716, 481, 410, 671, 693
"If we didn't think it could work, we wouldn't run it." So said Kevin Sumlin about the Aggie's up-tempo, not boring offense in the SEC. In five games against SEC West opponents, Texas A&M has been held under 670 yards twice, against Ole Miss and LSU. In those two games they still managed over 400 yards despite losing 6 and 5 possessions to turnovers. Only LSU held A&M under 200 yards rushing. The Aggies have averaged 3.19 points per possession in possessions that were not cut short by the end of the half; they have averaged 4 points per possession when not stopped by turnovers.
What does it all mean? When the Aggies avoid turnovers they are as good as anyone in the country (e.g., Alabama). Good offenses avoid turnovers and good defenses create turnovers, but the timing of turnovers is much more random than other events in football (e.g., long pass plays). In other words, this next weekend the football gods will be playing dice with the college football universe.
Texas A&M has looked vulnerable in four games this season. They lost their opener with a freshman quarterback and new coaching staff to Florida by 3. They turned it over five times against LSU and lost by 5 points. They came from behind to beat Ole Miss despite six turnovers. And they beat Louisiana Tech by 2. Despite facing six SEC opponents, two top ten teams, three recent national champions, etc., the most impressive performance against Texas A&M this season, in my mind, came from Sonny Dykes and company. Louisiana Tech is 8-1. Only once this season have the Bulldogs been held under 44 points. Patton is a legitimate player at any level. But ultimately this team will stay well beneath the national radar, which is too bad because they were 2 points short of making some real noise.
Ultimately, when it comes to choosing a team to play for the national championship, I believe that we should evaluate teams based on wins, losses and strength of schedule. It doesn't matter how a team wins but that they do win. There is one exception to this rule: the team must actually WIN the game. Notre Dame lost to Pitt. Pitt was faced with a single play to win the game and a very high probability of success. The game was essentially out of Notre Dame's hands, and they had lost. It is important that Pitt failed to convert, but it is also important that PITT, not Notre Dame, decided the outcome of this game. In my mind, Notre Dame has now officially suffered half a loss, and that blemish drops them below the other (legitimate) undefeated teams.
Alabama, Oregon and Kansas State
The best thing West Virginia did this season was allow Baylor to score 63 points. This 1) allowed them to keep scoring against one of the nation's worst defenses and 2) focused the national spotlight on the game and Geno Smith's gaudy numbers. Down the road, though, an inability to tackle caught up with the Mountaineers. Oregon, you've been warned. But at least Oregon's offense was running on all cylinders.
CFBTN projected Kansas State to a 45-31 win before the game, but somehow the Wildcat's performance was still disappointing (probably because Oregon was busy racking up 62). Then again, Kansas State was probably on pace to more than 62 until Klein went down. And Alabama pulled off an upset in Baton Rouge last night. Sure they were favored. Sure they are undefeated. Sure they are #1 in the country. But LSU was the better team. My gut tells me the football gods are going to correct this oversight next weekend.
The Atlantic Coast Conference
Maryland played yesterday with a linebacker at quarterback. Turns out Randy Edsall didn't have the foresight to keep a half dozen full-time quarterbacks on scholarship. But Maryland lost because they couldn't stop Georgia Tech from running up and down the field. NC State lost because they allowed a hopeless Virginia offense to score 33 while they scored only 6. Miami took the Coastal lead by beating Virginia Tech, which would make perfect sense if both teams were good, but they aren't; Duke could gain control of its own fate in the Coastal Division, despite allowing over 100 points in the last two games, if only North Carolina were to lose to Maryland, Virginia, or Georgia Tech, but there is only a 45% chance of that happening You gotta love the ACC . . . as long as no one forces you to actually watch it.
Football in Louisiana
Tulane has now scored 55 and 47 in consecutive games, this after it took them half a season (6 games) to score 47 total points. Unfortunately they allowed Rice to score more than 47 in one game as well. And, having already discussed the other three teams in the state of Louisiana, it seems only fitting to close with the LaLaLaMo. ULM was 6-2 with a win against Arkansas and an overtime loss to Auburn (A&M beat those two by a combined 121-31, but only beat LaTech by 2), but was overwhelmed by the Ragin' Cajuns on Saturday. Louisiana will have four bowl eligible teams and the best kicker in the country. Yeah Louisiana!
The CFBTN Stat Challenge jackpot is now at $7.43.