the first player to reach all three of those levels in the same game since VCU’s Larry Sanders put up the exact same line on March 9, 2009, in the CAA championship game against George Mason.

Texas 75, Kansas State 64
Texas attempted 48 free throws to Kansas State’s 12. That free-throw differential of 36 is the largest in a game involving a Big 6 team this season and the third-largest overall. Texas’ 48 free-throw attempts are the second most by a Big 6 team on the season (Washington attempted 59 on Jan. 10 against Seattle).

Texas Tech 65, Oklahoma 47
Oklahoma scored just six points in the paint, the fewest points in the paint in a game by a Big 6 team this season.

St. Bonaventure 69, Duquesne 48
Florida Atlantic 86, North Texas 81 (2OT)
St. Bonaventure’s Andrew Nicholson scored 21 points and grabbed 23 rebounds in the Bonnies’ win, and North Texas’ Tony Mitchell scored 22 points and grabbed 20 rebounds in the Mean Green’s double-overtime loss. They became just the sixth and seventh players this season to record a 20-20 game. Nicholson’s 23 rebounds are the second most in a game this season, trailing only Cameron Moore of UAB who had 24 on Dec. 28.

Seattle 100, Longwood 99 (OT)
Seattle’s Chad Rasmussen was 6-for-17 from the field in the Redhawks’ win, with all of his attempts coming from 3-point range. That is the most 3-pointers attempted in a game without attempting a 2-point field goal.

Arkansas-Pine Bluff 64, Southern 58
Trillion of the Night: Jamar Harris of Arkansas-Pine Bluff played 12 minutes without accumulating a single stat in his team’s 64-58 win over Southern.
Five years ago Urban Meyer was celebrating his first National Championship, a victory for his Florida Gators against the Ohio State Buckeyes. As of Monday morning it is being reported that Meyer will not only return to the sport, but do so with the team he beat for that title.

This will be the fourth stop in Urban Meyer's coaching career. He had a 104-23 record over 10 seasons with Bowling Green, Utah and Florida. From 2001-10, he had five 10-win seasons, two BCS titles with Florida and a 7-1 record in bowl games.

Meyer brings credibility back to a program that failed to win the Big Ten for the first time since the 2004 season. The two appear to be a perfect match as no school has appeared in more BCS Bowl games than Ohio State, which has done so nine times. And no coach has a better record in BCS Bowl games than Urban Meyer, who is 4-0 all-time.

His .819 win percentage is the 10th-highest all-time among coaches with a minimum of 10 years of experience and leads all active coaches fitting that minimum.

Still Ohio State has a lot of work to do after it finished 3-5 in Big Ten play, the first time since 1999 that they were under .500 in conference play. In Meyer's 10 years as head coach, his teams have never finished below .500 in conference.

So what can Ohio State realistically expect in its first season under Urban Meyer?

In his first season his teams have improved by at least two games at each of his previous three stops. Even more impressive, Meyer's teams have never won fewer than eight games in his first season -- or any season he has coached for that matter.

The Ohio State offense struggled this season, ranking in the bottom half of the conference in scoring offense and total offense. The Buckeyes had the fifth-worst passing offense in the FBS, averaging just 124 yards per game through the air.

However Ohio State does return talented freshman Braxton Miller who threw 11 touchdowns compared to just four interceptions, while also rushing for more than 100 yards in three of his final four games.

Meyer has engineered an offensive turnaround everywhere he's been, however it usually takes a year for his system to thrive. In his first year at a new school Meyer's teams have ranked right around 60th in total offense. However in the second year at the school, Meyer's teams have averaged out to be about 10th among FBS teams in total offense.

In fact it is likely 2013 and not 2012 in which the Buckeyes will be back in BCS prominence. Urban Meyer went undefeated in his second season at Utah and won his first National Championship in his second season at Florida.

And for good measure, Ohio State's last National Championship came in Jim Tressel's second season at the helm, while the Buckeyes' first National Championship in 1942 came in Paul Brown's second season as well.
The 2011 USA Today Preseason Coaches' Poll was released late Thursday morning with the Oklahoma Sooners taking the top overall spot. This is the first time Oklahoma is the preseason No. 1 in the poll since 2003, a season in which they reached the BCS National Championship game before falling to LSU. The team finished third in the coaches' poll that season.

However, the Sooners do not have recent history on their side - the last team to open up the season No. 1 in the coaches' poll and finish the season No. 1 was USC in 2004.

One challenge the Sooners will have to overcome in order to stay No. 1 will be performance on the road. Specifically, the performance of quarterback Landry Jones.

Jones was much more effective at home during the 2010 season - he had a 37-6 touchdown-to-interception ratio at home compared to 27-to-20 on the road. The team's first road test will be on September 17 at Florida State, with other notable road/neutral games including Texas on October 8, Baylor on November 19 and Oklahoma State on December 3.

Beyond The Top Spot
The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame made the largest jump of all teams inside the top 20, going from unranked and 36th in receiving votes to No. 18 in the preseason poll. Three other teams jumped 10 or more spots based on their final ranking from the previous season, including Texas A&M and Florida State, both of whom jumped into the top 10.

On the other hand, three of the final top five teams from the final coaches poll last season dropped by more than 10 spots. Auburn fell 18 spots down to 19th, the largest drop for any team. That's thanks in part to returning only three starters on each side of the ball. It is the lowest debut for a defending national champion since USA Today began administering the coaches' poll in 1991. Meanwhile Ohio State found itself 16th in the preseason poll and TCU sits 15th after finishing No. 2 last season.

Alabama, which picked up 13 first-place votes, comes in at No. 2 and will once again be relying heavily on the running game to stay there. The team lost starting running back and former Heisman Trophy-winner Mark Ingram to the NFL and will now turn to Trent Richardson to pick up where he left off.

Thankfully, Richardson proved himself to be effective last season - perhaps more effective than even Ingram himself. Richardson was superior to Ingram in his yards per rush figures from virtually every angle; rushing inside the tackles (Richardson' 5.0 to Ingram's 4.7), rushing outside the tackles (7.8 to 6.5) and even yards after contact (2.7 to 2.4).

After completing fewer than half of his passes that were thrown in the air 10 yards or more in 2009, LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson's deep passes regressed even further in 2010.

Jefferson is going to have to improve his deep touch if the Tigers are going to overcome of the nation's toughest schedules.

That schedule features an opener against Oregon, trips to Alabama, West Virginia, Mississippi State and home dates against Florida, Arkansas and Auburn. In other words, it will be a challenge for the Tigers to remain in the top five all season long.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Big East failed to place a team in the preseason Top 25 for the second time in three seasons.

However, a lot can change between now and January - just ask defending champion Auburn as it was ranked No. 23 in the 2010 Preseason Coaches Poll.
After throwing for more than 200 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for more than 100 yards against Arkansas, Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor was the MVP of the Buckeyes' BCS bowl game for the second time in as many seasons. In last year's Rose Bowl win over Oregon, Pryor had two touchdown passes and racked up 338 total yards of offense.

Against the Razorbacks, Pryor threw for 221 yards and finished with 115 yards rushing, the fifth time in his career that he's had a 200-100 game. Pryor created a lot of big plays with his legs, scrambling five times for 69 yards (13.8 yards per rush), including a 37-yard scamper that ended with a Dane Sanzenbacher fumble recovery for a touchdown. Coming into the game, Pryor had scrambled 31 times this season for an average gain of 9.3 YPR.

For the second time in as many nights, a BCS game had a safety (by Arkansas in the 4th quarter). Prior to the Orange Bowl, there had not been a safety in a BCS game in five years. It was the first safety in the Sugar Bowl since Ohio State had one against Florida State in 1998.

The Buckeyes held on to win after building a 28-10 halftime lead. It was the most points scored by Ohio State in the first half of its nine BCS appearances. OSU also improved to 6-1 in BCS games when leading at halftime. The Buckeyes lone loss was in the 2009 Fiesta Bowl when they led 6-3 over Texas before losing 24-21.

Ohio State broke its curse against SEC teams in bowl games, getting its first such win after going 0-9 heading into Tuesday’s Allstate Sugar Bowl. Ohio State also has both the most BCS appearances (nine) and now it has the most BCS wins with six. Florida and USC are tied for second, each with five BCS wins (USC had six, but had to vacate its 2005 Orange Bowl win over Oklahoma).
College football is a game of patterns, or at least it is in the cases of No. 9 Ohio State and No. 20 Iowa. In this case, the teams are on opposite ends of the spectrum. Saturday marked the sixth time this season that the Buckeyes have started slow only to rally. On five of those occasions, including the 20-17 win against Iowa, they've done enough to get the win. This one was the 12th in the last 13 meetings against the Hawkeyes.

Ohio State was fortunate to emerge victorious. The Buckeyes entered leading FBS in turnover margin at +14, but were -2 on Saturday.

For the Hawkeyes, losses like this have become a bad habit. All four of Iowa's losses this season (to Arizona, Wisconsin, Northwestern, and Ohio State) have come in games in which they allowed a game-winning touchdown with less than four minutes remaining. Iowa is now 1-7 against Ohio State under Kirk Ferentz, its worst record vs any Big 10 foe.

Elsewhere, the Buckeyes were joined on the comeback trail by No. 5 LSU, which beat Ole Miss, 43-36 on Stevan Ridley's touchdown with 44 seconds remaining. It's the sixth time that the Tigers have won a game this season by seven points or less, the most such wins in a single season in school history.

• It was a good day for quarterbacks on the run. Nevada's Colin Kaepernick rushed for one score, giving him 55, four shy of Eric Crouch's record for most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback. Navy's Ricky Dobbs moved into fifth place on that list with three rushing touchdowns Saturday. He now has 48 for his career.

• It was also a good day to be remembered as The Galloping Ghost. Red Grange found his way onto a couple of college football graphics Saturday. He's one of a rare group of players who have rushed for four touchdowns in a game against Michigan -- a group that now includes Wisconsin's Montee Ball.

Grange also makes the all-time Illini single-game rushing yards list. It's one that Mikel Leshoure now stands atop after he rushed for 330 yards at Wrigley Field against Northwestern. Grange, the original standard-bearer for that mark, now stands fourth for his 237-yard game at Penn in 1925.

• But the best day probably belonged to Harvard's Zar Zavala, who didn't even get to play in the Crimson's 28-21 win over Yale. But he did learn afterwards that he won a Rhodes Scholarship. He joins an elite list of scholar-athletes to earn that distinction.
The note, stat or trend you need to know about each top-25 team in action on Saturday.

18 Penn State at 1 Alabama, 7 ET on ESPN: In the last 15 years, the No. 1 team in the AP poll is 26-0 at home against ranked opponents, with an average victory margin of nearly 22 points per game. Penn State has not allowed a touchdown in its three previous trips to Tuscaloosa. The Nittany Lions won 9-0 in 1990, 23-3 in 1986 and lost 6-0 in 1984.

12 Miami (FL) at 2 Ohio State, 3:40 ET on ESPN: Miami hasn’t won away from home against an AP top two team since Nov. 16, 1991 when the second-ranked Canes knocked off top-ranked Florida State in Tallahassee. Since then, Miami has lost seven straight such games, including bowls. Ohio State is 26-2 at home under Jim Tressel against non-conference opponents. The only losses were against third-ranked USC last season (18-15) and second-ranked Texas in 2005 (25-22).

Tennessee Tech at 4 TCU, 7 ET: Seven of TCU’s last eight victories have been by at least 27 points. The lone exception was a 30-21 win over Oregon State last Saturday in the 2010 season opener.

Wyoming at 5 Texas, 7 ET: The Longhorns have won 15 straight home games, tied for the fifth-longest active streak in the nation, and are 3-0 all-time against Wyoming, including a 41-10 win last year in Laramie.

Idaho at 6 Nebraska, 12:30 ET: Nebraska is 21-1 all-time against current WAC teams and has allowed 20 or fewer points in nine straight games dating back to last season, the longest streak in the nation.

7 Oregon at Tennessee, 7 ET on ESPN2: Both Oregon and Tennessee shut out their opponents in Week 1 (Oregon 72-0 vs New Mexico, Tennessee 50-0 vs Tennessee-Martin). Nine teams posted shutouts in Week 1 – these two are the only ones who are playing each other in Week 2. Tennessee’s opening week shutout was its first since 1993 against Louisiana Tech. Oregon’s was its first since 1988 against Long Beach State.

South Florida at 8 Florida, 12:21 ET on ESPN3: Florida meets South Florida for the first time. The Gators are 9-0 under Urban Meyer against teams from the state of Florida. However, Meyer is not perfect against the state of Florida. While Bowling Green’s coach in 2002, his squad lost to South Florida 29-7.

Iowa State at 9 Iowa, 3:30 ET on ABC/ESPN2: The Cyclones have been a thorn in Kirk Ferentz’s side since he joined the Hawkeyes, though he’s been better against them recently. Ferentz started 0-4 against Iowa State but is 5-2 since then. The worst of those losses came in 2002, when Iowa was prevented from an undefeated regular season by one game – a home loss to Iowa State.

17 Florida State at 10 Oklahoma, 3:30 ET on ABC/ESPN2: Oklahoma has won 31 straight home games, the longest active streak in the nation. Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher is facing his first ranked opponent. On September 25, 1976, Bobby Bowden coached his first game against a ranked opponent as FSU coach. It was against the fourth-ranked Sooners. Florida State lost 24-9 in what was Bowden’s third career game as FSU head coach.

San Jose State at 11 Wisconsin, Noon ET on ESPN: Wisconsin has won 14 straight home openers, dating back to 1996. They have also won 25 consecutive regular-season games against non-conference opponents. Their last loss came at home to UNLV on Sept. 13, 2003.

James Madison at 13 Virginia Tech, 1:30 on Virginia Tech has won 32 straight non-conference home games and has won all six of its meetings with JMU, outscoring the Dukes 245-44.

UL Monroe vs 14 Arkansas, 7 ET on Arkansas leads the all-time series 8-0, outscoring ULM 327-121 in the process. The Razorbacks are also 26-0 all-time against current members of the Sun Belt Conference.

15 Georgia Tech at Kansas, Noon ET: This is the second meeting all-time between the two schools, with the first coming on January 1, 1948 in the Orange Bowl (a 20-14 Georgia Tech victory).

Virginia at 16 USC, 10:30 ET: USC is on a 17-game non-conference winning streak dating back to its loss in the 2006 Rose Bowl against Texas and has won 11 straight home openers.

19 LSU at Vanderbilt, 7 ET on ESPNU: LSU has won six straight and 10 of the last 11 meetings with Vanderbilt (the Commodores have not defeated LSU since 1990).

UNLV at 20 Utah, 4 ET: Utah has won 18 straight home games, the third-longest active streak among FBS teams. The school record of 26 was set from 1928-34.

22 Georgia at 24 South Carolina, Noon ET on ESPN2: Steve Spurrier went 11-1 against Georgia when he was the Florida head coach but is just 1-4 against the Bulldogs with South Carolina. He never faced Georgia while he was coaching Duke. Georgia had seven different players score a touchdown in Week 1 – most for the team since 1994, when seven players scored in a 70-6 win against Northeast Louisiana.

Harris deep ball could key Canes upset

September, 8, 2010
It's a big weekend in college football. Let's take a look at some of the key storylines in the biggest matchups via Next Level previews:



• Miami finished 2009 with a 9-4 record, and Jacory Harris' success throwing downfield was a good barometer for the Canes' success. Harris connected on 7-of-9 passes thrown at least 10 yards down the field against Florida A&M to start 2010, and the Ohio State defense must be ready to contain Harris' downfield throwing ability. Since the start of the 2009 season, Harris has completed 58.3 percent of his throws of 10+ yards in wins, compared to 39.4 percent in losses.

• Harris got off to an incredibly fast start last season, and helped Miami out to a 5-1 record through an incredibly tough early schedule. Much of this was due to his accuracy on passes of 20+ yards. But as injuries piled up and the toll of the season's 34 sacks wore on him, Harris faded in the season's final seven games as Miami lost three of its final seven.


Terrelle Pryor is dangerous on third down because of his ability to tuck the football and run with it. Pryor finished with 366 rushing yards on third down in 2009, second most in the FBS, and had 16 rushes of 10+ yards, which was the highest total in the FBS on third down. Pryor has picked up yardage when called upon to run, but has also shown the ability to improvise: 14 of his 49 third-down runs over the last two seasons were on scrambles. He averaged over 14 yards per carry on those runs, compared to 6.1 on called run plays.


• Pryor has had recent success throwing downfield when he targets a receiver in the middle of the field. Since the start of 2009, Prior has completed 57.7 percent of his throws of at least 15 yards to the middle of the field. Conversely, he's completed just 37.9 percent of such passes to the right or left side of the field.


• Since 2009 Terrelle Pryor has completed as many deep throws of 20+ yards to receiver DeVier Posey as all other Buckeye targets combined, but against Marshall, Pryor's only deep connections came with Dane Sanzenbacher. Six of Pryor's eight pass TD on throws of 20+ yards since 2009 have gone to Posey. If both Posey and Sanzenbacher prove to be viable options down the field, Ohio State opponents could be in for some trouble.



• Alabama won the National Championship last season, but it was a struggle for the Tide when the offense reached the red zone. Alabama scored a touchdown on just 47.5 percent of its red zone trips, ranking the team 108th out of 120 FBS teams. Quarterback Greg McElroy finished 2009 with a 35.0 percent red zone completion rate, the third-worst completion percentage among FBS quarterbacks with at least 30 attempts. McElroy can improve this season if he can find a way to get the ball to star receiver Julio Jones when deep in opponent territory. Jones' only red zone reception last season came against FCS opponent Chattanooga.


• Greg McElroy has had far more success throwing down the field when he uses the threat of the run to set up his passes. 68 percent of his completions on downfield throws (15+ yards) have come after a play-action fake since 2009 began. He's completed 47.5 percent of such attempts off of play-action, compared to just 29.0 percent with no play-action.


• Alabama running back Trent Richardson may have to carry the load Saturday if Mark Ingram is unable to go. Richardson averaged over 6 yards per carry against San Jose State, and found most of his success when lined up in the pistol formation rather than a traditional I-formation with a fullback. In the pistol offense, the quarterback is not under center, but also closer to the center than a traditional shotgun snap. The running back then lines up behind the quarterback.


• While Richardson is a tremendous talent, he was not able to match Mark Ingram's production between the tackles last season against SEC competition. Ingram averaged 6.2 yards per carry between the tackles, while Richardson averaged 3.3. Ingram took 17 of his 117 carries for 10+ yards, while Richardson did so with just 3 of his 48.



Landry Jones struggled last season to complete downfield passes, connecting on just 29.8 percent of his passes thrown 15 or more yards, but did have success when targeting star receiver Ryan Broyles. Oklahoma's offense would get a huge boost this season if another receiver can emerge as a downfield threat.


• Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder was very solid when outside the pocket in the Seminoles' first game of the season against Samford. In fact, he was a perfect 5-for-5 on throws from outside the pocket (with 1 TD pass), while he was 7-for-9 from inside the pocket. Ponder used a play-action fake on 71.4 percent of his passes against Samford, completing nine of his 10 attempts with 4 touchdowns after faking the run.



• Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson had a coming out party against Connecticut, and looks like one of the best dual threat quarterbacks in the country. Robinson hurt Connecticut in a variety of ways with his legs last Saturday.


• Robinson worked hard to boost his passing game in the off-season, and his performance against Connecticut was an indication that his ability to drop back and throw a pass in the pocket is much improved. He was 8-for-18 passing from inside the pocket in 2009, but was 14-for-14 from inside the pocket against UConn. He was also 2-for-2 on throws of 15+ yards after going just 1-for-11 on such throws vs FBS opponents last season.