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Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Heisman hopeful QBs stand out in Week 1

By Sharon Katz

The 2013 college football season officially began Thursday with a thrilling matchup of North Carolina and South Carolina. With the start of the season came the launch of ESPN’s new set of college football storytelling metrics.

These metrics are designed to dig deeper into a team or player’s raw statistics in order to tell a more complete story. For a primer on these metrics -- which include Total QBR, team efficiency ratings and win probability -- see Dean Oliver’s summary here and his explanation of Total QBR here.

Each week, we'll use these metrics to take a look back at the biggest storylines of the past weekend and look ahead to future matchups.

This past weekend was filled with impressive performances by Heisman favorites and national title contenders. Three of the top four Total QBRs of the weekend belonged to players in the discussion for the Heisman and/or the top of the NFL draft. Further, the top offensive and defensive efficiency ratings belonged to title contenders.

Best individual performances

C.J. Brown (98.1 Total QBR) posted the highest Total QBR of Week 1 in Maryland’s 43-10 win over FIU. Brown threw for career highs in passing yards (281), touchdowns (5), and total yards (386), while averaging more than 11 yards per play.

It was the highest single-game QBR for a Maryland quarterback in the past 10 years, which is promising for a team that finished with the seventh-lowest Total QBR in the nation last season.

Marcus Mariota (97.7 Total QBR) racked up 233 yards and three touchdowns while averaging more than 23 yards per play in the first half of Oregon’s 66-3 victory over Nicholls State. By halftime, Oregon had a win probability above 99 percent. It never fell below that point for the rest of the game.

Teddy Bridgewater (97.2 Total QBR) tied a career high with five touchdown passes and was a model of efficiency Sunday against Ohio. He completed all eight of his third-down passes, resulting in seven first downs and two touchdowns.

Brett Hundley (96.9 Total QBR), the nation’s leader in sacks taken last season, did not take a sack or turn the ball over in UCLA’s 58-20 win over Nevada. Like Bridgewater, Hundley excelled on third down, completing eight of 10 passes for seven first downs.

Derek Thompson (96.6 Total QBR): Thompson was 23-for-27 for 349 yards in a 40-6 North Texas rout of Idaho. It was a career-best performance, surpassing the 93.8 he had against Indiana in 2011.

Jameis Winston (96.3 Total QBR): Winston was 25-for-27 and set a Florida State record for completion rate, breaking a mark previously held by Danny Kanell. His 92.6 percent rate is the third highest in a game for an FBS quarterback in the past 10 seasons (minimum 25 attempts). It was the second best this week, surpassed by Corey Robinson of Troy (93.8 percent on 30-of-32).

For those wondering why Winston finished with "only" a 96.3, he did take two sacks, fumbled once and committed a penalty.

Best team performances

Offense -- Oregon: Oregon’s offense led all teams with 42 expected points added (EPA), which means it contributed 42 net points toward its 63-point victory. It was the Ducks’ second-highest offensive EPA in a game over the past 10 seasons.

Defense -- Alabama: Alabama’s opponent, Virginia Tech, had the fifth-lowest offensive EPA (-24.7) of any FBS team in the country.

The Tide held Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas to the lowest Total QBR (1.9) of Week 1. He completed five of his 26 pass attempts, including two of the 12 he made on third down, and threw a pick-six early in the second quarter that dropped Virginia Tech’s win probability below 21 percent, where it remained the rest of the game.

Special teams -- Minnesota: Minnesota scored touchdowns on a 98-yard kickoff return and a 51-yard blocked field goal return in its win against UNLV. As a result, the Golden Gophers added more expected points on special teams than any other team in Week 1.

Looking ahead to Week 2

Week 2 is highlighted by the final scheduled meeting of Notre Dame and Michigan in Ann Arbor on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET (ESPN).

Last year, Devin Gardner did not qualify for the Total QBR season title, but among quarterbacks with at least 150 action plays, he had the highest opponent-adjusted QBR (90.7) in the country. Gardner picked up where he left off, posting a Total QBR of 90 in Week 1 against Central Michigan.

Similarly, Tommy Rees started off the 2013 season strong. His Total QBR of 94.9 ranked seventh out of 121 qualified quarterbacks. It was his second-highest Total QBR of his career and the sixth-highest Total QBR for any Notre Dame quarterback in the past 10 seasons.

Look for these two offenses to improve with Rees and Gardner under center. Both teams ranked in the top 25 among BCS AQ teams in offensive expected points added in Week 1. Neither Michigan nor Notre Dame ranked that high last season.