The Numerical, Week 8: Nobody's worried about Alabama's defense anymore

Kevin C. Cox

Tennessee went three-and-out seven times and still upset a ranked team. Notre Dame gained 47 yards after halftime and still knocked off a rival. Teams throughout the country were outplayed for three quarters and surged ahead in the fourth. It was an odd week, and the odd results prove it. Also, remember when Bama's defense was a concern?

1

Louisville tackles for loss against UCF. Cardinal quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was perfectly fine in UL's 38-35 loss on Friday night -- 76 percent completion rate, 8.1 yards per attempt, two touchdowns -- and Louisville did score 35 points against a decent UCF defense. But the Cardinals, boasting some incredible per-drive defensive numbers, just couldn't make stops when they needed to. And they definitely couldn't get enough pressure on UCF quarterback Blake Bortles, who wasn't sacked once in 32 pass attempts.

After falling behind, 28-7, early in the second half, UCF scored on each of its final five possessions -- four touchdowns and a field goal, with four of five drives going at least 52 yards -- to stun the previously undefeated Cardinals and become the new favorites in the AAC race. Louisville was bending a little but not breaking at all through the first six games of the season. But the D broke in a major way in Game 7. UCF averaged 6.9 yards per play, ran and passed when it needed to, and pulled off the biggest win in program history.

2

Fumble return touchdowns for Memphis linebacker Ryan Coleman against SMU on Saturday. Granted, they were too little, too late as Memphis failed to erase a 34-3 deficit (they came within 34-29). But odd accomplishments are still odd accomplishments.

3

Three-sack games for Missouri defensive end Michael Sam in 2013. And actually, it's three in the last four games. Sam and the Tiger defense sacked Florida quarterback Tyler Murphy six times in all during the Tigers' 36-17, could-have-been-so-much-worse win over the Gators. On 35 pass attempts, Murphy was also hurried eight times, had one pass picked, saw four others broken up, and gained a total of 50 net yards, nine more than Missouri gained on its first play of the game, a pass from backup quarterback Maty Mauk to L'Damian Washington.

3, also

Losing seasons for Nevada during Chris Ault's 28 years as head coach. The Wolf Pack have suffered five losing seasons in their last seven Ault-less years and, at 3-4, could be well on their way toward their sixth in eight.

5

Scoring drives of under 40 yards for Wake Forest in a surprising(ly easy) 34-10 win over Maryland. The story of the game is and will be the rather cruel, season-ending injuries to both of Maryland's star receivers, Deon Long and Stefon Diggs, but Maryland was already down 10-0 when Long went down and was down 31-10 when Diggs went down. Wake Forest's average starting field position in the first half was 47.2, and the Deacs scored on touchdown drives of 36 yards (following a punt return), 18 yards (interception), and 40 yards (interception), with field goal drives of 14 yards (punt) and 37 yards (turnover on downs). Maryland's injury luck appears to be simply terrible for a second year, but this game was destined to be awful, injuries or no injuries.

7

Three-and-outs suffered by Tennessee in a tragic loss to South Carolina on Saturday. As I mention in my book, Study Hall: College Football, Its Stats and Its Stories, three-and-outs are just deadly. All else being equal, teams who go three-and-out six to seven times win only about one-third of the time and lose by an average of about 12 points per game. Tennessee averaged just 4.2 yards per play, quarterback Justin Worley averaged just 4.9 yards per pass attempt (passes to players not named Marquez North went just 16-for-29 for 77 yards), and Tennessee's offense just gave itself no chance to succeed against a good Gamecocks squa--

Wait, what's that? Tennessee won?

--wait, what's that? Tennessee won, 23-21? How does that even make sense? How can yo--

--oh. South Carolina went three-and-out six times, committed four big penalties for 49 yards on Tennessee scoring drives, deployed some questionable clock management strategies, lost the special teams battle, and somehow managed to lose the game, too, despite averaging a pretty healthy 6.0 yards per play. Connor Shaw had an awful game -- 33 percent completion rate, four sacks, 5.8 yards per pass attempt, one interception -- and then injured his knee, and it was just an awful afternoon for the 'Cocks in Knoxville.

(TCU, meanwhile, was basically Tennessee without the good fortune: five three-and-outs, four turnovers, a turnover on downs, 4.8 yards per pass attempt, and a 24-10 loss to Oklahoma State.)

9

Trips made by North Carolina inside the Miami 40 in a 27-23 Thursday night loss. The Heels scored just 23 points on these nine trips: two touchdowns, three field goals, a missed field goal, two interceptions, and a clock expiration. Miami managed to score just 20 points on eight trips of its own -- this was a pretty awful game, yes -- but also scored on a blocked field goal return and somehow survived despite four turnovers and some pretty terrible play from quarterback Stephen Morris, who is still suffering from a nagging ankle injury.

Meanwhile, Old Dominion outgained Pittsburgh and generated more scoring opportunities on Saturday -- seven trips inside the 40 to six -- but couldn't convert on three of them; Pitt scored five touchdowns in six trips and survived. ACC football: survive (your own miscues) and advance.

16

Points allowed by Alabama since the Tide left College Station. Facing major questions about its secondary after getting torched by A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and receiver Mike Evans in a narrow, 49-42 win over the Aggies, Alabama has shored up its deficiencies, to put it lightly. They have allowed just 3.2 points and 217 yards per game over the last five contests after allowing 42 and 628 to A&M. No, there haven't been any offensive powerhouses on the schedule since then, but allowing 205 yards and zero points to Ole Miss, 170 and seven to Kentucky, and 256 and zero to Arkansas is still brutal and impressive.

We'll see how much of a difference the loss of safety Vinnie Sunseri to a knee injury will make; I'm guessing not too much.

On the flip side, A&M has now allowed an average of 520 yards and 38.7 points per game in SEC contests since Alabama left town. The Aggies haven't gained fewer than 523 yards in a game in that span, but defensive deficiencies were bound to sneak up on them -- there's a reason why they ranked just 25th in the F/+ rankings heading into Saturday -- and they did indeed in Saturday's 45-41 home loss to Auburn.

21.4

Combined win percentage of the team Sonny Dykes left after last season (2-5 Louisiana Tech) and the team he left Tech for (1-6 California). California is ultra-young, banged up and suffering through a loaded Pac-12 schedule, while Louisiana Tech is young and suffering from HiredSkipHoltz.

Call it the Fedora Effect. Larry Fedora left Southern Miss for UNC following a Conference USA title and 12-win season in 2011; since then, the two programs have gone a combined 9-27 (9-9 for UNC, an incredible 0-18 for Southern Miss).

22

Days until the two best teams in the MAC face off. Northern Illinois is humming along, undefeated and ranked 18th in the BCS standings, but before the Huskies can steal another BCS bowl bid, they have to survive a visit from a Ball State team that is quite possibly better. Ball State's only blemish came when the Cardinals blew a 20-3 lead in a turnover-laden trip to North Texas (also solid this year); since that loss, they have survived Toledo, whipped Virginia, and started MAC play 4-0. The game will be in DeKalb, and BSU will have to figure out what the hell to do with Jordan Lynch, who rushed for a quarterback-record 316 yards in a 38-17 win over Central Michigan on Saturday; but NIU is still more vulnerable now than it was last year.

On the other side of the MAC, we'll potentially have another undefeated-vs-undefeated (in conference) battle when Buffalo and Bowling Green butt heads on November 29. Bowling Green is perhaps the more proven quantity, having won eight of the last nine in conference; but Buffalo is rolling. Since a tight, overtime win over Stony Brook, the Bulls have outscored their last four opponents by an average score of 37-7 (average yardage: Buffalo 397, Opponent 250).

35

Consecutive points scored by Duke to finish off a 35-22 comeback win over Virginia. Through 28 minutes, Virginia led, 22-0, and had outgained the Blue Devils by a 287-114 margin. In the last 32 minutes, Duke gained 358 yards to UVA's 76, caught up to the Hoos, then just kept right on charging to the finish line.

It was a week of late surges, actually. Vanderbilt scored 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to pull an upset of Georgia (fourth quarter yardage: VU 94, UGA 4; massive special teams miscues: UGA 2, VU 0). Oklahoma outgained Kansas, 328-36, in the final 40 minutes to erase an early 13-0 deficit and cruise. Texas Tech scored the final 21 points of a 37-27 win over West Virginia, one that featured a few major momentum swings. And in a ridiculous shootout, Michigan scored the final 14 points and outgained Indiana, 167-82, in the final 12 minutes of a 63-47 win.

(Side note about Texas Tech's win: big Jace Amaro caught nine of 11 passes for 136 yards. He's all sorts of good.)

89

Passes thrown by Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday on Saturday night.

99

Passes thrown by Georgia Tech quarterback Vad Lee in seven starts this year.

191

Plays in the BYU-Houston game, a strange, 47-46 BYU win. The Cougars (BYU edition) snapped the ball 115 times, which is ridiculous in so many different ways. For one thing, they continued to possess the ball despite quarterback Taysom HIll getting sacked eight times and throwing three picks. For another, Houston linebacker Derrick Mathews managed 11 tackles, four tackles for loss (three sacks) and a pick-six in a losing effort.

Meanwhile, Arkansas and Alabama combined for 125 snaps on Saturday.

266

Yards gained by UCLA in a 24-10 loss to Stanford. The Bruins' previous low in 2013: 404 yards vs. Utah. A week after throwing for 410 yards against California, UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley managed just 192 against the stout Cardinal defense; he was picked off twice, sacked four times, and averaged just 3.9 yards per pass attempt.

Of course, awful passing games were de rigueur in Week 8. Aside from the ones mentioned above, Clemson's Tajh Boyd averaged just 3.0 yards per attempt against Florida State, UNLV's Caleb Herring averaged 3.3 against Fresno State, Washington's Keith Price averaged 3.8 against Arizona State, Syracuse's Drew Allen and Terrel Hunt combined to average 3.9 against Georgia Tech, Northwestern's Trevor Siemian averaged averaged 4.5 against Minnesota. All of those quarterbacks lost, most of them badly.

But in the week's masterpiece, Notre Dame's Andrew Hendrix piloted the Irish offense for most of the second half after Tommy Rees left with a neck injury. He completed zero of four passes, and Notre Dame gained just 47 yards after halftime ... and Notre Dame won, anyway. USC gained only 121 second-half yards and did itself in with seven offensive penalties after halftime. I tried to get through this game on the DVR on Sunday. I really tried. I failed.

714

Yards gained by Baylor in a 71-7 win on Iowa State. The Bears averaged 7.8 yards per play to ISU's 2.9, Bryce Petty passed for a breezy 343 yards in 31 throws, and in particularly cruel fashion, when the Cyclones finally scored in the final minute of the game, Baylor returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown.

Let's put this another way: Michigan State and Purdue combined to gain 520 yards in MSU's 14-0 win on Saturday. Baylor had that one drive into the second half.

USC and Notre Dame combined for 168 yards in the second half of a brutal 14-10 Notre Dame win. Baylor had that 10 minutes into the game.

This was the third-lowest yardage total of Baylor's season, by the way.

2002

The last time Colorado State averaged 30 or more points per game. The Rams are currently averaging 33.1 points, 37.7 against teams not named Alabama.

3,257

Announced attendance for Eastern Michigan's 56-28 loss to Ohio. Ouch.

More from SB Nation college football:

The Grove is closed: Spencer Hall on fear and victory at Ole Miss

Miami decision shows NCAA overhaul can’t come soon enough

Why we shouldn’t have been surprised by Florida State

Alabama, FSU top Oregon in year’s first BCS rankings

New bowl projections: FSU or Oregon to meet Alabama?

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