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…