College Football Week 10, 2021: Tuesday notes and observations

Notes from Monday’s presser, with information on ticket sales and future schedules, from The Post and Courier

Today is the weekly statistical preview/review, including The Citadel, Samford, and FCS in general. This is a busy week for me, so I’m not sure if I’ll post anything else before Saturday’s game. At any rate, I’m not sure what else there is to say…

First, my working spreadsheet: FCS statistics through October 30, 2021

There are no updated attendance numbers this week for the subdivision, because the NCAA releases the compiled attendance information for FCS every other week.

Also not included on the spreadsheet is onside kick data, but I’ll discuss that right here. There is no distinction between ‘surprise’ and ‘expected’ onside kicks in these totals, but I believe they are still interesting.

Presbyterian leads all of western civilization in onside kick attempts, as you might have guessed, with 34 of them so far this season, more than one-fourth of the entire total for FCS (131). Bethune-Cookman, with 4 attempts, is in an extremely distant second place.

PC has successfully recovered 7 of its onside kicks, a rate of 20.59%. That is slightly below the national average of 24.43%; indeed, teams not called the Blue Hose have actually recovered 25.77% of their onside kicks.

Of the many unconventional things Presbyterian head coach Kevin Kelley does, his “never punt” philosophy tends to draw most of the attention. However, the devotion to onside kicks might be more interesting from a cutting-edge game theory standpoint. I have seen one study suggesting that the break-even point (at least in college) for the all-onside kick, all-the-time approach is about 26%, but I’m not completely sure that accounts for the potential variance in the number of possessions in a specific game.

The Blue Hose, for example, throw on average 58.25 passes per game, by far the most in FCS. Presbyterian has the highest pass-play rate in the subdivision (passing or attempting to pass on 72.4% of its plays from scrimmage).

That style of play on offense, combined with short fields PC’s opponents get when recovering onside kicks, would presumably result in a few more possessions per game than the norm (and thus more chances to score). I could be very wrong about this, but I think that might increase the break-even point for the strategy to somewhere around 30%-33%.

Recovering that high a percentage of onside kicks will be hard to do at the college level, but I suspect we’re going to find out in the next couple of years if it is possible.

Offense

– Yards per play

  • FCS average: 5.40
  • Top 5: Eastern Washington (7.54), South Dakota State, Southeastern Louisiana, Nicholls State, North Dakota State
  • Bottom 5: Lehigh (3.28), Grambling State, Bucknell, Houston Baptist, Wagner
  • The Citadel: 5.21 (73rd nationally out of 128 teams); Samford: 5.92 (27th)
  • Other SoCon teams: ETSU 11th, Mercer 12th

– Adjusted yards per rush (“adjusted” means sacks are counted in passing and not rushing stats)

  • FCS average: 4.73
  • Top 5: Nicholls State (6.59), North Dakota State, South Dakota State, Sam Houston State, Abilene Christian
  • Bottom 5: Georgetown (2.92), Bucknell, Robert Morris, Cal Poly, Alabama State
  • The Citadel: 4.74 (63rd); Samford: 4.83 (57th)
  • Other SoCon teams: ETSU 6th, Mercer 11th, Wofford 19th, Chattanooga 25th

– Adjusted yards per pass

  • FCS average: 6.09
  • Top 5: Davidson (9.68), Eastern Washington, Southeastern Louisiana, Kennesaw State, South Dakota State
  • Bottom 5: Lehigh (3.05), Grambling State, Bucknell, Houston Baptist, Morgan State
  • The Citadel: 6.96 (27th); Samford: 6.60 (41st)
  • Other SoCon teams: Mercer 10th, ETSU 19th

– Fewest passing attempts: Davidson (71), Kennesaw State (93), The Citadel (104)

  • Wofford has the 6th-fewest (147)

– Most passing attempts: Presbyterian (466, or 58.25 per game, by far the most in FCS)

  • Samford has the 4th-most (370), Western Carolina has thrown the 6th-most

– Completion percentage: Southeastern Louisiana leads the nation at 72.3%; average is 58.8%

  • Samford is 8th (66.5%); VMI is 10th
  • The Citadel has the 6th-worst completion percentage (48.6%)
  • Grambling State is last (44.2%); there are 9 FCS teams below 50%

– Sacks against

  • North Dakota has a sack rate allowed of just 1.1%, tops in the subdivision
  • Lamar has the worst (14.8%)
  • The Citadel is 7th-worst (11.9%); Samford is 6th-best (2.9%)

– Percentage of run plays: Davidson runs the ball 84.2% of the time, most in FCS, followed by Kennesaw State, The Citadel (79.0%), North Dakota State, and Wofford. Mercer is 8th.

– Percentage of pass plays: As mentioned above, Presbyterian has a pass play rate of 72.4%, highest in FCS, followed by Western Illinois, Houston Baptist, Dixie State, and Incarnate Word. Samford (61.2%) has the 9th-highest pass play rate.

– Plays per game: Presbyterian’s offense averages 86.6 plays from scrimmage per game, leading the nation. Samford is 4th (77.9), Western Carolina is 5th. Grambling State (54.8) averages the fewest. The Citadel averages 70.3 plays per contest.

– Points per play (FCS average is .381)

  • Top 5: South Dakota State (.651), Eastern Washington, Southeastern Louisiana, North Dakota State, Sam Houston State
  • Davidson is 6th, Mercer 11th, Samford 23rd (.475), The Citadel 85th (.335)
  • Lehigh is last in the subdivision (.106)

– Points per game (FCS average is 25.6 ppg): Eastern Washington is the national leader, at 51.5 points per contest, followed by Southeastern Louisiana, South Dakota State, Sam Houston State, and Davidson. Samford is tied for 9th (37.0 ppg), The Citadel is tied for 77th (23.5). Lehigh (6.1 ppg) is last.

– 3rd down conversion rate (FCS average: 37.38%)

  • Top 5: Southeastern Louisiana (55.67%), Eastern Washington, Davidson, Merrimack, Hampton. ETSU is 6th.
  • Bottom 5: Lehigh (20.59%), New Hampshire, Wagner, Eastern Illinois, Bucknell.
  • The Citadel: 25th (43.33%); Samford: 40th (41.03%)

– 4th down attempts/conversion rate

  • Chattanooga is 4 for 4 on fourth-down tries, the only perfect team in this category. In second place nationally is Kennesaw State, at 15 for 17 (88.24%); I would give the Owls the nod as the most successful fourth-down conversion offense
  • Presbyterian has gone for it on fourth down 62 times; second-place Stetson has done so 32 times. The Citadel is tied for 6th in attempts (27), while Samford is tied for 23rd (19).

– Go rate (FCS average of 23.26%):

  • Naturally, Presbyterian is way above the competition on this list (89.86%). The Blue Hose have only punted seven times and have not attempted a field goal (the only team in Division I yet to do so).
  • Stetson is 2nd in go rate (54.24%), followed by Davidson, Merrimack, and Southeastern Louisiana. The Citadel is 8th nationally (41.54%). Samford is 28th (28.36%).
  • Last in go rate: Chattanooga (6.45%); Furman is 4th-lowest.

– Red Zone offense (estimated points per offensive RZ possession average): 4.79

  • Top 5: Holy Cross (6.03), Southeastern Louisiana, Central Arkansas, Southeast Missouri State, Fordham
  • Bottom 5: Lehigh (2.35), Northwestern State, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Cal Poly, Indiana State
  • The Citadel: 56th (4.96); Samford: 19th (5.51)

– Red Zone offense trips per game (average: 3.50)

  • Top 5: Eastern Washington (6.25), Southeastern Louisiana, Samford (5.13), Sacramento State, South Dakota State/Norfolk State (tied for 5th). VMI is 10th.
  • Bottom 5: Lamar (1.14), Bucknell, Morgan State, Houston Baptist, Northern Colorado
  • The Citadel is averaging 3.25 Red Zone trips per contest (76th)

– Seconds per play

  • Samford averages 18.49 seconds per offensive play, making it the fastest offense in FCS. The rest of the top five includes Charleston Southern, Presbyterian, Eastern Washington, and Austin Peay. Western Carolina is 10th, VMI 21st.
  • Delaware State (32.56 seconds/play) is the slowest offense in the subdivision, followed by Lamar, North Dakota State, Duquesne, and Tennessee State. Chattanooga is 6th-slowest, while Wofford is the 12th-slowest.
  • The Citadel ranks 42nd (27.14 seconds/play).

The three best offenses in FCS are, rather clearly, Southeastern Louisiana, Eastern Washington, and South Dakota State. I would give the nod at this point in the season to Southeastern Louisiana for having the #1 offense.

Lehigh has the nation’s worst offense. An argument could be made that Bucknell has the second-worst offense in FCS. As it happens, those two teams play each other on Saturday. Should be a barn-burner…

Defense

– Yards per play

  • Top 5: Jackson State (3.61), James Madison, Princeton, Harvard, Prairie View A&M
  • Bottom 5: Southern Utah (7.17), Youngstown State, Hampton, Butler, Lamar
  • The Citadel is 121st nationally (6.69), while Samford is 101st (6.16). Chattanooga is 24th, and Mercer is 25th.

– Adjusted yards per rush

  • Top 5: James Madison (2.85), Princeton, Sam Houston State, Harvard, Montana
  • Bottom 5: Lamar (6.63), Youngstown State, Alabama A&M, Butler, Western Illinois
  • The Citadel: 112th (5.58), Samford 83rd (5.10)

– Adjusted yards per pass

  • Top 5: Jackson State (3.44), Prairie View A&M, Sacred Heart, Florida A&M, Princeton
  • Bottom 5: Southern Utah (9.19), Central Connecticut State, Hampton, Howard, The Citadel (8.14)
  • Samford is 109th (7.61)
  • Chattanooga is 19th, ETSU 25th

– Sack rate

  • Top 5: Jackson State (13.0%), North Dakota State, Stephen F. Austin, Florida A&M, Stetson. Chattanooga is 8th.
  • Bottom 5: Idaho State (1.9%), Drake, Butler, VMI, Austin Peay
  • The Citadel is 115th (4.0%), Samford is 102nd (4.7%).

– Percentage of run plays faced: VMI (62.2%), followed by Eastern Illinois, Butler, Albany, and Western Carolina. Furman is 7th on this list, Samford 11th, The Citadel 16th, and Mercer 21st.

– Percentage of pass plays faced: Harvard (61.8%), followed by Princeton, William and Mary, McNeese State, and Monmouth.

– William and Mary has faced 39.6 pass attempts per game, most in FCS; Albany has faced the least (22.6).

– Houston Baptist has allowed a completion percentage of 70.0%, highest in the country (Wofford has allowed the 8th-highest). Prairie View A&M (47.0%) has allowed the lowest.

Plays against: Fordham (83.0 per game) has faced the most, followed by Samford (80.9). Every other SoCon team has faced between 61.8 (Chattanooga) and 72.0 (VMI) plays per contest. The Citadel has faced 65.5 per game.

– Points per play allowed

  • Top 5: North Dakota State (.138), Montana State, Harvard, Jackson State, Montana. ETSU is 19th, Furman 22nd.
  • Bottom 5: Presbyterian (.812), Brown, Lamar, LIU, Alabama A&M
  • The Citadel has allowed .531 points per play (113th), while Samford has given up .478 ppp (94th).

– Points per game against

  • North Dakota State (8.1 ppg) leads this category, followed by Montana State, Harvard, Jackson State, and Dartmouth. Chattanooga is 18th.
  • Presbyterian (51.4 ppg) has allowed the most, followed by Western Carolina, Houston Baptist, Brown, and LIU.
  • The Citadel is 110th (34.8); Samford is 119th (38.6).

– 3rd down conversion rate against

  • Top 5: Yale (21.3%), North Dakota State, Harvard, James Madison, and Florida A&M. Chattanooga is 9th.
  • Bottom 5: Southern Utah (54.9%), Idaho State, Jacksonville State, Illinois State, Southern. Wofford is 120th.
  • The Citadel is 111th (45.4%), Samford 119th (48.5%).

– 4th down attempts/conversion rate against

  • Youngstown State has faced the fewest 4th down attempts (5). The Citadel, Furman, and Idaho State have each faced 7.
  • William and Mary has faced 27, tied for the most, and all the more notable because the Tribe has not played Presbyterian.
  • Furman has only allowed one successful conversion in 7 tries, but the leader in this area is St. Thomas (MN), which has only given up 1 conversion in 13 opponent attempts. The national average is 49.7%.

– Havoc Rate (FCS average: 15.64%)

  • Top 5: Jackson State (24.2%), Florida A&M, James Madison, Stephen F. Austin, Alabama State (which just fired its coach). Chattanooga is 11th.
  • Bottom 5: Wofford (9.89%), Marist, Bucknell, The Citadel (10.88%), Southern Utah
  • Samford is 113th (12.36%)

– Red Zone defense

  • Top 5: Harvard (2.74 estimated points per RZ possession), North Dakota State, Dartmouth, Kennesaw State, St. Thomas (MN)
  • Bottom 5: Western Carolina (6.20), Lamar, Brown, Davidson, Butler
  • The Citadel is 76th, Samford 116th.

– Fewest Red Zone trips allowed per game

  • Top 5: James Madison (1.38), North Dakota State, St. Thomas (MN), Jackson State, Sacred Heart
  • Bottom 5: Presbyterian (7.25), LIU, Texas Southern, Houston Baptist, Dixie State
  • The Citadel is 88th, Samford 103rd.

North Dakota State has the best defense in FCS; I would include James Madison and Jackson State in the top 3.

It is hard to argue against Presbyterian having the worst defense in the subdivision, but the Blue Hose’s D is handicapped by its style of play. Among teams that play “normally”, Southern Utah probably would get the, uh, honor.

Miscellaneous

– Montana continues to lead the nation in net punting (44.59). The rest of the top five: Missouri State, Sacramento State, Davidson, and UC Davis. The Citadel is now 15th (40.06) after a tough day last Saturday.

Samford is 19th in net punting (39.00). Norfolk State has “passed” Presbyterian as the nation’s worst punting team (23.04). The national average is 35.85.

– Princeton is averaging 32.14 penalty yards per game, fewest in FCS. Other top squads at avoiding yellow flags: Bucknell, Wofford, Furman, and Delaware. The Citadel ranks 50th (50.38), while Samford is 72nd (56.38)

The most penalized team, in terms of yardage, continues to be Florida A&M (91.63). Only three of the ten most penalized teams in FCS have losing records.

– Turnover margin: Montana STate (+1.50 per game) leads FCS. Chattanooga is second, followed by Alcorn State and James Madison.

The Citadel is tied for 87th (-0.13 per game), while Samford is 90th (-.025). The worst turnover margin in the subdivision belongs to Presbyterian (-2.50), followed by Brown, Tennessee Tech, Murray State, and Dixie State.

More later in the week (maybe)…

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