Stats & Info: Oregon Ducks

Oregon's Mariota looks to take next step

August, 4, 2014
Aug 4

Kelley L Cox/USA TODAY SportsMarcus Mariota threw 31 touchdowns and four interceptions last year for Oregon.
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 places 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 examine Marcus Mariota, who enters the 2014 season with a career 23-3 record for Oregon.

A Look Back at 2013
Marcus Mariota’s numbers speak for themselves. Boasting a career 23-3 record as a starter, Mariota has thrown for 63 touchdowns compared with 10 interceptions. Add his 14 rushing touchdowns, and Mariota has been a dynamic force on offense and a real challenge to opposing defensive coordinators since taking the helm in the 2012 season.

Mariota posted a Total QBR of 88.0 last season, which trailed only Heisman Trophy-winning Jameis Winston. It was the second consecutive season Mariota ranked second in the FBS in Total QBR behind the eventual Heisman Trophy winner.

Mariota made great strides as a passer last season, improving his yards per attempt and his touchdown-to-interception ratio from 2012. He was especially impressive on his downfield passes, completing 58.1 percent of his passes thrown 15 yards or longer, best among Power Five Conference quarterbacks and 16 percentage points higher than in 2012.

Mariota’s prowess running the zone read helped the Ducks lead the Pac-12 in rushing each of the past two seasons. He improved his efficiency on designed rushes, increasing his average by almost three yards per designed rush from 2012. Mariota’s 11.8 yards per designed rush was at least three yards better than any other Power Five Conference quarterback.

Mariota was a different quarterback, however, after he suffered a sprained MCL in a Week 11 loss against Stanford. Before the injury, Mariota had a 92.9 Total QBR, on pace to be the third-highest single-season Total QBR in the last 10 seasons. After the injury, his Total QBR dipped to 78.3 (excluding the game vs. Stanford) and he threw all four of his interceptions in Oregon’s last four games of the season.

Additionally, Mariota was less efficient on designed runs after the injury. He averaged 13.4 yards on four designed rushes per game before hurting his knee, but he totaled four designed rushes for 11 yards in the remaining three regular-season matchups, including none against Utah in the week after his injury.

Can Mariota fight off his Cardinal demons?
Mariota’s glorious career does have one glitch: he and the Ducks are 0-2 against the Stanford Cardinal compared with 23-1 against all other teams.

Stanford’s ability to keep the Ducks’ offense off the field and to contain their outside runs made it tough to open up passing lanes for Mariota. The Cardinal kept the Ducks narrow, limiting their ability to get out in open spaces.

Mariota and the Ducks will have an early test in the second week this season when they host Michigan State, the team that beat Stanford in last season's Rose Bowl. Mariota’s performance against the Spartans could be a good barometer of his progression as a complete quarterback.

Looking at tournaments through BPI

March, 12, 2014
Mar 12

AP Photo/Gerry BroomeESPN's BPI likes Duke's chances of winning the ACC tournament, but they could face tough competition along the way.
Duke has the best chance of winning the ACC men’s basketball tournament, according to ESPN’s Basketball Power Index, but the Blue Devils don’t have the greatest likelihood of making it to the ACC semifinals.

Oregon has the second-best BPI rating in the Pac-12, but four other teams have a greater probability of reaching the semifinals of that conference’s tournament.

In projecting the results of conference tournaments, a team’s BPI rating doesn’t tell the entire story.

To project the likelihood of each team reaching and winning in a particular round, BPI takes into account how challenging the tournament has been for a team to that point. That aspect of the BPI calculations leads to interesting projections that might seem counterintuitive in light of teams’ BPI ratings.

In the ACC, for example, BPI No. 7 Duke has the greatest projected likelihood of winning the tournament. But No. 10 Syracuse has a slightly greater likelihood of reaching the ACC tournament semifinals (82 percent) than the Blue Devils (81 percent) as well as regular-season champion and No. 8 Virginia (74 percent).

All three of these teams (as well as fourth-seeded North Carolina) receive byes to the quarterfinals. In that round, based on BPI projections, the Orange are most likely to play North Carolina State (71st in the BPI rankings), whereas Duke and Virginia are projected to have quarterfinal opponents ranking in the BPI Top 60.

There is not much difference in the projected championship chances for the top three teams. The Blue Devils have a 27 percent probability compared to Virginia’s 25 percent and Syracuse’s 23 percent.

Extra game has cost
In the Pac-12, only BPI No. 1 Arizona has a higher ranking than No. 16 Oregon. The Ducks finished in a five-way tie for third place in the standings and are seeded seventh in the tournament, which forces them to play a first-round game.

That extra matchup helps reduce Oregon’s chances of reaching the semifinals to 43 percent. BPI No. 21 UCLA has the greatest likelihood of reaching the semifinals in that quadrant of the bracket (53 percent) and is the second-most likely Pac-12 tournament champion, with a 10 percent chance, compared with Arizona’s 63 percent.

An important 'if' for Big 12
BPI No. 4 Kansas has a 49 percent probability of reaching the Big 12 tournament final and a 37 percent chance of winning the tournament, making the Jayhawks the favorites in Kansas City, Mo.

BPI No. 17 Iowa State, on the same side of the bracket as the Jayhawks, has a 28 percent chance of playing for the tournament title – compared with 42 percent for lower-ranked Oklahoma, which is in the other half of the bracket. Should Iowa State reach the final, however, the Cyclones would have a 56 percent chance of beating BPI No. 24 Oklahoma.

The projections for Kansas reflect the team’s performance through the entire season and don’t take into account Joel Embiid’s back injury (which will keep him out of the conference tournament). In the three games Embiid missed, Kansas’ BPI was 85.0, compared to its 88.4 rating for the season. If that’s representative of the Jayhawks’ true level of play without Embiid, it’s enough to drop their chances to win to 24 percent, behind Oklahoma (29 percent) and slightly ahead of Iowa State (21 percent).

Big Ten projections
The Big Ten tournament projections demonstrate how BPI looks beyond wins and losses to gauge the power of teams. Michigan won the regular-season conference championship by three games, but the Wolverines are the third favorite to win the conference tournament based on BPI projections.

Wisconsin, which ranks ninth in BPI and tied for second place in the Big Ten standings, has a 26 percent likelihood of winning the conference tournament. BPI No. 14 Ohio State has a 19 percent likelihood of winning, fractionally better than No. 22 Michigan.

Not far behind is BPI No. 13 Michigan State, which has a 17 percent likelihood of winning the conference tournament.

Top-10 losses mean little in BPI rankings

March, 10, 2014
Mar 10
Four teams in the top 10 of ESPN’s Basketball Power Index lost last weekend, but the impact on the BPI rankings heading into this week’s major conference tournaments was minimal. The differences between the 0-to-100 BPI ratings of top teams meant that the drop in a team’s BPI after a loss often wasn’t enough to alter the rankings.

BPI No. 1 Arizona fell 64-57 at Oregon on Saturday and lost 0.7 in its BPI rating. But the Wildcats had enough of a cushion over No. 2 Florida that they maintained the hold on the top spot. Similarly, No. 9 Wisconsin, which lost at Nebraska on Sunday, maintained its ranking despite a 1.0 drop in BPI.

Kansas falls after Shockers’ victory
A 92-86 loss at West Virginia brought Kansas’ BPI rating down 0.7, and the Jayhawks kept their No. 3 BPI ranking after Saturday’s games.

After Wichita State won the Missouri Valley Conference tournament championship game Sunday, the Shockers got a bump of 0.2 in their BPI – a small bump, but large enough for Wichita State to move from No. 4 to No. 3 in the rankings, leapfrogging Kansas. The Jayhawks, who have the toughest schedule among BPI Top 15 teams, are No. 3 in the NCAA’s RPI rankings but fell from eighth to 10th in the weekly Associated Press poll.

Of the BPI Top 10 teams that lost, only Virginia (a 75-69 overtime loser at Maryland on Sunday) dropped in the rankings immediately after the defeat, from No. 7 to No. 8.

Pac-12 climber and faller
Oregon, in its BPI rating, gained less than Arizona lost after their game Saturday but climbed four spots in the rankings Sunday to No. 16. The Ducks have won seven games in a row (earning a BPI Game Score of at least 90 in five of them) and exceeded a 90 Game Score in its loss at Arizona on Feb. 6. The NCAA’s RPI has Oregon at No. 25, and the Ducks have the third-most votes among teams finishing out of the top 25 in the AP poll.

The biggest faller in BPI rankings among the Top 50 was UCLA. The Bruins lost 73-55 at No. 175 Washington State on Saturday and fell from 11th to 21st. UCLA earned a Game Score of 10.6 against Washington State, 10 points lower than any other game score for a team currently ranked in the BPI Top 25.

In the eye of the beholder
BPI and other team ranking systems weigh different factors, which explains why teams such as Michigan and Louisville can be regarded so differently.

Michigan is eighth in the AP poll, ninth in RPI and a No. 2 seed in Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology. In BPI, however, Michigan is 22nd. Of the Wolverines’ seven losses, four have been by at least 10 points; of their wins, seven have been by five points or fewer. Also, Michigan is 8-1 with an 88.7 BPI against opponents missing at least one of their top five players (in terms of minutes per game), and BPI de-weights those games.

Louisville rose from 11th to fifth in the AP poll, but the Cardinals are a projected No. 4 seed in Bracketology and are 22nd in RPI. BPI ranks the Cardinals fifth. All five of Louisville’s losses have been to BPI Top 50 teams and have been by an average of six points, whereas its five wins against Top-50 opponents have come by an average of 13.4 points.

Top stats to know: Alamo Bowl

December, 30, 2013
Oregon and Texas will clash in an Alamo Bowl (ESPN, 6:45 pm ET) that represents the end of an era for a significant figure in college football. What are the top stats to know from this game?

1-- This will be Mack Brown’s swan song as head coach of the Longhorns. Since 1950, Texas has had seven different head coaches. In that span, Darrell Royal is the only one to win his final game as head coach.

Brown is just nine victories behind Royal for most in program history. But since 2010, Texas has the fifth-best win percentage (.600) among FBS programs in the state of Texas.

2-- Oregon has scored 73 offensive touchdowns this season, including 48 on drives lasting 2 minutes or less. The Ducks’ 48 touchdowns on such drives is the second most in the FBS behind Baylor (57) and three more than they had all of last season.

The Ducks’ average touchdown drive has lasted 1:50, fourth fastest in FBS.

Oregon has four players with at least 500 yards rushing, each of whom average at least six yards per carry. Oregon is the only FBS team this season with that distinction, and only four other teams even have three such players.

Oregon has 337 touchdowns over the last four seasons. That number may not mean much, until you consider this: that’s 46 more than any other team in that span (Baylor, 291).

3-- Texas is currently on pace to allow the second-most yards per game in program history, surpassed only by last season. A big night by Oregon would push this season to the worst in Texas football history.

Texas has allowed 189 fewer rush yards per game in its wins compared to its losses. The biggest issues have been big plays and rushing quarterbacks. In their four losses, the Longhorns have allowed 44 rushes of 10 yards or more, and opposing quarterbacks have averaged more than 109 rushing yards per game.

4— How do you beat the Ducks? One team that has developed a pattern of knocking off Oregon is Stanford. Since 2009, the Cardinal have three wins over the Ducks – and have followed a similar pattern in each victory: They’ve held the ball for at least 37 minutes, rushed at least 46 times, and rushed for at least 200 yards.

5— Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota has a total QBR of 85.7 this season, second in FBS behind Jameis Winston (89.0). He had a total QBR of at least 95 in four games this season, matching Bryce Petty for the most such games in FBS this season.

Mariota has excelled throwing the deep ball, completing 57 percent of his passes thrown at least 15 yards downfield, the highest rate among players from automatic-qualifier conferences with at least 50 such attempts.

The bowl winners will be ...

December, 19, 2013
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.

If the four-team playoff started this year …

December, 11, 2013

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.

Top stats to know: BCS Standings

November, 24, 2013
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 Week 4

November, 10, 2013
A look at the most significant notes to come from this week’s BCS Rankings:

Stanford gets a one-spot bump, Ducks slip from 3 to 6
Stanford beat Oregon on Thursday and was rewarded with a one-spot jump in the rankings from No. 5 to No. 4. The No. 4 rank matches Stanford’s best BCS ranking ever (done twice in 2010 and four times in 2011).

This is the first time in school history Stanford is ranked in the BCS top-5 in three straight weeks.

Saturday’s game between 4 Stanford and USC (8 p.m. ET on ABC) will be just the second time Stanford will play the Trojans as a ranked BCS team. The other came in 2011 in a very memorable game (and similar situation): No. 6 Stanford defeated a BCS-unranked USC team, 56-48, in triple OT.

Meanwhile, Oregon dropped from No. 3 to No. 6.

This is the first time the Ducks have been ranked outside the top five since they were ninth on November 27, 2011.

Oregon maintained its streak of 31 straight top-10 appearances dating back to the 2009 season.

Four straight for Alabama
Alabama is No. 1 in the first four BCS standings for the second straight year.

The only other team to be ranked No. 1 in the first four releases in back-to-back years was Ohio State in 2006 and 2007.

This is the 31st time Alabama has been in the top 2, moving past Oklahoma for the most all-time.

It was also a good week for the SEC, which now has four top-10 teams for the first time this season. Last year the SEC had at least 4 top-10 teams ranked in every BCS standings.

The SEC also has seven teams ranked in the standings for the first time this season. It is the ninth time the SEC has had seven teams in the BCS standings. The only other conference to have seven teams in the standings in any single week is the Big 12, which did it the first standings of last year.

Seminoles in top two, again
This is the third time Florida State has been ranked in the top two in consecutive weeks. It also happened in 1999, when it was No. 1 in every standings en route to its national championship, and when it was No. 2 for three straight weeks from Oct. 19 to Dec. 3, 2000.

Florida State’s 56-point win over Wake Forest on Saturday was its largest win as a BCS-ranked team and the largest by any BCS-ranked ACC school.

Good week to be a Bulldog
Fresno State moved up from No. 16 to No. 14, its highest ranking in school history.

The Bulldogs are the first team from a non-automatic qualifying conference to be ranked in the top-16 in 3 straight weeks since Boise State was ranked in the final three standings of 2011.

Keys to victory: Stanford 26, Oregon 20

November, 8, 2013
What were the biggest statistical keys to Stanford’s 26-20 win over Oregon on Thursday night?

Here are three of the most notable:

1. Tyler Gaffney had a Stanford-record 45 rushing attempts for 157 yards, with 47 yards coming after contact. Gaffney had 24 rushing attempts in the first half Thursday, the most in a first half by an FBS player this season.

Gaffney's success allowed Stanford to keep Oregon off the field.

The 20-play, 96-yard drive by Stanford to end the first half marked the third-most plays in a single drive in the FBS this season.

2. Over the past two seasons, Oregon’s rushing attack has averaged 327 yards per game against opponents other than Stanford, but only averaged 130 against the Cardinal.

Oregon had only 22 rushing yards in the first half Thursday, its fewest in a half since Sept. 3, 2009, at Boise State, when it was held to 6 yards. The Ducks ran only 28 offensive plays in the first two quarters, their fewest plays run in a first half this season.

Stanford had more rushing yards after contact (86) than Oregon had total rushing yards (62).

3. Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota completed fewer than half of his passing attempts (4 of 10) when Stanford brought five or more pass-rushers. Mariota was 0-for-5 on such passes in the first half, a key reason for why Oregon trailed by 17 points after 30 minutes.

Why Stanford can stop Oregon again

November, 7, 2013

AP Photo/Don RyanStanford caused all sorts of trouble for Marcus Mariota the last time they faced him.
Since the start of last season, Oregon is 20-1 and has averaged an FBS-high 51.9 points per game. The Ducks’ only loss during that stretch was a 3-point loss to Stanford. They scored 14 points in that game, their lowest since scoring eight against Boise State in the 2009 season opener in Chip Kelly’s first game as head coach.

The Cardinal held Oregon to 198 rushing yards last season. Since Chip Kelly’s first year as the head coach, the Ducks are 5-5 when they were held to fewer than 200 rushing yards, including 0-3 when rushing for fewer than 100 yards.

This season, Oregon is 8-0 and is outscoring opponents by an average of 38.8 points per game, the second-highest margin in FBS. The Ducks are the fourth team in the last 100 seasons to start the season by scoring at least 42 points in every game. The running game has been key, with the Ducks leading the nation in yards per rush (6.9) and ranking second in rushing yards per game (331.5)

Can the Cardinal slow down Oregon’s offense for the second straight season? Let’s take last season’s game as the blueprint.

Slow Oregon’s designed runs
Oregon is averaging 6.9 yards per designed run this season, second most by a team from an automatic-qualifying conference (behind Wisconsin). The Ducks have gained at least 150 yards on designed runs in every game during the last two seasons except one, the loss to Stanford.

In that game, Stanford held Oregon to 122 yards, one touchdown and four first downs on designed runs, all were season lows.

The key was that Stanford did not let Oregon get outside. The Ducks had 13 designed runs outside of the tackles for a total 24 yards. It was their fewest yards and yards per carry on such runs in any game during the last two seasons. Their longest run outside the tackles gained 9 yards and they lost yards on four of the 13 runs.

Stanford is allowing a Pac-12-low 113.8 yards per game on designed runs this season.

Win third downs
Oregon has converted 46 percent of its third downs since the start of last season. On third and 3 or less, the Ducks have converted 72 percent of their third-down plays, which ranks sixth in the FBS. When they have longer than three yards to go for a first down, Oregon’s third-down conversion rank falls to 33rd in the FBS.

Against Stanford, the Ducks converted on 4-of-17 (24 percent) third downs, their lowest-conversion percentage since the start of last season. Oregon’s average third-down distance against the Cardinal last season was 7.6 yards.

Stanford averaged only 5.7 defenders in the box on third down and sent four or fewer pass rushers on 9-of-12 third-down dropbacks.

The Cardinal are allowing opponents to convert on 34 percent of their third downs this season, 23rd best in the FBS, and have held each under 45 percent.

Get to Mariota
Marcus Mariota has thrown all 20 of this touchdowns and is averaging over 10.5 yards per attempt on plays in which he was not pressured (hit or knockdown) this season. When he is pressured, Mariota completes less than half of his passes and averages 6.8 yards per attempt.

Against Stanford, Mariota was pressured on a season-high 10 dropbacks, including nine when the Cardinal sent four or fewer pass rushers. Oregon gained a total of 19 yards on those plays. Mariota was forced to throw a career-high four passes away and he tied a career-high by being sacked three times.

Since the start of last season, Stanford has an FBS-high 84 sacks, including 62 when it sends four or fewer pass rushers, which is 15 more such sacks than any other AQ program.

Limit the space
Oregon has been one of the most productive teams in space in the last two seasons. The Ducks are averaging 7.2 yards after the catch per reception since the start of last season, fifth among AQ conference teams, and have 31 receptions in which they gained at least 20 yards after the catch.

Against Stanford, Oregon averaged 4.8 yards after the catch per reception, and did not gain more than 20 yards after the catch on any of its 21 receptions.

On designed runs, Oregon is also averaging an AQ-high 6.4 yards per rush since the start of last season, including 4.2 yards before first contact per rush.

Against Stanford, the Ducks averaged 2.3 yards before first contact and were contacted in the backfield on 10 of their 33 rushes. The Cardinal held Oregon to season lows in yards (122), touchdowns (1) and first downs (4) on designed running plays.

If Stanford can again slow Oregon’s designed runs, win on third down, pressure Mariota and limit the Ducks in the open field, it will have a chance to win two straight games against Oregon and shake up the BCS Title race.

Stats to know: Baylor & Oregon are amazing

November, 7, 2013

Icon SMIMarcus Mariota and Bryce Petty have racked up points and stats all season.
Oregon and Baylor will each try to remain undefeated on Thursday night. Below are 15 need-to-know stats in preparation for their games.

1-- Baylor is averaging an FBS-high 63.9 points and 718.4 yards per game. The Bears are on pace to break the FBS records for points (56.0) and yards (624.9) per game that were set by Army in 1944 and Houston in 1989, respectively

2-- Oregon has scored at least 42 points in each of its first eight games this season. The Ducks are the fourth team in the last 100 years to start a season with at least 42 points in eight straight games.

3-- Baylor has scored 22 touchdowns in drives lasting one minute or less, eight more than any other FBS team this season. In the last 10 seasons, there have only been six teams that have scored more than 22 touchdowns in one minute or less in an entire season.
4-- Oregon has an FBS-high 59 offensive touchdowns, including 41 in two minutes or less. The Ducks’ 41 touchdown drives in two minutes or less is four fewer than all of last season when they led the FBS with 45 such touchdowns.

5-- Baylor is averaging more points in the first half (42.1) than 115 FBS teams average for a game. In the first half, the Bears average a FBS-low 15.9 seconds per play and their average touchdown drive lasts 1 minute, 19 seconds.

6-- Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota has thrown an FBS-high 225 pass attempts without an interception this season. Dating back to last season, Mariota has thrown a Pac-12-record 293 passes without an interception.

7-- Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty is averaging 13.9 yards per pass attempt, on pace to be the highest rate for a qualified quarterback in the last 10 seasons. The deep ball has been key for Petty. He has 19 completions and 10 touchdowns (both the most of anyone in an automatic-qualifier conference) on passes thrown 25 yards or longer.

8-- Oregon averages an AQ-high 7.5 yards per rush on zone-read plays, including 5.2 yards before first contact. On such plays, Mariota is averaging 13.7 yards per rush and has six touchdowns.

9--Petty leads the FBS with a 95.3 opponent-adjusted QBR. The leader in opponent-adjusted QBR in three of the last six seasons went on to win the Heisman, including Johnny Manziel last year.

10-- Oregon is the only team in the FBS that ranks in the top five in ESPN’s new offensive and defensive efficiency. The Ducks have ranked in the top five in offensive efficiency each of the last three seasons.

11-- Baylor is on pace to have the highest offensive efficiency in the last 10 years. Offensive efficiency measures an offense’s contributions to its team’s opponent-adjusted scoring margin per game.

Through seven games, Baylor’s offense is adding about seven more expected points towards its net scoring margin, more than any other offense has for an entire season since 2004 (as far back as our data goes).

12-- Oregon quarterback Mariota has posted a Total QBR of 90 or higher in six of his eight games, tied with Petty for the most such games in the FBS.

13-- Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk is averaging 9.1 yards per rush, second in the FBS behind Mariota. Seastrunk has made it at least five yards past the line of scrimmage before first contact on 39 percent of his rushes, the highest percentage among AQ running backs with at least 75 carries.

14-- Oregon has forced 23 turnovers and scored 100 points off of its opponents’ turnovers this season. Since the start of last season, Oregon leads the FBS with 63 takeaways and ranks second with 288 points off turnovers.

15-- Baylor has had an average in-game win probability of 86 percent across all of its plays this season, best in the FBS. Oregon ranks third with an 83 percent average in-game win probability.

Top stats to know: BCS standings Week 3

November, 3, 2013
A look at the most significant notes to come from this week’s BCS Rankings:

Alabama, what more can it do?
Alabama is No. 1 in the first three BCS standings for the second straight year. The only other teams to be ranked No. 1 in the first three releases in back-to-back years were Oklahoma in 2002-03 and Ohio State in 2006-07.

Looking ahead to next week, only Ohio State in 2006-07 was ranked No. 1 in the first four standings in back-to-back years.

Florida State moves up
Florida State moved up from No. 3 to No. 2. The only other time Florida State was ranked in the top 2 in at least two of the first three BCS releases was in 1999, when they were No. 1 in every standings en route to their national championship.

This is the 14th time Florida State has been in the top 2. All other ACC schools have combined for three top-2 weeks. The 17 weeks in the top-2 by ACC teams is by far the fewest among automatic-qualifier conferences.

Big Pac-12 matchup to come
Oregon fell from No. 2 to No. 3 but faces a big test this coming week in No. 5 Stanford on Thursday night (9 pm ET, ESPN). This will be the second BCS top-5 matchup between Pac-12 teams. The other was on October 28, 2007 when fifth-ranked Oregon beat fourth-ranked Arizona State, 35-23

A big win, but no gain for Ohio State
Ohio State is the first team to be ranked exactly No. 4 in each of the first three BCS standings.

The Buckeyes are ranked in the top 5 in three straight weeks for the first time since the final three standings of 2007.

Saturday's 56-0 win over Purdue was the largest shutout win by any BCS-ranked Big Ten team since the BCS began in 1998, and the second-largest win of any kind by a BCS-ranked Big Ten team, behind only Wisconsin’s 83-20 win over Indiana in 2010.

Another matchup of note: Baylor vs. Oklahoma
Oklahoma becomes the first school to be ranked in the BCS top 10 in 70 different weeks.

Thursday night’s matchup with No. 6 Baylor will be just the second time the Big 12 rivals will meet as BCS ranked teams. The only other time came in 2011 when No. 22 Baylor upset No. 5 Oklahoma, 45-38. That was also the last time the two teams met in Waco and is Baylor’s only win in 22 all-time meetings with Oklahoma.

A first for the Tigers
Clemson moved up from No. 8 to No.7. This is the first time in school history that the Tigers have been in the top 10 in three straight weeks.

Top stats to know: BCS Standings Week 2

October, 27, 2013
A look at the most significant notes to come from this week’s BCS Rankings:

Oregon, Florida State swap spots
Oregon and Florida State swapped spots with Oregon taking the No. 2 spot in the rankings and Florida State dropping to No. 3.

Oregon is ranked in the top 3 in each of the first two BCS standings for the second time in school history (No. 2 in first 2 weeks of 2010).

The Seminoles are ranked in the top 3 in each of the first two BCS standings for the second time in school history. In 1999 they were No. 1 in the first two weeks.

This is also the first time the ACC has had 3 teams in the top 10 in consecutive weeks since October 23 and 30, 2005.

Stanford moves up
Stanford moved into the No. 5 spot.

This is the first time Stanford has been in the top 5 in the BCS this early into the season. Previous earliest was in the third release in 2011.

Alabama sitting comfortably at No. 1
Alabama is No. 1 in the first two BCS standings for the second straight year. The only other teams to be ranked No. 1 in the first two releases in back-to-back years were Oklahoma in 2002-03 and Ohio State in 2006-07.

The SEC has 6 teams in the top 15. Since the start of last season, the SEC has had 6 teams in the top 15 in every standings except last week. No other conference has even had more than 4 teams in the top 15 in any single week.

Uncharted territory
For the second straight week, Baylor reached its highest BCS ranking ever at No. 6 overall

Fresno State is ranked No. 16, its highest BCS ranking ever.

Matchup of the Week: Miami at Florida State
Saturday's matchup with Florida State will be the third matchup between two ACC teams ranked in the top 10 of the BCS.

The other two were in 2005 when No. 6 Miami defeated No. 3 Virginia Tech, 27-7 and 2007 when No. 2 Boston College defeated No. 8 Virginia Tech, 14-0.

This Saturday’s game vs Miami will be only the second time that Florida State and Miami have played while ranked in the BCS standings.

On December 7, 2003, No. 9 Miami (then a member of the Big East) beat No. 7 Florida State, 16-14.

Winston’s big first quarter leads Seminoles

October, 27, 2013
Below are some storylines from Week 9 of the college football season using ESPN’s new set of analytical storytelling metrics for college football.

There are items that include college QBR, team offense/defense/special teams efficiency ratings (also known as expected points added), and win probability.

For more background on these metrics, read Dean Oliver’s primer on all of them and his explanation of college Total QBR. For complete college Total QBR information, go here.

Oregon rides defense to victory
Oregon outscored UCLA 28-0 in the second half to win its eighth straight game of the season. Its 28 points were split between the offense and defense.

Defensively, Oregon held UCLA to 94 yards in the second half, including 21 pass yards on 10 attempts. The Ducks added 13.6 expected points in the second half, matching their per-game total entering the game, which ranked third in the FBS.

Alabama putting teams away by halftime
In the six games since Alabama allowed 42 points to Texas A&M, its most under Nick Saban, the Tide have five more touchdowns (31) than their opponents have points (26).

In those games, the Tide have outscored their opponents 151-0 in the first half and have had an average win probability of 95 percent at halftime.

Miami comes back on heels of its running game, again
Miami entered the fourth quarter trailing in each of its past two games. The Hurricanes had less than a 25 percent chance of winning in the fourth quarter in each of those games.

Miami came back to win in those games largely because it got its run game going. Against UNC, Dallas Crawford rushed for 69 yards in the fourth quarter, including a 3-yard game-winning touchdown with 16 seconds remaining. Similarly, Duke Johnson ran for 85 yards in the fourth quarter against Wake Forest, including a 1-yard game-winning touchdown with 53 seconds remaining.

In the fourth quarter of those games, the Hurricanes added 6.21 expected points per game on the ground. That means if Miami had had an average rush offense in the fourth quarter (EPA of 0), and all other things remained the same, it would have lost each of its last two games by about three points.

Winston impresses in the first quarter
Jameis Winston threw for 229 yards and three touchdowns in the first quarter against NC State, the most pass yards in the first quarter by a quarterback this season.

Winston had a 99.4 Total QBR after one quarter, and his QBR did not fall below 96.

Winston now has a Total QBR of 89 or higher in each of his past four games. During that time, he has the highest Total QBR in the nation.

South Carolina’s comeback
South Carolina’s win probability fell to below three percent in the middle of the third quarter before the Gamecocks scored 17 straight points to send the game to overtime.

Winston, Florida State among best of week

October, 22, 2013

Joshua S. Kelly/USA TODAY Sports
Jameis Winston threw for a career-high 444 yards in Florida State's blowout win over Clemson.
Week 8 featured upsets and surprises as nine ranked teams lost, including five at the hands of an unranked opponent. Louisville, Texas A&M and Georgia all had more than a 90 percent chance of winning midway through the third quarter before blowing double-digit leads. Conversely, Clemson, LSU, UCLA and Florida never held a lead Saturday.

With the help of ESPN’s new college football metrics (see explanations here), ESPN Stats & Information takes a look back at the Week 8 action.

Best individual performances
Marcus Mariota had a 97.4 opponent-adjusted QBR in Oregon’s 63-28 win against Washington State. He completed 10-of-12 passes and ran for a touchdown in the first quarter. As a result, his Total QBR never fell below 95 in the game. Mariota leads the nation with a 96.6 opponent-adjusted Total QBR this season.

Jameis Winston posted a 97.0 opponent-adjusted QBR after throwing for a career-high 444 pass yards and accounting for four touchdowns in Florida State’s 51-14 win at Clemson. Entering the game, Clemson’s opponents had a Total QBR of 27, ninth-best in the FBS. Winston is the first player in the last 10 seasons to throw for at least 300 pass yards and three touchdowns in each of his first four conference games.

Bryce Petty had a 96.3 opponent-adjusted QBR in Baylor’s 71-7 win against Iowa State. He has posted an opponent-adjusted Total QBR of 75 or higher in all of his games this season. No other player in the FBS can make that claim (minimum five games played).

AJ McCarron posted a season-high 95.3 opponent-adjusted QBR in Alabama’s 52-0 rout of Arkansas. McCarron completed 71 percent of his passes with three touchdowns and no interceptions, and his Total QBR never dipped below 85 in the game.

Explaining Jordan Lynch’s Total QBR:
Northern Illinois’ Jordan Lynch set the FBS single-game record for rush yards by a quarterback (316), but his Total QBR was ONLY a 85.5. Why? QBR is a rate stat, meaning it measures efficiency.

Lynch gained 471 yards of total offense, but he was involved in 62 passing or rushing plays (7.6 yards per play).

To put that into perspective, Mariota, the nation’s leader in opponent-adjusted QBR, is averaging 10.3 yards per play this season. Furthermore, Lynch threw a costly interception from the Central Michigan 15-yard line with the score tied. That interception decreased Northern Illinois’ win probability by 12 percentage points and took 3.5 expected points off the board.

For a full list of Total QBR leaders for the season and Week 8, click here.

Best team performances
Offense-- Florida State gained 565 yards of total offense and scored 51 points Saturday against Clemson. The Seminoles’ offense added 25.3 expected points in the game, meaning they contributed about 26 net points towards their 37-point victory. Adjusted for the strength of Clemson’s defense, which had allowed 16.2 points per game entering Saturday, Florida State had the highest opponent-adjusted offensive EPA of Week 8.

Defense—Baylor’s average margin of victory this season is a ridiculous 48.5 points per game, and both its offense and defense deserves credit. On Saturday, Baylor held Iowa State to seven points and 174 total yards (2.9 yards per play). As a result, its defense added 27.5 expected points, the most for any defense in Week 8. Overall, the Bears lead the nation in both offensive and defensive expected points added this season.

Special Teams—Alabama blocked a field goal and forced a fumble on the opening kickoff of the second half of its 52-0 win against Arkansas. The Tide’s special teams unit contributed 12.1 expected points, the most of any team in Week 8. Alabama is averaging 5.8 expected points added per game on special teams this season, most of any team in the FBS.

Looking ahead to Week 9

Oregon hosts UCLA (7 PM ET, ESPN) on Saturday in a game that will feature one of the top offenses in the nation looking to continue its success against one of the Pac-12’s best defensive units.

Oregon has scored at least 45 points in each of its first seven games of the season. They are the first major college football program to do that since Harvard in 1887. UCLA, which has the second-best scoring defense in the Pac-12 (19.2 PPG), hasn’t allowed more than 27 points in a game this season.

Tune in on Saturday to see of the Bruins can slow the Ducks offensive pace and jump back into the BCS discussion.