The first 36 pass attempts of Maty Mauk's night in Columbia, S.C., gained an average of 1.2 yards. Without two injured starting receivers, Missouri's quarterback started the game 3-for-4 for 33 yards and three completions to lone remaining starter Bud Sasser. Then he went 6-for-25 for 29 yards and two sacks for a loss of 26. That's 31 attempts, 36 yards.
Naturally, he finished 3-for-5 for 70 yards with a bomb to Sasser, a 26-yard strike to new starter Wesley Leftwich, and a fourth-down conversion to tight end Sean Culkin. And Missouri's offense, which had punted on 10 consecutive possessions, scored twice in the last seven minutes to come back and knock off South Carolina, 21-20.
In two weeks, Missouri has destroyed the transitive property. In Week 5, the Tigers beat a team that had already beaten Georgia (which romped over Clemson) and East Carolina (which beat Virginia Tech and whipped North Carolina) in the first month of the season. In Week 4, Mizzou lost to an Indiana team that sandwiched the breakthrough win with losses to Bowling Green (which lost to Western Kentucky) and Maryland.
Mizzou was 12th in the F/+ rankings after three weeks, fell to 26th after the loss to Indiana, then actually fell again to 29th after the win over South Carolina (thanks to being the first offense shut down by the Gamecocks). But they won. And if the receiving corps heals up and the Tigers beat Georgia in two weeks, they'll be in the driver's seat for a second straight division title and a chance at a sacrificial appearance in the SEC Championship.
College Football Playoff and bowl projections
If the Sooners can survive a tough road game this Saturday, their College Football Playoff chances are sparkling. In the 32 lesser bowls, we're finally rid of Michigan.
Florida State won just two games by 15 or fewer points in 2013: a 48-34 road win over Boston College and 34-31 BCS title over Auburn. In four games this season, the Seminoles already have three such wins: six-pointers over Oklahoma State and Clemson (in overtime, with Clemson changing quarterbacks [Ed. - Bill meant this "changing quarterbacks" line to refer to Jameis Winston missing the game due to suspension, but I misread it and assumed he meant Clemson bringing in Deshaun Watson, hence the "Clemson." I am an idiot.]) and a 15-point, closer-than-the-score win over NC State on Saturday.
The 'Noles allowed 520 yards (most of it early) and 29 first downs, fell behind by scores of 24-7 (in the first quarter) and 38-28 (in the third) and needed every bit of a 21-0 run over eight second-half minutes to eventually put the Wolfpack away.
Now, NC State is pretty solid. The Wolfpack are currently 48th in the F/+ rankings after ranking 92nd a year ago. Jacoby Brissett is captaining an exciting, semi-prolific offense. He's on pace for 3,500 passing yards, 400 rushing yards, and a 34-to-3 TD-to-INT ratio, if the 4-1 Wolfpack were to make a bowl game. State is figuring things out in Dave Doeren's second year and played wonderfully on Saturday.
Still ... we're waiting for Florida State to actually look like a Playoff-caliber team. It hasn't happened yet. Not once this season has Florida State looked as good as Alabama, Oklahoma, or Oregon. I'm not sure they've looked better than Baylor, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, or Texas A&M either. The defense is banged up, the running game is inconsistent, and the offense has mastered the art of waiting until it absolutely needs to thrive to start thriving.
Even though trips to Louisville and Miami await, the Seminoles still have an easier schedule than those other contenders and will be favored in every game from here until the potential Playoff. But if you wait around too long to play at an elite level, you end up missing out on your elite goals. Any time now, FSU.
Purdue’s last three quarters on Saturday. pic.twitter.com/B7K59iBvxH— Adam Jacobi (@Adam_Jacobi) September 29, 2014
No snaps in Iowa territory in that span. Even more surprising: Purdue actually scored 10 points in the first quarter.
There was another contributing factor for Missouri's rankings decline: Indiana laid an egg. A week after the biggest win of the Kevin Wilson era, a road win over a top-20 Mizzou, the Hoosiers returned home to a thankful crowd and got whipped by Maryland, 37-15. After averaging 7.5 yards per play against BGSU, 6.5 against Indiana State, and 5.9 against Missouri, they managed just 4.0.
Star running back Tevin Coleman got his -- 22 carries, 122 yards, one touchdown -- but quarterback Nate Sudfeld was a dreadful 14-for-37 for 126 yards, a pick, and three sacks. Yards per attempt (including sacks): 2.5. The Hoosiers plummeted from 39th to 65th in the F/+ rankings in just one week.
Maryland, by the way? Thirty-third, third-best in the Big Ten East.
If Missouri and Indiana hadn't already finished it off, Pitt's inexplicable 11-point loss to Akron would have done in the transitive property all by itself. The Panthers averaged 6.0 yards per play against Iowa (despite a rough second half), 5.9 against Boston College, 5.8 against FIU ... and 4.7 against Akron. The Zips figured out how to hem in big James Conner (25 carries, 92 yards) and force Chad Voytik to beat them with his arm. He couldn't: 20-for-34, 220 yards, one touchdown, one interception, three sacks, 5.3 yards per pass attempt.
There was a lot of bad passing on Saturday.
Akron, by the way? 2-2 with impending home games against Eastern Michigan, Miami (Ohio), and UMass. Win those and either beat Bowling Green at home or any number of shaky MAC teams on the road (Kent, I'm looking at you), and Terry Bowden's Zips are bowl eligible. Hell, at 79th in the F/+ rankings, Akron might be a MAC favorite.
In this week's F/+ rankings, just 4.7 percentage points separate No. 1 Alabama (plus-25.1 percent) and No. 10 LSU (plus-20.4 percent). After five weeks in 2013, the difference between No. 1 Oregon (plus-33.1 percent) and No. 10 Oklahoma (plus-17.8 percent) was 15.3 points. In 2012, the difference between No. 1 Alabama (plus-48.2 percent!) and No. 10 Georgia (plus-18.9 percent) was a staggering 29.3.
How the Playoff would've worked
How the Playoff committee would've worked
This year, No. 1 is lower than normal and No. 10 is higher. Pray for the selection committee.
Actually, don't. They'll be fine. Conference championships might matter more this time around, if the stats and eyeballs can't distinguish between the best teams and the almost-best teams. But there will still probably be two or three obvious candidates and a heated argument about No. 4. But what the rankings tell us right now is that the balance of power might not be settled until we're through the first weekend of December.
Some other tidbits from a fascinating set of F/+ numbers:
Goodness, SECW: There are six SEC West teams in the top 11, and the seventh West team (No. 24 Arkansas) is ahead of all but one SEC East team (No. 16 Georgia). And yes, that's Ole Miss at No. 5, hosting No. 1 Alabama this Saturday. If "GameDay" didn't come for this one, "GameDay" was never coming to Oxford.
Worst treadmill ever: Hello, No. 3 Stanford. Despite some incredible drive-finishing issues -- heading into Saturday's game at Washington, they were 113th in Points Per Scoring Opportunity (3.8), then averaged 3.3 points in six trips in Seattle -- the Cardinal just continue to roll right along, playing dominant defense and creating scoring opportunities they can blow, tilting the field like no team has ever tilted a field. Seven of Washington's first eight drives began inside the 25, and by the time the Huskies began generating better starting points, the offense was fried from running the treadmill at the highest incline. And then what might be the nation's best defense closed out a 20-13 win with minimal danger.
Stanford dominates field position so thoroughly that all the Cardinal need to do is get to 20 points to feel safe about a victory. (The problem: they got to only 10 against USC in Week 2.)
The Big 12, according to F/+:
21. West Virginia
25. Oklahoma State
28. Kansas State
62. Iowa State
67. Texas Tech
That top six is exactly what we all predicted in the preseason, right?
Against Georgia, Tennessee's offense wasn't amazing with Justin Worley behind center; the Vols averaged 5.0 yards per play and punted six times in 12 drives. But they also scored 32 points and put themselves in position to pull a road upset over a bipolar opponent.
When Worley went down with injury in the third quarter, however, Tennessee stagnated. Nathan Peterman came in and completed four of nine passes for 20 yards and a big sack, and the Vols averaged 3.2 yards per play, punted twice, and lost a fumble. Georgia's lead remained 21-17 while Worley was out, but Tennessee missed a chance to take the lead.
Worley returned and helped to create three touchdowns in three possessions. Unfortunately for the Vols, one of those touchdowns was a Georgia fumble recovery in the UT end zone, and the turnover helped to contribute to Georgia's eventual 35-32 win.
Washington State has played four games against FBS competition. They have been decided by an average of 5.5 points. First, there was the three-point shootout loss to Rutgers in Week 1. Then there was the humbling, confusing 24-13 loss at Nevada. Then there was the moral victory, a seven-point loss to Oregon. Then, there was Saturday.
In the first quarter against Utah in Salt Lake City, Washington State allowed an interception return touchdown (by Eric Rowe), a punt return touchdown (Kaelin Clay), and a 76-yard touchdown run (Devontae Booker), then turned the ball over on downs at the Utah 10. It was about as much of a failure as a quarter can be.
But Mike Leach's Cougars just kept doing what they do. Connor Halliday hit Dominique Williams for a 35-yard score to make it 24-7 at halftime, then he found Vince Mayle from 11 yards out to make it 24-14. Williams scored again with eight minutes left to make it 27-21, and after a Utah three-and-out (which included the Utes punting on fourth-and-1), Mayle went 81 yards for what would become the game-winning touchdown.
Utah's offense never really got rolling (357 yards, 4.5 per play; 3.6 per play without Booker's touchdown run), and when the crazy touchdowns stopped, the Utes had nothing else to offer. A resilient, silly Wazzu team came back to win and kept hopes for bowl eligibility alive.
This was, of course, the second-wildest game of the day in the Pac-12. While Utah was crumbling in SLC, California was overcoming its own early deficit (21-7 after the first quarter) to beat Colorado, 59-56, in double overtime.
Let the stats wash over you.
- 1,205 total yards (629 for Colorado, 576 for Cal)
- 181 total plays (110 for Colorado, 71 for Cal)
- 110 pass attempts (67 for Colorado, 43 for Cal)
- 63 first downs (39 for Colorado, 24 for Cal)
- 21 penalties (12 for Cal, nine for Colorado)
- 16 kickoffs, eight punts
- Eight touchdowns of 22 or more yards (five for Cal, three for Colorado)
- Four missed field goal attempts (three for Colorado, one for Cal, if you're trying to figure out how Cal actually won this game)
The biggest surprise? It only lasted four hours. Regardless, it was 35-35 with four minutes remaining when things got crazy. Colorado scored on a short pass to take the lead, and Stephen Anderson responded with a 75-yard catch-and-run 27 seconds later. Cal scored 27 seconds after that with a 40-yard strike from Jared Goff to Chris Harper, and Colorado tied the game again on a 30-yard touchdown with 21 seconds left. Both teams scored on 25-yard touchdown passes in the first overtime, but only Cal scored in the second.
Cal is now 3-1, by the way. Granted, there's not a sure win remaining on the schedule -- at Wazzu, Washington, UCLA, Oregon, at Oregon State, at USC, Stanford, BYU -- but when you went 1-11 the year before, three wins alone is a reason to celebrate.
Watch Colorado-Cal highlights
Boise State took possession of the ball 16 times at Air Force on Saturday. The Broncos gained 467 yards to Air Force's 335, moved the chains 24 times to Air Force's 16, and held Air Force's option attack to 4.8 yards per carry.
They also turned the ball over seven times, five via interception and two via fumble. Using equivalent points, these seven turnovers were worth 30.5 points' worth of field position in a game the Broncos managed to lose, 28-14.
Air Force gained more than 22 yards in one possession just three times but scored five times -- once after a fumble recovery set the Falcons up at the Boise 10, once after an interception set them up at the 9 -- and scored their biggest win in quite a while. Assuming Boise State finishes with a winning record, it will be Air Force's first win over such an FBS team since a 48-31 win over 7-6 Nevada in October 2012 and only the second since a 2010 win over 7-6 Army. Since starting 2012 5-3, AFA finished 2013 having lost 14 of 17 games. They're now 3-1.
The national scoring list looks about how you would assume: Baylor (56.8 points per game) and Texas A&M (51.2) are leading the way, Oregon (48.5) and high-paced California (47.5) are in the top five; Marshall (45.5) and Oklahoma (44.8) are in the top 10.
Oh yeah, and there's Michigan State, waving from the No. 3 line and averaging 50.3 points per game. Against Craig Bohl's Wyoming defense, the Spartans scored 56 points and gained 533 yards, and it could have been worse if they didn't call off the dogs up 42-14 at halftime. Sparty is being held back by the loss to Oregon but has done everything possible to impress against lesser teams; MSU has averaged 58 points and 535 yards against Jacksonville State, Eastern Michigan, and Wyoming.
Since October 2010, the only defenses to hold Duke under 4.0 yards per play were Virginia Tech's (in 2013) and Florida State (in 2012 and 2013). Miami joined the club on Saturday, handcuffing the Blue Devils and allowing 3.5 yards per play and 10 points. Duke's Anthony Boone completed just 22 of 51 passes for 179 yards, a sack, and two interceptions. Miami running back Duke Johnson's legs nearly outgained Boone's arm (he had 27 touches for 165 yards), freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya threw two second-half touchdown passes, and the Hurricanes eased to a 22-10 win over the defending division champions.
Abdullah Watch! After carrying 22 times for 208 yards and three touchdowns in a 45-14 cruise over Illinois, Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah is now on pace for 2,166 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns if projected over 13 games; over a 14-game pace (if Nebraska were to win the Big Ten West), that's 2,332 yards and 22 scores.
Bigger challenges await Abdullah, particularly a trip to East Lansing this coming Saturday. But if he's to actually generate any sort of Heisman hype as a) a running back and b) a running back for a current national title non-contender, he'll need a huge day against Michigan State.
And while we're at it, after gaining 226 more yards in a loss to Texas A&M, Arkansas' Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams are on pace for a combined 2,878 yards and 36 touchdowns projected over 13 games.