Football is a game of numbers. Halfway through the 2016 season, there are some pretty startling and interesting numbers at play in college football.
Number of non-offensive touchdowns scored by No. 1 ranked Alabama so far this season. If you’re facing the Nick Saban-led juggernaut, your challenge is to keep both the Tide’s offense and defense out of the end zone.
Number of teams in the Associated Press preseason top 13 that have lost at least two games already: No. 3 Oklahoma (2 losses), No. 4 Florida State (2), No. 5 LSU (2), No. 8 Stanford (2), No. 9 Tennessee (2), No. 10 Notre Dame (5), No. 11 Ole Miss (3), No. 12 Michigan State (4), and No. 13 TCU (2). So much for the accuracy of preseason polls.
Number of folks on the college playoff selection committee who are hoping that undefeated Baylor loses a few games. That’s the entire committee. No one in college football wants to see Baylor participating in the playoffs after the sexual assault epidemic that was revealed during the off-season.
Retirement age of Utah’s Joe Williams. The senior running back retired from football after the second game of the season due to injuries. Fortunately for the Utes, Williams “un-retired” this week and returned to the team in time to rush for 179 yards in a win over Oregon State.
Length of a potential game-winning field goal by North Carolina State kicker Kyle Bambard at the end of regulation against No. 3 Clemson on Saturday. The kick, which missed wide right by a couple of feet, would’ve given the unranked Wolfpack a 20-17 win over the unbeaten Tigers. Instead, Clemson won 24-17 in overtime. The 33-yarder was one of three missed field goals by Bambard.
Number of field goals usually-reliable Stanford kicker Conrad Ukropina has clanked off the left goal post upright in the past two weeks. Hitting the same upright three straight times would be hard to do from point blank range. Ukropina has done it from 49, 44 and 45 yards.
Washington quarterback Jake Browning’s astronomical pass efficiency rating through six games. That number would easily break the all-time NCAA record of 191.78 set by Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson (yes, that Russell Wilson) in 2011.
Number of surprise co-leaders in the Pac-12 Conference. As noted last week, Washington and Washington State have emerged as the best teams in the Pac-12 North and lead the division with 3-0 records in conference play. The balance of power has also shifted in the South, a division traditionally dominated by the LA or Arizona schools. The co-leaders after seven weeks are Utah and Colorado, both at 3-1 in league action. Former San Jose State coach Mike MacIntyre has done a fabulous job in Boulder. His Buffaloes take on Stanford in Palo Alto this weekend in a critical matchup for both teams.
Stanford’s highest scoring total in a game so far this year. The Cardinal beat USC 27-9 back on Sept. 17. Last year Stanford averaged just under 38 points per game. Inconsistent offensive line and quarterback play have been the culprits.
Number of points Michigan rolled up against Rutgers last week. After a bye week, the Wolverines figure to hit the half-century mark in their homecoming game vs. Illinois this Saturday. Coach Jim Harbaugh spent his off weekend scouting recruits and checked out Antioch High School star Najee Harris on Friday night.
Realistic candidates for the Heisman Trophy at the halfway point of the season. In order, my Heisman list looks like this: 1. Lamar Jackson, Louisville QB; 2. J.T. Barrett, Ohio State QB; 3. Jake Browning, Washington QB; 4. Jabrill Peppers, Michigan DB/LB/RB/ WR/KR; 5. Deshaun Watson, Clemson QB.
Jackson appeared a little more mortal this week against Duke, throwing for “only” 181 yards and rushing for 144, but he is still the clear favorite with 30 touchdowns (15 each passing and running) in six games. Barrett led Ohio State to a thrilling win over No. 8 Wisconsin in overtime, while Browning and Peppers had byes. Some experts have downgraded Watson because Clemson has struggled against a few unranked opponents, but Watson has been stellar. Saturday he completed 39 of 52 passes for 378 yards and two touchdowns; he also rushed for a score.
San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey ran for over 200 yards again Saturday against Fresno State and is on track to rush for over 2,000 yards this year, but his level of competition in the Mt. West Conference will prevent him from grabbing the trophy.
New AP Top 25: 1. Alabama, 2. Ohio State, 3. Michigan, 4. Clemson, 5. Washington, 6. Texas A&M, 7. Louisville, 8. Nebraska, 9. Baylor, 10. Wisconsin, 11. Houston, 12. West Virginia, 13. Florida State, 14. Boise State, 15. Florida, 16. Oklahoma, 17. Arkansas, 18. Tennessee, 19. Utah, 20. Western Michigan, 21. Auburn, 22, North Carolina, 23. Ole Miss, 24. Navy, 25. LSU. Still only two teams in the top 25 from the Pac-12, compared with eight from the SEC, but the Big Ten is the strongest conference so far this year with four teams in the top 10.
Gary Cavalli is a 40-year veteran of the Bay Area sports scene and was Executive Director of the Foster Farms Bowl and Sports Information Director/Associate Athletic Director at Stanford