#10: Tyler Bray (Tennessee) vs. Troy (+30.2 EPA)On November 3, Tennessee's season was already effectively lost. After an encouraging 3-1 start, they dropped 4 straight, and the 3-4 defense wasn't coming together. The defensive struggles plunged to a depth yet unknown on this day, against a 4-4 Troy team that had lost 3 games in the Sun Belt. Troy piled up 721 yards of offense against the Vols. It would take an incredible effort from Tennessee's offense to win the game. Luckily, that's exactly what they got from Tyler Bray:
Bray's final line on the day? 29/47, 530 yards, 5 TD, 0 INT. 11.3 yards per play. Troy's defense wasn't bottom of the barrel, but it was far from good, finishing with a -113.0 EPA on the season, -111 of which came through the air. Still, it's a tall order for a QB to have to lead his team to a win when the defense allows nearly half a mile in yardage, and Bray managed to do just that.
#9: Collin Klein (Kansas State) vs. West Virginia (+30.5 EPA)The #4 Wildcats were looking to legitimize their high ranking, and the #13 Mountaineers were looking to get back into the national picture. It wound up being Collin Klein's personal Heisman candidacy announcement party:
#8: Tajh Boyd (Clemson) vs. NC State (+31.5 EPA)#11 Clemson (9-1) hosted 6-4 NC State in a wild game that, like many in this top ten, featured no defense. NC State's Mike Glennon was 29/53 for 493 yards, 5 TD, and 1 INT. And he didn't even crack our top 50 QB performances for the year (if you're wondering why, it's because the yards are less impressive in context with the attempts, and he had -19 yards on 6 "rushes"). The Wolfpack attacked Clemson to the tune of 597 yards and 48 points, and Tajh Boyd was still good enough to lead Clemson to a two-score victory. Watch for yourself:
As you watch, you'll see that Boyd starts off somewhat slow, but then heats up as the game goes on. More proof that Chad Morris is one of the best offensive coordinators in the sport. Boyd's final line: 30/44 for 426 , 5 TD, and 2 INT passing, and 18 carries for 103 and 3 TD. All in all, 62 plays for 529 yards and a whopping 8 TDs. He'd rank higher on this list had he not thrown those two INTs.
#7: Seth Doege (Texas Tech) vs. New Mexico (+31.7 EPA)
In mid-September, Texas Tech finished out their non-conference slate against Bob Davie's Lobos. The Lobos wound up playing much better than people thought they would, but this wasn't a game they'll look to remember. Doege carved them up. I'm not going to say he carved them up all day, because Doege was lifted early in the 3rd quarter. Here are some highlights (and the full game is also available on YouTube if you're particularly interested in watching it):
#6: Marcus Mariota (Oregon) vs. California (+33.6 EPA)In leading #3 Oregon to a 59-17 win over the hapless 3-7 Bears, Mariota for once seemed to overshadow his running backs. Here's the full game, which was surprisingly more competitive than the score indicates:
Mariota went 27/34 passing for 377 and 6 TD/0 INT, while adding 6 carries for 42 yards. That's 419 yards and 6 scores on just 40 plays. Outstanding. And he's just a Freshman. There are concerns about Oregon now that Chip Kelly is leaving, and that's understandable, but with Mariota in Eugene for the next few years, the Ducks should still be the Ducks for the foreseeable future.
#5: Nick Florence (Baylor) vs. West Virginia (+35.5 EPA)If you were watching college football on the afternoon of September 29, odds are you didn't tune in for the 12 PM kickoff of West Virginia's first Big XII game. As highlights started trickling into whatever inferior and boring game you happened to be watching, you likely wound up switching over to FX. And the earlier you did, the more you were rewarded for it. It wound up being a doozy. Florence's Bears didn't win this game, but it was far from his fault. On 53 total plays, he had 575 yards (581 passing), 6 TD / 1 INT. It was by far the best losing effort of the season. As for video, we'll wait - as you might guess, the man who outdueled him that afternoon is coming up later.
#4: Seth Doege (Texas Tech) vs. West Virginia (+35.9 EPA)
Doege is the only QB who appears twice in our top 10, and he had a tendency to unleash hell on bad defenses - and, of course, WVU had the worst when it comes to stopping the pass. This game produced standard eye-popping Air Raid stats, especially when completely unimpeded by defense.
Doege finished 32/42 passing for 499 and 6 TD/1 INT, plus 28 rushing yards on 5 carries. 47 plays, 527 yards.
#3: Zac Dysert (Miami of Ohio) vs. Akron (+39.9 EPA)
The best QB performance of the year that standard fans heard absolutely nothing about. And, unfortunately, YouTube has little to offer to remedy that outside of this MAC recap video:
Another reason you didn't hear about this one - it took place on September 29, and started at 2 PM - during the West Virginia - Baylor game. It wasn't televised.
Still, Dysert's performance was tremendous: 34/49 passing, 516 yards, 6 TD / 0 INT, and 14 carries for 108. That's 624 yards on 63 plays, and 6 TD without a turnover. Phenomenal, and it finished as the best non-Big XII performance of the year.
#2: Landry Jones (Oklahoma) vs. West Virginia (+40.6 EPA)
By mid-November, I suppose some of us were getting tired of watching West Virginia. It seemed to be the same thing every week - they'd pile up and give up yards in bunches. The repetition of it, combined with national attention turning to Johnny Manziel, Notre Dame, and Oregon, made it easy to miss this game. We have no excuses, though - Oklahoma was #12 and still in the mix for the Big XII title. And this game proved to be a Big XII classic, the 2nd of the year WVU participated in. Here's the entire game:
Jones didn't have the Heisman season many expected of him, but this game showed that at his best, he was still a force to be reckoned with: 38/51 passing, 554 yards, 6 TD / 1 INT. And, more importantly, a wild 50-49 win.
#1: Geno Smith (West Virginia) vs. Baylor (+51.3 EPA)
For anyone who remembers this game, and especially those of us who witnessed any part of it, there should have been no doubt Smith's game would be #1 on the list. How good a game was it? Based on this game alone, many presumed the Heisman race was over. We now know that wasn't the case, and it's silly to base a seasonal award on a single game, but it does indicate just how great of a performance Smith had in that game. Geno completed 45 of 51 passes for 656 yards, 8 TD, and 0 INT. He added 31 rushing yards on 5 carries, giving him an absurd 687 yards on 56 plays. It was easily the best single player performance of the year, beating 2nd place by over 10 EPA. On the day, WVU and Baylor combined for 133 points, and Smith and Florence combined for 86.8 EPA. Here is Geno's performance. Enjoy:
Other notes of interest:
- No Big East QB made the top 50 in the rankings.
- Conference USA's top performance was Shane Carden (+30.2) against Navy, #14 overall.
- NIU's Jordan Lynch had 4 performances in the top 50, all outside the top 10.
- Heisman winner Johnny Manziel had 5 performances in the top 50, including 3 in the top 25. Despite not appearing on the above list, he had the most top 50 performances. Manziel also had the best game against an SEC defense, +28.7 against Missouri. Of course, it might be a stretch to call Missouri an SEC defense.
- Geno Smith appears 3 other times in the top 50.
- The Mountain West's top game came from Fresno State's Derek Carr (+28.5) against Air Force. In fact, Carr's was the 4th best passing performance of the season (+36.2) but his rushing performance (-7.7) dropped him out of the top 10.
- The Big Ten's top QB performance goes to Michigan's Devin Gardner (+28.5) against Iowa. The Big Ten's 2nd best performance came from a different Michigan QB - Denard Robinson (+26.9) against Massachusetts.
- Aaron Murray had his best game of the year (+26.9) against Nebraska, the top bowl performance, and interestingly against a defense that was touted as the best pass defense in the country (our EPA rankings knew better, of course).
- UL-Lafayette's Terrance Broadway's +25.7 against UL-Monroe was the top Sun Belt performance of the year.
Brent Blackwell compiles the EPA rankings for cfbtn.com. Follow Brent on Twitter by mashing the pretty button below. Follow @brentblackwell