Stats & Info: Texas A&M

Top stats to know: Best of bowl season

January, 7, 2014
Jan 7
Three lead changes in the final five minutes of Monday’s BCS Championship game punctuated the 2013-2014 college football bowl season. But even before Florida State rallied to defeat Auburn, there were other noteworthy accomplishments.

Using ESPN’s new college football metrics (see explanations here), ESPN Stats & Information takes a look back at the best performances and most noteworthy plays from the bowls.

Biggest Plays in Terms of Win Probability Added
Four of the 10 biggest plays of the bowl season, measured by the swing in win probability, came in the BCS Championship. But the play with the biggest change in win probability came in the first bowl game of the season.

Best opponent-adjusted QBR
Brett Hundley, UCLA, 97.7
Hundley ran for UCLA’s first two touchdowns and passed for two more in the Bruins’ 42-12 victory over Virginia Tech in the Hyundai Sun Bowl. The Bruins’ sophomore QB scored on an 86-yard touchdown – the second-longest touchdown run by a quarterback this season – to stake UCLA to a 14-7 lead. His 97.7 QBR was his second-best opponent-adjusted mark of the season, behind his 98.4 in UCLA’s regular-season finale against L.A. rival USC.

Dak Prescott, Mississippi State, 97.6
Prescott passed for three touchdowns and scored two himself to power the Bulldogs past Rice 44-7 in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. Prescott’s first scoring pass pulled Mississippi State into a 7-7 tie late in the first quarter, and he closed the first half with his third scoring pass, giving the Bulldogs a 27-7 halftime lead. Prescott’s adjusted QBR was a season high.

Blake Bortles, UCF, 97.2
Bortles passed for three touchdowns – each when it was a one-point or tie score – in orchestrating the Knights’ 52-42 victory over Baylor in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. Bortles’ raw QBR (92.4) was the second-highest this season against Baylor (a top-10 team in defensive efficiency according to ESPN’s team ratings).

Davis Webb, Texas Tech, 96.6
Webb propelled the Red Raiders to a big lead with four touchdown passes in the first 20 minutes of what ended up a 37-23 victory over Arizona State in the National University Holiday Bowl. His raw QBR (91.3) was the second-highest this season against Arizona State, which played FBS’s toughest schedule, according to ESPN’s strength of schedule rankings.

Cody Kessler, USC, 96.5
Kessler passed for four touchdowns, all in the first half, in the Trojans’ 45-20 win over Fresno State in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl. His adjusted QBR in the bowl game, his third game in 2013 with a QBR greater than 90, was a season high.

Top Team Performances
Texas A&M added 28.2 expected points to its net scoring margin on offense in its 52-48 victory over Duke in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. The Aggies accumulated 30 first downs, averaged 8.0 yards a play and scored touchdowns on their final six possessions.

Vanderbilt added 26.6 expected points to its net scoring margin in its 41-24 win over Houston in the BBVA Compass Bowl. In the first half, the Commodores forced eight punts, caused a fumble, gave up one first down and didn’t allow a possession of more than four plays.

Special teams
Miami added 12.2 expected points to its net scoring margin in its 36-9 loss to Louisville in the Russell Athletic Bowl. The Hurricanes put two punts inside the Cardinals’ 20-yard line, averaged 24.8 yards on kick returns (50 percent more than Louisville) and on average began drives almost seven yards closer to the goal line than the Cardinals. The special teams excellence wasn’t nearly enough to overcome an offense that contributed -18.6 expected points, however.

McCarron takes advantage of A&M blitz

September, 14, 2013
Alabama’s grudge match against Texas A&M lived up to the hype.

Despite a valiant effort by Johnny Manziel and the Aggies, the Crimson Tide held on to win their 22nd straight SEC opener, the longest active streak for any FBS team.

Alabama improves to 8-1 in “revenge” games under Nick Saban, with its only such loss coming in 2011 against LSU.

Alabama’s 42 points allowed are the most the Tide have allowed in a win in school history. It’s the most they’ve allowed in any game since Tennessee scored 51 in 2003.

Alabama's 49 points mark the most points scored by an AP No. 1 team in a road win against a top-10 team since Florida State won 51-31 at No. 3 Michigan in 1991.

Texas A&M offense puts up big numbers

Manziel broke his own Texas A&M record for most passing yards in a game with 464.

Manziel had a career-high six completions on passes thrown 20 or more yards downfield. In two games against Alabama, Manziel has completed 71 percent of passes thrown 20-plus yards downfield, compared with 36 percent against all other teams.

Despite Manziel putting up record numbers, he posted the third-lowest raw QBR of his career (74.0). Not taking opponent strength into account, his only worse performances were against LSU and Florida last season. His three worst raw QBRs are also the only three losses of his career. And two of his four worst raw QBRs came against Alabama.

Texas A&M’s Mike Evans had 279 receiving yards, the most in Texas A&M history. It’s the most by an Alabama opponent since LSU’s Josh Reed had 293 yards in 2001. Evans’ performance was highlighted by a 95-yard touchdown reception from Manziel in the fourth quarter -– the second-longest passing play in Texas A&M history -- to pull the Aggies within a touchdown. It was the longest passing play against Alabama in the last 10 seasons.

AJ McCarron's career night

AJ McCarron had a career-high 334 passing yards and matched a career high with four passing touchdowns.

McCarron posted a 93.8 QBR, the second-highest raw QBR of his career (not adjusted for opponent strength). His only better performance came in a win against Auburn last season.

McCarron threw all four of his touchdown passes when facing five or more pass-rushers. All five of McCarron’s touchdown passes this season have come against the blitz. Since the start of last season, McCarron has thrown 17 touchdowns with one interception against five or more pass-rushers.

Keep an eye on Eifert, because 'Bama will

January, 5, 2013
When the No. 1 Notre Dame Fighting Irish take on the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide in the Discover BCS National Championship Game on Monday, one of the biggest difference-makers on the field could be Tyler Eifert.

Eifert, this season’s John Mackey Award winner, given annually to the nation’s top tight end, is the latest and possibly the best in a long line of great players Notre Dame has produced at that position.

Notre Dame’s last three starting tight ends –- Anthony Fasano (2003-05), John Carlson (2004-07) and Kyle Rudolph (2008-10) –- are all playing in the NFL, yet no tight end has caught more passes for more yards in Irish history than Eifert.

A major reason Eifert could be the player who gives the Crimson Tide defense more fits than anyone else is that Alabama has had issues when its linebackers are forced into pass coverage.

When opposing offenses have lined up in four-or-five-receiver sets against the Tide, they’ve been more effective than in sets with three or fewer receivers.

The numbers are even more telling when you take a look at the five games in which Alabama faced ranked opponents (Michigan, Mississippi State, LSU, Texas A&M and Georgia).

No team was more successful than the Aggies, a natural spread-offense team with a mobile, redshirt freshman quarterback; eventual Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel completed 19 of 23 passes for 184 yards and 2 TD when A&M operated out of a four-or-five-receiver set in a 29-24 upset in Tuscaloosa, the Tide’s only loss of the season.

In comes Notre Dame, also a natural spread-offense team with a mobile, redshirt freshman quarterback. As a unit, the Irish passing attack is better when operating out of a four-or-five-receiver set.

However, when it comes to Eifert, the senior has been more effective when working out of a set with three or fewer receivers (including him), a formation that usually dictates opposing defenses cover him with a linebacker.

When the Irish had three or fewer receivers on the field and Eifert was the targeted receiver, they completed 25 of 42 passes for 363 yards and four touchdowns.

He was most lethal when Notre Dame operated out of what’s known as “11” personnel (one running back, one tight end, three receivers) and he was the targeted receiver.

In those situations, the Irish were 15-of-23 for 208 yards and a touchdown. But when operating out of a four-or-five-receiver set and Eifert was targeted, Notre Dame was 19-of-33 for 261 yards and no touchdowns.

In other words, Eifert’s presence opened things up for the other receivers.

Therein lies the conundrum for Alabama. What should the Tide do with Eifert?

No one’s had success covering him with a linebacker when the Irish are operating out of “21” (two backs, one tight end) or “11” personnel and rolling the coverage over toward him when they’ve operated from four-or-empty (five-receiver) sets only opened things up for Notre Dame’s other capable pass catchers like TJ Jones, Robby Toma and Theo Riddick when they move him from running back spot and into the slot-receiver position.

It’s a sure bet that Nick Saban is glad to have had the extra time to prepare for this problem.

Close-game numbers don't favor Manziel

December, 6, 2012

AP Photo/Aaron M. SprecherManziel had 4,600 total yards in 2012, but a relatively low amount came when the score was close.
Texas A&M freshman Johnny Manziel emerged from the 2012 season as the Heisman frontrunner after accounting for 4,600 total yards, 43 TD and having an integral part in one of the season’s most memorable moments – the Aggies upset win at then No. 1 Alabama. Manziel is viewed as the best of a stellar group of freshman QB, which also includes UCLA’s Brett Hundley and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota.

His season has been compared to that of the 2010 Heisman winner Cam Newton, who set an SEC record with 4,327 yards – a mark Manziel broke in two fewer games.

Manziel’s overall total offensive numbers (383.3 yards per game) dwarf Hundley (290.5), Mariota (266.8) and even Newton (308.1). His 43 rushing and passing TD are eight more than Hundley, nine more than Mariota and his average of 3.58 TD per game is right there with Newton (3.57 per game – 50 TD in 14 games).

But the numbers tell a different story when examining them closely.

Manziel faced three teams which are currently ranked. In those games, Manziel accounted for 293.7 total yards per game and 3 TD, nearly 90 fewer yards per game and well below his average of 3.58 TD per game. Compare that to Hundley, who accounted for 320.8 total yards per game and eight TD in four games versus ranked opponents.

Mariota played just two games against ranked teams and had 3 TD. He also gained only 6.3 fewer yards per game. In 2010, Newton faced, and beat, an amazing seven ranked teams, averaging 309.0 total yards per game and accounting for 25 TD.

Manziel Outperformed in Close Games

This season Manziel gained 1,402 of his total yards (30.5 pct) and 15 of his total TD (34.9 pct) when the Aggies led by at least 21 points. Those percentages are much higher than any of the other three QB.

On the other hand, Manziel had the lowest percentage of output when the game was truly in doubt (when his team was tied or the margin was within seven points). Just 44.4 percent of Manziel’s total yards and 37.2 percent of his TD (16) came in this situation. This is where the comparisons to Newton fall well short.

In 2010, 65.6 percent of Newton’s total yards and 31 of his 50 TD (62.0 pct) came when Auburn was tied or in a game that was within seven points. Almost as impressive is how well Hundley performed this season under those situations.

Does this mean Manziel should not, or will not, win the Heisman? Of course not. But in this era of scrutinized performance, some may have decided to cast their historic Heisman vote for LB Manti Te'o of No. 1 Notre Dame, as opposed to a freshman who took the season by storm in early November.