We count down instead of up this week, so that I can address the sad elephant in the room right off the bat.
16,489: Days since Joe Paterno's first game as Penn State head coach on September 17, 1966. It appears it is all coming to an end in the worst possible way, and it is clouding the way we are currently looking at and talking about college football, both in the present tense (it is difficult to talk about anything else right now) and in the past tense (Paterno has been a part of college football's fabric for a very long time now). We will now spend the rest of this column attempting to move beyond this awful issue. This hasn't been a fun week to be a college football fan.
4,586: Career receiving yards pulled in by Oklahoma's Ryan Broyles before tearing his ACL Saturday against Texas A&M. He caught 349 passes and scored 45 receiving touchdowns, and his career came to an end a few games earlier than it should have. Broyles is, by all accounts, a wonderful student athlete and person, and it is a damn shame that we won't get to see him in crimson and cream anymore. (I assume Oklahoma State fans might at least temporarily disagree with this assessment.)
1,439: Yards gained last night by Toledo and Western Michigan in the Rockets' 66-63 win over WMU. MACtion has become so gloriously absurd. Last Tuesday and Wednesday night, Toledo, Northern Illinois, Ohio and Temple combined for 2,079 yards and 189 points. A few days later, Ball State and Eastern Michigan combined for a meager 876 and 64. Even Kent State -- a team that gained just 475 yards in its first three games of the season -- gained 422 in its Friday night win over Central Michigan. Call it nature's balance to LSU's 9-6 win over Alabama, but MACtion has been a lovely, and needed, offensive distraction. (Not that they had anything on the Oklahoma State-Kansas State game, which saw two ranked teams combine for 1,082 yards and 97 points.)
Of course, there was no force strong enough to help Akron, which gained only 201 yards in a limp, 35-3 loss to Miami (Ohio). Even MACtion has its limits.
434: Length, in seconds, of Northwestern's game-clinching drive in their 28-25 win over Nebraska. They took the ball with 8:48 remaining, leading 21-18. Thirteen plays later, Kain Colter plunged in for a one-yard score. Nebraska would strike back and score with six seconds remaining, but this drive all but eliminated any chance of a Husker comeback victory.
232: Yards gained in 21 touches by Montee Ball during Wisconsin's 62-17 win over Purdue. Purdue, meanwhile, gained just 234 in 53 plays over their last 12 drives.
191: Yards gained by West Virginia in drives that resulted in no points during their 38-35 loss to Louisville. The Mountaineers made eight trips inside Louisville's 40, and while they scored five touchdowns, they also missed two field goals and got stuffed on a fourth-and-1 attempt at the UL 36. Louisville, meanwhile, gained just 351 yards but wasted none of them; they scored on their first two possessions, then did just enough to hold onto the win. This was almost the exact script followed in Idaho's 32-29 win over San Jose State, as well, only with the Vandals playing the role of Louisville. San Jose State gained 175 empty yards, missed two field goals (a recurring theme this weekend) and lost a fumble in Idaho territory; meanwhile, Idaho gained just 127 yards in their first 11 possessions, but they struck late, scoring touchdowns on each of their last three possessions to steal the win.
89: Percent of Case Keenum's 44 passes that found their way into the arms of a Houston receiver in the Cougars' 56-13 win over UAB. He threw for 407 yards (9.3 per pass) and two touchdowns as UH overcame a rough early start to coast. Thanks to a fumble near the end zone and a turnover on downs, they were tied at 7-7 early on despite gaining 170 yards in the process. No worries, however: they gained 484 yards and outscored the Blazers by a 49-6 margin from that point forward.
51: Combined yards generated by 12 passes targeting Florida International's T.Y. Hilton (seven targets, two catches, 32 yards) and South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery (five targets, three catches, 19 yards), two of September's favorite players who have lost their way as the season has progressed. Not surprisingly, both players' teams lost -- FIU to a surging (no, seriously) Western Kentucky squad and South Carolina to an Arkansas team that had far too much offense for them.
42: Points scored by Georgia in the second quarter of their 63-16 win over New Mexico State. They gained almost half of their 627 yards (23 plays, 308 yards) and scored two-thirds of their points in what was a truly masterful 15 minutes. The Aggies, meanwhile, managed just 43 yards in 19 plays.
25.8: Value, in equivalent points, of Oklahoma State's four turnovers (as defined here) in their 52-45 win over Kansas State. That the Cowboys were able to overcome both a minus-13.3 differential in terms of turnover points and the 507 yards gained by the Kansas State offense is quite impressive. They overcame it by gaining 575 yards of their own (9.1 per play) and advancing inside Kansas State's 40 on each of their last eight drives. Receiver Justin Blackmon caught 13 of 14 passes targeting him for 205 yards and two touchdowns; they needed every one of those catches to get past the Wildcats.
18.3: Average gain of Baylor's final 14 plays against a gassed Missouri defense in the Bears' 42-39 Homecoming win. Baylor trailed 14-13 at halftime, having missed a field goal and lost a fumble in the Mizzou end zone; in the process, however, the Bears managed to run 51 plays in the first 30 minutes. A couple of quick Missouri possessions (a three-and-out and a two-and-fumble) in the third quarter were all it took for the Bears to break the Mizzou D. Baylor gained 302 yards over their first 51 plays (5.9 per play), 139 over their next 17 (8.2), and 256 over their final 14 (18.3). Terrance Ganaway ripped off touchdown runs of 37 and 80 yards, and No. 3 receiver Tevin Reese caught a 68-yard touchdown bomb from the ever-accurate arm of Robert Griffin III.
18: Receptions split by USC receivers Robert Woods (12 targets, nine catches, 130 yards, two touchdowns) and Marqise Lee (14 targets, nine catches, 124 yards, two touchdowns) last Friday night in the Trojans' 42-17 win over Colorado. Matt Barkley justifiably got quite a bit of attention for setting a school record with six touchdown passes; but with Lee's continued emergence, Barkley's job is awfully easy. There are few receiving duos more potent than the current iteration of Woods-Lee.
14: Size of Boise State's lead (28-14) heading into the fourth quarter of their eventual 48-21 win over UNLV. The Rebels were able to hang tough thanks to some big plays -- they averaged 11.3 yards per play in their three scoring drives (an alarming warning sign for a previously untouchable BSU defense) -- and tested the Broncos a lot more than anybody expected. Boise running back Doug Martin left the game with a leg injury, and quarterback Kellen Moore was also limping around; but the BSU offense wasn't the problem.
12: Tackles for loss made by Oregon defenders in their 34-17 win over Washington. Running back Chris Polk averaged just 3.3 yards per carry, quarterback Keith Price just 2.8 yards per pass attempt (including sacks). For the second straight year, Oregon has one of the most underrated defenses in the country.
10: Passes thrown by Texas quarterbacks in their 52-20 win over Texas Tech. That is 48 fewer than those thrown by Tech's Seth Doege. Texas is somewhat one-dimensional with freshman quarterback David Ash -- they can pass as long as they don't have to -- but freshman running back Joe Bergeron (29 carries, 191 yards, three touchdowns) made sure they didn't have to against the quickly fading Red Raiders.
9.7: Points expected when attempting field goals of 34, 44, 46, 49, 50 and 52 yards (according to the percentages here). Alabama kickers Cade Foster and Jeremy Shelley, however, combined to earn just six points in attempts from those somewhat difficult distances. They made two (from 34 and 46), had one blocked (from 49) and straight-up missed the other three. Despite outgaining LSU by a 295-239 margin, the Tide eventually fell in overtime, in part because they could not take advantage of their opportunities in regulation. They advanced inside the LSU 35 six times in regulation but scored only twice; LSU, meanwhile, advanced inside the Alabama 35 twice and scored twice.
Arizona State can relate. Kicker Alex Garoutte missed field goals of 36, 46 and 48 yards (expected points from those three kicks: 5.2) in a 29-28 loss to UCLA that at least briefly handed control of the Pac-12 South to the Bruins.
9.5: Yards gained in pass attempts by Virginia quarterback Michael Rocco over the past two games. He averaged just 6.3 yards per pass, with three touchdowns and three interceptions, over his first three conference games; against Miami and Maryland, however, he has completed 34 of 56 passes for 533 yards, four touchdowns and just one pick. Virginia has won both games and is bowl eligible for the first time since 2007.
9: Florida players who caught a pass from quarterback John Brantley in the Gators' 26-21 win over Vanderbilt. For most teams, this is a sign of strong variety and depth. For Florida, it is proof that they still have nothing resembling a go-to receiver.
5: Fumbles recovered by Wyoming -- four of TCU's and one of their own -- in their 31-20 loss to TCU. The Horned Frogs lost 28.8 equivalent points' worth of turnovers but averaged 8.7 yards per play in, somehow, a double-digit win.
4: Return touchdowns scored by Southern Miss, all in the first half, in their 48-28 win over East Carolina. They returned two interceptions, a punt, and a blocked punt for a combined 28 points. Because of the easy scores, they ran just 56 plays to ECU's 89.
3: Air Force scoring drives that required the Falcons to advance fewer than 15 yards in their 24-14 win over Army. Thanks mostly to five Army turnovers (worth 28.8 equivalent points), Air Force got field goals on drives of seven and minus-three yards, and scored a touchdown on a 14-yard drive. That's 13 easy points in a 10-point win. Rutgers, meanwhile, pulled the same feat in a 20-17 overtime win over South Florida. They won with scoring drives of five (overtime field goal), zero (kickoff return touchdown) and minus-four yards (field goal), gaining just 228 yards (3.3 per play) and winning anyway.
2: Passes intercepted by Michigan State's Trenton Robinson. The Spartans needed both of them to hold on for a 31-24 win over a Minnesota team that has started to actually appear lifelike in the last couple of weeks. The Gophers gained 415 yards, 173 of which came on passes from MarQueis Gray to DaJon McKnight; but Robinson bailed out the Spartans, and MSU remains the likely favorite in the Big Ten
Legends Leaders Legends division.
0.8: Average gain of each of Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller's 17 pass attempts (including sacks) in the Buckeyes' 34-20 win over Indiana. He completed five of 11 passes for 55 yards but was sacked six times for a loss of 41 yards, meaning Ohio State pass attempts gained just 14 net yards. Luckily for OSU, Miller also rushed eight times for 146 yards, and his backfield counterparts, Dan Herron and Carlos Hyde, combined for 246 yards in 29 carries. Ohio State won, but a sack rate of 35 percent is still rather notable. A sack rate of 35 percent against Indiana is downright befuddling.