Stats & Info: Minnesota Golden Gophers

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.

Notre Dame looks to reverse recent trend

November, 22, 2012
(Five great stats to get you ready for the college football weekend.)

1. This week was the 115th release of the BCS Standings since its inception in 1998. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are only the second school ever to be ranked No. 1 in the BCS Standings after entering the season unranked in the AP Preseason Poll. The other team was the Missouri Tigers in 2007, but things didn't go well for the Tigers. After reaching the top spot, Missouri was throttled by the Oklahoma Sooners, 38-17, in the Big 12 Championship Game.

2. The AP No. 1 team has fallen in each of the last two weeks. Will Notre Dame stop the streak or will it extend to three straight weeks? Only once in history has AP No. 1 lost on three consecutive regular-season weekends. That came in 1960, when Iowa lost at No. 3 Minnesota 27-10. The Gophers moved to No. 1 after the win only to lose the next week at home to Purdue. Lastly, Missouri, coached by future Notre Dame head coach Dan Devine, lost 23-7 to Kansas.

3. If the Auburn Tigers lose to the Alabama Crimson Tide, then the Tigers will become the first school in the FBS era (since 1978) to go from unbeaten in conference play (2010) to winless in conference play (2012) within a span of three seasons.

The only other school to even have a four-year span was Northwestern. The Wildcats went 8-0 in the Big Ten in 1995, then 0-8 in 1998.

4. Both the Florida Gators and Florida State Seminoles have dominating defenses. Each team ranks in the top five of FBS in scoring defense and total defense. The Gators have been the best at not conceding big plays, allowing only 10 plays that have gained 25 yards or more, four fewer than any other FBS team. Florida also is the only defense that has not allowed a run of 25 yards or longer.

As for the Seminoles, they have been the best at getting opposing offenses off the field. Florida State has allowed opponents to convert on third down only 25 percent of the time, the lowest percentage in FBS. Florida State has also forced 58 three-and-out drives, the most in the nation.

5. Close calls have been the norm this season for Michigan State. Each of the last seven games for the Spartans have been decided by four points or fewer. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the only other school in major college history with a seven-game streak of that sort is Columbia in 1971.

No school has ever had eight straight games decided by four points or fewer. On Saturday, Michigan State is at Minnesota, which has played only one game this season that's been decided by four points or fewer. It was the Golden Gophers first game of the season -- a 30-27 triple overtime win at UNLV.

Crimson Tide rolls through first round

April, 26, 2012
Jerry Lai/US PresswireTrent Richardson was the first of four Alabama Crimson Tide players selected in the first round of the NFL Draft.
The national champion Alabama Crimson Tide had three underclassmen selected in the first round -- Trent Richardson, Dre Kirkpatrick and Dont'a Hightower.

Last year, Marcell Dareus, Julio Jones and Mark Ingram were taken in the first round after leaving Alabama early, and in 2010, Rolando McClain and Kareem Jackson were selected in Round 1 after forgoing their final season of eligibility in Tuscaloosa.

Alabama joins the Miami Hurricanes (2002-04) as the only schools to have multiple underclassmen taken in the first round of the NFL Draft in three consecutive years.

The Crimson Tide are the first team to have eight underclassmen taken in the first round in a three-year span. Those Miami teams had seven -- two in 2002, two in 2003 and three in 2004.

Alabama is on a four-year run that began with Andre Smith being a first-round pick as an underclassman in 2009. That started after the Crimson Tide didn't have a first-round pick from 2001-2008 and failed to have a single player selected in any of the seven rounds of the 2008 Draft.

With Hightower and Mark Barron chosen in the first seven picks, the Crimson Tide became the second team in the Common Draft Era to have two or more players selected in the first 10 picks in consecutive drafts.

The Ohio State Buckeyes had two top-10 picks each in the 1996 and 1997 drafts, highlighted by Orlando Pace going first overall in 1997. Dareus and Jones went in the first 10 picks from Alabama last season.

Other than Alabama, the only school to have multiple first-round selections in each of the last two drafts was the Baylor Bears. Phil Taylor and Danny Watkins went in the first round from the Bears last season. The four picks over the last two years brings Baylor’s total to 10 first-round picks all-time.

Baylor is also one of two schools this year and five all-time to have a quarterback and wide receiver selected in the first round of the same draft.

Draft chatter
• No players from Miami, Florida or Florida State were selected in the first round for the first time since 1980.

• Nineteen early entrants were selected in the first round, surpassing the 2010 draft’s 17 for the most in NFL history.

• Riley Reiff of the Iowa Hawkeyes was the first pick from a Big Ten school, going 23rd overall to the Detroit Lions. That ties 1968 for the common draft era record for the longest into a draft before a Big Ten pick, when the Baltimore Colts selected John Williams of Minnesota Golden Gophers.

• Michael Floyd and Harrison Smith were each selected in the first round from Notre Dame. The last time the Fighting Irish had multiple first round picks was 1994 (Bryant Young, Aaron Taylor and Jeff Burris).

• Whitney Mercilus and A.J. Jenkins were the first pair of Illinois Fighting Illini players selected in the first round since Kevin Hardy and Simeon Rice went in the top three picks in 1996.

• The Boise State Broncos are the first team not from a major conference to have two first-round picks since the Jackson State Tigers in 2000.

Brad Edwards contributed to this post

Sullinger looks to turn corner on turnovers

February, 14, 2012
On Saturday, Michigan State presented the model for stopping Jared Sullinger - make him catch the ball outside the paint and put the ball on the floor. That's what Minnesota will look to do when it hosts Ohio State (9 ET on ESPN).

Sullinger had a nightmarish game Saturday, turning the ball over 10 times while shooting 5-for-15 from the floor. He was the first Big Ten player with double-digit turnovers since former Buckeye Evan Turner two seasons ago.

The Spartans kept Sullinger out of the paint and attacked him once he put the ball on the floor. Of his 10 turnovers, seven occurred when catching the ball outside of the paint and five after dribbling the ball. Six of the 10 turnovers came when the Spartans double-teamed him.

Despite playing the full 40 minutes, Sullinger did not catch the ball in the post inside the paint a single time against the Spartans.

Michigan State’s game plan exposed a weakness Sullinger has had all season long. He has 24 turnovers this season when catching the ball outside of the paint and 23 turnovers after putting the ball on the floor.

Conversely, he has just four turnovers when posting up in the paint and hasn't had a single turnover on those plays in his last six games.

Matt Ryerson/US PresswireJared Sullinger is one of the best post-up players in the nation.

Limiting Sullinger's turnovers has been a key for the Buckeyes. They're 13-0 this season when he has one or fewer turnovers.

Sullinger is one of the best post-up players in college basketball. Among players with at least 100 post-up plays this season, he ranks fifth with 1.08 points per play. He draws a shooting foul on 19 percent of his post-ups, which ranks fourth in the country.

In his two games prior to the Michigan State loss, Sullinger caught the ball four times in the post inside the paint and got fouled on all four plays.

Without good position, Sullinger isn't as effective. The further he is from the basket, the more he needs to dribble to create offense, which in turn opens up the possibility of turnovers.

Ohio State hasn’t lost back-to-back games since starting Big Ten play at 0-2 during the 2009-10 season. To avoid breaking that streak, the Buckeyes need to get the ball to Sullinger where he is more likely to succeed.
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.

Conference Power Rankings: Week 9

November, 1, 2010
There are no changes in the college football conference rankings this week.

None of the SEC’s top 25 schools lost last week, which this time of year means all of them increased their AP point total. The SEC now has six schools inside the top 21 of the AP poll. No other conference has more than four schools in that group.

The Big Ten has seen its rating slide in recent weeks due to its faltering computer ratings. Some of the out-of-conference scheduling from the bottom of the Big Ten is coming back to bite them late in the season. Three of the Big Ten’s 11 members (27.3%) have average computer rankings below 69. Compare that to the SEC (16.7%), Pac-10 (10.0%), and Big 12 (8.3%) and you can see why the Big Ten is close to becoming number four among the big four conferences. Minnesota has the worst average computer ranking of any school in one of the six automatic qualifying conferences at 105.5.

The Big 12 is being hurt by not having one elite school this season. The Big 12 has five schools in the AP top 25 (second most behind the SEC), but it has no schools inside the top eight.

The ACC lost all of the momentum that it gained last week thanks to losses by FSU and Miami against previously unranked opponents. The highest ranked ACC school in the AP poll is Virginia Tech at 20. Its highest ranked team in computer average is FSU at 24.7.

For a brief recap on how we rank the conferences click here.
1. Not only did the coaching situation at Minnesota take a dramatic turn this week with the firing of Tim Brewster, but his interim replacement owns a dubious distinction before even coaching a game for the Golden Gophers. With Eastern Michigan’s win last week, head coach Ron English finally got in the win column after going 0-18 to start his career.

So, which current FBS head coach now owns the longest active losing streak? That would be Jeff Horton, Minnesota’s interim coach with 16 … AND … he hasn’t coached an FBS game since 1998! Horton was the head coach at UNLV from 1994-98. His 1997 team lost its final 5 games, and then he went 0-11 in 1998.

2. The last time Nebraska beat an AP Top 20 team on the road, Tom Osborne was the head coach. The Huskers have lost 17 straight games on the road to AP Top 20 teams and 11 of them have been by double digits. The school’s last win over an AP Top 20 team on the road came in 1997 at second-ranked Washington, 27-14.

3. Given that Wisconsin is world-renowned for, among other things, its beer, the Badger State might be expected to have somewhat of a lasting hangover after Saturday’s win at Camp Randall Stadium against No. 1 Ohio State. Whether that hangover latches itself to the Wisconsin football team and lingers into this weekend’s game at Iowa remains to be seen. But recent history says that other teams haven’t been on guard enough against a post-upset letdown.

The last seven teams to beat the AP No. 1 in the regular season have just a 3-4 record in their next game. However, there is a bit of silver lining for the Badgers. Included among those seven teams, there’s one Big Ten team on the list. That’s Illinois, who also beat Ohio State in 2007, and they were one of the three teams to win their next game.

4. The Stanford Cardinal are 5-1 for the fifth time since 1971. A win over Washington State on Saturday would give the Cardinal a 6-1 start for the first time since 1970, when Stanford started 8-1 on the season.

The last four times Stanford sat at 5-1, the Cardinal dropped their seventh game, all to conference opponents.
Since going 10-0 in 1940, the Cardinal have won six of their first seven games only three other times (1941, 1951, 1970).

5. Oregon might be the top-ranked AP team in the nation, but the Ducks probably wish this week’s game was on Saturday, instead of Thursday. The Ducks have not enjoyed many pleasant memories in recent Thursday games, although they did win last year’s Civil War on a Thursday. Their previous four Thursday appearances were ones to forget.

SEC and Big Ten streaks coming to an end

October, 18, 2010
• This marks the first week since Nov. 25, 2007 that the SEC has NOT had a team in the top two of the BCS Standings. That week, Missouri was No. 1 while West Virginia was No. 2. Since then, an SEC team had been either one or two for 17 straight weeks.

On the flip side, Auburn’s No. 4 ranking in the BCS Standings marks the 33rd straight week that the SEC has had a team in the top five, which is the longest active streak by far. The last time there was no SEC team in the top five of the BCS Standings was Dec. 4, 2005 (Georgia was highest at seventh). The conference with the next longest active streak is the Big 12 (22 straight weeks).

NOTE: A “week” indicates a BCS Standings release. Obviously there are several weeks between the final BCS Standings and the major bowl games. Those are not included above.

• Starting next season, the Wisconsin-Iowa rivalry will no longer be an annual event. Instead, it will only be played two out of every five years.

That’s because Iowa and Wisconsin will be placed in separate divisions when the Big Ten expands to add Nebraska.

Wisconsin’s rivalry with Minnesota (for “Paul Bunyan’s Axe”) was protected, while Iowa will have a new cross-divisional “rivalry” with Purdue.

The Wisconsin-Iowa series dates back more than 100 years and on Saturday (3:30 ET, ABC/ESPN) they will have played in 72 of the last 74 years.