clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Melvin Gordon in sight of Barry Sanders' legendary 1988, plus more great stats

New, comments

Arkansas and Missouri have two of the hottest defenses in the country, North Carolina has rebounded once again, Melvin Gordon and Samaje Perine are ridiculous, and let us never again speak of Virginia Tech-Wake Forest.


Arkansas hasn't allowed a point in 133 minutes of game action and, in real time, 23 days. On November 1, with 13 minutes left in Mississippi State's 17-10 win, MSU's Dak Prescott hit Fred Ross for a 69-yard score. Since then: nada. Arkansas beat LSU, 17-0, then trounced an increasingly sad Ole Miss team, 30-0, on Saturday.

Poor Ole Miss. The Rebels were looking like title favorites as Laquon Treadwell crossed the goal line against Auburn on November 1. But he got there without the ball, letting go of it as he felt his ankle dislocating. Ole Miss lost by four, and following a friendly against Presbyterian and a bye, the Rebels headed to Fayetteville and got ambushed, by the Hogs and themselves.

Arkansas' defense is one of the most underrated in the country*, but the Rebels helped Arkansas' cause. Bo Wallace suffered what looked like a nasty ankle injury of his own but tried to gut it out. He helped create five Rebel scoring opportunities. Those opportunities resulted in three interceptions (including a wacky pick six), a fumble, and a turnover on downs. It seems all of the SEC West's good mojo currently resides in Fayetteville.

* I figure Arkansas' defense is going to be properly rated pretty soon. That's what happens when you never give up points. While Bret Bielema's reputation is built around a strong run game, Arkansas' defense has allowed 4.4 yards per play and 8.5 points per game over the last month. That will get you noticed.


Kansas has a decent defense, and in Norman on Saturday, the Jayhawks shut all but one thing down. Oklahoma's Cody Thomas completed three of 13 passes for 39 yards. Durron Neal, the go-to option with Sterling Shepard re-aggravating a groin injury, caught one of four passes for 11 yards. OU running backs Keith Ford and Alex Ross carried 13 times for 38 yards.

Yep, only one thing worked for Oklahoma. That one thing was "hand the ball to Samaje Perine." Perine carried 34 times for an FBS-record 427 yards and five touchdowns. He was also the Sooners' leading receiver, with one catch for 19 yards. ("Sets a single-game FBS rushing record and leads his team in receiving yards" is an impressive achievement stripped of context, huh?) Oklahoma gained 549 yards in a 44-7 win; Perine was responsible for 446 of them, 81 percent.

Indiana's Tevin Coleman did his best Perine impression against Ohio State. He was responsible for 58 percent of Indiana's yardage, with 27 carries for 228 yards and two catches for three yards. His 90-yard touchdown run put IU up 20-14 midway through the third quarter, and he scored on a 52-yard run late. Unfortunately for Coleman and the Hoosiers, Ohio State's Jalin Marshall scored four touchdowns in between those two runs; Marshall's punt return gave Ohio State the lead, then he caught three touchdown passes in short succession.


Sometimes learning how to win is the last step in becoming a winner. When Florida State lost in the last minute to Virginia on November 19, 2011, it was the Seminoles' fifth loss in seven one-possession games. They were winning blowouts, but the intestinal-fortitude games were problems.

Since that loss, the 'Noles are 9-1 in such games. And they're having to win a lot more of them. After going 3-1 in one-possession games in 2012-13 (that's right; in two years, 24 of 28 games were decided by a healthy margin, and 23 were wins), they're 5-0 this year following yet another last-minute win, this time over Boston College.

This FSU team probably isn't as good as the 2012 team that went 12-2, but the Seminoles are running out of games to lose, and if they can hold off Florida and Georgia Tech, they'll get a chance to recover some depth for a Playoff run.

Meanwhile, watch me compare Hawaii to Florida State: Hawaii had gone 1-9 in one-possession games through late-2013, but the Rainbow Warriors are 3-3 since. This is really just an excuse to link to the glorious video of their last-second win over UNLV.


Thanks to Perine, Wisconsin's poor Melvin Gordon only held the single-game FBS rushing record for seven days. Here's a decent consolation: he might hit 2,500 rushing yards this year. He has a preposterous 813 yards in his last three games, following a 31-carry, 200-yard effort against Iowa. (The Badgers needed every bit of his work as a 19-3 lead turned into a 26-24 win.)

Through 11 games, Gordon has 2,109 rushing yards. Through 11 games. If Wisconsin can knock off Minnesota to reach the Big Ten Championship, giving Wisconsin 14 total games, Gordon would need to average just 130.3 rushing yards per game to hit 2,500 for the season. There's nothing "just" about 130.3 yards per game ... unless you're averaging 191.7 yards per game to date, as Gordon is.

Gordon has a chance to put together the most amazing rushing season since Barry Sanders' FBS-record, 11-game, 2,628-yard campaign in 1988 (UCF's Kevin Smith had 2,567 in 14 games in 2007, but nobody else has come close since).

Sanders' 238.9 average is the NCAA all-divisions record, but Gordon has a chance to break Sanders' total rushing yardage mark. If Gordon maintains that 191.7 pace and Wisconsin wins the West, he'll break it, albeit with three extra games.

That's how incredible Sanders was. It would take even Gordon extra games to catch him, and it takes a player as great as Gordon just to put him in perspective.


It's six-win watch! Let's take a look at some of the teams that are either on the verge of rare/improbable bowl eligibility or have recently passed the precipice.

  • UTEP is 6-5 despite a 31-13 loss to Rice. The Miners are bowl-eligible for the first time since 2010 and only the second since 2005.
  • South Alabama is 6-5 despite a 37-12 loss to South Carolina. The Jaguars are not guaranteed a bowl, but they're 12-11 in the last two seasons. Not bad for a start-up. Sun Belt mates Texas State are also 6-5 in 2014 and 12-11 in the last two years. Somebody might be making a postseason debut.
  • Temple is 5-5. The Owls have seen diminishing returns -- after a 4-1 start that included blowouts of Vanderbilt and UConn, the Owls have lost four of five. After a Week 13 bye, they'll have two shots at Win No. 6: Cincinnati comes to town, then it's to New Orleans for a season-ending date with Tulane.
  • Following an upset win over Miami, Virginia is 5-6. So is Virginia Tech. With a Friday night date in Blacksburg, only one will be bowling. The same goes for Northwestern and Illinois. The two 5-6 teams will meet in Evanston on Saturday to determine who plays in the postseason. (Yes, Illinois is 5-6. Don't bother looking it up. I promise you it's true.)
  • Old Dominion has won two straight tight games, including one over potential C-USA West champion Louisiana Tech, to get to 5-6. This is the first year the Monarchs are allowed to play in the postseason, and if they win at Florida Atlantic, they'll be eligible. Proof that you don't have to reside in the Sun Belt to see quick FBS success.
  • Bill Clark's UAB Blazers are still trying to figure out if they're going to exist in coming seasons. In the meantime, they're 5-6, having nearly pulled a huge upset of Marshall. Once 4-2, UAB will have one last chance with a Saturday road trip to 3-8 Southern Miss.
  • A 30-6 win over UMass got Akron to 5-6. A win at Kent State would make the Zips eligible for the first time since 2005. After going 6-42 from 2009-12, Akron is 10-13 since Terry Bowden took over. A bowl would be a lovely reward for drastic progress.
  • Cal's back is against the wall. After going 1-11 in Sonny Dykes' first season, the Golden Bears are 5-6 following a Big Game loss to Stanford. They'll need to beat BYU at home.
  • Tennessee hasn't been to a bowl since 2010. The Vols lost as home favorites to SEC East leader Missouri and fell to 5-6, meaning they must win at Vanderbilt to reach the promised land. (Yeah, that'll probably happen.) East mates Kentucky doesn't have it as easy. The Wildcats started 5-1 against a back-loaded schedule but have been hit hard by the meat of the slate. They got a Week 13 bye to recover from a five-game losing streak, but they'll need to win at Louisville to get to six for the first time since 2010.
  • And Michigan is 5-6 following a home loss to Maryland. Brady Hoke's last game as the Wolverines' head coach will almost certainly be in Columbus.


Hey, look! North Carolina's hot again! Last year, Larry Fedora's Tar Heels began the season 1-5 before winning five straight to reach bowl eligibility, then romping through a bowl win. This year, the Heels started 2-4 but have won four of five, including a dominant 45-20 win at Duke, which prevented the Blue Devils from winning their second straight ACC Coastal title.

If you're going to schedule the Heels, try to get them in September.

Meanwhile, 162 miles west, Appalachian State is doing a pretty good UNC impression. In their first year at the FBS level, the Mountaineers began 1-5 and lost to Liberty; average score: Opponent 46, ASU 20.

Since the Liberty loss, they have caught fire. They've won five straight by an average of 40-18. They pasted presumptive Sun Belt favorite Louisiana-Lafayette, 35-16, in Lafayette on Saturday and will finish, at worst, 6-6. (They're not postseason-eligible yet.)


Despite what might be Gary Pinkel's worst offense since 2001, his first year in Columbia, Mizzou has won five straight and is on the brink of a second straight SEC East title. How?

Defense. With Ole Miss fading, Missouri might own the nastiest defensive front in the SEC now. Don't believe me? Just ask opposing quarterbacks.

During Mizzou's current five-game winning streak, the Tigers have allowed the following passing line: 99-for-171, 934 yards, eight touchdowns, seven interceptions, 20 sacks for a loss of 119 yards. Yards per pass attempt, including sacks: 3.9. Tennessee's Joshua Dobbs had barely been touched in three starts before Saturday's 29-21 loss; he was sacked six times in 43 attempts and averaged 3.8 yards per attempt.

Since allowing 5.9 yards per play against Indiana (in a game that Markus Golden missed because of a hamstring injury that would nag him for nearly two months), Missouri has allowed more than 4.4 per play just once in SEC competition. Even in a blowout loss to Georgia, the Tigers allowed 4.4 per play.

I don't yet know what the over-under is for Friday's Missouri-Arkansas game, but here's a tip: bet the under. That game is just going to be like smashing rocks together for three hours.


This weekend featured a number of confusing results. At the heart of a lot of them: finishing drives.

Marshall outgained UAB by 169 yards, 515-346, at Legion Field, but the Thundering Herd needed a last-minute fourth-and-1 stop to survive, 23-18. How? Because while they created seven scoring opportunities (first downs inside the opponent's 40), they scored just two touchdowns, settled for two field goals (missing one), lost a fumble, turned the ball over on downs, and punted once. Points per trip: 2.3. National average: around 4.7. If UAB had averaged better than 3.0 points per trip itself, Marshall would be 10-1 right now.

Miami outdid the Herd. Against Virginia, the Hurricanes generated four scoring opportunities and scored just seven offensive points, which allowed the Cavaliers to blow a few of their own (seven opportunities, four field goal attempts) and still pull a comfortable, 30-13 upset and keep bowl hopes alive.

Nebraska lost two fumbles on scoring opportunities against Minnesota and averaged 3.4 points over five trips. Minnesota went touchdown, missed field goal, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown. Despite that missed field goal actually turning into a touchdown return for Nebraska, erstwhile successes gave the Gophers a 28-24 road win.

Of course, I'm burying the lede, mostly because I don't want to acknowledge this game existed ...

Virginia Tech and Wake Forest. Sigh. Including four overtime possessions, the Hokies and Demon Deacons combined for 11 scoring opportunities. Virginia Tech: punt, fumble, fumble, field goal, missed field goal. Wake Forest: interception, missed field goal, missed field goal, missed field goal, field goal, field goal. One punt, three turnovers, seven field goal attempts (and four misses). The teams combined to average 3.4 yards per play and go 8-for-35 on third downs.

Let us never speak of this game again. College football is a worse sport for having forced this game upon us. Iowa-Penn State 2004 ... Auburn-Mississippi State 2008 ... you now have company.

Meanwhile, of all teams, Stanford actually won a game because of near-the-goal-line execution. The Cardinal have been a tragicomedy in scoring opportunities this season, but not including end-of-half possessions, they scored five touchdowns and kicked a field goal in six scoring opportunities against California.

Cal generated more opportunities (seven) but turned the ball over three times and turned the ball over on downs once. Yardage: Stanford 418, Cal 410. Points: Stanford 38, Cal 17.