The Numerical, Week 10: Fast starts, sudden endings and lost mojo

Justin K. Aller

Texas A&M starts with sprints, West Virginia misplaces its mojo, and Army is this close to the trophy.

10,501. Total yards gained by South Florida quarterback B.J. Daniels in 47 interesting, embattled games. Daniels' career came to a likely end after he suffered a broken ankle at the end of a play that saw him hurdle a teammate, but while he was both exciting and incredibly flawed (39 career interceptions and as many poor games as great ones) … 10,501 yards and 77 touchdowns are pretty impressive totals.

Daniels' injury was also a cruel reminder that there are no medical redshirts left if you get hurt at this point. When a senior like Daniels gets hurt, his career is probably over.

1957. Year this song was released.

Just 24 days ago, Geno Smith was the clear Heisman favorite, and, while the West Virginia defense had long since entered a tragic state, West Virginia had its mojo working to the point where we were daydreaming of a contrast-in-styles Alabama-WVU national title game. Smith averaged 9.0 yards per pass attempt against Marshall, 10.5 versus James Madison, and 12.6 versus Baylor, and when Texas figured out a way to slow him down, Andrew Buie just rushed for 203 yards instead in another WVU win. WVU was 5-0, averaging 571 yards and 52 points per game.

Then the mojo disappeared somewhere between Morgantown and Lubbock. The Mountaineers got outscored, 106-28, by Texas Tech and Kansas State. They did manage to score 38 points against TCU on Saturday, but it took two overtime periods and a punt return touchdown to get there. And WVU lost anyway, thanks mostly to Josh Boyce. First, Boyce made an incredible, electrifying, 94-yard catch-and-run with just 1:34 remaining in regulation to tie the game; then, after WVU missed a potential game-winning field goal in the first overtime period, Boyce caught a shocking (and awfully close to incomplete) two-point conversion to carry the Horned Frogs to a 39-38 victory. WVU is now 5-3.

Mojo might not be a real thing (then again…), but tell that to WVU. And, actually, tell that to sports fans in general. One day, you have it. The next day, you don't. My own experience with mojo came in 2008. Take a look at Missouri's stats from that season after six weeks. Second in scoring offense (WVU was fifth after six weeks in 2012), third in total offense (same as WVU), third in passing offense (WVU was second). Chase Daniel's pass efficiency: 196.4 (Geno Smith's: 202.4). Mizzou gained 651 yards and scored 69 points against Nevada (WVU put 70 and 817 yards on Baylor), then went to Lincoln and hung 52 points (with 462 yards) on Nebraska (WVU had 48 and 460 in Austin).

But then Oklahoma State came to town, and somewhere between Mizzou settling for a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the one-foot line on the opening drive, Daniel throwing a pass that went through Danario Alexander's hands, off his helmet, and into the hands of OSU's Ricky Price, and OSU's Patrick Lavine trapping an interception on Mizzou's final drive, the Tiger mojo disappeared. After the 5-0 start, Mizzou went just 5-4 the rest of the way, and Daniel's 15-to-1 TD-to-INT ratio was just 24-to-17 the rest of the way (19-to-16 if you don't include the 58-0 win over Colorado … god, Colorado's been awful for a while, haven't they?).

When an offense looks as good as WVU's did in September and early-October, it is easy to wonder how it will ever be stopped. But some combination of time, defensive coordinators, and, if you believe in such a thing, mojo, usually take care of that. Unless you're Oregon, anyway.

1,345. Yards gained in Oregon's 62-51 win over USC. Tennessee entered the weekend with the No. 1 offense in the country according to Off. S&P+, gained 718 yards and scored 55 points on Troy, and FELL to second because Oregon posted even better numbers (730 yards, 62 points) on the OTHER Trojans. (The Ducks' defense, however, took a little bit of a hit.)

1,252. Yards gained by Clemson in the past two weeks. The Tigers beat Wake Forest and Duke by a combined 98-33 margin, and damned if they haven't taken things to a new level with the healthy return of Sammy Watkins and the continued dominance of 'other' receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins caught four of five passes for 128 yards and three touchdowns in an abbreviated performance versus Duke on Saturday and should end up with about 1,500 receiving yards and close to 20 touchdowns. Not bad for the guy who was supposed to be Watkins' complement heading into the season.

461. Yards gained in the first six drives (which also netted 31 points) by Texas A&M against Mississippi State in Starkville. The Aggies have made a habit of starting games on fire, and Saturday's 38-13 win was no exception. Former rival Texas, meanwhile, did a bit of an A&M impersonation in Lubbock. The Longhorns gained 226 yards and scored three times in their first three drives, then hit cruise control in a 31-22 win over Texas Tech. And on the flipside, there was former Lubbock resident Mike Leach, whose Washington State Cougars gained 186 yards and scored zero points on their first 13 drives in a humiliating 49-6 loss to Utah. The waters have been rather choppy for Cap'n Leach in his first season in Pullman, and they got even choppier on Sunday.

286. Yards gained in 22 touches (targets plus carries) by Oregon State's dynamic receiver duo of Markus Wheaton (six targets, four catches, 108 yards, and three carries for 57 yards) and Brandin Cooks (10 targets, six catches, 116 yards, and three carries for five yards). The Beavers needed most of those yards to overcome an early hole and pull away from Arizona State, 36-26. The win kept OSU's Rose Bowl hopes alive … and kept alive our hopes for an Indiana-Oregon State Rose Bowl. (What's that? Why yes, we are rooting for an Indiana-OSU Rose Bowl! Why aren't you??)

76. Colorado's total yardage in a 48-0 loss to Stanford. To keep the score at just 48-0, Stanford had four players throw a pass, nine carry the ball, and 11 catch a pass; 24 Stanford defenders also registered in the box score. The Buffaloes' deepest drive ended at their 45-yard line. This is just too sad. Let's move on.

61. Months since Indiana had won back-to-back conference games. The Hoosiers beat Iowa and Minnesota in late-September and early-October 2007, then lost 36 of their next 40 Big Ten games before pulling out wins over Illinois (31-17 on October 27) and Iowa (24-21 on November 3). Kevin Wilson's squad is now 4-5 and, yes, still has a chance of representing the ineligibility-plagued Big Ten Leaders Division. If they can beat Wisconsin at home this Saturday, in their biggest game since who-knows-when, they will actually possibly become the favorites to do so ... at least until they lose at Penn State the next Saturday.

37. Length of this pass from Cincinnati running back George Winn to Travis Kelce.

I've watched that at least 30 times since Saturday, and I giggle every time. I love college football.

32. Northern Illinois' average margin of victory in six conference games. The Huskies massacred poor UMass, 63-0, on Saturday, but they have yet to win a MAC game by fewer than 12 points this year. Quarterback Jordan Lynch has turned in one hell of a Chandler Harnish impersonation (212 passing yards and 136 rushing yards per game since the season-opening loss to Iowa), and NIU is clearly the current class of the MAC with a big game against Toledo coming up a week from Wednesday. Think they wish they had another shot at Iowa right about now?

26.3. Value, in equivalent points, of Oklahoma State's five turnovers versus Kansas State. Predictably, the Cowboys lost, 44-30. Or, to put it another way, Kansas State played a game on Saturday and won it the way the Wildcats tend to win games, with turnovers and Collin Klein (16-for-22 passing for 245 yards and one sack, and 16 carries for 72 yards and a touchdown). Ho hum. K-State's BCS competition, Notre Dame, meanwhile, almost lost by the same formula to Pittsburgh. The Irish lost three turnovers worth 16.9 equivalent points and allowed 197 yards in 33 touches to Pitt running back Ray Graham but somehow won in overtime thanks to a fourth-quarter surge and some luck (namely, Pitt missing an incredibly make-able overtime field goal).

23. First downs racked up by Missouri at Florida on Saturday. The Tigers gained 335 yards on the Gators, more than Georgia, Tennessee or Texas A&M had managed. But they scored just seven points thanks mostly to poor starting field position and, yes, quarterback James Franklin spraying the ball all over the field. Franklin, who has battled through an MCL sprain and two shoulder injuries (and, apparently, his fingers falling off), consistently overshot strangely open receivers, resulting in both four interceptions (three in Florida territory), a 47 percent completion rate and one score in nine -- nine -- trips into Florida territory.

22. Passes attempted by Maryland "quarterback" Shawn Petty on Saturday against Georgia Tech. Petty, who was until last week a true freshman linebacker, was thrust behind center after a near-comical run of quarterback injuries in College Park, and all things considered, he didn't fare too poorly. He didn't fare well, mind you -- 9-for-18, 115 yards, two touchdowns, one interception, four sacks and 13 carries for 56 yards -- but he couldn't have possibly been expected to. And while, granted, in garbage time, his last three drives of the day went for 171 yards and two touchdowns. And he didn't get hurt! (Another linebacker did, however: star Demetrius Hartsfield was lost for the season with the same knee injury that has claimed seemingly 70 percent of all Maryland scholarship players this year.)

20. Years since Virginia Tech had a losing record after nine games. The Hokies are 4-5 thus far, in the middle of their worst start since going 2-8-1 in 1992. It was easy to see that they might regress a little, since quarterback Logan Thomas was almost literally the only experienced player returning on offense, but while the offense has indeed been the problem (83rd in Off. F/+), a) the regression has been worse than anticipated, and b) a defense that was quite experienced heading into the season is only good (28th in Def. F/+), not great. Combine that with mediocre special teams (no BeamerBall this year), and you've got a team that has played four road games and been blown out four times by an average of 18 points. The Hokies host Florida State this Thursday night in a do-or-die affair. It's an enormous game for Virginia Tech, but probably not for the reasons we expected two months ago.

16. Seasons since Army won the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy. In 1996, the then-Cadets (now Black Knights) beat Air Force, 23-7, and Navy, 28-24. With their strangely dominant 41-21 win over Air Force on Saturday, they took one step toward winning the trophy for the first time since this year's freshmen were about three years old. Now, all that stands in the way is a win over Navy … who has beaten Army every year since 2001. To end one long streak, Army must end another, too.

7.3. Yards per pass attempt averaged by LSU's Zach Mettenberger against Alabama. It was the first time all season that a starting quarterback had averaged better than 7.0 and only the third time one averaged better than a paltry 5.2 (Tennessee's Tyler Bray averaged 6.8, and Michigan's Denard Robinson averaged 7.0 with some serious help from garbage time). This was the Mettenberger LSU fans hoped to see this year, the guy who would take the Tigers' offense to a new level. He almost did on Saturday night in Baton Rouge (that his receivers held onto the ball was encouraging, too). Now let's see what happens following the hangover.

5. Teams within a game of the Sun Belt conference lead. Arkansas State, UL-Monroe and a resurgent Middle Tennessee (fresh off of a road win over Western Kentucky) are all at 4-1, while WKU and UL-Lafayette stand at 3.2. I've said many times over the last couple of years that the Sun Belt has made some outstanding coaching hires. The result: old hands holding steady (Troy has rebounded to 3-3 in conference play, while Rick Stockstill has more than saved his job at MTSU at the moment), an SEC killer (UL-Monroe) losing by double digits at home, and schools with recent hires (Arkansas State, ULL) looking strong. And Mario Cristobal's Florida International Golden Panthers going 1-5 despite half the known universe approaching Cristobal to fill vacant coaching positions in the offseason. This is a really, really fun, competitive league.

3.4. Yards per pass attempt averaged by Nebraska's Taylor Martinez against Michigan State on Saturday. Martinez completed 16 of 36 passes for 160 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions and was sacked twice for an enormous loss of 29 yards. Bad day, huh? Not exactly. In Martinez fashion, he also rushed 15 times for 234 yards and two touchdowns in a 28-24 Nebraska win.

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