Championship Chases Hot up in ACC, Big Ten, SEC Preston Pack 05 Nov 2021, 03:15 pm
With Georgia locking up a practically uncontested SEC East title with their definitive, 34 -7 win over Florida last week, the stretch extended of the season is now amply underway. November brings with it rivalries, top-1 0 showdowns, and perhaps most importantly, the touchy the purpose of calculating which squads will emerge from the fray to take part in their conference championship plays. While some are just about certain to make it–Utah State and Fresno State have already overcome most of the tournament, for example, and Utah took down each of their three pursuers in their last four games–most crews are still vulnerable if the final weeks remain as upset-heavy as the first two months have been.
Plenty of crews are walking a penalty pipeline between making a playoff push and spending the first week of December on the couch. Cincinnati is establishing the best case by a Group of 5 team since the start of the College Football Playoff era, but their smudge in the American Championship Game is far from secure. If SMU manages to win out, including an upset in Cincinnati on November 20, they would most likely knock the Bearcats out of the top two and personnel a rematch of last week’s thriller against Houston.
The other discussion without splits, the Big 12, is on the verge of chaos as well. The mad scramble for second has predominantly resolved into a three-way fight between Oklahoma State( 4-1 in the documents of the conference ), Baylor( 4-1 ), and Iowa State( 3-2 ), but this standard free-for-all could devolve into a much more complex showdown if one or two of those squads manage to upset undefeated Oklahoma, which extends the gauntlet against all three in its final three games.
Division races offer opportunities for chaos as well. After an disturbed loss to Texas A& M several weeks ago, Alabama has righted board ships and appears on tempo for a decisive duel with Georgia in the conference title game. But that seminar loss, a scarcity for the Crimson Tide, offers a tantalizingly wild alternative. If Auburn manages to win out, drawing an upset in the Iron Bowl as they so often do, they’d slip past Alabama and claim the separation instead, which is chaotic enough. But if Auburn loses one of their next three games–in which they face Texas A& M and Mississippi State, both competitive foes in the SEC West–and then stuns Alabama, it would leave every squad in the conference with at least two losses and potentially set up a bizarre multi-way tiebreaker. To get completely fucked up, it’s theoretically possible that six of the seven crews in the divide could finish 5-3.
The madness of hypothetical scenarios will inevitably sort itself out in the coming few weeks, with some conferences and separations ensuing in unlikely, unexpected results and others resolving in more reasonable styles. There will be shocking damages, massive matchups, and topsy-turvy tiebreakers to any fan’s content across the final five weeks of its first year, and the dramatic final month of the season starts this Saturday with a slate of plays worth watching.
All hours are listed as Eastern.
Legion vs. Us air force( -2. 5) in Arlington–Saturday, 11:30 a.m.( CBS)
Overall Army Us air force
2021 F+ 66 48
When Army has the projectile Offense Defense
2021 F+ 44 43
2021 EPA/ pass 16 27
2021 EPA/ rushing 14 91
When Air Force has the projectile Protection Offense
2021 F+ 76 48
2021 EPA/ pass 102 79
2021 EPA/ haste 72 18
Army and potent offense aren’t exactly concepts that tend to go hand in hand. The Black Knights’ triple-option works well enough, but the defense is generally the star of the testify. In 2020, when they started 9-3, they did so by maintaining adversaries to simply 14.8 phases per game, second in FBS. In 2018, when they started 11 -2, the induce was similar: 17.7 points permitted per play, 10 th overall. Their offenses in those times, by contrast, were solid but unexceptional divisions( 77 th in scoring in 2020, 37 th in 2018 ). Army, like any service academy, wins because it plays more physically and with more self-discipline, and that tends to be more applicable on the defensive side of the ball.
But, of course, 2021 has been nothing if not a year of exceptions. Army is averaging 34.6 degrees per game this year, 30 th in FBS, the product of an offense that is clearly producing the route for the Knights. This seems likely to be the first year since 2014 in which Army grades highest in offensive degrees per play than defensive, and the result is a solid 4-3 record with competitive losses to Wisconsin and Wake Forest, both amongst the top 25. Most recently, the Knights displayed their scoring prowess in a barnburner loss to the Demon Deacons, scoring 56 but allowing 70. Jabari Laws accomplished nine extends for 140 yards and three touchdowns, stimulating him the first Army quarterback to reach those numbers in a game since 2007. Meanwhile, Tyhier Tyler, Tyrell Robinson, and Anthony Adkins all outperformed 90 yards on the field for Army, the first such instance for a trio of Black Knights since 2016 and the first against an FBS opponent since 2012.
Of course, Army also gave up 70 phases, their second-worst defensive concert ever after a 77 -7 shellacking at the hands of Nebraska back in 1972. But the fact remains that the Knights’ offense is scoring at practically unprecedented pace for a triple option. The only real comparison to Army’s incredible scoring outburst is 2007 Navy, which averaged 39.3 points per game — 4.7 ahead of these Knights, though the last five games of the season are forgiving–and combined with North Texas to score 136 total points in a regulation game, an FBS record that stood for nine years. It’s hard to say whether Army can outperform that concert, but they’re certainly far beyond anything in their own history under the triple.
Speaking of their fellow service academies, the Knights have a chance to dispatch their closest tournament for the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy with a inspect to Us air force. The Falcons are having a much more traditional season, with a middling offense( 29.2 levels per game, 63 rd) and an excellent defense( 16.8 phases allowed per play, seventh) devoting them a 6-2 record. The lone exception to their defensive standard, a 49 -4 5 loss to Utah State, will most likely bar their footpath to a divide name, but Air force is still having a good season on the whole. Outside of that high-scoring contest, they haven’t allowed more than 20 degrees in video games, and their defense maintains adversaries to a mere 35.6% success rate, 10 th-lowest in the nation.
Will the outcome in this game be more shootout or slugfest? Well, let’s look at Army’s offense and examine why many opponents have struggled to handle it. The Knights’ style runs about the same as it ever has: they operate the projectile relentlessly behind a plethora of rushers, then take advantage of shifts in defensive alignment to unveil secondary weakness at critical moments. It’s not a bad strategy; there’s a reason the two most prolific seasons of at least 100 extends, as measured by yards per strive, both came from quarterbacks at triple-option academies. The Knights have actually employed three different quarterbacks to that end, but the results have been generally the same. Christian Anderson( 16 moves, 14.1 yards per endeavor) has been good when healthy, but has taken a beating this year, leading to significant action for Jemel Jones( 13 pass, 10.4 gardens per strive) and Laws( 17 moves, 13.4 gardens per endeavor ). Despite the hurt drama, though, Army still results the commonwealth in passing explosiveness. As for the hastening corps, 12 different players have toted the projectile at least 10 times each, but Anderson( 427 yards, 7.2 gardens per carry, 5 TD ), Tyler( 303 gardens, 4.2 gardens per carry, 4 TD ), and Jakobi Buchanan( 213 yards, 3.0 gardens per carry, 6 TD) have envisioned the most carries.
It’s not easy to slow that group down, but it’s at least obvious where their strengths lie: Army gains consistent rushing yardage( 17 th in EPA per extended, 37 th in rushing success rate ), avoids big-hearted defensive play-acts( sixth in opponent havoc rate ), and capitalise on scoring opportunities( 4.84 degrees per opportunity, 13 th in FBS ).
Air Force’s defensive cable isn’t likely to put a dent in the operate play as a whole–they allow 2.66 line yards per carry, 75 th overall–but the Falcons do have a hidden strength: stopping up most pipeline carries before they can get into the second tier and gain highlight yardage. Us air force lets just 0.89 second-level gardens per carry( 26 th ), which is key to holding adversaries to a 33.9% rushing success rates( 11 th ). Add a defensive lineup have been able to big play-acts throughout, from the line( Jordan Jackson: 25 tackles, five tackles for loss, 3.5 sackings) to the backfield( Milton Bugg III and Corvan Taylor: 61 tackles, 10 pass breakups, four interceptions ), and the Falcons have as good an opportunity of slowing down this high-octane offense as anyone is likely to get.
Watch for 😛 TAGEND
After a decreased workload last-place time out( seven carries, a one-quarter of his 28 against Boise State ), will a bye-bye week return Brad Roberts( 185 carries, 845 gardens, 8 TD) to workhorse status? Will the Falcons return to usual starter Haaziq Daniels( 10.0 gardens per try, 2 TD, 2 INT) or retain the switch to Warren Bryan( 3-for-7, 58 yards, 1 TD) that revitalized their offense against San Diego State? Will Army feature receiver Isaiah Alston more prominently after his breakout concert against Wake Forest( 6 catches, 107 yards, 2 TD )?
FEI Outright Pick: Air force by 3.6
Wake Forest at North Carolina( -2. 5 )– Saturday, 12 p.m.( ABC)
Overall Wake Forest North Carolina
2021 F+ 16 34
When Wake Forest has the projectile Offense Protection
2021 F+ 7 82
2021 EPA/ pass 4 96
2021 EPA/ haste 52 89
When North Carolina has the ball Protection Offense
2021 F+ 57 8
2021 EPA/ pass 98 67
2021 EPA/ rush 76 15
2021 hasn’t been a banner year for expected superstar quarterbacks. Spencer Rattler, consideration by many the heir apparent to Oklahoma’s run of first-overall picks, strove through four straight one-score wins before being benched against Texas. Nevada’s Carson Strong has been very successful, but he hasn’t taken the next step some pundits were hoping for, and his ace is being outshined by Fresno State’s Jake Haener. Malik Willis of Liberty has been inconsistent against a mediocre planned; Kedon Slovis of USC has striven and may soon lose his starting job to Jaxson Dart; and JT Daniels, ostensibly the starting quarterback for top-ranked Georgia, hasn’t played since September and may have fallen behind Stetson Bennett on the extent chart. As these epithets have slipped down draft boards, surprising brand-new ones have soared into the discussion: now in the discussion are Matt Corral of Ole Miss, Kenny Pickett of Pitt, and perhaps even Bennett himself.
Amidst the chaos, nonetheless, one expected president has managed to maintain his position as one of the best quarterbacks in the class. Sam Howell’s season began in ghastly manner, with 208 gardens, one touchdown, and three interceptions in a loss to Virginia Tech, but since that opener, he has been just as good as in his lauded 2020 campaign. The North Carolina passer has there throw four interceptions since, compared to 18 touchdowns, and he has averaged 9.4 yards per attempt–not to mention 80 rushing gardens per play and and 5.5 per carry. The Tar Heels’ disappointing 4-4 record doesn’t reflect that performance, but there’s little Howell can do about his protection surrendering 35 or more points in five of the past six games.
With Tennessee transfer Ty Chandler ( 829 total yards, 10 TD) unite Howell to create an upper-clas hastening attempt( 15 th in EPA per move, sixth in success rates, 11 th in explosiveness ), North Carolina has barely missed a thump from last year’s offensive outburst, despite the loss of three thousand-yard players. That dreadful defense has comprised them back, but the Tar Heels still have opportunities in front of them to put some positive spin on a lost season. In the next two weeks, they face the leaders of the ACC’s Coastal and Atlantic divides, Wake Forest and Pitt, and neither team has much of a chance to slow down Howell’s resurgence. The next two weeks of act for North Carolina don’t have the highest of stakes–though get a win in at least one play, with Wofford and North Carolina State still down the road, “d be nice to” virtually procure bowl eligibility–but Mack Brown’s squad can prove that their rise isn’t over just yet.
Beating Wake Forest, an undefeated in-state rival, would be a particularly pointed style to deliver that message, even if the game isn’t actually a meeting matchup. But the Demon Deacons are a tough challenge, perhaps the toughest North Carolina has faced yet. Ranked in the top 10 for the first time in school history, their offense is flying even higher than the Tar Heels’, scoring some 43.4 levels per play behind Sam Hartman( 9.9 gardens per strive, 22 TD, 3 INT) and a legion of four rushers with at least 50 carries and 200 gardens( Hartman, Christian Beal, Christian Turner, and Justice Ellison ). Wake Forest has scored at least 35 levels in every game so far, and as mentioned before, they recently put up 70 on Army–their highest-scoring game since 1940, and their best-ever score against an FBS opponent, violating a record set in 1975.
The Deacons’ success is the product of Dave Clawson’s offbeat offense, most remarkable for its off-putting( but remarkably effective) widened handoff that allows Wake Forest is adapted to defenses as the play progresses. More or less every squad in college football employs run-pass options, but generally they read defenses before the snap or in the immediate instants after. The Deacons, by differ, adjust tempo within the play until the quarterback feels comfortable with policy decisions. Hartman, a cool, calculating quarterback who adeptly evades disaster, is the perfect player to place at the heart of Clawson’s system, and the results speak for themselves. In his last-place five plays, he has averaged 357 passing gardens, 10.7 gardens per strive, 3.2 touchdowns, 0.4 interceptions, and 1.2 rushing touchdowns. Add an offensive path capable of protecting Hartman while he adjusts on the fly, permitting bags on only 3.7% of plays( 16 th in FBS) and front-seven havoc on merely 6.5%( fourth ), and Wake Forest has one of the best offenses in all of football.
With all this firepower, it’s hard to expect much from either defense, and another game along the lines of Wake Forest’s 70 -5 6 barnburner with Army or North Carolina’s 45 -4 2 showdown with Miami isn’t out of the question. Conference stakes may not be on the table, but there’s still plenty to play for, from bowl hopes to bragging privileges to respect in a shaken-up ACC–and perhaps even a place in the playoff for the unbeaten Demon Deacons. The final month of an unlikely bid for perfection cavities them against some of the toughest competition the conference has to offer, and it all starts with an in-state battle that any devotee is currently considering appointment viewing.
Watch for 😛 TAGEND
Can Wake Forest, which has fought in the stretching run in recent years, get November off to a good start with a key win? Will Hartman go to Jaquarii Roberson( 27 catches for 492 gardens in October) or A.T. Perry( 19 catches for 424 gardens) as his top receiver? Can North Carolina’s unreliable defensive pipeline( three or more bags against Virginia, Duke, and Miami; one or fewer in all other games) pressure the Deacons’ backfield?
FEI Outright Pick: Wake Forest by 7.0
Auburn at Texas A& M( -5 )– Saturday, 3:30 p.m.( CBS)
Overall Auburn Texas A& M
2021 F+ 14 7
When Auburn has the projectile Offense Defense
2021 F+ 22 9
2021 EPA/ pass 78 7
2021 EPA/ hasten 46 29
When Texas A& M has the projectile Protection Offense
2021 F+ 16 37
2021 EPA/ pass 59 83
2021 EPA/ scoot 48 35
Outside of a shocking 41 -3 8 disturbed of Alabama, protection are largely produced the direction for Texas A& M this season. With vaunted recruit Haynes King lost to injury in the second game of the season, the Aggies have had little select but to start Zach Calzada( 6.6 yards per try, 12 TD, 7 INT ), whose 122.7 passing efficiency rating ranks 68 th amongst the 73 quarterbacks with at least 200 pass. The offense has occasionally shown triggers of hope, such as scoring 41 on the Crimson Tide behind a job period for Calzada( 285 gardens, 9.2 yards per strive, 3 TD, 1 INT) or totaling 79 levels across their last two competitions thanks to consecutive 100 -yard plays by running backs Isaiah Spiller and Devon Achance. But incompatibility has beset the group: Texas A& M rushed for simply 94 yards against Alabama, with neither Spiller nor Achane surpassing 50, and Calzada averaged a pedestrian pipeline in the hasten corps’ recent breakout( 168 yards, 6.8 gardens per try, 2 TD, 1 INT ). While the offense has improved from its early-season struggles–it has been a while since they looked like the team that escaped Colorado by a 10 -7 score, after all–if the Aggies are to take down Auburn and maintain their hopes of an SEC West title, the protection will likely lead the way.
On that side of the projectile, Texas A& M is nobility across the board: they rank fourth nationally in EPA let per play, 17 th in success rates, 13 th in explosiveness, sixth in degrees let per scoring opportunity, and fourth in EPA allowed per drive. The defensive path, allowing only 2.50 cable gardens per carry( 46 th) and a 6.6% sack rate( 64 th ), has earned most of the praise for this performance, standing out as one of college football’s biggest and most imposing divisions behind lineman DeMarvin Leal( 35 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 bags ). But character play on the Aggies’ line has been a made lately; where the group has made strides from last year, and the reason they can potentially knock off Auburn, is in the secondary.
Lauded defensive coordinator Mike Elko coached defensive backs at nearly every job he held before arriving in College Station, so it’s no surprise that his secondary has developed into one of college football’s best. If anything, it’s surprising that it took so long, with the Aggies sitting approximately in the middle of the pack in gardens permitted per try( 7.3, 57 th) and interceptions per play( 1.0, 34 th) during last year’s CFP-contending season. The pass defense has surged this year, however, permitting simply 5.9 yards per strive( ninth) by virtue of a substantial improvement in yards permitted per completion( from 11.5, grading 39 th, to 9.8, ranking fourth ). In short, the Aggies are tackling more efficiently and preventing explosive passes much better( ranking eighth in that stat ).
Texas A& M’s entire backfield is playing well, with safety Leon O’Neal Jr.( 33 tackles, five pass breakups, two interceptions) standing out, but the key to the group’s success is undoubtedly nickel Antonio Johnson. After sporadic appearings in 2020 as a freshman, Johnson deserved a starting role for 2021 and immediately became one of the most versatile champions in college football, keying the Aggies’ superb bend-don’t-break defense by shorten the field and targeting receivers in the slot. He has induced 94.6% of his tackles this year and is allowing simply 5.5 yards per reception, limiting the centre of the field and dedicating the rest of the secondary better matchups on the outside.
That winning formula shapes freewheeling Auburn quarterback Bo Nix a fascinating matchup for the Aggies. For all his ups and downs in college, Nix has taken a step forward this year, averaging a career-high 7.3 yards per attempt with nine touchdowns and two interceptions. His penchant for just trying to stimulate something out of nothing–at times spectacular or disastrous–is reflected in the fact that he doesn’t pass up the middle often, preferring to attempt more difficult( but potentially more explosive) plays to the outside, often well downfield. Whether that excellence is for the best is debatable, but it should construct things interesting against a Texas A& M protection that relies on winning the line of scrimmage and the heart of the field. Nix is comfy out of the pocket, and he’s comfy dismis( or simply not having) a go-to receiver in the slot, which might require adjustments in the Aggies’ game plan.
Whichever team emerges from this matchup with a mere two conference damages will be in prime position to snag the division title–most likely, in both cases, by way of an upset in the Iron Bowl. It’s too early for the Tigers or Aggies to look that far ahead, but the key to winning on Saturday will be the same as the key to winning out and, quite possibly, sneaking into the conference title game: both Auburn and Texas A& M must find the missing pieces to complement their existing excellence and emerge as a complete contender.
Watch for 😛 TAGEND
Can Auburn’s solid offensive pipeline( 20 th in line gardens per carry, 18 th in sacking rate) hold off the Aggies’ swarming defense? The Tigers have deftly evaded havoc this year( 10 th-lowest front-seven rate, 21 st-lowest defensive-backs rate ); will that continue against a Texas A& M protection that somewhat fights to create it? Given Tank Bigsby’s history of lowering off in the weeks after a particularly heavy workload, will Auburn apply him sparingly after a 23 -carry, 140 -yard performance against Ole Miss?
FEI Outright Pick: Texas A& M by 1.9
Wisconsin( -1 3) at Rutgers–Saturday, 3:30 p.m.( BTN)
Overall Wisconsin Rutgers
2021 F+ 6 72
When Wisconsin has the ball Offense Defense
2021 F+ 71 34
2021 EPA/ pass 129 71
2021 EPA/ hasten 76 18
When Rutgers has the projectile Protection Offense
2021 F+ 2 97
2021 EPA/ pass 2 117
2021″ EPA/ hurry 2 111
It’s high time Olakunle Fatukasi receives the respect he’s due. The Rutgers linebacker has wreaked havoc on academy and meeting records alike, resulting the Big Ten in tackles last year. This season, he has already put up 75 tackles, 11 for loss, in the Scarlet Knights’ first eight plays, building him the first Big Ten defender to notch both totals at this phase in the season since 2008. With Fatukasi conducting a defense that has performed respectably against solid rival( letting only 20 points to Michigan and 31 to Michigan State ), Rutgers has scraped together a 4-4 record and needs only one more win to secure their best record since 2014 — their last-place bowl season.
The Knights are still mapping out their route for a return to relevance, but if there’s a example to imitate, it might just be that of the team they’ll face this week. Wisconsin is one of college football’s most reliably great programs: they haven’t missed a bowl since 2001, before some of their current musicians is furthermore endure, and with a 5-3 record this year, that streak is very likely to continue. A win over rival Minnesota at the end of the year would, in all probability, supply their fifth Big Ten West name in eight years. But it’s easy to forget that even the Badgers once had to find their way out of the conference cellar. After claiming the mantle of seminar commander from the fading Minnesota dynasty in the 1950 s and reaching their best-ever finish at No. 2 in 1962, Wisconsin went on to more losing seasons( two) then bowl wins( one) in the next three decades. Until the advent of Barry Alvarez–who swiftly built the team into an annual challenger, returned to bowl season with a Rose victory in 1993, and pioneered an era of constant success as a coach( 1990 -2 005) and athletic head( 2004 -2 1 )– the Badgers occupied a place now reserved for lowly Rutgers.
The analogies aren’t exact–the Big Ten of the 1970 s and 1980 s was a very different league from that of the last decade, and the Knights had a relatively successful period in the late 2010 s–but there are few better examples of the success Rutgers hopes to achieve, and perhaps that’s part of the reason this squad appears so similar to the standard the Badgers have followed over the past 30 years of beauty. The Knights don’t have much proceeding under middle, as all five musicians to attempt at least one pass have averaged 6.4 yards per attempt( the mark of starting quarterback Noah Vedral) or worse. The hasten strike, while still in development, is approaching a reasonable level, with Isaih Pacheco( 433 yards, 3.7 gardens per carry) featuring prominently. And, of course, the defense steals the spotlight, winning situational battles with surprising frequency( it holds antagonists to an impressive 37.7% success rate, 19 th overall) and shutting down offenses enough to level the playing field. While not nearly as prolific as the Badgers’ current unit–a high score to beat, considering only Georgia is clearly above it–this Rutgers defense, and the team as a whole, is evidently built in imitation of Wisconsin.
In theory, the Badgers’ offense is very beatable, given their miserable statistical profile: 121 st in EPA per play, 121 st in phases per scoring opportunity, and dead-last in overall explosiveness. They at least move the ball downfield at a decent clip, with a 44.7% success rates that grades a decent 53 rd, but a severely lacking passing game has given them trouble when they fall behind the sticks, which has led to the Badgers ranking merely 84 th in success rates and 129 th in EPA per play on passing downs. Doing anything against the Wisconsin defense is, of course, a different matter, but on paper, any team with a protection worth its salt should be able to hold the Badgers down and win a low-scoring game.
Not many squads have said and done lately, nonetheless, and Wisconsin mustered 27 degrees despite a whopping -1 4.0 EPA against their most recent victim( Iowa, then graded ninth) by turning the Hawkeyes’ key field position advantage on its brain. The Badgers started about 8 yards closer to the end zone on average–a big difference for a team only gaining around 30 yards per drive. By avoiding mistakes( merely one turnover lost and positive penalty EPA ), Wisconsin was able to take advantage of critical opportunities against Iowa while denying their opponents all opportunities of doing the same until the game was out of reach. It has taken a while for the Badger to get to this point, but with Graham Mertz eventually looking decent and a normally prevailing operate play and defense producing the charge, they’re back to their winning ways.
This test is, in all likelihood , not one the Knights are quite ready to tackle. They have a talented defense–beyond Fatukasi, other standouts include newcomer defensive back Max Melton( five pass breakups, two interceptions) and the experienced duo of linemen Julius Turner and Ifeanyi Maijeh( blended: 34 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, 4.5 bags )– but the team is still young, and another near-upset of a meeting leader isn’t necessarily a reasonable promise. Still, it’ll be a game worth watching, if only for a glimpse of a team that might just take the Big Ten by storm.
Watch for 😛 TAGEND
Rutgers practically stunned Michigan by limiting their wizard rushing lineup; can they do the same against Wisconsin’s, to be provided by impressive but inconsistent running back Chez Mellusi( 740 yards, 4.7 gardens per carry )? How much shattering can the Badgers’ elite defensive pipeline( first in line gardens per carry and material rate, fifth in bag rate) deal against a mediocre Rutgers offensive line? Will Vedral and Mertz be able to keep steady under pressure and keep their offenses humming along against difficult defensive challenges?
FEI Outright Pick: Wisconsin by 11.2
Mississippi State at Arkansas( -4 )– Saturday, 4 p. m.( SECN)
Overall Mississippi State Arkansas
2021 F+ 33 30
When Mississippi State has the projectile Offense Protection
2021 F+ 45 27
2021 EPA/ pass 57 34
2021 EPA/ hasten 48 43
When Arkansas has the ball Protection Offense
2021 F+ 13 35
2021 EPA/ pass 69 53
2021 EPA/ haste 22 43
After a forgettable 2020 season in which Mississippi State moved 4-7 and fought mightily on offense, all eyes were on Mike Leach to see how he’d shake things up in 2021. Some form of the pass-heavy Air Raid would certainly remain in effect; Leach ran it successfully in Lubbock and Pullman, and it would be an overreaction to give up on it after one year in Starkville. And indeed, after eight games, the Bulldogs are passing a whopping 73.3% of the time, a rate that results the commonwealth by over five percentage points. Mississippi State’s reliance on their performance through the breath hasn’t altered a bit.
What has changed, however, is what the Bulldogs do with all those extends. In 2020, they completed a solid 67.0% of those endeavors, 14 th overall–but for only 8.7 gardens per completion, just behind Kansas and UMass for the worst mark in FBS. Leach’s teams generally fall well below average in this stat, in huge duty because protections know to expect a pass on the vast majority of plays, but it’s simply not possible to win with a passing game as inefficient as that. Yet hop-skip forward to 2021 and, once again, Mississippi State exist as the bottom of the yards-per-completion leaderboard, averaging merely 8.9. The answer, or at least the cause of the Bulldogs’ rise to merely median on offense, set not in breaking off bigger moves, but in emphasizing quarterback Will Rogers’ best property and developing the success rate.
With Rogers having shed 435 of Mississippi State’s 442 extends, the Bulldogs rank first nationally with a 75.1% consummation rate. The overall extend offense still isn’t lighting up the scoreboard on a play-to-play basis; the Bulldogs average just 6.7 gardens per attempt, 96 th overall. But Rogers’ consistency accounts for his other shortcomings, as his 49.7% passing success rates( 16 th) has helped Mississippi State achieve the same 49.7% success rates overall( 15 th ). In the most basic sense, the Bulldogs are using their pass like rushes: establishing a reliable means of gaining yardage to set up attempts at bigger plays. While explosiveness goes to prove elusive–the team medians simply 1.38 EPA on successful play-acts, 128 th in FBS–the steady passing game has come through to keep Mississippi State on the field, groups together the 14 th-longest drives in college football and inducing 52 total scoring opportunities( tied for 25 th ). The offense is far from perfect, and it has some obvious flaws that resisting protections can attack, but behind it, the Bulldogs have softly risen to the middle of the SEC this year. With two graded wins, they have established themselves as a presence to be contended with.
When it comes to those lacks, though, the Bulldogs could be in for trouble when they take on an Arkansas defense hoping to find its ground. Before a much-needed visit from Arkansas-Pine Bluff, the Razorbacks had lost three straight plays while permitting 37, 52, and 38 levels. This year is still a success no matter what happens, considering their five wins are their most in a season since Bret Bielema coached the team, but Arkansas could use some confidence that they can keep the best of the conference from operating up the score. While recent weeks have been difficult, though, there’s still a lot to been fucking loving the Razorbacks’ defense. For one thing, they allow just 0.08 EPA per play( fourth) and a 19.9% success rates( first) on pas downs, tones that should provide them well against a crew that doesn’t generally disguise its intentions in such situations.
On the other hand, Arkansas hasn’t generally faced teams that play anything like the mode of football Mississippi State will bring to the table. The Bulldogs’ 55 pass per game are conferences beyond the highest total the Razorbacks’ defense has faced in video games( 36 by Texas A& M ), and the Arkansas defense as a whole has faced a towering 57.0% rushing play rate, the 13 th-highest in the nation. With last week’s comfortable win, the staff has had more time to prepare for this change of tempo, but it’s still difficult to predict what will work and what won’t when the Razorbacks take on a rival that hope to be able to redefine the essence of offensive success.
Watch for 😛 TAGEND
Mississippi State protects the pas well( 15 th in EPA and success rates ), but can they hold up against the run-heavy Razorbacks( eighth in hasten play rate )? Can a solid Bulldogs defensive line( 29 th in line yards per carry, 78 th in bag rate) beat out Arkansas( 16 th in line yards per carry, 45 th in bag rate) in the furrows? Can the Razorbacks get past Mississippi State’s sturdy outside linemen( comprising opposings to the 12 th-lowest front-seven havoc rate) and pressure Rogers?
FEI Outright Pick: Arkansas by 3.6
UTSA( -1 1) at UTEP–Saturday, 10:15 p.m.( ESPN2)
Overall UTSA UTEP
2021 F+ 60 105
When UTSA has the projectile Offense Defense
2021 F+ 61 80
2021 EPA/ pass 8 20
2021 EPA/ scoot 58 1
When UTEP has the projectile Protection Offense
2021 F+ 54 115
2021″ EPA/ pass 30 2
2021 EPA/ scoot 16 121
Conference USA has generally fought against other discussions in recent years, and impending transformations in membership may deliver its illustrious history to an intent, but it doesn’t intend to go out without one of the best all-around title chases in football. In the East, FAU, Marshall, and Western Kentucky are all deadlocked at 3-1 in conference play, with all three plays between the trio set to take place in the final month of the season. Over in the West, undefeated UTSA is 4-0 in C-USA and comprises a constrict make over UTEP and UAB, both 3-1. As in the East, all three plays between the top competitors are yet to be played, and along with FAU-Marshall, this in-state showdown between the Roadrunners and Miners furnishes a critical opportunity to claim the first critical tiebreaker.
Jeff Traylor, hired in 2019 on the strength of his impressive recruiting record in the state of Texas, has lifted UTSA to unprecedented elevations, matching their best-ever win total in FBS with a third of the season yet to be played. The Roadrunners are ranked in the AP Poll for the first time ever, and they’ll have an opportunity after the season to take home the first win in program record. As good a tale as that is, though, UTEP has an even better narration. The Miners have played a whopping 84 seasons of football and have shaped only 14 bowls. Their last-place bowl win “re coming back” 1967; their last postseason look was a New Mexico Bowl loss in 2014, and they followed up that particular act by cratering to 0-12 within three years. The Miners promptly hired Dana Dimel, “whos had” spent nearly a decade at Kansas State and who had been run out of town at Houston in his last-place coaching job after travelling 3-8, 0-11, and 5-7. And now, on the strength of a soaring defense and a relatively cushy schedule, UTEP is bowl-bound again.
The stakes in this showdown aren’t nearly as high as will find information elsewhere. UTSA and UTEP aren’t battling for a playoff bid, and a New Year’s Six spot appears unlikely after the CFP committee left the Roadrunners out of their first higher-rankings altogether. With all the competition for the C-USA crown, even the road to a meeting name will remain long for whichever team “re coming” ahead. But the sheer unlikeliness of a meaningful play between UTSA( a programme designed that celebrated the 10 -year anniversary of its FCS debut earlier this year) and UTEP( a longsuffering team that labored through year after year of blowouts and letdowns) is, in and of itself, is worth watching.
On the field, UTSA has been the more complete team this season. Both the offense and defense are top-2 0 in overall scoring and top-4 0 in EPA per play-act. The cornerstone of the Roadrunners’ attack is, of course, the preposterously good Sincere McCormick, who should extend his make as UTSA’s most prolific career rusher to a thousand gardens this week. McCormick has already rushed for 891 gardens and 4.7 yards per carry this year, and he has maintained a remarkably dependable statline despite his massive workload. In seven FBS plays, the Roadrunners have given him the projectile 184 times( 26.3 per play ), and he has hastened for at least 85 gardens in every game–at least 100 in all but one. Add Frank Harris’ transformation from mediocre starter in 2020( 6.5 yards per endeavor, 12 TD, 6 INT) to genuine starring in 2021 (8. 1 gardens per endeavor, 16 TD, 3 INT ), and it’s easy to see how the Roadrunners’ offense has launched into orbit. UTSA maintains onto the ball( simply one giveaway per game, tied for 25 th) and gets it downfield( 47.0% success rates, 33 rd ). The unexpected developed at this disciplined, deliberate offense is a credit to Traylor’s rebuild, and with a decade-long, $28 -million contract, the Roadrunners are evidently hoping the designer of this rise protrudes around as their ascent continues.
The story isn’t as simple for UTEP, which has received much more skepticism on account of their paper-thin schedule. The Miners’ offense, by comparison to UTSA’s slow burn, passes hot and cold: they rank 124 th in overall success rates and second-to-last in hasten success rate, but fifth in overall explosiveness and second in passing explosiveness. Gavin Hardison( 9.2 gardens per strive, 9 TD, 9 INT) makes a feast-or-famine passing attack that transgresses off some huge play-acts through the breath, but also clearly battles with interceptions and generally courtrooms danger. In some respects, that tone provides the Miners well; when Hardison is on his game, they can hang with anybody in the documents of the conference, even though they are their opponent is clearly superior on paper. On the other hand, it also attains for the purposes of an easy scapegoat when UTEP plays down to teams like Bethune-Cookman( a 38 -2 8 win) and Old Dominion( 28 -2 1 ).
Still, the Miners’ offensive potential has induced enough highlight-reel times and game-changing plays to secure a postseason entreat, and that could shape the difference against UTSA. If the Roadrunners struggle to score against a phenomenal protection( sixth in EPA let per play-act, 12 th in success rate ), UTEP could deliver a crucial disturbed and shake the foundations of the chaotic C-USA championship chase.
Watch for 😛 TAGEND
After an impressive freshman campaign( 592 gardens, 4.9 gardens per carry, 9 TD ), can UTEP rusher Deion Hankins build on his rebound against FAU( 72 yards, 6.5 yards per carry )? Can UTSA’s elite pass protection( 2.2% sack rate allowed, fourth in FBS) hold off Praise Amaewhule( 28 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sackings) and a tenacious Miners pass rush? Will versatile UTSA safety Rashad Wisdom( 46 tackles, three tackles for loss, three pass breakups) command Harris’ downfield extend and avoid big-hearted plays?
FEI Outright Pick: UTSA by 8.8
FEI Picks: Week 10
Favorite Spread Underdog FEI Pick FEI Pick
ATS Preston’s Pick
at Air Force -2.5 Army Air force Air force Army at North Carolina -2.5 Wake Forest Wake Forest Wake Forest Wake Forest at Texas A& M -5 Auburn Texas A& M Auburn Auburn
Wisconsin -13 at Rutgers Wisconsin Rutgers Rutgers at Arkansas -4 Mississippi State Arkansas Mississippi State Arkansas UTSA -11 at UTEP UTSA UTEP UTEP
FEI’s picks ATS in Week 9: 2-4
FEI’s picks ATS in 2021: 26 -2 8P TAGEND
Preston’s selects ATS in Week 9: 2-4
Preston’s pickings ATS in 2021: 29 -2 5
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