College Football Week 9, 2021: Thursday notes and observations

On Monday, I wrote about statistics — lots and lots of statistics, for The Citadel, Mercer, and the FCS in general

The Brent Thompson Show (10/27/21)

The Citadel’s game notes for the contest against Mercer

Mercer’s game notes for its matchup versus The Citadel

SoCon weekly release

Hey, basketball season is right around the corner — and The Citadel’s Hayden Brown is the SoCon preseason player of the year

Broadcast information

Mercer at The Citadel, to be played on Sansom Field at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium in Charleston, South Carolina, with kickoff at 2:00 pm ET on October 30, 2021.

The game will be streamed on ESPN+. Play-by-play will be handled by Dave Weinstein, while Jason Kempf supplies the analysis. Anna Witte is the sideline reporter.

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. 

“Live Stats” for the game

Roster review:

–  Of the 112 players on The Citadel’s online roster, 61 are from South Carolina. Other states represented: Georgia (18 players), Florida (11), North Carolina (9), Virginia (4), 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.

– There are 99 players on Mercer’s online roster. Of those, 73 are from Georgia, the highest concentration of players from one state on any SoCon squad. The remaining Bears are from the following states: Florida (6 players), North Carolina (5), Alabama (4), South Carolina (3), Tennessee (2), and one each from California, Hawai’i, Ohio, Texas, and Virginia.

Freshman outside linebacker Emil Hovde is from Gothenburg, Sweden.

The three Palmetto State products on Mercer’s roster are offensive lineman Ni Mansell, a freshman from Anderson who played at Westside High School; defensive lineman Tre Lanham, a graduate student from Edgefield who began his career at Presbyterian; and edge rusher Jordan Williams, a Columbia native. Williams, of course, played for The Citadel as an undergraduate.

Lanham and Williams are two of fifteen transfers on Mercer’s team. Notably, all of them transferred in from four-year colleges and universities. Two of them did attend junior colleges, but they subsequently went to another four-year school before arriving in Macon.

This is Hall of Fame Weekend at The Citadel. There are six enshrinees this year, including four former football players — Carlos Avalos, Brian Baima, Ralph Ferguson, and honorary inductee Al Kennickell. The other members of the 2021 class are baseball player Bo Betchman and longtime supporter Julian Frasier.

FCS lines are hard to come by these days. If they pop up before Saturday, I’ll probably make a quick post. If I think of anything else worth mentioning, I’ll throw that in too.

College Football Week 9, 2021: Monday notes and observations

Today’s post is exclusively focused on statistics. Lots and lots of statistics… 

First, my working spreadsheet, which includes a myriad of on-field stats along with a tab for attendance: FCS statistics through games of October 23, 2021

Attendance

Jackson State continues to lead FCS in attendance, averaging 37,886 fans per game in three home contests. Montana, James Madison, Montana State, and Jacksonville State round out the top five.

Furman, Western Carolina, and The Citadel rank 25-26-27 in FCS attendance, with the Bulldogs drawing an average of 9,879 fans in their four appearances at Johnson Hagood Stadium. ETSU ranks 30th, while Mercer is 39th.

The average attendance for an FCS home game so far this season is 7,529. 

Norfolk State is 10th nationally in home attendance, averaging 15,364 in two contests, including a Homecoming game against Virginia University of Lynchburg (more on the Dragons later in the week). That matchup versus VUL drew 16,716 spectators, a total that was not enough as far as NSU head coach Dawson Odums was concerned:

As far as quotes about attendance go, that one is right at the top…

I’ll be comparing the on-field numbers for The Citadel and Mercer while also surveying the FCS landscape from a statistical perspective. As always, keep in mind there are 128 teams in FCS.

Offense

– Southeastern Louisiana is averaging .651 points per play, tops in FCS. The next best four teams are (in order) South Dakota State, Eastern Washington, Davidson, and Sam Houston State.

Mercer is 15th (.501). The Citadel is 68th (.368).

The FCS average is .378 points per offensive play. Lehigh, at .092, is last in the subdivision, behind Bucknell, Morgan State, LIU, and Cal Poly.

– Mercer is 10th nationally in offensive yards per play (6.43), while The Citadel is 66th (5.38). The national average for FCS offenses is 5.39.

Eastern Washington leads FCS in yards per play, at 7.54, followed by Southeastern Louisiana, South Dakota State, Nicholls State, and Fordham. East Tennessee State is 12th.

In 218th and last place in the subdivision is Grambling State (3.27), with the rest of the bottom five consisting of Bucknell, Lehigh, Houston Baptist, and Wagner.

– Nicholls State is the national leader in adjusted yards per rush (note: “adjusted” means sacks are included in passing totals, not rushing, unlike the NCAA’s official stats). The Colonels are averaging 6.49 yards per tote. Others finding success on the ground include South Dakota State, North Dakota State, Abilene Christian, and Holy Cross. ETSU is 9th, while Mercer is 14th (5.59). The Citadel is 54th (4.86). The average across FCS is 4.74.

Georgetown has the worst adjusted yards per rush (2.88). Also struggling in this category: Robert Morris, Alabama State, Cal Poly, and Grambling State.

– Davidson is averaging 10.32 adjusted yards per pass attempt, tops in FCS. It should be noted that the Wildcats have thrown the fewest passes in the subdivision (65). However, Davidson is making those throws count, averaging 17.1 yards per completion (also best in FCS) while completing a very solid 64.6% of its attempts (with 9 TDs/4 INTs). As a result, Scott Abell’s squad also leads the nation in adjusted pass efficiency.

Other teams with outstanding Y/PA numbers include Eastern Washington, Southeastern Louisiana, Prairie View A&M, and Norfolk State. Mercer (7th) and The Citadel (13th) also fare well.

The bottom five: Lehigh (last), Grambling State, Bucknell, Houston Baptist, and Morgan State.

– One way to have success throwing the football is to avoid being sacked!

North Dakota’s quarterbacks have only been sacked three times this season, while attempting 263 pass attempts. UND’s 1.1% sack rate against leads FCS. Prairie View A&M is second, followed by Cornell, Furman, and Dayton. Samford is 8th, while Chattanooga is 12th.

Mercer is 73rd in sack rate against, close to the national average of 6.4%, while The Citadel is 117th (11.1%). That is a very poor stat for the Bulldogs. Lamar has the worst sack rate against (14.7%).

– Davidson runs the football on 83.3% of its offensive plays from scrimmage, the most in FCS. Kennesaw State, The Citadel, North Dakota State, and Lamar are also in the top 5, while Wofford is 7th and Mercer is 8th (64.0%). Three other SoCon outfits (Chattanooga, ETSU, and Furman) are in the top 30. 

Conversely, Presbyterian rushes the ball on a per-play basis less than any other team (28.4%). Other pass-happy squads include Western Illinois, Houston Baptist, Incarnate Word, and Dixie State.

– Southeastern Louisiana has an FCS-best 59.52% third down conversion rate, ahead of Davidson, Eastern Washington, Merrimack, and Brown. East Tennessee State is 6th, and Mercer is 14th (45.65%). The Citadel ranks 29th overall, at 42.57%. The average for FCS teams is 37.1%.

Lehigh is last in offensive third down conversion rate, at 19.54% (yes, the Mountain Hawks have the nation’s worst offense). Other teams that can’t put together consistent drives: Wagner, Eastern Illinois, New Hampshire, and Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

– Chattanooga is the only FCS team to have successfully converted all of its fourth-down attempts. Of course, the Mocs have only gone for it three times, tied for the fewest in the country. Kennesaw State is 15-for-17 (88.24%), second-best (and extremely impressive and efficient when considering volume and success rate).

Mercer is tied for 12th nationally (71.43%), albeit on only seven tries. The Citadel is tied for 71st (44.00%). The Bulldogs have attempted 25 fourth down conversions, 4th-most in the subdivision.

Presbyterian, as you would probably guess, is far and away the leader in fourth-down tries, with 49 — but the Blue Hose have only converted 17 times (34.69%). Other teams that have been more than willing to go for it on fourth down include Stetson (29 attempts), Central Connecticut State (28), and Monmouth (24).

Lehigh made 2 of 3 fourth-down conversion tries last week, the first two successful attempts for LU all season. The Mountain Hawks are now 2 for 13 on fourth down overall.

– Presbyterian naturally has the nation’s highest go rate (92.5%), since the Blue Hose have only punted four times all season and are the only team in FCS not to attempt a field goal. Stetson is second in this category (55.8%), followed by Davidson, Merrimack, and Southeastern Louisiana. The Citadel is 6th (43.9%).

Mercer (15.2%, 99th overall) is among the more conservative outfits in the subdivision, but there are several even less inclined to go for it. Eastern Kentucky has a go rate of only 5.5%, while Chattanooga is second-lowest (5.6%). Montana State, Grambling State, and Bobby Petrino’s Missouri State squad also prefer punting and field goal kicking, when given the choice.

– Speaking of field goal kicking, Ethan Ratke of James Madison leads FCS in field goals made (18) and attempted (20). Ratke now has 90 career field goals, most all-time in FCS. Last week, he made five FGs in JMU’s 22-10 victory over Delaware.

Also worth mentioning: Duquesne has the most field goals without a miss (14) in the subdivision right now, despite having used four different kickers.

As mentioned earlier, Presbyterian has not attempted a field goal. Bucknell, Butler, Merrimack, and Davidson are all 1 for 2 on FG tries. 

Teams struggling to put the ball through the uprights: Morgan State is 1 for 8, Campbell is 2 for 10, and Cal Poly is 3 for 10. On average, FCS kickers are converting attempts at a 67.6% clip.

– By my numbers, Central Arkansas currently has the nation’s most effective Red Zone offense, at 6.22 estimated points per Red Zone possession (my invented acronym: EPRP). UCA has a TD rate of 87.5%. The rest of the top five: Holy Cross, Southeastern Louisiana, Youngstown State, and Western Illinois.

VMI is the highest-ranked SoCon offense, at 22nd. The Citadel is 38th (5.15 EPRP), with a TD rate of 72.0%), while Mercer is 53rd (4.96 EPRP, TD rate of 69.2%). The national average is 4.76 EPRP (60.1% TD rate). 

The least efficient Red Zone offenses: Lehigh, Northwestern State, LIU, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, and Cal Poly.

– Samford has the nation’s fastest offense, at 18.38 seconds per offensive play. It is a good thing, too, as SU is last in FCS in average time of possession (23:15). Other teams lining up in a hurry to snap the football: Presbyterian, Charleston Southern, Eastern Washington, and Austin Peay. 

Western Carolina is 11th-fastest, VMI 23rd, Mercer 51st (27.11 seconds/play), and The Citadel 57th (27.19).

The FCS average is 27.0 seconds per play. The slowest offense? Delaware State (32.85).

– Time of possession isn’t strictly about offense, but I’ll stick this paragraph here.

Alcorn State is the national leader in average time of possession (35:24), followed by Kennesaw State, Central Connecticut State, Merrimack, and Sacramento State. ETSU is 10th, Chattanooga 14th. The Citadel is 32nd (31:51), while Mercer is 55th (30:40).

Defense

– North Dakota State is the national leader in points allowed per play, at just .0158 (the Bison give up just 9.0 points per game). Montana State is just behind NDSU (0.159), followed by Harvard, Jackson State, and Montana.

ETSU is 21st. Mercer is 52nd (.377), while The Citadel is 111th (.522).

– Jackson State leads FCS in yards allowed per play (3.63), with James Madison, Princeton, Harvard, and Prairie View A&M also in the top five. Chattanooga is 26th, while Mercer is 28th (4.89). The Citadel is 121st, at 6.73 yards allowed per play; the FCS average for defenses is 5.56.

Southern Utah is allowing 7.53 yards per play, worst in the subdivision. The bottom five also includes Youngstown State, Hampton, LIU, and Western Illinois.

– James Madison is tops in adjusted yards allowed per rush, at 2.67, ahead of Princeton, Harvard, Sam Houston State, and Villanova.

Chattanooga leads the SoCon in this category, at 27th. Mercer is one spot behind the Mocs at 28th (4.27). The Citadel is 102nd (5.47). The subdivision defensive average is 4.85.

Worst in FCS: Lamar (6.66, ooh), Youngstown State, Alabama A&M, and Western Illinois.

Tangent

Princeton and Harvard played each other last week, a five-OT marathon that turned into a complete officiating debacle — one that might have handed the Ivy League title to the Tigers. While there are plenty of jokes that could be made about not feeling sorry for Harvard, I do feel badly for the Crimson players. By all rights, they won that game, only to have it taken away by a terrible decision, and one that wasn’t of the in-the-moment variety, either. 

One other thing: as indicated by the box score, the game was a bit of a train wreck even before the overtime periods. To be perfectly honest, Princeton and Harvard helped each other out a lot when it comes to their defensive statistics.

– Jackson State’s defense is also outstanding in adjusted yards per pass, leading the way at 3.61 yards allowed per pass play. That stat includes sack yardage, and the Tigers have been really good at sacking the quarterback this season (second in sack rate nationally behind North Dakota State).

Prairie View A&M is second in adjusted yards per pass allowed, ahead of Princeton, Sacred Heart, and Harvard. Chattanooga is 23rd, ETSU 24th. Mercer is 34th (5.59), while The Citadel is 123rd (8.26), just outside the bottom five.

The five teams with more yards per pass allowed than the Bulldogs: Southern Utah (an FCS-worst 9.63), Central Connecticut State, LIU, Hampton, and Brown.

– The teams that are best at making sure the quarterback goes down, and goes down hard, are NDSU (12.6% sack rate) and Jackson State, followed by Stephen F. Austin, Harvard, and Florida A&M. The Citadel is just 107th nationally (4.3%), but Mercer is actually worse (122nd, 3.2%). The national average for sack rate is 6.3%. 

Butler (2.1%, last), Idaho State, Drake, Maine, and VMI bring up in the rear in this category.

– Yale has the nation’s best defensive third down conversion rate, at 21.3%. James Madison, North Dakota State, Florida A&M, and Prairie View A&M are all in the top five; Chattanooga is 8th.

Mercer is 70th (38.8%). The Citadel is 111th (46.5%). The average across the subdivision is 38.0%. 

Southern Utah is allowing third down conversions at a rate of 54.2%, worst in FCS. Other defenses having trouble getting off the field: Jacksonville State, LIU, Illinois State, and Wofford.

– So far this season, Furman’s defense has faced the most fourth down conversion attempts (6) without allowing a first down. Richmond is also perfect in this department (0 for 5). St. Thomas has given up just 1 of 10 fourth down tries against it, while Harvard has only surrendered 2 of 17.

The Citadel is tied for 79th (4 of 7, 57.1%). Mercer is tied for 125th (10 of 12, 83.3%). Bethune-Cookman has allowed 11 of 12; the national average is basically a 50-50 proposition (49.97%).

Among teams that have not played Presbyterian, the one to have faced the most fourth down attempts against it is William and Mary (24 tries by its opponents, 13 of which have succeeded).

– Havoc Rate

Jackson State is, not surprisingly, #1 in this key stat (24.84%). Stephen F. Austin, James Madison, Florida A&M, and Alabama State are the other schools in the top tive.

Chattanooga is 19th, while ETSU is 41st and Mercer is 59th (15.85%). The Citadel is fifth-worst (10.71%), ahead of only Wofford, LIU, Illinois State, and Southern Utah (at the bottom with a Havoc Rate of 9.88%).

– Lafayette is the standard-bearer in FCS for rate of passes defensed (21.51%). Others high on the list: Eastern Kentucky, Stephen F. Austin, Alabama State, and Penn. VMI is 11th.

Morgan State is last in PD rate (6.64%), with Houston Baptist, Brown, Southern Utah, and Wagner at the bottom of the table.

Mercer is 54th in passes defensed (14.69%). The Citadel is 102nd (11.88%). 

– Now, here is something vaguely mind-blowing. Morgan State, despite being last nationally in rate of passes defensed, has more interceptions this season than Lafayette (7 to 5). How is that possible?

Well, it is possible because Morgan State has an interception-to-PD rate of exactly 50%, which is just staggering. That is the highest rate in the country, and by quite a lot (Montana at 40.0% is second).

Meanwhile, Lafayette’s INT/PD rate is just 12.5%, one of the lowest marks in FCS. The Leopards have been unlucky. In a typical season, a little over one in every five passes defensed is intercepted (and that is true this year as well; the FCS national average is 20.76%). 

Lafayette has a 2-5 record, but two of those losses could easily have been victories — close defeats at the hands of New Hampshire and Fordham. In those two games, the Leopards broke up 16 total passes, but did not have any interceptions. Just a pick here or there in either contest might have been the difference.

A few SoCon teams have been fortunate in this respect. Chattanooga’s INT/PD rate is 7th nationally, while Furman’s rate is 8th and Mercer 15th. The Citadel is 62nd (20.83%), picking off exactly as many passes as would be expected given its PD rate.

The worst INT/PD rate belongs to Lehigh (3.85%), because of course it does.

– Holy Cross has intercepted a pass every 16.0 opponent attempts, tops in FCS. St. Thomas, Chattanooga, Illinois State, and Villanova are the other teams in the top five. Mercer is 18th nationally (23.44), while The Citadel is 78th (40.4).

The bottom five: Lehigh (which has one interception this season, having faced 206 opponent throws), Howard, Wofford, Brown, and Tennessee Tech.

– By my numbers, Harvard has the nation’s best Red Zone defense, with an EPRP allowed of 2.44 and an opponent TD rate of just 18.8%. Dartmouth, North Dakota State, Kennesaw State, and Villanova also get the job done in this area.

Chattanooga is 11th in FCS, while The Citadel is 79th. Mercer is 119th, one of the Bears’ major weaknesses.

Western Carolina has an EPRP allowed of 6.3 (worst in the subdivision). Georgetown, Stetson, Lamar, and Brown have also been pliable defensively in the Red Zone.

Miscellaneous

– Montana continues to set the pace in net punting (44.76). The rest of the top five: Missouri State, Idaho State, The Citadel (fourth at 42.07), and Southern Illinois.

Mercer is 117th in net punting (31.47). The worst punting team in the country is the one that punts the least — Presbyterian is averaging 15.5 net yards for its four punts. The national average is 35.77.

– Bucknell is averaging 29.71 penalty yards per game, fewest in FCS. Other top squads at avoiding yellow flags: Princeton, Delaware, Wofford, and New Hampshire. Furman has the 6th-fewest penalty yards per contest. Mercer ranks 13th (38.43), and The Citadel 43rd (49.38).

The most penalized team, in terms of yardage, is Florida A&M (92.71). Incidentally, the six teams that have the most penalty yards assessed against them per game have a combined record of 28-13.

– Turnover margin: Alcorn State (+1.57 per game) is ranked first in FCS. Montana State is second, followed by Campbell, Chattanooga, and Harvard.

The Citadel is tied for 54th, while Mercer is tied for 94th. The worst turnover margin in the subdivision belongs to Presbyterian.

I’ve have more to say about The Citadel later in the week…

College Football Week 8, 2021: Saturday notes and observations

Tuesday notes and observations (discussion of future non-conference schedules, including a couple of matchups not “officially” released yet)

Wednesday notes and observations (lots of statistical comparisons between WCU and The Citadel, along with a look at FCS in general from a stats perspective)

Thursday notes and observations (roster review, broadcast information, etc.)

The Post and Courier game preview

This is mostly just a quick post on gameday to list the lines…

Also, there is this. From The Citadel’s game notes:

On this date… [October 23]

In 1976, The Citadel went on the road and scored the first 26 points on the way to a 26-7 road victory over Air Force. The Bulldogs took advantage of a short field to take the lead on a three-yard touchdown run from Andrew Johnson. Paul Tanguay kicked field goals of 47 and 37 yards around a six-yard touchdown pass from Mary Crosby to Al Major. Ralph Ferguson put the game away in the fourth quarter with a 31-yard interception return for a touchdown.

I actually wrote about this game several years ago. I’ve always felt it was a bit underrated as a notable victory by the Bulldogs. Here is a fairly extensive review of the contest:

The Citadel 26, Air Force 7

By the way, if you’re into old games (and this one came with the AFA coach’s show highlight package, which was terrific), I highly recommend checking out The Citadel Football Association’s list of available DVDs:

Link

Per one source that deals in such matters, The Citadel is a 10-point favorite over Western Carolina. The over/under is 66½.

That line is about what it “should” be, according to my metrics. As for the over/under, that’s a lot of points — but my numbers indicate the potential for an even higher-scoring contest.

Other SoCon lines (VMI is off this week):

  • Chattanooga is a 3-point favorite at Samford (over/under of 64)
  • ETSU is a 1½-point favorite at Furman (over/under of 45)
  • Mercer is a 7-point favorite over Wofford (over/under of 45½)

Those three lines accurately reflect the schools’ respective power ratings (well, at least my power ratings).

I am experimenting with a totals calculator, beginning this week, and it suggests that ETSU-Furman might be lower-scoring than that over/under number. We shall see. I am not overly confident in my projections.

Other lines/totals in FCS of some interest:

  • Dayton is a 1½-point favorite at Valparaiso; the Flyers should be more heavily favored
  • James Madison is a 14-point favorite at Delaware; the power ratings suggest the future Sun Belt program should be an 18-to-20 point favorite
  • Kennesaw State is a 1-point favorite at Campbell; my numbers really like the Owls in that matchup

That is about it this week. The actual lines dovetailed rather well with the power ratings, all things considered.

Some over/unders that were flagged on my calculator:

  • LIU-Central Connecticut State (51½); Georgetown-Bucknell (45½); North Carolina Central-Morgan State (37½) — the system suggested the over is definitely in play for those three games
  • Northern Iowa-South Dakota State (49½); James Madison-Delaware (48½); Missouri State-North Dakota State (48½); Rhode Island-Villanova (50½); Southeastern Louisiana-Northwestern State (73½); Weber State-Eastern Washington (63½); Prairie View A&M-Southern (53½) — all of those contests are under plays

Again, this is a first-week experiment that I expect to go very badly. As always, this exercise is for recreational purposes only; I’m not putting any money on any of these games.

Okay, it’s time for football…

College Football Week 8, 2021: Thursday notes and observations

The Citadel’s game notes for the WCU game

Western Carolina’s game notes for its game versus The Citadel

SoCon weekly release

The Brent Thompson Show (10/20/21)

Tuesday notes and observations: this post focuses on The Citadel’s future non-conference football schedules, including a rather curious opponent on the 2022 slate

Wednesday notes and observations: a comparison of The Citadel’s and Western Carolina’s statistics for this season, followed by an in-depth look at FCS stats from a national perspective (including a link to my working spreadsheet for FCS statistics)

Broadcast information

Western Carolina at The Citadel, to be played on Sansom Field at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium in Charleston, South Carolina, with kickoff at 2:00 pm ET on October 23, 2021.

The game will be streamed on ESPN+. Play-by-play will be handled by Kevin Fitzgerald, while Jason Kempf 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.

“Live Stats” for the game

An article in The Post and Courier co-authored by Jeff Hartsell describes some of the issues current high school football players are having as they strive to receive college scholarships. It includes quotes from Brent Thompson, who discussed the situation in some detail during his Monday press conference.

Thompson noted that The Citadel has about 20 offers out right now to high school players, a drop of 80% from last season — and that is despite being, as the coach pointed out, “a high school recruiting program”. Other schools more inclined to take undergraduate transfers will likely offer (and ultimately sign) even fewer prep prospects.

The Bulldogs’ head coach was empathetic to the plight of the high schoolers: “It’s tough, I don’t really like where things are right now.”

Roster review:

–  Of the 112 players on The Citadel’s online roster, 61 are from South Carolina. Other states represented: Georgia (18 players), Florida (11), North Carolina (9), Virginia (4), 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.

– There are 113 players on Western Carolina’s online roster. Of those, 44 are from North Carolina. Others in the squad hail from the following states: South Carolina (24 players), Georgia (19), Florida (9), Alabama (5), Pennsylvania (3), Tennessee (3), Virginia (2), and one each from Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio.

New head coach Kerwin Bell has had to rebuild WCU’s roster on the fly, so the speak, and has brought in quite a few transfers to do so. There are 24 players who arrived in Cullowhee via other four-year schools, and 7 others who transferred into the program from junior colleges. Nineteen of those transfers are on Western Carolina’s two-deep.

Seven of those transfers began their collegiate careers at either Tusculum or Valdosta State. Offensive coordinator Kade Bell previously served as OC at both of those schools (2016-18 at Valdosta State, and 2020 at Tusculum; he spent the 2019 campaign as an analyst at South Florida).

Kerwin Bell was the head coach at Valdosta State during the three seasons his son was the offensive coordinator at that school; in his third and final season, he led the Blazers to a 14-0 record and the Division II national championship.

Rogan Wells played for the Bells at Valdosta State, and then transferred to Tusculum for the 2021 spring season. Wells had a glittering career at quarterback for Valdosta State, fashioning a 28-3 record as a starter (including the aforementioned national title).

However, he did not play in WCU’s last game, a 34-24 loss at Mercer two weeks ago due to injury. If Wells is not ready by Saturday, Carlos Davis (who started against the Bears) will be the QB against The Citadel. Davis came to WCU from East Mississippi Community College.

  • Wells’ stat line: 104 for 199 (52.3%), averaging 5.60 yards per attempt, with 6 TD passes and 9 interceptions
  • Davis’ stat line: 39 for 66 (59.1%), averaging 7.32 yards per attempt, with 3 TD passes and 4 interceptions

Western Carolina’s adjusted yards per pass play (which includes sacks) is 5.39; Catamount QBs have been sacked 16 times. All told, 59.4% of WCU’s offensive plays have been passes. The Catamounts average 44.3 pass attempts per game, sixth-most in FCS. 

WCU quarterbacks have thrown thirteen interceptions, tied with Valparaiso for third-most in the country, behind only Presbyterian and Dixie State. Western Carolina is the 10th-fastest offense in the subdivision (22.53 seconds per offensive play). 

I mentioned most of the pertinent stats for Western Carolina’s defense in the Wednesday post, but I did want to note that WCU’s defensive Havoc Rate is 13.96%, which is below average but actually ahead of several SoCon squads (including The Citadel’s). As discussed, league defenses have really struggled to produce disruptive and negative plays this season.

I might have one more post before kickoff on Saturday. I do not yet have the lines for FCS games this weekend; if I get the numbers in time, I’ll probably write something about them.

College Football Week 8, 2021: Wednesday notes and observations

The Citadel’s game notes for the Western Carolina matchup

Tuesday notes and observations, which mainly consists of a review of The Citadel’s future non-conference football schedules, with additional information included

The weather forecast for Saturday in Charleston, per the National Weather Service: sunny, with a high near 79°

Link to my working spreadsheet for FCS statistics (through October 16)

Okay, some comparisons between The Citadel and Western Carolina. As always, keep in mind there are 128 FCS teams.

Also, a word on definitions: adjusted yards per rush and adjusted yards per pass are averages with sack yardage included in the passing totals, rather than the rushing numbers. I believe these more accurately reflect a team’s ability on the ground and through the air, both offensively and defensively.

I also calculate Red Zone proficiency by estimated points per Red Zone possession, rather than scoring rate. All of that is included in the spreadsheet.

The Citadel’s offense vs. Western Carolina’s defense

  • The Citadel’s offense is 60th in yards per play (5.45), while Western Carolina’s defense is 120th in yards per play allowed (6.68).
  • The Bulldogs are 40th in adjusted yards per rush (5.09), while WCU is 117th in adjusted rush yards allowed (5.83).
  • The Citadel has an adjusted yards per pass on offense of 6.94, which ranks 40th nationally; however, it is worth noting that the Bulldogs have attempted 71 passes, third-fewest in FCS. The Catamounts’ D ranks 113th in adjusted yards allowed per pass (7.74).
  • On offense, the Bulldogs have run the ball 80.8% of the time, the 3rd-highest rate nationally (behind Davidson and Kennesaw State, and just ahead of North Dakota State and Lamar). Opponents have rushed on 55.1% of plays from scrimmage against Western Carolina’s defense (38th-most among FCS squads).
  • The Citadel’s offensive third down conversion rate is 44.2%, 22nd in FCS. Defensively, Western Carolina has allowed a third down conversion rate of 45.8% (111th).
  • The Bulldogs are 8 for 20 on 4th down attempts (40.0%). The Catamounts have only faced three 4th-down attempts by an opponent (allowing a first down on two of those occasions), tied for the fewest faced by a defense in all of FCS.
  • Conversely, The Citadel’s twenty 4th-down tries is tied for the 7th-most in FCS. That brings me to “go rate”, my statistic for showing how aggressive a team is on 4th down. The Citadel is 6th nationally in go rate, at 42.6%.
  • In the Red Zone, The Citadel’s offense ranks 62nd in efficiency by my metrics, while WCU’s defense ranks 126th, third-worst in FCS (ahead of only Holy Cross and last-place Georgetown).

Western Carolina’s offense vs. The Citadel’s defense

  • Western Carolina’s offense is 81st in yards per play (5.16), while The Citadel’s defense is 114th nationally in yards allowed per play (6.60).
  • The Catamounts are 53rd in adjusted yards per rush (4.84); the Bulldogs’ D is 107th in FCS in that category (5.61).
  • WCU is 90th in adjusted yards per pass (5.39), with the crew from Cullowhee averaging 44.3 throws per contest (which is the 6th-highest rate in FCS). Meanwhile, The Citadel is 116th in adjusted passing yards allowed per play (116th).
  • On offense, Western Carolina has run the ball 40.6% of the time, which is the 15th-lowest rate in the subdivision. The Bulldogs’ opponents have rushed on 56.0% of their plays from scrimmage (29th-most in FCS).
  • Western Carolina’s offensive third down conversion rate is 35.5% (76th nationally). The Citadel’s defensive third-down conversion rate is 45.2%, which ranks 110th — one spot ahead of the Catamounts’ defense.
  • WCU is 6 for 13 on 4th-down attempts (46.2%), 69th in FCS. The Citadel has allowed four successful 4th-down conversions on 6 tries by its opponents. The Bulldogs are in a tie for 9th-fewest 4th-down attempts faced with several teams (including Furman and Wofford).
  • The Catamounts are 49th in go rate (23.6%).
  • In the Red Zone, Western Carolina’s offense ranks 101st overall by my numbers, while the Bulldogs’ D is 59th.

A few other stats of note:

  • The Citadel remains 6th in net punting (41.79), while Western Carolina is 59th (36.32). Montana continues to lead the nation in this category (44.8).
  • For the season, the Bulldogs have a turnover margin of exactly zero, having gained and lost the same amount of turnovers (7). Western Carolina has a net of -8, for an average of -1.33 per game (ranking in the bottom 10 nationally).
  • This week, I compiled the stats for Havoc Rate. The Citadel’s defense has the 5th-lowest Havoc Rate in FCS (10.8%). I discussed this statistic in a post I made in July In the spring, the Bulldogs had a Havoc Rate of 14.38%, which was below average but still better than the current output. The squad must increase its number of disruptive and negative plays (to be fair, last week was a respectable one in that department for The Citadel’s D).

A statistical tour of FCS, beginning with offensive productivity:

  • Eastern Washington leads the nation in offensive yards per play (7.78). The rest of the top five includes South Dakota State, Southeastern Louisiana, North Dakota State, and Nicholls State. ETSU is 6th. The national average is 5.39.
  • The bottom five in offensive yards per play: Lehigh (2.61, last), Bucknell, Grambling State, LIU, and Morgan State.
  • In adjusted yards per rush, South Dakota State ranks first, at 6.56. Second through fifth: North Dakota State, Southern, Nicholls State, and Abilene Christian. The top 25 includes four SoCon teams: ETSU, Chattanooga, Mercer, and Wofford. The national average is 4.72.
  • The bottom five in adjusted yards per rush: Georgetown (2.06), LIU, Albany, Robert Morris, and Alabama State.
  • For adjusted yards per pass, Eastern Washington leads the way at 9.54 per pass play, ahead of South Dakota State, Davidson, Southeastern Louisiana, and Princeton. While Davidson ranks third in this category, it should be noted that the Wildcats have only attempted 53 passes this season, the fewest in all of FCS. They have made them count, though.
  • The national average is adjusted yards per pass is 6.07. ETSU and Mercer both are in the top 25, while the bottom five includes Lehigh (just 2.18 yards per pass play), Bucknell, Grambling State, Morgan State, and Mississippi Valley State.
  • I mentioned the most run-oriented teams above. The teams most likely to pass are Presbyterian (70.7% of the time), Western Illinois, Dixie State, Houston Baptist, and Alabama A&M. Samford is in the top 10.
  • Southeastern Louisiana’s offensive third down conversion rate of 59.5% leads the nation. Others in the top five: Eastern Washington, Davidson, Dartmouth, and Merrimack. ETSU, Samford, and Mercer join The Citadel in the top 25. The national average is 37.2%.
  • On average, teams convert 4th-down attempts at a 49.5% clip. Alas, poor Lehigh is somehow 0 for 10 on 4th down this season. It has been a very tough season for the Mountain Hawks, which have scored only nine points in six games.
  • As expected, Presbyterian is far and away the leader in 4th-down attempts, with 45. Stetson is a distant 2nd (29 tries). Monmouth, Central Connecticut State, and Merrimack round out the top 5. 
  • Presbyterian has an astronomical go rate of 93.8%, having only punted twice while attempting no field goals. Other teams that are more than willing to go for it on 4th down (though not as often as the Blue Hose) include Stetson (55.8%, second-highest), Southeastern Louisiana, Merrimack, and Davidson.
  • The team least likely to go for it on 4th down? That would be Chattanooga (4.2%). Other programs taking a more conservative approach include Missouri State, Eastern Kentucky, Grambling State, and Montana State. 
  • Per my metrics, the most efficient Red Zone team is Georgetown; however, the Hoyas have a win/loss record of just 1-4, in part because in five games they have only reached the Red Zone 12 times. Among teams with at least 30 Red Zone possessions, the top outfit is Southeastern Louisiana, which is in the discussion for having the nation’s best offense. Three SoCon teams (Samford, ETSU, and VMI) also fare well in this category.
  • Samford has the fastest offense in FCS (18.24 seconds per offensive play). Other teams lining up to snap the football as soon as they can include Presbyterian, Austin Peay, Eastern Washington, and Charleston Southern. Western Carolina is 10th, while The Citadel is 64th. The national average is 27.01 seconds per play.

Now, let’s look at the defenses:

  • Jackson State leads FCS in yards allowed per play, surrendering just 3.61 on average. JSU’s defense has been one of the two or three best units in the subdivision. Second through fifth in yards allowed per play: Princeton, Harvard, James Madison, and North Dakota State. Three SoCon teams rank 32nd through 34th — respectively, Chattanooga, Mercer, and ETSU.
  • James Madison is the standard-bearer for adjusted yards allowed per rush (2.84). Defending national champion Sam Houston State is 2nd, followed by Harvard, Villanova, and Princeton. 
  • The worst rush defenses are Youngstown State (6.76), Texas Southern, Alabama A&M, Western Illinois, and Lehigh.
  • The top defenses against the pass are Jackson State (adjusted yards per pass of 3.55), Prairie View A&M, Princeton, Florida A&M, and North Dakota State. Deion Sanders’ squad also leads FCS in total sacks and sack rate (12.3%).
  • The bottom five versus the pass: Southern Utah (allowing an adjusted rate of 10.57 yards per play), Central Connecticut State, LIU, Hampton, and Maine.
  • Opponents have rushed against VMI at a higher rate more than any other team (65.4% of the time). As mentioned last week, the Keydets have faced several run-heavy offenses (including Davidson, Wofford, and The Citadel), which accounts for that.
  • Harvard’s opponents have a pass play rate of 64.1%, most in the subdivision; one reason for this is that the 5-0 Crimson have only trailed in one game all season, and even then it was for less than ten minutes.
  • Yale’s defensive third down conversion rate of 21.3% leads the country. Other teams doing a great job of getting off the field on third down include North Dakota State, James Madison, Weber State, and Cornell. Among SoCon squads, Chattanooga leads the line at 14th nationally.
  • The bottom five in defensive third down conversion rate: LIU (60.0%), Southern Utah, Brown, Illinois State, and Jacksonville State. I will point out here that the Sharks have faced three FBS opponents this season, and that has definitely had a negative impact on their stats.
  • My numbers suggest that North Dakota State has the best Red Zone defense in FCS. The only caveat is that the Bison have only faced seven Red Zone possessions all season. Of course, that also says something about NDSU’s defense.
  •  I mentioned Havoc Rate above when comparing Western Carolina and The Citadel. The leading team in Havoc Rate in FCS is, not surprisingly, Jackson State (25.0%). The rest of the top five: Stephen F. Austin, Florida A&M, James Madison, and Sam Houston State. 
  • Wofford has the lowest Havoc Rate in the nation (9.40%). The SoCon has a whole is very deficient in this area; only ETSU and Chattanooga are above the national average.

More to come later in the week…

College Football, Week 8: Tuesday notes and observations

Brent Thompson’s Monday press conference

Starting around the 17:00 mark of Brent Thompson’s Monday presser, there is an interesting question-and-answer discussion of recruiting, focusing on the impact the “free COVID year” has had. Over about five minutes, Thompson goes over a lot of the aspects involved, and not just from The Citadel’s perspective.

According to Thompson, his staff has offered about 80% fewer players this year than in a typical year. Considering that, as the coach notes, The Citadel is a “high school recruiting program”, it looks like this will be another very difficult year for prep prospects.

Time to talk about future non-conference schedules…

In a normal year, The Citadel has three non-conference games. One is always a “money” game against FBS opposition. At least one of the other matchups must be played at Johnson Hagood Stadium, because otherwise there would only be four home contests in a season.

During the 2024 season, FCS teams have the option to play 12 regular-season games because of the way the calendar falls, and The Citadel will indeed fulfill that quota. How, you ask? We’ll get there in a moment.

First, the 2022 campaign. The Bulldogs will open the season in Buies Creek, North Carolina, playing at Campbell on September 3.

The next non-conference tilt is also in the state of North Carolina, in Boone against Appalachian State. That matchup was originally supposed to take place on September 24, but was moved forward one week, to October 1. That change was apparently requested by App, and as a result The Citadel’s payout was for the game was increased, from $325,000 to $350,000.

The final out-of-league game of the 2022 season will be a home game for the Bulldogs, and it will be very late in the year – November 12, to be exact. The Citadel’s opponent will be Virginia University of Lynchburg (VUL), which is not a D2 school or even in the NAIA. Rather, VUL is a member of the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA).

VUL, an HBCU with about 500 undergraduate students, has five FCS schools on its schedule this season. It has played three of them so far. Combined score of those three games: 154-27. The winless Dragons have also played Mars Hill and Erskine, among others.

I am honestly not sure of the last time The Citadel played a program that was not in the NCAA or the NAIA. It is possible that it hasn’t happened since before World War II.

The fact the game is on November 12 is also odd. I can only assume The Citadel had difficulty finding a home opponent to fill out its slate. VUL will receive $40,000 to make the trip to Charleston.

In 2023, The Citadel will again play only five home games. The FBS opponent that season will be Georgia Southern, and it will be the season opener (September 2). The payout for that contest is $320,000.

The following week (September 9), Campbell will play the Bulldogs in Johnson Hagood Stadium, completing a two-game agreement.

Two weeks later, on September 23, The Citadel will travel to Orangeburg to play another set of Bulldogs – South Carolina State. That will be the first of a two-game series between the two schools; the return matchup will be held in Charleston in 2024.

As mentioned earlier, 2024 is a 12-game regular season. The home game against South Carolina State will be on September 7. The following week, on September 14, The Citadel will host North Greenville. The Crusaders will receive $40,000 for their appearance (matching the VUL payout, so that appears to be the going rate for such games).

The other two non-conference contests will be road games for The Citadel. The first is the season opener, on August 31, at Charleston Southern. I am on record as saying that scheduling this contest is a serious mistake that does not reflect well on The Citadel’s department of athletics. This is the first of a two-game agreement (more on that later).

On November 23, The Citadel will play at Clemson, completing a contract that included the 2020 matchup between the two schools. The payout for the contest is $475,000, plus an additional consideration – besides the standard 300 complimentary tickets, the military college has the option to request an additional 2,000 tickets for sale.

The Citadel has only one scheduled non-conference game so far for the 2025 season. That is a matchup with Mississippi, now scheduled for September 6. The payout is $500,000.

In 2026, the return matchup for the two-game contract with Charleston Southern will take place in Charleston on September 19.

That contest was originally supposed to be played on September 5, but CSU apparently asked for the game to be moved (presumably to pick up an FBS opponent). Charleston Southern agreed to pay The Citadel $20,000 to change the game date. The contract addendum making the adjustment was completed on May 5 of this year.

Less than three weeks later, The Citadel signed an agreement to play at Charlotte on September 5, for a payout of $305,000; The Citadel will also receive 600 tickets for sale.

I’ll post my normal stats breakdown either later today or perhaps on Wednesday…

College Football Week 7, 2021: Thursday notes and observations

Tuesday notes and observations (including a statistical overload, featuring The Citadel and Furman but with some comments on FCS in general)

The Citadel’s game notes

Furman’s game notes

SoCon weekly release

The Brent Thompson Show

Furman Football, Monday episode

Paladins’ Shiflett:  a quarterback playing wide receiver (and well)

Guide to gameday in and around Paladin Stadium (don’t bring any turkey calls)

Broadcast information

The Citadel at Furman, to be played at Paladin Stadium in Greenville, SC, with kickoff at 6:00 pm ET on October 16, 2021.

The game will be streamed on ESPN+. Mark Childress will handle play-by-play, while Cole Neely supplies the analysis. The game will also be available on ESPN College Extra.

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.

“Live Stats” for the game

The kickoff time for this game is 6:00 pm ET (or maybe 6:05 pm ET, as it is listed in a couple of places), which struck more than a few people as odd. I don’t think it will have any bearing on the outcome of the contest, but I’m also not sure why Furman decided on a late afternoon/early evening start time. In terms of the calendar, this is the latest home night game in program history.

The reasoning behind waiting for darkness certainly isn’t about tradition. In fact, this is the first time The Citadel and Furman will have played a night game at Paladin Stadium since it opened in 1981. I do not know if the two schools ever played an evening contest at Furman’s previous home field, Sirrine Stadium, either (to be honest, I’m not sure what the lights situation was there).

This is also Furman’s first home night game since the Paladins played Chattanooga in 2016. That matchup was a “blackout” game for the Paladins, as the team wore black jerseys and the home partisans were encouraged to sport black as well. The Mocs won that evening, 21-14.

I have to say that I don’t recall too many successful “blackout” contests, regardless of school. I distinctly remember South Carolina playing a much-hyped “blackout” game in Columbia against Florida in 2001. The Gators dominated the Gamecocks, 54-17. Via the Associated Press:

Rex Grossman and his teammates were more amused than overwhelmed when much of the record 84,900 at Williams-Brice Stadium turned out in black.

“It was fun,” Grossman said. “It was like they weren’t even there. They were blacked out. Then we drove them out, they left.”

Even Florida Coach Steve Spurrier chuckled at the sight. “One of our receivers said, ‘Coach, it was nice of them to wear all black so we can pick the ball out of the sky,”’ he said.

I believe Furman will wear its traditional purple jerseys on Saturday night. Just as well, I suppose.

On Monday, Furman radio voice Dan Scott asked Clay Hendrix: “Are the players excited about playing a night game here?”

Hendrix: “I have no idea. You’ll have to ask them, we haven’t talked about it.”

Roster review:

– Of the 112 players on The Citadel’s online roster, 61 are from South Carolina. Other states represented: Georgia (18 players), Florida (11), North Carolina (9), Virginia (4), 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.

– Of the 110 players on Furman’s online roster, 11 are from South Carolina. More Paladins are from Georgia (26) than any other state. Other states represented: Florida (17 players), Tennessee (17 players), North Carolina (10), Texas (8), Alabama (3), Kentucky (3), Ohio (3), Illinois (2), Pennsylvania (2), and one each from Delaware, Idaho, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia.

It is not surprising that only 10% of Furman’s roster hails from the Palmetto State, as that is an inevitable result of recent recruiting by the Paladins. In the last two years, the program has largely eschewed South Carolina in favor of bringing in talent from other states, including a notable dip into the Texas high school ranks.

It should be said that Furman has traditionally recruited Georgia (and to a lesser extent Tennessee) for players as much, if not more, than South Carolina, so this isn’t necessarily a new development. However, the absence of S.C. signees in FU’s last two recruiting classes has understandably received some negative feedback from the local high school community. Wofford also drew the ire of that group for only signing one player from South Carolina.

Hard feelings could be attributed in part to this specific recruiting cycle’s mountain of COVID-19 issues. Some of the locals were particularly upset that in a very difficult year for high school players, Furman’s and Wofford’s classes were almost exclusively from out of state.

I don’t really have a strong opinion on this topic. I will say that Furman and Wofford are private schools, and have no responsibility to recruit players from South Carolina. It can be a tough look at times, to be sure. It might also be an issue for things like attendance (although that is probably debatable).

Instinctively, it seems to me that Furman and Wofford are better off as football programs when they regularly bring in at least a few S.C. players each year. After all, while the Paladins only have 11 players from South Carolina, 8 of them are on the current two-deep.

I suspect that Furman (and probably Wofford) will sign several Palmetto State products in the coming year.

One thing that sometimes gets lost in the discussion, though, is the fact that Furman’s student body is mostly from out of state. Getting hard numbers can be tricky, but one source states that only 27.7% of FU’s undergraduates are from South Carolina. The nature of the institution as a whole (and how it has changed over the years) is surely a factor in the Paladins’ recruiting outlook.

Brief lines/odds discussion:

Furman is an 11½-point favorite over The Citadel; the over/under is 50½.

Other SoCon lines: Mercer is a 12½-point favorite over VMI (over/under of 63½); Samford is a 6-point favorite at Wofford (over/under of 72½); and East Tennessee State is a 2½-point favorite at Chattanooga (over/under of 51).

None of those spreads surprised me except for VMI-Mercer. The Bears should be favored, but 12½ is a lot of points against a team that won the league last season and just beat Chattanooga.

A few lines from the FCS world that I thought were a little strange (for recreational purposes only, as I live in South Carolina where gambling is still illegal):

  • Colgate-Cornell: this is a pick’em, but Cornell should be favored at home, perhaps by as much as a touchdown; the over/under is only 34½ (?!)
  • Princeton-Brown: the Tigers are a 16½-point road favorite; the spread probably should be higher
  • Bucknell-Fordham: to be fair, Christy Mathewson’s alma mater is not good, but the Rams as 24½-point favorites might be a bit much
  • Monmouth-Campbell: I know it is a long road trip for Monmouth, but I think the wrong team (Campbell, by 4½ points) is favored
  • Robert Morris-North Alabama: another long road journey, another game in which it is possible the wrong team (UNA) is favored — this time by 10½ points
  • Tarleton State-Dixie State: repeating myself, but Tarleton State should be a slight favorite, not the homestanding Trailblazers (by 2½ points)

Feel free to silently cackle when my guesses inevitably go 0-6.

The weekend is almost here, for which we are all grateful…

College Football Week 7, 2021: Tuesday notes and observations

The Citadel’s game notes for the matchup against Furman

Furman has a new quarterback

The weather forecast for Saturday in Greenville, per the National Weather Service: a 40% chance of showers, with a high of 78°. The nighttime low temperature (kickoff is at 6:00 pm ET) is projected to be 48°.

Paladin Stadium seats approximately 16,000 spectators. This summer, a new playing surface was installed, FieldTurf’s “Revolution 360”.

Furman will be honoring former coach Dick Sheridan at Saturday’s game. Sheridan, of course, is best remembered for leading the famed maroon and orange of Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School to the South Carolina 4-A state title in 1971.

The Paladins had a new starting quarterback for their game against Wofford. True freshman Jace Wilson (5’11”, 176 lbs.) had a solid afternoon against the Terriers, completing 60.9% of his passes, with a touchdown and no interceptions, averaging 8.2 yards per attempt.

Wilson (a native of Texas) also had six rushing attempts for 26 yards and a TD. While his individual numbers on the ground were relatively modest, his presence as a potential threat to run helped Furman a great deal in its overall rushing attack. The Paladins ran for 289 yards against the Terriers (5.67 yards/rush), with halfback Devin Wynn accounting for 204 yards (and two touchdowns) on 31 carries.

For the game, Furman averaged 6.46 yards per play; in the prior four contests, FU had averaged just 4.79 yards per play. After running the ball on 53.4% of its offensive plays from scrimmage in those first four games, Furman rushed on 68.9% of its plays versus Wofford.

The Paladins had a decided edge in total plays (74 to 44), with almost a 10-minute advantage in time of possession. FU converted third down attempts at a 66.7% clip (while Furman’s defense held Wofford to just 2 of 8 on third down tries).

Link to my working spreadsheet for FCS statistics (through October 9)

Here are some quick comparisons (and remember, there are 128 teams in FCS), in chart form. Obviously, the defensive numbers/rankings are for yards/conversions/points allowed, etc. Also obviously, the chart is kind of clunky.

  FU offense National rank TC defense National Rank
Yards/play 5.15 82 6.76 118
Adj yds/rush 3.89 102 5.55 110
Adj yds/pass 6.79 41 8.17 119
3rd down conv % 44.9% 22 50.0% 121
4th down conv % 75.0% T11 60.0% T90
4th down att 4 T114 5 T10 (fewest)
RZ est. pts/poss 4.53 82 4.82 52
Run play % 56.5% 33 54.0% 48
         
  TC offense National rank FU defense National rank
Yards/play 5.78 42 5.8 74
Adj yds/rush 5.43 22 5.01 77
Adj yds/pass 7.3 18 6.68 76
3rd down conv % 40.0% 50 38.3% 68
4th down conv % 50.0% T59 0.0% T1
4th down att 16 T10 2 T1 (fewest)
RZ est. pts/poss 5.12 46 5.00 T60
Run play % 81.3% 3 52.8% 55

A few other stats of note:

  • Presbyterian leads all of FCS in fourth down conversion attempts, with 37 through 5 games. No other team is even close.
  • Not surprisingly, the Blue Hose are also last in total punts (2). PC’s net punting average is just 9.5, so perhaps it is just as well that Kevin Kelley’s squad (almost) never punts.
  • Speaking of punting, The Citadel is 6th in net punting (42.86). Matt Campbell’s 84-yard punt last week (which was downed at the 1-yard line) was the longest punt by a Bulldog since World War II. 
  • Montana is 1st nationally in net punting (45.08). Furman is 108th (31.96).
  • The Citadel and Furman both have an overall turnover margin of +1 through 5 games.
  • Campbell (the university, that is, not the punter) has the best turnover margin in FCS, at +2.40 per game, while Presbyterian has the worst (-2.60). In related news, Campbell played PC earlier this season; the Fighting Camels won 72-0, intercepting 7 Blue Hose passes and recovering 3 Presbyterian fumbles. Campbell itself committed no turnovers during the contest.
  • Furman is 32nd in average time of possession; The Citadel is 59th. The Paladins average 27.23 seconds per offensive play, while the Bulldogs average 28.12.
  • Samford (18.33 seconds per offensive play) is the fastest offense in FCS, which is not exactly a shock. Presbyterian is 2nd, while Western Carolina is 5th and Charleston Southern is 6th. One of the slower teams in this category is North Dakota State (125th nationally, at 32.39 seconds).
  • As far as penalties are concerned, FU is tied for 17th nationally in fewest penalty yards per contest (42.0). The Citadel is 37th (49.8).
  • The Citadel is also one of 12 FCS teams averaging more than 10 yards per accepted penalty; in other words, when the Bulldogs are flagged, it is often a “major” infraction.
  • Bucknell has the fewest average penalty yards in FCS (24.8), while Tennessee State is the most-penalized squad in the country (92.0 yards per contest). TSU is the only FCS team averaging more than 10 accepted penalties per game.
  • Despite losing last week, South Dakota State’s offense still leads the nation in yards per play (8.03); The top SoCon teams in yards per play are ETSU (7th overall) and Mercer (9th). Lehigh (2.61) is last in the subdivision.
  • Lehigh is at the bottom of a number of offensive categories, including points per game (1.5; the Mountain Hawks have scored 9 points in 6 games). Lehigh is the only FCS team yet to score a touchdown.
  • Only one team defense in FCS has yet to intercept a pass. That team is Jackson State, coached by Deion Sanders (who had 14 interceptions in college, and 53 more in his Hall of Fame NFL career).
  • However, Jackson State actually has an elite D, ranking at or near the top in several FCS defensive categories. One reason JSU might not have any interceptions is that opposing QBs are often sacked before they have a chance to throw a pick; the Tigers rank first overall in sacks (27 in 5 games) and sack rate (13.5%).
  • Jackson State is 3rd nationally in yards allowed per play, behind only Princeton (which is first, allowing just 3.23 yards per play) and Prairie View A&M.
  • Per my numbers, Southeastern Louisiana has the nation’s most efficient Red Zone offense. The Lions have parlayed that into a 4-1 record. On the other hand, the team ranked second in the category, Bethune-Cookman, is 0-6. The Wildcats can score, but alas, they are scored upon even more (38.5 ppg allowed).
  • The best Red Zone defense in FCS, at least as far as my metrics are concerned, belongs to North Dakota State. Three schools in the Ivy League (Penn, Dartmouth, and Harvard) rank 2-3-4, with the Bison’s in-state rival North Dakota rounding out the top 5.
  • Butler has the leakiest Red Zone defense in the nation; Western Carolina has the next-worst unit.
  • Montana State averages an interception every 14.36 pass attempts by an opponent, best in FCS (the Bobcats have 11 picks in 6 games). Furman ranks 19th in this category (21.67), while The Citadel is 62nd (36.75).
  • VMI’s opponents have run the ball on 67.3% of plays from scrimmage against the Keydets’ defense, by a considerable margin the largest percentage in all of FCS. One reason: VMI’s schedule so far this year has included Davidson (first in offensive run play percentage), The Citadel (third), and Wofford (tenth). That is the kind of thing which can distort certain statistics, especially early in the season.

More to come later in the week…

College Football Week 6, 2021: Thursday notes and observations

Tuesday notes and observations

Game notes from The Citadel

ETSU’s digital gameday program

SoCon weekly release

ETSU’s Folks makes history with eighth season of college football

Jaylan Adams returns to Johnson City

The Brent Thompson Show (in podcast format)

Broadcast information

The Citadel at East Tennessee State, to be played at William B. Greene, Jr. Stadium in Johnson City, Tennessee, with kickoff at 4:35 pm ET on October 9, 2021.

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

  • ECBD (Charleston, SC)
  • WBTW (Myrtle Beach, SC)
  • 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 Todd Agne 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.

– From an article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

[VMI head football coach Scott Wachenheim] has interest in moving VMI-The Citadel to the end of the season every year.

“I’d even do it at a neutral site, but I do like doing it home-and-home because of the fanfare,” he said. “The whole experience at their place and our place is pretty cool, especially when our corps goes down there and their corps comes up here.”

The Citadel-VMI has occasionally been played at a neutral site. I think home-and-home is definitely the way to go, however.

I would be okay with the game being played in November every year. As a practical matter, the Bulldogs can’t host on the final Saturday of the regular season because of the timing for the fall furlough, but there is no reason the two teams can’t face each other on the second Saturday of the month (or the third Saturday in November when the matchup is in Virginia).

As for The Citadel’s other primary rival, Furman, that series is similar in that there has not been a “standard” time for playing the game. Some of the Paladins faithful have occasionally argued that it should be an end-of-year affair, but historically that contest has been played in October more than any other month.

I believe consistently playing it in midseason would be most appropriate. I know others might have differing opinions, but for me, The Citadel and Furman should always play in mid-October, in the third or fourth league game of the campaign.

Incidentally, 19 of the 29 previous gridiron meetings between The Citadel and ETSU have been in October. Five have been in November, four in September, and one in March.

Roster review:

– Of the 113 players on The Citadel’s online roster, 61 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.

– East Tennessee State also has 113 players on its online roster. Of those, 45 are from Tennessee. Other states with representatives on the Bucs’ squad: Georgia (31 players), North Carolina (8), Florida (7), Ohio (5), Virginia (5), Alabama (3), Pennsylvania (2), South Carolina (2), and one each from California Delaware, Kentucky, Minnesota, and West Virginia.

The two South Carolina natives on ETSU’s roster are fourth-year running back D.J. Twitty (who went to Chapman High School in Inman) and redshirt freshman defensive back Tylik Edwards (Rock Hill High School). 

College Football Week 6, 2021: Tuesday notes and observations

Brent Thompson 10/4 press conference (featuring Duggar Baucom)

ETSU head football coach Randy Sanders’ 10/4 press conference

East Tennessee State having fun while relishing role of favorite

Logan Billings returns, scores two touchdowns

The weather forecast for Saturday afternoon in Johnson City, per the National Weather Service: a 40% chance of showers, with a high of 76°.

William B. Greene Jr. Stadium opened in 2017. It has a listed capacity of 7,694, with the playing field an artificial turf surface. 

ETSU is actually averaging more fans per game (9,926) than the stadium’s listed capacity. The Buccaneers have played three home contests so far this season, against UVA Wise, Delaware State, and Wofford (with 10,153 fans in the stadium for the game versus the Terriers).

Fans of the Bulldogs planning on making the trip to Johnson City should know that ETSU head coach Randy Sanders highly recommends the stadium food, suggesting during his Monday presser that people should come to the game “just for the hot dogs. They’re amazing.” 

Sanders also mentioned that he believes Greene Stadium needs a “cigar section”. When a reporter pointed out that ETSU has a tobacco-free campus, Sanders wryly noted that the campus was also supposed to be alcohol-free, but “I see a lot of bottles [lying around] when I leave in the evening”.

ETSU’s press conference also featured starting quarterback Tyler Riddell and linebacker Jared Folks, an eighth-year (yes!) college football player. As I’ve mentioned before, Folks started his collegiate gridiron career at Temple in 2014, the same year in which insurance pitchman Patrick Mahomes debuted for Texas Tech.

The early lines are out. East Tennessee State is a 10½-point favorite; the over/under is 59½.

Other SoCon lines:

  • Chattanooga is a 10-point favorite at VMI (over/under of 51½)
  • Mercer is a 16½-point favorite at Western Carolina (over/under of 72½)
  • Furman-Wofford is a pick’em (with an over/under of just 37½)

Samford is off this week.

A few other FCS lines of interest:

  • Morehead State is a 3½-point favorite at Presbyterian; the over/under is 90½
  • Florida A&M is a 10-point favorite against South Carolina State; over/under of 54½
  • Charleston Southern is an 18-point favorite against Robert Morris; over/under of 48½
  • Campbell is a 9-point favorite at Gardner-Webb; over/under of 67½
  • James Madison is a 10½-point favorite over Villanova; over/under of 63
  • Kennesaw State is an 18-point favorite over Hampton; over/under of 66½
  • Elon is a 6-point favorite at Maine; over/under of 53½
  • Austin Peay is a 7½-point favorite over Southeast Missouri State; over/under of 68½

For anyone interested, here is my working spreadsheet for FCS games played through October 2:  Link

East Tennessee State, which is averaging 37.6 points per game (15th nationally), fares very well in most offensive categories.

Among all FCS teams, ETSU is 10th in both yards per play (6.72) and adjusted yards per rush (5.85). Senior running back Quay Holmes is second in rushing yards per game (123.4), trailing only a Harvard player who has played in two fewer contests.

The Buccaneers are 8th overall in adjusted yards per pass attempt (8.05) and11th in adjusted pass efficiency (9 TD passes, 3 interceptions), with a 62.3% completion percentage and a third down conversion rate of 49.3% (9th-best in the subdivision). ETSU quarterbacks have been sacked on less than 3% of all pass plays.

East Tennessee State is 36th in estimated points per Red Zone possession (5.35), and 8th in FCS in time of possession (34:10). 

ETSU runs the football on 60.7% of its plays from scrimmage.

Defensively, the Buccaneers are 30th nationally in yards allowed per play (4.89). They are 32nd in adjusted yards allowed per rush (4.24) and 22nd in adjusted yards allowed per pass attempt (5.30).

ETSU has allowed 7 TD passes, but has 5 interceptions. Opponents are completing 63.8% of their throws. The Buccaneers’ adjusted defensive pass efficiency rating ranks 38th in FCS.

East Tennessee State’s defense is allowing 18.4 points per contest (19th-best overall). It is 28th in estimated points allowed per Red Zone possession (4.50) and 48th in third down conversion rate against (35.7%). Against the Bucs’ D, opponents have run the football 38.2% of the time.

ETSU is tied for 25th in FCS in turnover margin per game (0.8). The Buccaneers have gained 9 turnovers (four fumble recoveries, five interceptions) while losing 5 (two fumbles, three picks).

East Tennessee State is called for a few more penalties than the typical FCS squad, drawing an average of 7 flags per contest (tied for 42nd-most in the country), for 59 yards per game (50th). The Buccaneers are 77th nationally in net punting (35.29).

The Citadel’s offense is averaging 28.8 points per game, 43rd overall. It is averaging 5.95 yards per play, which is 34th nationally.

The Bulldogs are 28th in adjusted yards per rush (5.31) and 2nd in adjusted yards per pass attempt (9.16, behind only South Dakota State). Their adjusted pass efficiency rating is 26th, with 2 TDs, 1 pick, and a completion rate of 53.8%. Bulldog QBs have been sacked on 11.3% of pass plays, obviously a stat that needs to improve.

The offense is converting third downs at a 44.2% clip (29th in FCS). The Citadel is 48th nationally in time of possession (31:21), which is lower than in past seasons. The Bulldogs are averaging an estimated 5.21 points per Red Zone possession, 41st in FCS.

The Citadel has run the football on 83.2% of its offensive plays from scrimmage, 3rd nationally (behind Davidson and Kennesaw State).

On defense, The Citadel is allowing 31.8 points per game. The Bulldogs give up on average 6.46 yards per play, which ranks 108th in FCS. That includes an adjusted yards allowed per rush of 5.36 (96th overall) and an adjusted yards allowed per pass attempt of 7.60 (105th). Bulldog opponents are completing 63.4% of their passes, with 8 TDs (against 4 interceptions). The Citadel’s adjusted defensive pass efficiency rating is 98th in the country.

The Bulldogs are allowing a third down conversion rate of 52.1% (123rd nationally). The defense is 39th in estimated points allowed per Red Zone possession (4.64).

Against The Citadel, opponents have an almost even pass/run ratio — 50.8% rush attempts, and 49.2% pass plays.

The Citadel is tied for 39th in FCS in turnover margin (0.5). The Bulldogs have gained five turnovers (1 fumble recovery, 4 interceptions) while losing three (two fumbles, one pick).

With an average of just 4.25 penalties, The Citadel ranks 14th nationally in fewest flags per contest. The Bulldogs rank 33rd in fewest penalty yardage per game (46.75), indicating that the squad needs to get better at avoiding major infractions. It could also indicate that the officials in last week’s game against VMI were a little too officious.

The Citadel is 16th overall in net punting (40.24). 

More to come later in the week…