College Football Week 5, 2021: Thursday notes and observations

Tuesday notes and observations, including lines/odds and conference realignment discussion

SoCon weekly release

VMI game notes

The Citadel game notes

Almost one-fourth of VMI’s roster is from the Richmond, VA metropolitan area

VMI “braces to restrict The Citadel’s option”

Broadcast information

VMI at The Citadel, The Military Classic of the South, to be played on Sansom Field at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium in Charleston, South Carolina, with kickoff at 2:00 pm ET on October 2, 2021.

The game will be streamed on ESPN+ and televised on the following TV stations:

  • ECBD (Charleston, SC)
  • WHDF (Huntsville/Florence, AL)
  • WMUB (Macon, GA)
  • WMYT (Charlotte, NC)
  • WWCW (Lynchburg/Roanoke, VA)
  • WYCW (Greenville, SC/Spartanburg, SC/Asheville, NC).

Pete Yanity will handle play-by-play, while Jay Sonnhalter supplies the analysis.

The contest can be heard on radio via The Citadel Sports Network. WQNT-1450 AM [audio link], originating in Charleston, will be the flagship station. Other stations carrying the game include WQXL in Columbia (100.7 FM/1470 AM) and WDXY in Sumter (105.9 FM/1240 AM).

Luke Mauro (the “Voice of the Bulldogs”) calls the action alongside analyst Lee Glaze.

Roster review:

– Of the 114 players on The Citadel’s online roster, 62 are from South Carolina. Other states represented: Georgia (18 players), Florida (11), North Carolina (9), Virginia (5), Alabama (2), Texas (2), and one each from New York, Oklahoma, Ohio, and Tennessee.

Tight end Hayden Williamson played his high school football in Okinawa, Japan.

– VMI has 108 players on its online roster. Of those, 74 are from Virginia. As mentioned in an article linked above, 25 of those players are from the Richmond metropolitan area.

Other states represented on the Keydets’ squad: North Carolina (8 players), Pennsylvania (4), Maryland (3), Alabama (2), Georgia (2), New Jersey (2), South Carolina (2), Tennessee (2), West Virginia (2), and one each from Arizona, Florida, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Texas, and Ohio.

Defensive lineman Terrell Jackson is from Washington, DC.

While only four VMI players are from Pennsylvania, it should be noted that they include quarterback Seth Morgan and star wideout Jakob Herres. Another wide receiver from the Keystone State, sophomore Julio DaSilva, is on the two-deep as well.

Potential area code confusion: 

From the aforementioned story in The Richmond Times-Dispatch:

Keydets from the Richmond area, according to [running back Korey Bridy], will occasionally identify their place of origin by simply saying, “We’re from the four,” as in the 804, the area code for Virginia’s capital.

Charleston, SC is located in the 803 area code. Lexington, Virginia has an area code of 540.

Stats of interest for The Citadel, VMI, and the rest of the SoCon. A few notes:

  • I include sacks in passing yardage statistics rather than rushing, like the NFL (but unlike the official NCAA stats). Hence the “adjusted” tag.
  • There are 128 FCS teams. Five of them are “transitional” schools, but all of them are playing FCS schedules and thus are included in the overall national rankings here. The NCAA separates their stats from the rest of the subdivision for some bizarre reason, but I do not. For the record, the five schools in question are Dixie State, Merrimack, North Alabama, St. Thomas, and Tarleton State.
  • All of these statistics include games played inside and outside the division (in other words, FBS and D2 games are part of the mix). Given that teams have only played three or four games so far this season, this is definitely something to keep in mind.

First, offensive statistics:

Team Yds/Play Rank Adjusted Yds/Rush Rank Adjusted Yds/PA Rank
The Citadel      5.58 50      5.09 39      7.61 19
VMI      5.01 79      5.06 41      4.96 98
Chattanooga      4.54 99      4.68 55      4.36 115
ETSU      6.82 10      6.05 9      8.08 11
Furman      4.79 86      3.27 119      6.63 50
Mercer      6.82 11      6.03 11      8.47 9
Samford      5.94 32      4.18 77      6.94 33
WCU      5.38 60      5.53 23      5.28 86
Wofford      5.48 56      5.08 40      6.14 59

 

Team 3D conv rate Rank RZ TD% Rank TFL allowed/play Rank % Rush plays Rank
The Citadel 43.6% 33 66.7% 51           8.2% 54   80.4% 3
VMI 38.8% 55 78.6% 22           9.1% 69   47.1% 83
Chattanooga 32.6% 86 68.4% 40           7.9% 42   54.7% 40
ETSU 47.1% 15 54.5% 78           5.2% 5   61.8% 18
Furman 39.7% 50 30.0% T121           8.5% 60   53.4% 47
Mercer 51.4% 6 81.8% 15           6.9% 24   67.5% 8
Samford 46.2% 23 65.2% 52           9.0% 67   36.2% 119
WCU 38.8% 54 47.1% 96           6.4% 18   39.5% 107
Wofford 32.5% 87 50.0% T86           6.4% 17   63.1% 15

One oddity in the rankings is that The Citadel is 50th nationally in yards per play despite ranking higher in both of the component stats (yards per rush and yards per pass attempt). That is largely due to the Bulldogs’ 80.4% rush rate; only Davidson and Kennesaw State have run the ball more on a per-play basis.

To further explain: as a group, FCS teams have averaged 5.34 yards per play through September. That number includes 4.64 yards per rush and 6.03 yards per pass attempt, a differential of 1.39 yards. 

However, the overall run/pass play ratio for FCS outfits is almost exactly a 50-50 proposition (50.0015%, favoring pass plays ever so slightly). The Citadel gets “passed” (quite literally) in the yards per play category by teams that throw the ball more often — which, as can be seen, is almost every team in the subdivision.

South Carolina State ranks 49th nationally in yards per play (5.59), one spot ahead of The Citadel, despite ranking behind Charleston’s Bulldogs in both yards per rush and yards per pass attempt. That is because Buddy Pough’s squad has a much more balanced run/pass ratio (rushing on 46.5% of its plays from scrimmage).

There are four FCS teams currently averaging more than 7.5 yards per play. It will not surprise anyone to learn that they are North Dakota State, South Dakota State, Eastern Washington, and James Madison. 

South Dakota State leads the nation in adjusted yards per pass attempt (10.23), while NDSU currently is at the top of the adjusted yards per rush category (8.56).

The bottom five in yards per play: Grambling State (2.50, lowest in FCS), Bucknell, Lehigh, Mississippi Valley State, and LIU.

Looking at SoCon teams, it is clear that to date ETSU and Mercer have had the conference’s most efficient offenses, with good-to-excellent numbers across the board. The Buccaneers could stand some improvement in the red zone, but other than that there can be no complaints from the fans of those teams — not on offense, anyway.

Just for clarification, East Tennessee State ranks just ahead of Mercer in yards per play (6.824 to 6.823). The extra decimal place does not appear on the chart above.

I included a column for tackles for loss on a per-play basis, because I thought it was interesting. From The Citadel’s perspective, a tackle for loss on 8.2% of all offensive plays from scrimmage is not really acceptable. Negative plays are drive killers, particularly for offenses that do not produce a lot of big plays.

Defensive numbers:

Team Yds/Play Rank Adjusted Yds/Rush Rank Adjusted Yds/PA Rank
The Citadel      6.96 118      5.56 102      8.52 114
VMI      5.92 79      5.67 106      6.39 64
Chattanooga      4.89 32      4.07 27      5.53 31
ETSU      4.81 27      4.05 25      5.22 22
Furman      5.56 55      4.63 53      6.52 68
Mercer      4.38 14      3.46 12      5.23 23
Samford      5.36 43      5.01 74      5.68 37
WCU      7.02 120      5.72 108      8.45 113
Wofford      5.76 69      5.64 105      5.92 41

 

Team 3D conv rate Rank RZ TD rate Rank TFL/play Rank % Rush plays vs Rank
The Citadel 50.0% 120 55.6% 38      4.7% 125     52.6% 56
VMI 47.8% 112 64.3% 68      6.0% 112     65.9% 2
Chattanooga 33.3% 32 57.1% 41    10.9% 29     44.3% 107
ETSU 40.3% 76 53.3% 29      8.0% 76     35.0% 124
Furman 40.4% 77 72.7% 91      7.4% 92     50.8% 67
Mercer 40.0% 74 55.6% 36      7.0% 98     47.8% 85
Samford 43.6% 91 66.7% 76      6.5% 106     48.6% 80
WCU 45.1% 102 88.0% 122      8.2% 73     52.4% 59
Wofford 43.6% 93 50.0% 26      6.4% 107     55.9% 37

 

Chattanooga, East Tennessee State, and Mercer have the best defensive statistics in the conference through September. The SoCon as a whole has struggled on this side of the ball — take a look at those third down conversion against rates, yeesh. Getting off the field on third down has been a major problem for most of the league’s teams. 

I included the rushing play percentage category for defense, even though obviously that is opponent-driven for the most part. It is a bit curious that VMI has been rushed against (on a per-play basis) more than any FCS team except for Bucknell.  

These numbers for The Citadel will not shock any Bulldogs fan who has been watching the games. The sole highlight, I suppose, is that The Citadel’s defense has done a decent job in the Red Zone. Opponents have largely rushed and passed against the Bulldogs with impunity.

Princeton leads FCS in yards per play allowed, at 2.61 (albeit while only playing two games, against the less-than-stellar competition of Lehigh and Stetson). James Madison and North Dakota State rank second and third. Deion Sanders’ Jackson State squad is fourth, just ahead of Prairie View A&M.

The bottom five: LIU (allowing 8.42 yards per play, worst in the subdivision), Texas Southern, Southern Utah, Central Connecticut State, and Southeast Missouri State.

To be fair to LIU, it has played three games thus far, and all three have been against FBS opponents (FIU, West Virginia, and Miami of Ohio). The Sharks get a well-deserved break this weekend before resuming their season next Saturday against St. Francis (PA).

Some miscellaneous stats:

Team TO margin/gm Rank TOP Rank Penalty yds/gm Rank Net punting Rank
The Citadel -0.33 T76 31:17 51 40.00 26 40.93 14
VMI -0.50 T81 27:52 101 64.00 T94 38.50 31
Chattanooga 0.67 T34 32:34 26 50.00 T49 40.25 17
ETSU 1.25 T19 33:06 18 63.75 93 36.43 57
Furman 0.00 T57 31:27 45 48.75 42 34.27 83
Mercer -0.33 T76 31:18 50 31.33 9 26.17 123
Samford 0.25 T51 24:35 125 50.25 54 38.79 28
WCU -0.75 T90 30:59 56 53.25 T65 34.91 72
Wofford 0.00 T57 29:48 73 38.00 19 33.80 93

Apologies for the formatting of that table; I realize it is even clunkier than usual.

It is a little strange to see The Citadel not near or at the top in terms of time of possession, but even stranger that Wofford is averaging under 30 minutes TOP per contest.

A few FCS national leaders in each category:

  • Turnover margin: Campbell leads (2.67 per game), a possible benefit of having played Presbyterian. Others in the top five: UC Davis, James Madison, Northern Iowa, and Alcorn State. Brown and the aforementioned Blue Hose are the bottom two, with the Bears enduring a -3 TO margin/game through two contests.
  • Time of possession: Yale is dominating this stat, averaging 37:42 TOP, though the Elis have only played two games. Also in the top five: Central Connecticut State, Princeton, Kennesaw State, and Butler. On the other end of the spectrum, Grambling State is averaging just 22:44 TOP per game and thus ranks last.
  • Penalty yards per game: New Hampshire is averaging only 20.75 penalty yards per game, the cleanest number in the subdivision. Other teams avoiding yellow flags include Bucknell, Howard, Delaware, and Idaho State. Only one team is averaging more than 100 yards per game in penalties — Yale. As already mentioned, that school has played just two games thus far.
  • Net punting: Idaho State has a net punting average of 46.07, which leads the nation, ahead of Montana, Missouri State, Davidson, and Illinois State. You only get one guess as to which team is in last place, with a net punting average of just 9.0. Yep, Presbyterian. No wonder Kevin Kelley doesn’t want to punt. (The Blue Hose have only punted twice.)

We are just 48 hours from kickoff for The Military Classic of the South. The coveted Silver Shako will be at stake, and a sellout crowd celebrating Parents’ Weekend will be watching the action.

Among the spectators, by the way, will be a contingent of about 500 Keydets, including VMI’s band. The atmosphere should be outstanding; I’m hoping the game will be as well.

I can’t wait for Saturday.

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