Stats & Info: Utah State Aggies

Top stats to know: Poinsettia Bowl

December, 26, 2013
Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY SportsJordan Lynch will finish his college career at the Poinsettia Bowl.
It’s not the bowl that Northern Illinois had its heart set on, but a loss in the MAC Championship Game put the Huskies in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl (9:30 ET, ESPN) instead of a BCS bowl. Let’s take a look at the top stats to know in this contest.

1-- This is the sixth straight season that Northern Illinois is appearing in a bowl. Prior to this stretch, the Huskies had been in only three bowls all-time. Northern Illinois has made one previous appearance in the Poinsettia Bowl, but would like to forget it (37-7 loss to TCU in 2006).

Northern Illinois lost its last game, but it’s been 38 games since the Huskies have lost two straight (second and third games of the 2011 season). In fact, since the beginning of the 2010 season, that’s the only two-game losing streak for Northern Illinois.

2-- This will be the last game for Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch, who capped off quite a career for the Huskies by finishing third in Heisman voting this season.

Lynch needs 119 rushing yards to become the first quarterback in FBS history to throw and run for 2,000 yards in the same season. He also has a chance to set the FBS quarterback rushing record.

He is averaging 350.5 yards of total offense per game, fourth in the FBS. He is responsible for 46 touchdowns (23 passing, 22 rushing, 1 receiving), second in the FBS.

Lynch leads all FBS quarterbacks in rushing yards per game (144.7) and ranks second among QBs in rushing touchdowns with 22.

Lynch has seven games with at least 100 passing yards and 100 rushing yards. No one else in the FBS has more than five such games. He also has 64 rushes of 10 yards or longer, most in the FBS this season and the most by a quarterback since Kent State’s Julian Edelman had 66 in 2008.

3-- When Utah State lost its star quarterback Chuckie Keeton to a knee injury in early October the season appeared to be over for the Aggies. However the team havs gone 5-2 since that injury. And the Aggies did it with defense. They’ve held opponents to 15.6 points per game since then, seventh-fewest in FBS.

4-- Utah State is the only FBS team that has not allowed a rushing touchdown of 10 yards or longer. Northern Illinois has rushed for 18 such touchdowns, tied for fifth-most in the FBS.

Utah State is appearing in its third straight bowl game. Prior to that, the Aggies hadn’t been to a bowl since 1997. Utah State beat Toledo in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl last season and is looking to win consecutive bowl games for the first time in school history.

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.

Every Friday during college football season, we're taking fans' questions and answering them on our blog. You can send questions to our Twitter account @ESPNStatsInfo. Be sure to follow so you can tweet us your questions (facts, not opinions) and we'll answer the best of the best.

When is the last time the previous year’s college football national champion was unranked by Week 2 of the following year?
-- asked by @TEEnsign

The Auburn Tigers dropped from the polls after defeating the Utah State Aggies in their season opener. When was the last time the defending AP national champions were unranked by the second poll of the season?

Well, Gene Chizik was just three years old at the time.

You have to go back to 1965 to find the last instance. That’s when the Alabama Crimson Tide entered the season ranked No. 5. After a loss to the Georgia Bulldogs, the Tide fell out of the poll. Keep in mind, though, the AP only ranked the top 10 teams back in those days.

We discussed this and more in our Nickel Package on Thursday.

How often do preseason ranked teams lose their season opener and stay ranked the next week (TCU for example)?
-- asked by @tsmith15

The Oregon Ducks and TCU Horned Frogs both stayed in the AP top 25 despite falling to 0-1 in the opening week. Certainly it helps if a team’s initial ranking was high, as was the case with the Ducks at No. 3.

However, a team remaining ranked after losing its opening game is not all that uncommon.

Last year, it was Virginia Tech that lost its opener but remained ranked. In 2009, it happened with the Oklahoma Sooners, the Virginia Tech Hokies and Georgia.

In fact, in each of the past 32 years, a team has remained ranked after starting 0-1. You have to go all the way back to 1979 to find the last time it didn’t happen.

No touchdowns were scored in three of the 10 games Alabama and Penn State played from 1981-90. How rare was that in college football's modern age?
-- asked by @scontor

How rare is it these days? Try very.

Over the previous five seasons (2006-10), there were 4,003 games played. Of those, only 12 did not include a touchdown for either side. That’s 0.003 percent. Needless to say, that’s a far cry from the 30 percent of the games you mentioned.
The defending national champion Auburn Tigers scored two touchdowns in the final two-plus minutes, rallying for a 42-38 win against the Utah State Aggies at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday.

With the win, they avoided becoming the first defending national champion to lose its season opener since Michigan in 1998, and the first to lose to an unranked team since Notre Dame in 1978.

The Tigers were down by as many as 14 points in the first half and trailed 21-14 at halftime. They were the first defending national champs to trail at the midpoint in their season opener since 2004.

The comeback was keyed by the Tigers’ game-changing onside kick recovery with just over two minutes remaining in the game, after they had closed the gap to 38-35. Michael Dyer then scored his second touchdown of the game on a 1-yard run with 30 seconds left to put Auburn up for good.

Auburn extended its win streak to 16 games with the victory, which is the longest active win streak in the nation and third-longest in school history. Of those 16 wins during the streak, seven have been by five points or fewer.

Auburn has now won 21 of its last 26 season openers, including five straight. It is their 92nd season-opening win, one shy of the most among SEC teams, as Alabama won its 93rd on Saturday afternoon.

Quarterback Barrett Trotter, who was taking over for Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton and had attempted nine passes in his collegiate career entering the game, threw for 261 yards and three touchdowns.

When Trotter threw his third touchdown of the game to make it 38-35 late in the fourth quarter, even though the Tigers still trailed, they were still nearly a lock to win. The last time Auburn lost a game when scoring at least 30 points was 1996.

Utah State outgained Auburn by nearly 100 yards, had 10 more first downs than the Tigers, and held the advantage in the time of possession, but couldn’t put it all together for the upset win.

The Aggies now fall to 0-44 against ranked teams on the road and 1-55 overall. Their only win against a ranked team came on November 2, 1991, when they defeated No. 25 Fresno State, 20-19.