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The Numerical, Week 7: Oklahoma defies statistics, and UCLA loves them

Anu Solomon's career has begun with a record pace, Alabama got 19 extra seconds against Arkansas, Mississippi State outslopped Auburn, Missouri's offense has self-destructed, and Miami's offense is better than you think. It's the weekly roundup of the country's most interesting numbers.


Arizona's Anu Solomon is only a redshirt freshman, but in terms of game action, he might already be entering his junior season. Solomon threw 72 passes in a tough 28-26 loss to USC on Saturday; that seems impressive until you realize that he threw 73 against California two games ago. Through six games, he's thrown 278 balls -- that's more than seven teams threw all year last season. And he's also averaging about nine carries per game, including sacks.

For fun, let's project that over four full seasons with bowl appearances. That's 52 games. Let's throw in a 53rd for fun; we'll say they make a conference title game at some point (hell, maybe in 2014). Obviously this assumes no injuries or slumps.

Projected over 53 games, here is what Solomon would end up with: 2,456 pass attempts (the FBS career record is Timmy Chang's 2,436), 1,537 completions (Case Keenum, 1,546), 18,868 yards (Case Keenum, 19,217), 133 touchdowns (Case Keenum, 155), 35 interceptions, 486 carries, 1,413 rushing yards.

Solomon plays for Rich Rodriguez, the same man who coached runners like Pat White and Denard Robinson. Life doesn't make sense right now.

Anu Solomon, Photo credit: Christian Petersen / Getty Images


Texas outgained Oklahoma by 250 yards, committed only one turnover, held OU to 1-for-11 success on third downs, and lost on Saturday, 31-26. That's really difficult to do.

So how did it happen?

Field position: Oklahoma didn't hold a significant advantage here but still started its drives 6.2 yards further up the field (31.4 to 25.2). Texas didn't have many huge plays and would usually figure out a way to stall out before the end zone. Plus, almost every Texas drive either ended in points or simply ended quickly. Texas went three-and-out four times and four-and-out twice. OU also went three-and-out five times, but Texas couldn't take advantage from a field-tilting perspective.

Returns: That one Texas turnover? A pick-six by Zack Sanchez. Alex Ross also had a 91-yard kick return score. They allowed the Sooners to go up 17-3 without the offense being on the field.

Penalties: Penalties aren't always as important as we tend to think -- they hold almost no correlation to win percentages -- but when one team commits 11 for 85 yards and the other commits three for 20, it gives the less-penalized team an opportunity. Texas committed three false starts and a delay of game penalty on the first drive; two of those penalties came on the last set of downs and forced Texas to settle for a field goal. Another false start and a hold forced a three-and-out. A kick catch interference penalty set OU up in UT field position on an early field goal drive. A third-quarter personal foul led to a punt. Penalties might not be as costly as you think, but they were poorly timed for the 'Horns.

That's about it. The early return scores gave OU a cushion, and then the Sooners used up that cushion. UT cut it to 17-13 at halftime while outgaining OU, 273-19. (Plays: Texas 47, Oklahoma 15.) The second half was even and by the book.

A fast start also helped Ole Miss against Texas A&M. The Rebels drove 69 yards on their second drive and 99 on their third, then returned an interception for a touchdown while going up, 21-0, on Texas A&M. From there, the offense went into cruise control. Ole Miss punted on seven of its last eight possessions, scored another defensive touchdown in the fourth quarter, and cruised to a 35-20 victory. It was 35-7 until A&M scored two garbage-time touchdowns.

For the game, A&M gained 455 yards on 88 plays while Ole Miss gained just 338 on 54. But the early lead and three Aggie turnovers did the deed.


So I got a call from a friend asking me if I was watching the end of the Arkansas-Alabama game. I had flipped to other games after Alabama's Landon Collins picked off poor Brandon Allen with 1:59 left. It didn't seal the deal -- Alabama would need to get a first down to run out the clock with a 14-13 lead, or the Tide would have to punt back to the Hogs one last time. (And hey, with Alabama's egregious special teams, the punt snap might have bombed over the punter's head.) Still, I felt pretty good about Alabama's chances and moved on.

My friend had to fill me in on referee Penn Wagers evidently creating a new rule.

After Arie Kouandjio's false start with 1:01 remaining, Wagers restarted the clock, and Alabama inadvertently killed another 19 seconds before snapping the ball. When T.J. Yeldon came up short, the Tide should have been forced to punt. Instead, the game just ended.

So remember, kids, if you're trying to protect the lead in the last two minutes of a game, just repeatedly jump early. You can run out the clock without attempting a play!

(Yes, the SEC has acknowledged the error. No, kids, don't try that at home. And yes, a last-second Arkansas possession probably would have just resulted in prompt failure, as Allen was just 3-for-11 for 27 yards and three sacks in his last 14 pass attempts.)

17 percent

(Note: I had one game marked wrong, and the F/+ picks were actually 24-24-2 overall -- 23-19-2 in non-MAC games.)

Even by its own MACtion standards, the MAC got silly this week. Massachusetts won by 23 points on the road (over Kent State), NIU lost by 17 at home (to CMU), young Western Michigan won at Ball State, and EMU beat Buffalo with 21 fourth-quarter points, which evidently triggered the "Don't lose to Army and EMU in the same year, or you're automatically fired" clause in Buffalo coach Jeff Quinn's contract. (To be fair, that's standard nomenclature in all coach contracts.)


Indiana's Nate Sudfeld injured his left shoulder in the second quarter of a 45-29 loss to Iowa and was lost for the season. Thanks to transfers by backups Tre Roberson and Cam Coffman, that put freshman Chris Covington into the lineup.

On Covington's first play behind center, he handed to Tevin Coleman, who rushed 45 yards for a touchdown to cut Iowa's lead to 28-21. From that point forward, just about everything went wrong. Covington completed three of 12 passes for 31 yards with two interceptions and a sack. Yards per pass attempt (including sacks): 1.7. Passer rating: 13.4. And while Coleman continued to run crazy (he finished with 15 carries for 219 yards and three long scores because he is Tevin Effing Coleman), Iowa outscored the Hoosiers, 17-8, the rest of the way and cruised to a 16-point win.

Since defeating Missouri on September 20, Indiana has gotten drubbed by both Maryland and Iowa, and the 3-3 Hoosiers' hopes of making a bowl for the first time since 2007 have gone from likely to unlikely. Covington's first official start will come against Michigan State this Saturday, then three of the next four games are on the road. It appears likely that fellow freshman Zander Diamont will also play on Saturday, perhaps around the time of Covington's third turnover. This season hasn't gone as head coach Kevin Wilson intended.


How do you win a game while committing four turnovers? Force four turnovers!

Auburn turned the ball over on each of its first two snaps. Mississippi State turned the ball over four times in three offensive possessions (three picks and a muffed punt). And then the rain came.

There was nothing particularly pleasing about Mississippi State's 38-23 win over Auburn on Saturday, played in front of a record 62,945 people at Davis Wade Stadium. But MSU took complete advantage of Auburn's miscues and prevented Auburn from doing the same.

Since the turnovers canceled each other out, more or less, the game ended up getting decided by simple finishing. I wrote last week that Auburn had been the best team in the country when it came to finishing drives in the end zone and preventing opponents from doing the same.

Despite decent efficiency numbers, Auburn is allowing just 14.4 points per game this year because of its almost otherworldly (and/or unlikely) ability to make stops when the end zone is within reach. The Tigers tease you by giving you opportunities to score, then taking them away. The game changes when the field behind the defense shrinks, and Auburn's defense is as good as any in these situations.

Add to that the fact that Auburn's offense is also elite in this regard -- 5.4 points per opportunity (eighth in the country) -- and you see how Auburn gets ahead. The Tigers convert their opportunities better than you do, and they beat you because of it. Their per-opportunity scoring margin is the best in the country.

MSU turned the tables on Saturday and won the game because of it. Each team had seven scoring opportunities; with five touchdowns, a field goal, and a turnover, MSU averaged 5.4 points on its opportunities. With two touchdowns, four field goal attempts (one missed), and an interception, Auburn averaged just 3.3 points per trip. I'm not sure if "Turn your opponent's strength into your strength" comes directly from Sun Tzu or not, but it worked for Dan Mullen.


Sans the final two drives against South Carolina, Missouri's offenses has taken 101 snaps and gained 323 yards in the last two games, a 3.2 average. In that sample, the Tigers have scored seven points (while allowing 55) and gotten 21 first downs in approximately 114 minutes. And Maty Mauk is a rather incredible 18-for-50 for 159 yards, no touchdowns, four interceptions, and five sacks. Yards per pass attempt (including sacks): 2.0.

Mauk also completed three of five for 70 yards in those last two drives against the Gamecocks, and because of that last-minute win, the 4-2 Tigers can be confident that a bowl bid will await in December. But the new F/+ rankings have the Tigers ranked a staggering 104th on offense and 48th overall, propped up only by a strong defense (10th) and decent special teams (55th). Even during the offensive disaster of 2012, Mizzou managed to rank 85th.

So what's the cause? Hard to say specifically. The offensive line has pulled a full-on 2012 impersonation over the last three games, struggling to open rushing holes and springing some pass protection leaks. The receivers have been a combination of injured and unreliable; two of Mauk's four interceptions in Saturday's 34-0 loss to Georgia went off of receivers' hands.

And, of course, Mauk himself has been a bit of a disaster. Opponents understand his strengths (play-making on the run, deep-ball accuracy) and weaknesses (fight-or-flight pocket presence, short-ball accuracy) by now, and they're either pinning him in the pocket or spying him to attack the moment he flees. He needs help from the play-makers around him, and aside from running backs Russell Hansbrough and Marcus Murphy (who had minimal room to run on Saturday) and Bud Sasser (who saved the day against South Carolina and completely disappeared against Georgia), he's gotten none. That's a bit of a problem.


The new F/+ rankings are indeed out, complete with offensive, defensive, and special teams ratings for the first time this year. For the most part, they make sense. Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and Auburn lead the way, and seven teams in the AP's top 10 are also in the F/+ top 10. Sure, Stanford (F/+ No. 8, AP No. 23) seems a bit odd, as does Florida State in the other direction (F/+ No. 14, AP No. 2). But that's always going to happen. The ratings pass my own eye test, anyway.

I have to say, however, that I was rather thrown by offensive rankings. First, Miami currently ranks ninth. In the five games since getting mostly shut down by a strong Louisville defense in the season opener and eventually finding a groove against Florida A&M, the Hurricanes have averaged 7.6 yards per play and 33.2 points per game.

Mistakes are still holding the Hurricanes back; Miami managed to average 8.0 yards per play but score only 17 points against Georgia Tech, which is almost impossible. But in that game, the defense allowed Tech to play keep-away (Miami had only seven possessions, and GT's first seven each went at least eight plays and 4:19), and quarterback Brad Kaaya threw two interceptions.

Still, with a true freshman quarterback, Miami is putting together the pieces of an awesome offense. Duke Johnson (10 carries, 162 yards), Kaaya (17-for-24 for 286 yards and three touchdowns), and Phillip Dorsett (three catches, 143 yards) picked apart a dreadful Cincinnati defense in a 55-34 win on Saturday. And despite a 1-2 start in conference play, the Hurricanes might still have a role to play in the ACC Coastal race. (And so might everybody else.)

Then there's your No. 1 offense: UCLA.

Jim Mora's Bruins have been disappointing overall; they have lost two straight games at home, first to Utah, then to Oregon. The offense was a no-show in a tighter-than-expected season opener against Virginia, too, averaging just 4.9 yards per play.

So how in the world does UCLA grade out No. 1 on offense?

Hey, we finally joined Facebook!

For starters, Virginia currently ranks 14th in Def. F/+, so 4.9 yards per play against the Hoos isn't as awful as it seems. But since the trip to Charlottesville, UCLA has averaged a healthy 6.5 yards per play and 36.4 points per game; more importantly, they've done so against defenses that rank 11th (Utah), 22nd (Oregon), 29th (Texas), 40th (Arizona State) and 51st (Memphis). Including Virginia, the Bruins have faced perhaps the most difficult slate of defenses in the country, with two top-15 opponents and four top-30s. Plus, they're benefiting from their nearly perfect performance against Arizona State -- 580 yards in just 58 plays.

The offensive strength of schedule is about to lessen with upcoming games against California (58th in Def. F/+), Colorado (81st), and Arizona (45th), so UCLA will need to put up huge numbers to stay No. 1. But I don't have to agree with the numbers as long as I understand them, and I can see how UCLA would be No. 1 right now.

Unfortunately for the Bruins, their defense ranks 53rd, a rather crippling disappointment.