Stats & Info: Arkansas Razorbacks

Alabama's run D vs Arkansas' run O

October, 9, 2014
Oct 9

AP Photo/Tony GutierrezJonathan Williams helps lead one of the most effective running games in the nation.
Perhaps overshadowed by the games involving teams from the state of Mississippi, the SEC West has another big game Saturday when Alabama heads to Arkansas (6 ET on ESPN).

A key matchup in the game with be Alabama’s run defense against Arkansas’ run offense.

The Crimson Tide lead the SEC in rush defense (64.0 YPG), and Arkansas leads the conference in rush offense (316.6 YPG).

Alabama rushing defense
Alabama's average of 64.0 rushing yards allowed per game is third-fewest in the FBS. They have allowed one rushing touchdown, tied for the fewest among FBS teams.

The Tide have held four of their five opponents to fewer than 75 yards rushing, tied with Louisville and Boise State for the most such games by an FBS defense.

Excluding sacks, opponents have not gained yards on 28 percent of their carries against Alabama, the third-best rate for a defense in the FBS and nine percentage points better than the FBS average.

The Tide rarely give up big plays in the running game. They have allowed an FBS-low nine runs of 10 yards or longer.

A key has been not allowing opponents to set the edge. The Tide have allowed a Power Five-low 2.5 yards per designed run outside the tackles and are one of four Power Five defenses that have not allowed a touchdown on such a run.

Arkansas rushing offense
Not only does Arkansas run more often (68 percent of plays) and for more yards (316.6 per game) than any other SEC team, but it also is efficient in doing so.

The Razorbacks are averaging 6.9 yards per rush and lead the nation in rushing efficiency, which measures an offense’s contribution to a team’s scoring margin on rushing plays. Arkansas is contributing an FBS-high 16 points per game to its scoring margin on rushes.

What makes the Razorbacks so efficient is their ability to gain ground on first and second down. The Razorbacks are averaging 6.9 yards per rush on first or second down and gaining a first down on an FBS-high 30 percent of those plays.

That leads to Arkansas avoiding third downs (sixth-fewest in the FBS), which is a factor that has been shown to correlate with winning by ESPN’s production analytics team.

Running backs Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins have led the way for Arkansas. They have combined for 1,107 rush yards and 14 rushing touchdowns, which is the third-most rushing yards and most rushing touchdowns of any running back duo in the nation.

A lot of their success can be attributed to a line that has been able to open holes.

The Razorbacks are averaging an SEC-high 4.2 yards before contact per rush and have gained at least five yards on an FBS-best 54 percent of rushes.

As noted above, Alabama has been great at limiting opponents outside the tackles, but that area is a strength for the Razorbacks. They lead the SEC in yards per rush (8.1) and touchdowns (nine) on designed runs outside of the tackles.

Something has to give
Arkansas has gained at least 150 rushing yards and is averaging four yards per rush in each of its games this season. Alabama has not allowed any of its opponents to run for 150 yards or average four yards per rush in a game.

We may know how this game will play out after the first 15 minutes. Arkansas is averaging 8.4 yards per rush and 99.6 rushing yards in the first quarter. If Alabama can slow Arkansas’ ground attack early, it may go a long way toward determining this game.

NCAA, BPI correspond, to a point

March, 17, 2014
Mar 17
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesDakari Johnson and Kentucky received a worse seed than BPI would have given them
Comparing the top of the NCAA men’s basketball championship field to ESPN’s Basketball Power Index shows a lot of similarity in how the selection committee and ESPN’s rating system evaluated teams. Although 31 of the 36 at-large teams in the field would also have been selected had only BPI been used to select the field, there are notable differences in the seeds of some prominent teams and how BPI would have placed them.
BPI rankings corresponded with the first three No. 1 seeds, as Arizona, Florida, and Wichita State are the top three teams in BPI (in that order). But unlike in the previous two official seasons of BPI, the No. 1 overall seed (Florida) is not the No. 1 team in BPI as of Selection Sunday.

The fourth No. 1 seed is Virginia, which is sixth in BPI. Ahead of Virginia in BPI are Louisville and Kansas.

That said, in each of the three official seasons of BPI, the No. 1 seeds all have been ranked in the Top 6 on Selection Sunday. And for the second straight year, three of the four No. 1 seeds ranked better in BPI than RPI.

Differences between committee, BPI
Among the teams in the field, below are those that are most “overseeded” according to BPI (based on their seed if only BPI were used to seed the 68 teams). Second-seeded Michigan was given a seed four spots better than its BPI would suggest, while four other schools are overseeded by three lines from where their BPI ranking would put them:
Similarly, in the chart at the right are the seven teams most underseeded according to BPI -- all at least three seeds worse than they should be, according to the metric. Kentucky, Pittsburgh and Iowa are each seeded five spots below where they would be if the field were seeded by BPI.

Snubs and undeserved bids
BPI was not designed to predict who would make the field of 68, but rather who deserved to make the field (and where they deserved to be seeded) based on a very specific measure of team strength based on its season results.

That said, 63 of the 68 teams -- more precisely, 31 of the 36 at-large teams -- that made the field would have also made the field if it had been selected entirely according to BPI.

The best-ranked at-large team that didn't make it was No. 33 Southern Methodist, while the worst-ranked at-large team that did make it was No. 66 North Carolina State.

Kentucky over Florida headlines BPI picks

February, 14, 2014
Feb 14

Mark Zerof/USA TODAY Sports
BPI gives Julius Randle and the Wildcats a 60 percent chance to beat Florida on Saturday night.

ESPN’s Basketball Power Index rates teams using a system that takes into account factors such as the pace of a game, margin of victory, game site and absence of key players.

In addition, BPI can be used to make projections of each team’s chance of winning a specific matchup. The team with the higher chance to win according to BPI has won about 73 percent of the time this season. For example, on Saturday, Feb. 8, BPI correctly projected three teams in the Top 15 of The Associated Press poll (Michigan, Texas and Cincinnati) to lose to lower-ranked or unranked opponents.

Here is a preview of five of Saturday’s matchups, examined using information produced by BPI:

Florida at Kentucky (9 PM, ESPN)
BPI Projection:
Kentucky 60 percent likely to win
These teams are closer in BPI – Florida No. 3, Kentucky No. 6 – than in The Associated Press poll (3 and 14, respectively), and the BPI projection reflects that.

The location of this game is significant. The Gators would be more likely to win according to BPI if these teams were playing on a neutral site (55 percent likely) or at Florida (69 percent), as they will on March 8.

The matchup quality for this game (a 0-to-100 gauge of the quality of a contest, based on the teams’ BPI) is 89.3; no game in the remainder of the regular season has a greater quality number.

Pittsburgh at North Carolina (1 PM, CBS)
BPI Projection:
Pittsburgh 56 percent likely to win
Despite Wednesday’s dramatic loss to Syracuse, Pittsburgh remains among the nation’s most powerful teams. All five of the Panthers’ losses have been to teams in the BPI Top 30, with three of those coming against BPI No. 2 Syracuse and BPI No. 8 Duke; four of those losses were by a combined 10 points. Two of Pittsburgh’s wins (over Clemson and Stanford) rank among the Top 20 this season based on BPI Game Score.

The quality of their performance across all of their games makes the Panthers the team BPI projects to win this game against BPI No. 33 North Carolina.

Kansas State at Baylor (7 PM, ESPNU)
BPI Projection:
Baylor 56 percent likely to win
With Kansas State (BPI No. 40) coming off its overtime victory over BPI No. 4 Kansas, it might be surprising to see the Wildcats as underdogs to a team that isn’t likely to make the NCAA Tournament as things stand now, but that is the impact of home-court advantage. According to BPI, Kansas State would be 73 percent likely to beat the Bears (who are No. 57 in BPI) if this game were in Manhattan, Kan., instead of Waco, Texas.

LSU at Arkansas (5 PM, ESPNU)
BPI Projection:
Arkansas 73 percent likely to win
If BPI ranking determined selection to the NCAA Tournament, Arkansas (BPI No. 44) would be the 33rd of 36 at-large selections, as it stands now. That would appear to leave the Razorbacks with little margin for error.

In the teams’ first meeting this season, on Feb. 1, LSU (now 63rd in BPI) beat visiting Arkansas 88-74. The Razorbacks registered a 40.6 BPI game score that day, their second worst of the season.

Brigham Young at Saint Mary’s (8 PM, ESPN2)
BPI Projection:
Saint Mary’s 64 percent likely to win
Much like Arkansas, BPI No. 51 Brigham Young and No. 53 Saint Mary’s appear to be in the gray area of possible tournament selection heading into this matchup. As it stands now, if BPI ranking determined the NCAA field, BYU would be the third-most powerful team and the Gaels the fourth-most powerful to miss out on one of the 36th at-large spots.

Arkansas a team on the run

October, 4, 2013

Nelson Chenault/USA TODAY SportsFreshman Alex Collins leads the SEC with 527 rush yards this season.
Bret Bielema’s arrival from Wisconsin has signaled a change in Arkansas football. Gone are the pass-happy offenses of the past several years. This year no SEC team has rushed more times and for more yards than Arkansas. Arkansas’ run game faces its toughest test of the season Saturday against Florida (7 ET on ESPN2).

Arkansas Taking On Bielema’s Personality
Over the last four years, no SEC team ran the ball less than Arkansas. However, this year Arkansas has run the ball 65 percent of the time, ranking second in the SEC.

Bielema has taken his ground-and-pound approach from his Wisconsin days, when the Badgers had the fifth-highest rush percentage in the nation, and brought it to Fayetteville this year – with a few wrinkles.

One key difference between this Arkansas team’s rushing attack from Bielema’s offenses at Wisconsin is play direction. From 2010-12 Wisconsin accumulated 48 percent of its yards on runs up the middle.

This year Arkansas has accumulated just 26 percent of its runs up the middle. The Razorbacks’ 874 rushing yards outside the hash marks lead the conference and are already more than their total from last season.

Inside the Razorbacks Rushing Attack
One key part of the Arkansas rushing attack is the big-play ability of Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams. Collins leads the SEC with 17 rushes of 10-or-more yards, and no SEC player has a longer run this year than Williams’ 75-yard touchdown scamper in the season opener.

The offensive line has been instrumental in opening up big holes for the running backs, with Collins and Williams both ranking in the top 10 in yards before contact among BCS-AQ rushers.

Opponents have been prepared for Arkansas’ run-reliant gameplan this season. The Razorbacks are seeing an average of 7.3 defenders in the box, the second-highest mark among SEC teams.

Williams and Collins have both excelled facing the extra traffic. Williams leads the SEC with 10 broken tackles and Collins is fifth among BCS-AQ running backs with 229 yards after contact.

The running game has also helped set up play action for the Razorbacks. Seven of Arkansas’ ten touchdown passes have come off a run fake, and another came on a Williams halfback option pass. Only Oregon State, Ohio State and Washington have more TD passes via play action than Arkansas.

Can Florida Stop Arkansas?
Florida’s defense leads the nation in run defense, allowing just 54 yards per game. Florida doesn’t stack the line to stop the run either, averaging only 6.5 men in the box per run play.

Florida did lose one of its best run stoppers - defensive lineman Dominique Easley - for the season last week in practice, but still has the ability to stop Arkansas’ high-powered run game.

The key to Florida’s rush defense is penetrating the backfield. The Gators have hit opposing rushers behind the line of scrimmage on an FBS-best 42 percent of their carries, and they have stopped opposing ball carriers for zero or negative yards 44 percent of the time, the highest rate in FBS.

Northwestern's hot start 50 years in making

October, 4, 2012
The Northwestern Wildcats are looking to go 6-0 this season, something they haven't done since 1962. But 50 years isn't even close to the longest such drought among BCS-AQ schools.

That distinction belongs to the Oregon State Beavers, who haven’t started a season with six consecutive wins since 1907. In fact, there are seven AQ schools with longer droughts than Northwestern.

In addition to Oregon State, Vanderbilt (1928), Iowa State (1938), Purdue (1943), Wake Forest (1944), California 1950) and Kentucky (1950) have all gone over 50 years without a 6-0 start.

Opponents Running Hog Wild
The Arkansas Razorbacks have allowed 52 and 58 points in their two SEC games this season. If the Hogs allow at least 50 to the Auburn Tigers this week, they will set a dubious record for the conference.

No SEC team has ever allowed 50 or more points in three consecutive conference games. In major college history, it's happened 17 times including Akron's current streak of three games in the MAC.

The all-time record is four straight games, done by four different schools.

The most recent school to "accomplish" that was Washington State in 2008.

Oklahoma Bounces Back from Losses
Why should the 4-0 Texas Tech Red Raiders be extremely worried hosting the Oklahoma Sooners this week? It's been 13 years since the Sooners lost consecutive regular-season games.

That's right, it goes all the way back Bob Stoops' first season in Norman in 1999 when they lost consecutive games to Notre Dame and Texas.

To provide some context on this, 97 of the 120 FBS teams lost consecutive regular-season games last season alone. And though we're only in Week 6 this season, 52 FBS teams have already lost back-to-back games.

Plenty of Pushups for Puddles
The Oregon Ducks are in the top five of FBS in points per game for the third straight season. The Ducks have the most offensive touchdown drives that have lasted one minute or less (11) and two minutes or less (20) this season.

A high-powered offense is nothing new for Oregon. Since Chip Kelly took over in 2009, the Ducks lead the nation in points per game (44.2), one-minute touchdown drives (63), three-play touchdown drives (57) and touchdown plays of 20 yards or more (88).

Oregon’s offense could be challenged this week against a Washington defense that forced seven “3 and out” drives against Stanford last week.

Four Is Unlucky for Gators’ Opponents
The No. 4 LSU Tigers travel to Gainesville this week. Usually a top-five ranking would be a good thing, but perhaps not so if you’re ranked fourth against the Florida Gators.

Florida has won nine straight against teams ranked fourth in AP Poll. It’s last such loss came in 1986 against the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Ole Miss offense could test Tide streak

September, 27, 2012
1. Heading into its game this week at No. 1 Alabama, Ole Miss is scoring nearly 37 points per game. Therefore, the Rebels might be a test for a Tide defense that has allowed a total of three touchdowns in its last nine games against SEC competition.

Ole Miss was one of the teams that managed a single TD against the Tide defense last year; Florida and Mississippi State were the others. What's amazing is that Alabama doesn't even have the SEC's longest active streak of allowing no more than one TD to a conference opponent's offense. After last weekend's game against Auburn, LSU has now done that in 11 consecutive games.

2. Connor Shaw missed on his first pass of the game last week against Missouri but then completed his last 20 pass attempts. With four more consecutive completions, he'll tie Tennessee's Tee Martin in 1998 for the longest SEC streak of consecutive completions. Martin's streak was the national record for 13 years until East Carolina's Dominique Davis (36 straight completions) broke it last year.

How do Shaw's odds look against Kentucky, his opponent this weekend? Only once in its last 19 games has Kentucky allowed a passer to complete four straight to start a game. Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater did it against the Wildcats in the season opener this year. And Shaw will have to top his performance from last year against Kentucky. In that game, Shaw threw an incompletion on his second pass attempt.

3. Michigan State is looking to win consecutive games with Ohio State after beating the Buckeyes last year 10-7 in Columbus. Ohio State has not lost back-to-back meetings with a conference opponent since Wisconsin beat the Buckeyes in 2003 and 2004.

That Ohio State streak of eight years without consecutive losses to any conference opponent is the longest active streak among BCS-AQ conference teams. Ohio State has played 62 Big Ten games since losing those two straight to Wisconsin. If Michigan State can’t break the streak this week, Nebraska will have a chance to end it next week when it meets Ohio State in Columbus.

4. Taylor Martinez is completing 56 percent of his passes thrown 15 yards or more downfield this season. Martinez completed less 40 percent of such throws in each of his first two seasons as a starter.

Why is this improvement important? The Cornhuskers are 7-0 against AQ-opponents when Martinez completes at least half of his 15-yard throws and 4-9 when he does not, including last season’s loss to Wisconsin. Martinez finished that game with as many interceptions (three) as completions on 15-yard throws. It is his only career game with multiple interceptions on such throws.

5. This past weekend, Arkansas became the first preseason top-10 team since 2000 Alabama to pick up a third loss by the end of September. This weekend against former SWC rival – and new SEC rival – Texas A&M, the Razorbacks can join an even more exclusive club of futility.

With a loss, Arkansas would join the 1984 Pittsburgh Panthers as the only preseason top-10 teams to have four losses by the end of September. The 1984 Panthers began 0-4 after being ranked third in the preseason poll and finished the season 3-7-1.

How Alabama’s schedule helps title defense

July, 17, 2012

Marvin Gentry/US PresswireAlabama won't need to do too much damage on the road to repeat as BCS National Champions.
With the SEC media days underway on ESPNU, here are 10 notes you need to know about the 2012 SEC schedule:

• Defending-champion Alabama looks to repeat in 2012 with a very home-friendly schedule. The Crimson Tide play just one game in an opponent’s stadium during the first six weeks of the season and their final three games are all at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

• Arkansas will have the chance to knock off SEC West stalwarts Alabama (Sept. 15) and LSU (Nov. 23) at home. The Razorbacks haven’t beaten the two schools in the same season since 2000.

•  For the first time since 1984, Auburn will open its season with two consecutive games away from home (Sept. 1 vs Clemson in Atlanta, Sept. 8 at Miss St). The Tigers started that 1984 season 0-2.

• Florida will play its first two SEC games on the road for the first time since 1985 (Sept. 8 at Texas A&M, Sept. 15 at Tennessee) and its trip to College Station will be its first regular season game played in the state of Texas since 1979.

• Georgia will go the entire month of October without playing on its home field (at South Carolina, open date, at Kentucky, vs Florida in Jacksonville) but it avoids both Alabama and LSU for the third-consecutive regular season.

• Kentucky will be busy as it opens the season with 10 straight games before an open date on November 10. Fortunately for Big Blue Nation, five of the first six will be played in the state of Kentucky (four home games, at Louisville).

• LSU will play eight of its 12 games in Baton Rouge, but its four road opponents all reached bowl games last season (Auburn, Florida, Texas A&M, and Arkansas). Also, the Tigers will open the season at home against an FBS school for the first time since 2006.

• Mississippi State will be tested late in the season as four of their final five opponents went to bowl games in 2011 (at Alabama, Texas A&M, at LSU, Arkansas). Interestingly, the Bulldogs and in-state rival Ole Miss are the only SEC schools that will play AT both Alabama and LSU during the regular season.

• South Carolina will face a tough three-game stretch in October (vs Georgia, at LSU, at Florida) but following that matchup with the Gators, the Gamecocks will not leave their home state the rest of the way (three home games, open date, at Clemson).

• Tennessee will not play in an opponent’s stadium until September 29 at Georgia and only one of their regular season road trips will be longer than 300 miles from Knoxville (Oct. 13 at Mississippi St).
Stats & Info insights into this morning's top sports stories

Paul Pierce
1. PIERCE AND KG LEAD THE WAY: Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett combined for 51 points as the Boston Celtics beat the Heat 115-107 in Miami. Boston shot 60.6 percent from the field, the highest allowed by the Heat in the “Big 3” era (last two seasons). The Celtics lead the league with 18 wins after the All-Star Break. They were just 15-17 before the break.

2. TWO UNDEFEATED TEAMS LEFT: After losses by the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Mets, the Detroit Tigers and Arizona Diamondbacks are the only undefeated teams remaining in MLB. The Tigers are 4-0 for the 1st time since 2006. That season, they made the World Series. The Diamondbacks are 4-0 for the 1st time in franchise history.

3. PETRINO OUT: Bobby Petrino is out as Arkansas head football coach. Petrino was 34-17 in 4 seasons at Arkansas. The 2011 Razorbacks finished with their highest AP Ranking since 1977 and tied a school-record with 11 wins. Their only losses were to the top-2 teams in the nation (Alabama and LSU).

4. PLAYOFF PUCK DROPS: The Stanley Cup Playoffs begin Wednesday with three games. The Vancouver Canucks won the President’s Trophy for the second straight season and they host the Los Angeles Kings in the quarterfinals. The Detroit Red Wings are in the playoffs for the 21st-straight season, the longest active streak in the four major pro sports. They open at Nashville. The Philadelphia Flyers-Pittsburgh Penguins series also begins Wednesday. Pittsburgh is the favorite to win the Stanley Cup according to MGM Resorts International with 7-2 odds.

Roy Halladay
5. DUELING ACES: Dueling aces square off on Wednesday Night Baseball on ESPN2, 7 ET as Roy Halladay and the Philadelphia Phillies host Josh Johnson and the Miami Marlins. Halladay and Johnson have faced each other three previous times since Halladay joined the Phillies. In those three games, a grand total of six runs were scored, including a perfect game from Halladay on May 29, 2010.

Thursday recap: Snapping streaks

March, 2, 2012
Player of the Night – Ian Miller
Miller’s three-pointer with 0.8 seconds gave Florida State a 63-60 win at Virginia. He matched a career-high with 18 points, including 15 in the second half. But it was really the final minute, where he scored nine points, that belonged to Miller. It was Florida State’s third buzzer-beating win in the ACC this season.

Freshman of the Night – Johnny Dee
Dee scored a career-high 30 points, including 18 in the second half. to lead San Diego to a 76-54 win over Pepperdine. He’s one of only 22 freshmen to score 30 or more points in a game this season. Dee finished 6-for-9 from three-point range.

Streak Stopper – Michigan Wolverines
Michigan won at Illinois for the first time since 1995, snapping a 13-game losing streak in Champaign. The Wolverines came away with a 72-61 win thanks to big performances from a pair of guards. Tim Hardaway Jr. had 25 points and 11 rebounds, while Trey Burke went for 21 points and five assists.

Bench Star – Daniel Broughton
Arkansas-Pine Bluff snapped Mississippi Valley State’s 17-game winning streak, handing the Delta Devils their first SWAC loss of the season. Broughton came off the bench to put up 26 points and 13 rebounds for the Golden Lions.

Ugly Stat Line – Georgia Backcourt
Georgia didn’t get much from its leading scorers in a 79-49 loss to Kentucky. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (4-13) and Gerald Robinson (2-12) combined to shoot 24.0 percent from the floor. As a team, Georgia is shooting just 39.5 percent from the floor this season. That puts them on pace for the worst shooting season in the SEC since Arkansas shot 39.3 percent in 2002-03.

Stats in the Paint: Weekend outlook

February, 17, 2012
Let’s get you warmed up for the "College GameDay" road show (live on Saturday from Ann Arbor, Mich. at 11 a.m. ET on ESPN) by taking a look at some notes and nuggets from our college hoops advanced stats research team (a group we call the "Stats in the Paint" team).

(6) Ohio State at (19) Michigan, 9 p.m. ET on ESPN

When Ohio State has the ball: What defense will Michigan play? The Wolverines have played man-to-man on 87.7 percent of their opponents’ half-court possessions this season. Their zone defense has been effective though, limiting opponents to 34.6 percent shooting, compared to 42.3 percent versus their man defense.

In a 10-point win over Minnesota on Tuesday, Ohio State shot 59.1 percent and scored 1.13 points per play against man defense. When the Gophers played zone, the Buckeyes shot only 32.1 percent and scored 0.77 points per play.

When Michigan has the ball: Expect a stingy Ohio State defense. The Buckeyes are allowing 0.85 points per possessions this season, the lowest rate in the nation according to Sophomore guard Aaron Craft has been particularly suffocating; he leads the country with 49 turnovers forced as an on-ball defender this season.

Saturday’s Other Notable Matchups

(3) Missouri at Texas A&M, 2 p.m. ET on ESPN

Key stat: Missouri leads Division I with 1.20 points per possession this season, according to Texas A&M has scored a point per possession in four of 13 conference games, and the Aggies are 2-2 in those contests, compared to 2-7 in the rest of the conference slate.

Kansas State at (10) Baylor, 1:45 p.m. ET on ESPN3

Key stat: Kansas State leads the Big 12 in second-chance points per game (16.3) and offensive rebounds per game (15.2) this season. Baylor ranks seventh in the Big 12 in defensive rebounding, grabbing 67.3 percent of available boards.

Clemson at (7) North Carolina, 4 p.m. ET on ESPN

Key stat: Roy Williams’ vaunted transition offense is humming again. North Carolina is third in the country with 20.1 transition points per game this season. The last time the Tar Heels were top five in that category was 2008-09, when they won the national title.

(12) Florida at Arkansas, 6 p.m. ET on ESPN2

Key stats: Florida is most vulnerable in the paint. In two losses to Kentucky and Tennessee last week, the Gators allowed 38 and 36 points in the paint, their two highest totals in conference play this season. Arkansas will look to force turnovers, which the Razorbacks do on 24.1 percent of opponents’ possession, the highest rate in the SEC.

Statistically, who needs Green-Beckham?

January, 31, 2012
National Signing Day is a day away, and the nation’s top wide receiver recruit remains unsigned. Dorial Green-Beckham will announce his intentions at 10:15 A.M. ET on Wednesday, with many of the nation’s top programs looking on.

Green-Beckham has been described as a hybrid of Calvin Johnson and Julio Jones. At 6-foot-6, 220 pounds, he possesses the size and speed to be a significant deep threat and formidable red-zone target.

Any program in the nation would be happy to land Green-Beckham, but he has narrowed his list to five schools -- Arkansas, Texas, Missouri, Alabama and Oklahoma –- all of which have significant holes at wide receiver.

So the question becomes, who needs Dorial Green-Beckham most?

Alabama has stocked up on wide receiver recruits in its 2012 class with five 4-star or 5-star recruits listed as ATH/WR. The Tide could use all of the help that they can get after losing their top four pass catchers from 2011. Most importantly, Alabama needs to find a top wide receiver to fill the void left by Julio Jones and Marquis Maze leaving in consecutive years.

Jones and Maze were targeted on almost half of Alabama’s passes thrown 20 yards or more in the air since the start of 2010, resulting in 15 receptions and five touchdowns. Green-Beckham’s downfield prowess would benefit AJ McCarron who improved his deep passing in the second half of last season.

Arkansas is the predicted landing spot for Green-Beckham by all seven ESPN experts polled. If he chooses to sign with the Razorbacks, Green-Beckham would fill one of the greatest wide receiver voids in the nation.

Arkansas is losing three of its top four wide receivers, including the school’s top two players in career receptions, Jarius Wright and Joe Adams. Wright and Adams combined for more receiving yards (1,769) than any other set of receivers in the SEC last season.

In fact, no SEC team had three wide receivers combine for more yards, receptions and touchdowns than Wright and Adams.

Missouri needs a second wide-receiver option behind T.J. Moe next season with TE Michael Egnew and WR Wes Kemp graduating. Moe has the second-most receiving yards in the Big 12 since the start of 2010 among returning players, but he is not known for his deep-threat ability.

Of his 146 receptions in the past two seasons, only 13 have gone for 25 or more yards. Green-Beckham’s downfield speed would lead to more big plays for the Tigers and open up underneath routes for Moe and others.

Oklahoma must replace FBS all-time leader in receptions, Ryan Broyles. Broyles was Oklahoma’s top target downfield, in the red zone, on third down and when opponents brought the blitz over the last two years.

Landry Jones struggled after Broyles’ injury in 2011, and despite landing three 4-star wide receiver recruits, a talent like Green-Beckham could fill the void left by Broyles.

Broyles had some of the strongest hands in college football, dropping just two passes in 417 pass attempts since the start of 2009.

According to scouts, Green-Beckham also has strong hands and the ability to snatch balls in traffic, which will be valuable in an Oklahoma offense that throws a lot of quick slants. Oklahoma has focused on replacing Broyles with three 4-star recruits committed for next season, but the addition of Green-Beckham will have an immediate impact on a team with national title hopes.

Texas could use Green-Beckham’s size in the red zone. The Longhorns completed just 32 percent of their passes with three touchdowns and two interceptions in the red zone during conference play last season, which was the worst completion percentage by any Big 12 team in the last five seasons.

When throwing into the end zone, Texas completed just 5-of-17 passes with two interceptions. Beckham’s 6’6” size and leaping ability would give Texas a target to drastically improve its red-zone passing offense.
For the second time this season, USC was held to 40 points or fewer.
Two weeks after scoring 36 points in a loss to Cal Poly, the Trojans fell to Minnesota 55-40. At 55.1 ppg, USC is on track for its lowest scoring season since averaging 52.8 in 1948-49. That’s also the last season in which the Trojans were twice held to 40 points or fewer.

Wildcats can’t score in first loss
Both Northwestern and Baylor entered Sunday’s contest undefeated, but you wouldn’t know it from the result. Baylor won 69-41, holding Northwestern to 24.1 percent from the field. It was the worst shooting performance by the Wildcats in nearly 10 years. The 41 points are the fewest Northwestern has scored in its home court since a 40-39 win over North Florida in 2006. Meanwhile, Baylor was 25-for-30 from two-point range, an 83.3 two-point field-goal percentage that is their highest over the past 15 years.

Freshmen shine off the bench
A pair of freshmen starred off the bench on Saturday in Connecticut’s 75-62 win over Arkansas. Playing in just his second game, Ryan Boatright led the Huskies with 23 points, adding five rebounds and six assists. He’s the first UConn freshman with a 20-5-5 game off the bench since Kemba Walker against Missouri in the 2009 Elite Eight. Meanwhile, B.J. Young led all scorers with a career-high 28 points in the losing effort. It was the third most points by a freshman off the bench this season. The rest of the Razorbacks combined to shoot 24.6 percent from the field.

16 points and no field goals
Despite not connecting on a field goal, Durand Scott was Miami's top scorer in Saturday's 83-75 win over Massachusetts. Scott missed all six of his field goal attempts, and his 16 points came courtesy of a 16-for-18 performance at the line. It's the most points scored by a Division I player without a field goal since Binghamton's Sebastian Hermenier's 17 against Vermont in 2006. Scott's total is the most by a major conference player without a field goal since Indiana's Michael Lewis also scored 16 against Minnesota in 1998.

Top scoring performance of season
Weber State's Damian Lillard had the nation's top scoring game of the season, finishing with 41 points in a 91-89 double-overtime win over San Jose State. Lillard only had 24 points at the end of regulation, but scored 17 of the Wildcats' 24 points in the two overtimes. The 41 points are the second most in school history behind Stan Mayhew's 45 points in 1977. He's the first Division I player to crack the 40-point mark since Harrison Barnes in the 2011 ACC Tournament. Lillard is the top scorer in the nation, averaging 28.2 ppg.

Bucked from Big Ten contention

November, 19, 2011
The Penn State Nittany Lions' Big Ten title dreams remain alive while the Ohio State Buckeyes' are officially over. Penn State’s 20-14 win over the Buckeyes means that for the first time since 2004, Ohio State will not earn at least a share of the conference title.

Penn State rebounded from its tough loss to the Nebraska Cornhuskers last week to give interim coach Tom Bradley his first career win. The last Penn State coach to earn a win besides Joe Paterno was Charles “Rip" Engle on December 4, 1965.

Penn State’s defense held Ohio State scoreless in the second half and forced two key turnovers. They now lead the Big Ten with 25 turnovers this season. The Buckeyes were also the seventh Penn State opponent in 11 games this season to be held under 300 yards of total offense.

Ohio State has now lost five games in a season for the first time since 2004, and has lost two games in November for the first time since 1999. They finished 6-6 that year and didn’t reach a bowl game after losing their final three games of the season.

The focus for Penn State now turns to next week’s matchup with the Wisconsin Badgers. The winner of that game will clinch the Big Ten Leaders division and a berth in the Big Ten Championship game.

Something’s gotta give in Madison next Saturday, as the Nittany Lions will bring their perfect 4-0 road record to Camp Randall, where the Badgers are 6-0 this season and outscoring opponents by more than 40 points per game.

Penn State beat Wisconsin 48-7 in its last trip to Madison in 2008, a game that was both its largest-ever win against the Badgers and the most points Penn State has ever scored against Wisconsin.

Elsewhere around CFB Nation
• The Houston Cougars improve to 11-0 for the first time in school history as they beat SMU 37-7. Case Keenum racks up two more NCAA career records, passing Graham Harrell in completions (1,427 to 1,403) while tying Timmy Chang with his 36th 300-yard passing game.

• The North Carolina State Wolfpack upset No. 7 Clemson 37-13 for their first win against an AP top-10 team since 2005 when they beat No. 9 Florida State. Wolfpack defensive back David Amerson intercepted his 11th pass of the season, tying the ACC record for most interceptions in a season set by UNC's Dre' Bly in 1996.

• The Arkansas Razorbacks defeat Mississippi State 44-17 as they improve to 10-1 heading into next week’s showdown with the LSU Tigers. Tyler Wilson (365 yards) now has 3,215 yards this season, joining Ryan Mallet as the only players in Arkansas history to throw for at least 3,000 yards in a season.

Analyzing the unbeatens: LSU

November, 17, 2011

AP Photo/Gerald HerbertJordan Jefferson looks to lead unbeaten LSU to the BCS National Championship game this season.
After 11 weeks of football, there are three unbeaten teams remaining in the FBS. What makes these teams go? Do they have a weakness that will cost them a chance at an undefeated season? And what is each team’s toughest game remaining on the schedule?

ESPN’s Statistics & Information Group answered these three questions for each of the three teams in a series that started Tuesday with the Houston Cougars, and continued Wednesday with the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Today we look at the top-ranked team in the nation, the LSU Tigers.

LSU: 10-0 (6-0 SEC)

What they do well: One of the hardest things to do in college football this season is score on the Tigers defense. LSU is allowing 10.7 points per game this season, second fewest in FBS, and have held eight of ten opponents to 11 points or fewer.

Why is it so difficult to score against LSU?

• Teams have to go a long way to score. Against LSU this season, opponents’ average drives start at their own 26-yard line, second-best in FBS. Tigers’ opponents have had 34 drives start inside of their own 20 this season.

• The Tigers do not give up big plays, forcing teams to sustain long drives. LSU has allowed the second-fewest plays of 20-plus yards in FBS, and is the only team to not allow a run of 30 yards or longer. It takes an average of 9.9 plays to score against LSU this season, highest in FBS.
• LSU has shut down opposing quarterbacks. The Tigers are limiting opponents to the second-lowest passing efficiency rating in FBS (94.8).

• When it comes to making plays on the ball, no one is better. Opponents have completed just 5-of-38 passes that were thrown at least 20 yards against LSU this season, with more interceptions (7) than completions (5).

With all the challenges LSU’s defense presents, the end result is that the Tigers have allowed the second-lowest touchdown percentage in the nation with only 11 touchdowns allowed in 125 possessions (8.8 percent).

Area of concern: Can Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee repeat their late-game 2010 magic? This season, Jefferson and Lee have yet to be tested with the pressure of leading a fourth-quarter comeback with a BCS berth on the line. LSU is one of two teams this season that has not thrown a fourth-quarter pass when trailing.

Last season, Lee and Jefferson combined for four fourth-quarter comebacks, and LSU as a team completed 72.7 percent of its passes when trailing in the fourth quarter. Only the Auburn Tigers completed a higher percentage in this situation last year.

Biggest hurdle remaining: LSU faces the Arkansas Razorbacks in Week 13 on the day after Thanksgiving. This is the same Arkansas team that has won three of its last four games against LSU, including a 31-23 victory last season.

The Razorbacks once again have one of the nation’s best offenses, leading the SEC in scoring at 38.8 points per game. The key to the game for LSU will be limiting big plays. Arkansas has 43 completions of 20 yards or longer this season, 12 more than any other SEC team.

It was big plays that cost the Tigers in last season’s game. Arkansas scored touchdowns on passes of 85, 80 and 39 yards. It was the only game in the last eight seasons that LSU allowed three or more touchdown passes that were all at least 35 yards.

LSU atop BCS standings for third week

October, 30, 2011

For the third straight week, the LSU Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide hold the top two spots in the BCS standings. Both teams had byes last week and now get ready for a showdown in Tuscaloosa on November 5th. This will be the fifth regular-season meeting between a top ranked and second ranked BCS team.

The three straight weeks that LSU has been number one in the BCS standings is the longest such streak in school history.

The Oklahoma State Cowboys stayed at number three, their highest ever position in the BCS standings. This is the third time the Cowboys have ever been in the top five of the BCS standings, with all three coming in the past three weeks.

With its overtime win over USC on Saturday, the Stanford Cardinal moved up two spots from sixth to fourth in the standings. That's tied for Stanford's highest ever position in the BCS standings (twice at number four in BCS last season).

The Boise State Broncos dropped from four to five despite having a bye week. This marked the second straight season the Broncos have fallen a spot in the third releasing of the BCS standings despite not losing (last year dropped from three to four).

The Oklahoma Sooners moved up three spots to number six after falling six spots the previous week. The Sooners have been outside the top five of the BCS standings in 16 of last 18 times the standings have been released.

Another team that moved up three spots is the Arkansas Razorbacks who come in at seven. This is the fifth straight BCS standings that Arkansas has been in the top 10 dating back to last season (longest streak in school history).

The Oregon Ducks fell a spot to number eight despite a 15-point win over Washington State. It's the second straight season the Ducks have dropped in the BCS standings during a week despite not losing a game that week (were jumped for the number one spot by Auburn and dropped to number two in BCS). Oregon plays at Stanford on November 12th and with road wins next Saturday both teams could come into the game undefeated in Pac-12 play.

The South Carolina Gamecocks and Nebraska Cornhuskers come in at nine and 10 respectively. It's the Gamecocks' highest position in the BCS standings since 2007 (sixth in opening standings). This is the first time since 2005 that no Big Ten team has appeared in the top five of the BCS standings in any of the first three releases.

After double-digit losses Saturday, Clemson, Kansas State and Michigan State each dropped six spots in the standings and Wisconsin fell five spots after losing for the second straight week. Clemson and Kansas State had been ranked fifth and eighth respectively last week.