#3 on Lindy's Five Essential Websites (Non-Major Media) for 2013
[+] Team Summaries

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Another method for ranking running backs (aka Barner's really good)

Check out the quarterbacks to see a quick description of what we're doing here. The difference this time is that I've removed FCS opponents and changed the rankings to points per game.

Barner led all runningbacks in EPA in 2012 and, no surprise, he leads here as well. Barner had the most productive game by a running back against 3 of Oregon's opponents (USC, Arizona State, Washington State). Dri Archer was a reasonably close second (but his -5 against No. Illinois was not good). Kerwynn Williams was stellar against half of the Aggies opponents, but notably not stellar against BYU, Utah and Wisconsin.

Most impressive, though, is Eddie Lacy and TJ Yeldon in the top 11. Not only do these two share a backfield, they also play the exact same schedule, so they limit the other's production and points. Between them they have 4 top performances and 12 top 3 performances. Call me crazy, but that might have something to do with them winning another national championship.



Monday, January 28, 2013

The Best Single Game RB performances of 2012

Now that the season is complete, we look back at the top individual performances of the season.  We've already looked at the QBs fortunate enough to play West Virginia top QB performances of the year in an earlier post. Now we look at RBs.  The performances are ranked by EPA.  Enjoy.

Note: While this is about RBs only, it does include any receiving and passing EPA they might have accumulated, so think of this as a strictly positional list moreso than a "rushing" list. Just imagine how you'd feel if you placed a Super Bowl prop bet on Frank Gore and then he had a performance like this, and while were on that subject, here's the link if you're interested in betting on the Super Bowl. When we're done, I'll break it down a little further.

#10:  Robbie Rouse (Fresno State) vs. Colorado (+16.0 EPA)

Perhaps the most amazing thing about Rouse's appearance on this list is that it came in a game where his QB, Derek Carr, threw for 300 yards and 5 TDs.  Rouse still shined, breaking Fresno State's career rushing record in possibly the best game of his career.  He had 9 carries for 144 yards and 2 TD on the ground.  He also had 4 catches for 42 yards and 2 TD.  In total, 186 yards and 4 TD on just 13 offensive touches.  That's pretty amazing.  Fresno State rolled to a 69-14 win over what we can only technically refer to as a PAC-12 school.

#9: De'Anthony Thomas (Oregon) vs. Tennessee Tech (+16.4 EPA)

Sometimes matchups are made just to breed highlights.  This is one of those matchups.  Thomas was solid on the ground but didn't rack up huge numbers (though 4 EPA is nothing to sneeze at).  He was particularly dangerous through the air that day - the 2nd best receiving effort by a RB this season (Miami Redhawks' Dawan Scott had the best against Akron but failed to make this list due to a mediocre rushing performance). Thomas had a field day against FCS competition: 3 rushes for 62 yards and 1 TD; 3 catches for 73 yards and 1 TD.  6 touches, 135 yards, 2 TD.  I know that doesn't seem all that mind-blowing, but let's look at the 6 touches more individually:
Touch #1: 2nd and 10, 59 yards out: 59 yard TD rush.
Touch #2: 1st and 10, 58 yards out; 8 yard reception.
Touch #3: 2nd and 2, 50 yards out; 49 yard reception (fumbled, recovered by Oregon for a TD).
Touch #4: 1st and 14, 16 yards out; 1 yard run
Touch #5: 2nd and 13, 15 yards out; 1 yard run
Touch #6: 1st and 10, 16 yards out: 16 yard TD catch.

So, on 6 touches, not only did he have a ton of yards, he also had 2 TDs and directly led to the team scoring a 3rd TD.  Pretty outstanding afternoon.


#8: Kerwynn Williams (Utah State) vs. Louisiana Tech (+16.8 EPA)

This was a pretty amazing game that I was lucky enough to have watched via ESPN's web service.  I was stunned that no TV network picked it up, as it was the de facto WAC title game, and it delivered on my high expectations with an OT battle that saw USU come out on top.  Williams was the biggest reason USU won the game and ultimately the conference.  He carried the ball 20 times for 162 and 2 TD.  He also had 4 catches for 125 and 1.  That's 24 touches, 287 yards, 3 TD.  He had another TD called back due to a penalty.  Enjoy this performance:



#7: Kasey Carrier (New Mexico) vs. Texas State (+18.4 EPA)

New Mexico won this game 35-14.  They completed just one pass.  How does that happen?  You need a big ground game, and the Lobos got just that from Kasey Carrier: 23 carries for 191 and 4 TD.  Now that I've let everyone know about Dri Archer, Carrier might be the best RB who remains completely unknown to most FBS fans.  He had 1544 yards and 15 TDs this year.  It's time to take notice.

#6: Benny Cunningham (Middle Tennessee State) vs. Georgia Tech (+18.8 EPA)

Is this the day the Paul Johnson era jumped the shark?  Possibly.  Hopefully, if you're anyone on their schedule that still has working knees.  Tech has had its share of embarrassments in recent years, but few stung quite like getting blown out at home by a middle-of-the-pack Sun Belt team.  Cunningham led the charge with 27 carries for 217 and 5 TD.  Add in his single catch and he touched the ball 28 times and gained 229 yards, for 5 TD.  That's a huge day.  Now consider it came with a Sun Belt team playing against what we were led to believe was a BCS-conference defense, and it's even more impressive.  No non-BCS RB had a better game against BCS competition all year.  Here you can watch Riley Skinner gush over Cunningham's performance (and by gush, I mean wake up just a little after the certain boredom from the symphony of missed tackles he'd just witnessed on the Plains):



And while we're piling on Tech, let's add this one as well - this was one of only three games in Cunningham's career in which he ran for more than 80 yards.

#5: Kenneth Dixon (Louisiana Tech) vs. Idaho (+21.3 EPA)

17 carries for 232 and 6 TD.  12 players caught passes for the Bulldogs that day, but Dixon actually wasn't among them.  Dixon's 6 TD set a school record and he'd go on to lead the FBS with 28 scores on the year.  Oh, and he's a freshman.

#4: Stefphon Jefferson (Nevada) vs. Hawaii (+22.0 EPA)

31 carries for 170 and 6 TD, plus 3 catches for 76 and 1 TD led Nevada to a 69-24 win over the Warriors.  Jefferson's 7 TD tied an NCAA record (Rashaun Woods, Marshall Faulk, and Arnold "Showboat" Boykin were the others to score 7 times against a major college team).  Jefferson wasn't this efficient all year, getting most of his 2053 yards via a boatload of touches and his EPA doesn't stand up the way you'd expect from a 2000 yard gainer.  But against Hawaii, Jefferson was every bit the elite player his counting stats would lead you to believe he was.


#3: Montel Harris (Temple) vs. Army (+23.4 EPA)

Montel sees you, Stefphon, and he is not impressed.  Harris also scored 7 TD in a game, tying the aforementioned record.  And he had more yards, too.  36 carries for a whopping 351 yards.  Harris was so dominant Temple attempted just 4 passes in the 63-32 win.  His yards and TD marks both set Big East records.

#2: Kenjon Barner (Oregon) vs. USC (+25.9 EPA)

I'm going to venture a guess here that I haven't researched: this is the greatest RB performance ever against a team ranked #1 in the preseason.  Perhaps I'm wrong, but it is rare to see a media darling so eviscerated by a conference opponent.  Of course, Oregon is no slouch, especially when it comes to the ground game.  Barner had 38 carries for 321 and 5 TD, plus 2 catches for 26.  40 touches, 347 yards, 5 TD.  I know that seems inferior to Harris' day, but certain circumstances worked in Barner's favor:  he had 11 carries that went 10 yards or more - becoming the only RB in the last 7 years to accomplish that.  Oregon had 8 TD drives that covered at least 75 yards - meaning Barner was consistently starting with low EPA when the runs can earn more relative value.  He also had remarkably little in the area of negative rushes.  Enjoy the tape:


#1: Ka'Deem Carey (Arizona) vs. Colorado (+27.2 EPA)

Nobody rushed for more yards in a game this year than Carey's 366 against the Buffs, and thanks to his doing so on just 25 carries, no one truly challenged him in our EPA standings.  His 366 established a PAC-12 record, and mixing in his receptions, he finished with 27 touches for exactly 400 yards and 5 TD.  Truly amazing.  Sadly, I found no good video to watch.

Other performances of note:
- Dri Archer had performances #11 and #12 on the list, as well as #20, but didn't crack the top 10.
- The SEC's best game came from Auburn's Onterrio McCalebb (+12.7) against Alabama A&M - just #47 overall.
- The SEC allowed not one of the top 50 rushing performances of the year.  So much for the death of the SEC narrative.
- The Big Ten's top performance goes to Wisconsin's James White (+15.0), #16 overall, against Minnesota. If you're looking for Le'Veon Bell, you're forgetting that EPA measures, more than anything, efficiency.  Getting 200 yards is really neat, but if it takes you 50 carries to get there, it's far less impressive.
- The ACC's best game came from Giovani Bernard against Virginia Tech (+13.8, #28 overall).
- As mentioned earlier, Miami (OH)'s Dawan Scott had the #15 best performance of the year, and that was with a negative rushing performance.  Scott had one carry for one yard.  He had 11 catches for 208 and 2 TD, the best receiving performance of the year by a RB.

Brent Blackwell compiles the NEPA rankings for cfbtn.com.  Follow Brent on Twitter by mashing the pretty button below.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Inaugural Brain Trust Top 10

Here on CFBTN.com we've introduced dozens of methods for ranking teams - Hybrid, BPR, Power, Network, EPA, cRPI, Elo, alphabetical, etc. The goal is to draw the most out of the available data and systematically/consistently evaluate teams to put them in some kind of meaningful order.

The Brain Trust Top 10 is something very different. We throw out system, consistency, meaning, even the data in some cases, and draw on a new resource - our massive intellects and the wisdom of crowds (a very small crowd, mind you, but a crowd all the same). 

The procedure: Each of the four CFBTN writers (Scott, Brent, Patrick and Matt) were invited and strongly encouraged to submit a top 10. We had no rules or guidelines, though it was implicitly recognized that we should limit ourselves to FBS teams.* Patrick drew on the Network rankings, Scott on the Hybrid rankings, and Matt and Brent represented the human polls. Teams got 10 points for a first place vote, etc. The result is a list from 1 to 10 that represents, in a vaguely undefined way, an ordering of best to worst. In other words, we made a traditional college football poll.


Alabama finished on top with 39 of 40 points. The Tide missed out of the top spot in the Network Rankings after Florida and LSU, who beat Texas A&M who beat Alabama, lost in their bowl games to sub-10 teams.

2nd through 4th were separated by only three points. Oregon slipped into the #2 spot overall with two 2nd place votes. Again, Patrick was unimpressed by the Ducks overtime loss to Stanford. Notre Dame edged out Ohio State despite the principal difference between the two resumes being Notre Dame's shallacking by Alabama.

Texas A&M was the polls most disputed team because voters were voting on two different teams. If you look at the full schedule, the Aggie's season was tarnished by two home losses. If you look at the season as a process, Texas A&M recovered from a slow start and was the, hands down, the best team in the country over the last half of the season.

The 3rd, 4th and 5th representatives from the SEC in the top 10 come in at 6th, 7th and 8th overall. Florida is followed by Kansas State, two teams that followed surprisingly successful one-loss regular seasons with embarrassing bowl losses. Kansas State was further embarrassed when Oklahoma, their trademark win, was demolished by the 190 lbs of awesome known as Johnny Manziel in the Cotton Bowl.

Florida State closed out the top 10. The ACC, Big 12, Pac-12, Big 10 and independents each have one representative in the top 10.


*On this note, I would agree with Spurrier that Alabama could beat some NFL teams . . . . as long as Spurrier was coaching. Burn, Redskin style!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Offense in the BCS Conferences

Ever wondered how the various BCS conferences compare to each other in terms of scoring? Is the Big 12 really that much more high-scoring than the other conferences? Are points really at a premium in the SEC? To answer those questions, I examined every conference game in the six BCS conferences (ACC, Big East, Big 10, Big 12, Pac-10/12, and SEC) since 2005. In order to get what I felt was a more accurate assessment of scoring, instead of looking at total points which can be impacted by field goal accuracy and defensive and special team touchdowns, I looked solely at offensive touchdowns scored. The range from lowest to highest scoring conference was pretty high, with the average ACC conference game in 2006 seeing just 4.23 offensive touchdown per game (roughly 2.1 per team) to the 2008 Big 12 which saw an average of 8.5 offensive touchdowns per conference game. Below, I have plotted the course for each conference in terms of the average number of offensive touchdowns scored per conference game from 2005-2012, with some commentary spliced in. Enjoy.



The ACC was actually the impetus for this research. Anecdotally, it appeared to me ACC games were more high-scoring in the last few seasons, and lo and behold, I was correct. Why was the ACC so offensively challenged from 2005-2008? For starters, only two ACC quarterbacks (Charlie Whitehurst out of Clemson and Matt Ryan out of Boston College) were drafted during that span. Meanwhile, in the past two drafts, the ACC has had four quarterbacks taken (Christian Ponder out of Florida State, TJ Yates out of North Carolina, Tyrod Taylor our of Virginia Tech, and Russell Wilson out of NC State/Wisconsin) in the draft with two likely to be selected this April (Mike Glennon out of NC State and EJ Manuel out of Florida State). The recent addition of Chad Morris and his up-tempo offense at Clemson as well as the hire of an offensive-minded coach like Larry Fedora at North Carolina has helped fuel the increase in scoring in the ACC.

Despite the turnover, amongst its coaches, and more recently amongst its teams, the Big East has been remarkably consistent scoring wise. I find it interesting that the league did not reach its scoring peak when Rich Rodriguez and Bobby Petrino were coaching in the league (both coached in 2005 and 2006), but rather in the final year of the Brian Kelly-era at Cincinnati in 2009.

The addition of Nebraska has not dramatically affected the scoring levels in the Big 10. Scoring has decreased by a negligible amount in the two seasons the Huskers have been in the conference, but that has more to do with the turmoil surrounding Ohio State (2011) and the attrition at Illinois and Wisconsin (2012). The most interesting Big 10 season was probably 2007 when eight of the conferences eleven teams scored between 22 and 26 offensive touchdowns (2.75 to 3.25 per game).

 The Big 12 has a reputation as being the most offensively friendly conference, and the numbers seem to back up that conclusion. The Big 12 has finished with the most offensive touchdowns per conference game in five of the past eight seasons, and have never finished below fourth. You probably remember the 2008 season as the year Oklahoma scored over 700 points. In Big 12 play that season, the Sooners averaged 7.25 offensive touchdowns per game.


In 2005, behind the juggernaut Trojans and solid offensive seasons at Arizona State, Cal, Oregon, and UCLA, the Pac-10 featured the most offense in the nation. The next season with most of those players gone, only the ACC was less conducive to offense. Notice how the Pac-10/12 has been steadily climbing since Chip Kelly took the reigns at Oregon?


Like the Big 12, the SEC conforms to its stereotype. The SEC has finished with the worst offensive numbers (or best defensive numbers depending on your point of view) in three of the past eight seasons, and has finished in the top-half of BCS conferences in offensive touchdowns just once (in 2007 when they finished second). While going through these numbers, I noticed something that gave me even more respect for the 2008 Florida team. In the 2008 SEC season, conference games featured just over five combined offensive touchdowns per game (5.13). Florida scored 44 touchdowns in their eight league games (an average of 5.5) meaning they scored more than double what the average SEC team did that season!

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Best Single Game QB Performances of 2012

Here are the top single game EPA performances by quarterbacks in 2012.  For a quick explanation of what EPA (Expected Points Added) is, click here.  Without further adieu, let's count down the top 10.

#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.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Another method for ranking quarterbacks (and Manziel wins again)

If you needed any more convincing that Johnny Manziel was awesome in 2012, here it is. I started with the EPA (formerly the NEPA) for every quarterback in every game this season and then ranked performances by opponent - so, for example, the highest EPA against Alabama this season is ranked #1 (that would be Manziel) and the highest EPA against Oklahoma also is ranked #1 (again, Manziel). Players get points for being among the best against a particular opponent: 5 points for a #1 ranking, 4 for a #2, etc., and 0 points for 6th place and below. This gives us a look at how a player did relative to other player's against the same opponets. 

(Full disclosure: my inspiration for this post came from hearing people criticize Manziel's performance against Florida without recognizing, pre-bowl, it was the best performance by a quarterback against Florida all season.)

Manziel comes in at #1 with 56 points. Johnny Football had the highest EPA allowed by 9 of 13 opponents and was in the top 3 in all but 1, LSU. He was #2 in Texas A&M's other loss (Florida) after he was passed by Teddy Bridgewater, the only QB to really be successful against the Gators. Bridgewater tied also had 9 1st place finishes, good enough to finish tied for 2nd with Tajh Boyd. But even Bridgewater and Boyd fell well short of Manziel's consistently outstandingly consistent performance.

And co-Heisman finalist Collin Klein? Klein comes in at a less-than-distinguished 27th overall. At least one quarterback outperformed Klein against every Kansas State opponent this season, and Klein was in the top 3 in less than half their games (undoubtedly he would have finished in the top 3 against Oklahoma State without the injury to his noggin, but alas, he did get injured). I've said it before and I'll say it again - we gave the award to the right guy this season.

[Here's the same list, but I've removed FCS opponents and ranked players by points per game instead of total points. The result is the basically the same.]


Monday, January 14, 2013

Reviewing the Preview, 2012

Now that the season is over, I'd like to take a minute to review my 10+ boring predictions from the preseason. I would have had a pretty decent season if only I'd realized just how deeply moronic Lane Kiffin really is and that a freshman QB who had just recently been named the starter would revolutionize the game of football. Oops.

Alabama will beat Georgia to win the SEC.
Correct! Not a bad start.

Unclear on their conference memberships, the WAC and Big East will also name Alabama their conference champion. The WAC and Big East will then merge to form the Big Athletic Conference.
Mostly incorrect. Personally, I've given up on tracking what team is in what conference in which sport, but the BAC might just be a pipe dream.

By the end of the decade, Conference USA will be the only truly regional conference in America.
Jury's still out. The B1G now stretches from Nebraska to the Atlantic, the Big 12 from Appalachia to the Rockies (soon), and the ACC from southern tip to New England, but the Pac-12 and SEC are keeping it pretty regional for now.

Teams in the Sun Belt and MAC will play games
Correct! I assume.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Best Defensive Performances - Bowl Week

The EP3, or effective points per possession, measure the average number of "effective" points earned each drive during a game. Effective points consider field position as well as actual points. The EP3+ is the team's average performance over the course of the season adjusted for the opposition. The EP3+D is the defensive score while the EP3+O is for the offense. The Perf-O begins with the single-game EP3 and adjusts for the opponent's EP3+D. The Perf-D begins with the opponent's EP3 and adjusts it for the opponent's EP3+O.

BYU had one of the nation's best run defenses in the country and San Diego State depends on running the ball. But on top of seven punts on 15 possessions, BYU forced 5 turnovers and Kyle Van Noy turned 2 of them into touchdowns. With a EP3 of -2.39, BYU would have won this game even if the offense had stayed in Provo.

Jordan Lynch and Northern Illinois found the going a bit rougher against Florida State. Lynch averaged 4.3 yards per pass attempt and 1.9 per rush. Wisconsin found Stanford's defense to be a bit more stout than Nebraska's. And Syracuse embarrassed West Virginia, Geno Smith, and most of the Big 12.




Best Offensive Performances - The Bowls

The EP3, or effective points per possession, measure the average number of "effective" points earned each drive during a game. Effective points consider field position as well as actual points. The EP3+ is the team's average performance over the course of the season adjusted for the opposition. The EP3+D is the defensive score while the EP3+O is for the offense. The Perf-O begins with the single-game EP3 and adjusts for the opponent's EP3+D. The Perf-D begins with the opponent's EP3 and adjusts it for the opponent's EP3+O.

For a half it seemed that Oklahoma might be able to contain Manziel before getting blown up in the first three possessions of the second half. It was obvious from the first drive that Te'o and company are no match for Alabama's running game. The Aggies scored touchdowns on 6 of 11 possessions, and another ended with a dropped pass/interception in the end zone. Alabama also scored 6 touchdowns on only 10 possessions.

Arizona State and Oklahoma State laid it on inferior opposition and Oregon and Baylor embarrassed teams that were supposed to be pretty good.


Friday, January 4, 2013

Long Touchdown Plays

The table below is the number of long touchdown plays per team; for example, Akron scored 10 times on plays of 20 or more yards, 5 times on plays of 35 or more, etc. These results do not reflect bowl games.

- Texas A&M, Georgia and Clemson led the nation in touchdowns of 20+ yards with 25. Florida, LSU and Alabama were 1, 2, and 3 nationally in preventing explosive plays; A&M played all three and Georgia played two of the three (but had an extra game to do so).

- Iowa, UMass and South Alabama had only 4 20+ yard touchdowns all season.

- Baylor had 20 touchdown plays of 35 or more yards. Second best was Georgia with 17, then Clemson with 16.

- Miami had the most 50+ yard touchdowns with 11. Georgia, Wisconsin, and Baylor had 10. Four teams had 0: Michigan State, Utah, Iowa, and Western Kentucky.

- USC, Louisiana-Lafayette, and Baylor have scored 5 times on plays of 75+ yards. Utah State, Texas A&M and Missouri have 4 such touchdowns. Louisiana-Lafayette and Missouri had only 13 and 12 touchdowns of 20+ yards.

- 44 teams have not scored from 75 or more yards all season.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Bowl Preview Part IV: The Rest of the Lot and the Best of the Lot

Sugar Bowl
Florida vs Louisville
Florida -14
If we look solely at resumes, Florida is easily the most accomplished team in the country. The Gators own impressive road wins over Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, and Florida State. At home they have beaten LSU and blown out South Carolina. Even their non-conference wins over non-BCS opponents have come against solid teams (Bowling Green and Louisiana-Lafayette). However, based on the eye test, and backed up by the stats, Florida may be elite team with the smallest margin for error. The Gators ranked just twelfth in the SEC on offense, ahead of a pair of teams that endured winless conference seasons (Auburn and Kentucky). That is actually lower than they ranked during their forgettable 2011 campaign when they ranked eighth in the SEC on in that category. The Gators did improve on defense, moving up from fifth in 2011 to an elite second in 2012. For the season, only Vanderbilt gained more than 350 yards against the Gators and only Louisiana-Lafayette averaged north of five yards per play. The Gators posted a pair of shutouts and held four other teams to just one offensive touchdown. The defense also continually put the struggling offense in prime position to score by forcing 29 turnovers (16th in the nation). That more than doubled their effort from 2011 when they forced just 14. Florida will attempt to take the ball away from a Louisville team coached by a familiar face. Charlie Strong was the Gators defensive coordinator from 2002-2009 and actually coached the team in the 2004 Peach Bowl. Strong has engineered quite a turnaround at Louisville, leading a team that had missed out on the postseason for three consecutive years to three straight bowls, and winning a pair of shared Big East titles in 2011 and 2012. Behind quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, the Cardinals posted the second best offense in the Big East. Bridgewater threw 25 touchdown passes on the year, the most by a Louisville quarterback since Brian Brohm was fooling folks into thinking he could be an NFL starter. If Louisville does not turn the ball over, this game could be very interesting. Florida relies on their defense and special teams to generate favorable scoring opportunities (similar to Jim Tressel's vintage Ohio State teams). Bridgewater is the type of accurate quarterback who could keep Louisville in this game against an elite defense by avoiding turnovers. However, even if Louisville plays a perfect game and doesn't commit a turnover, its hard to imagine them scoring more than two offensive touchdowns. I don't trust Florida to cover this large number, but under no circumstances would I advise you to lay any money on Louisville either.