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…