College Football Week 12, 2021: Thursday notes and observations

The Citadel’s game notes

Brent Thompson’s weekly press conference

Chattanooga’s game notes

Chattanooga’s weekly press conference (featuring head coach Rusty Wright and two players)

SoCon weekly release

Broadcast information

The Citadel at Chattanooga, to be played at Finley Stadium – Davenport Field in Chattanooga, Tennessee, with kickoff at 1:30 pm ET on November 20, 2021.

The game will be streamed on ESPN+. Play-by-play will be handled by Chris Goforth, while Scott McMahen supplies the analysis. Dave Keylon 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

Here is my weekly compilation spreadsheet of FCS stats:

FCS statistics through games of November 13, 2021

I did not have time this week to further summarize the stats (top 5/bottom 5, matchup comparisons, etc.). Apologies for anyone interested, but I’ve been rather busy this week, which is why there wasn’t an earlier post.

Statistically speaking, Chattanooga generally fares well across the board, particularly in defensive categories. The Mocs are 11th in points allowed per game in FCS, and fourth in estimated points per Red Zone possession. Chattanooga is also second nationally in interceptions per opponents’ passes, behind only St. Thomas; Chattanooga has picked off a pass every 17.87 opponent attempts this season.

UTC is 4th in FCS in time of possession (averaging 33:29 TOP per game). This is in keeping with the Mocs’ general pace on offense (Chattanooga is also 4th in seconds per offensive play). 

On the whole, I would describe Chattanooga as being rather conservative on offense. The “go rate” for the Mocs is 4th-lowest in FCS; only Eastern Kentucky and Montana State have fewer fourth down attempts.

Chattanooga is 15th in run percentage (60.2% of its offensive plays are rushes).

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 94 players on Chattanooga’s roster. Of those, 32 are from Georgia, while another 30 are from Tennessee. The remaining players are from the following states: Alabama (13), Florida (4), South Carolina (4), North Carolina (2), Ohio (2), and one each from Arizona, Indiana, Mississippi, Texas, and Virginia.

Long snapper Bryce Coulson is from Brisbane, Australia, while wide receiver Jahmar Quandt is a native of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

– The Mocs’ squad includes players who transferred from the following four-year institutions and junior colleges: Appalachian State, Arkansas State, Austin Peay, Bethel, Cincinnati (2), East Mississippi CC, Eastern Illinois, Georgia Military, Hutchinson CC, Jacksonville State, Lafayette, Louisville (2), Mercer, Middle Tennessee State, Minot State, Mississippi State, Naropa, North Dakota State, Northern Illinois, Old Dominion, Purdue, Rhode Island, South Carolina (2), Tennessee Tech (2), and Western Kentucky (4).

As has been the case over the latter part of the season, FCS spreads and totals are not readily available. There are some lines out there, and I’ll list those involving SoCon teams here:

  • Wofford is a 38½-point underdog at North Carolina
  • VMI is a 10½-point favorite over Western Carolina
  • Samford is a 2½-point favorite over Furman
  • East Tennessee State is a 4½-point favorite over Mercer
  • Chattanooga is a 23½-point favorite over The Citadel

Finally, here are this week’s numbers from my projection system, which as I’ve mentioned before is very much a work in progress. I’m not quite sure how much progress I’ve really made, to be honest.

At any rate, here is what the system has to say about this week’s FCS games (including four of the games listed above; I don’t run numbers for FCS contests against teams from outside the subdivision).

 

Road team Home team Road tm score Home tm score
Nicholls State SE Louisiana 29.9 36.6
Butler Marist 16.8 34.8
Dartmouth Brown 41.2 19.6
Harvard Yale 24.7 20.6
Lafayette Lehigh 20.7 17.7
Georgetown Morgan State 24.6 22.5
Campbell Robert Morris 29.9 24.8
Duquesne Wagner 34.6 15.5
St. Francis PA Central Conn. State 24.9 21.0
Western Carolina VMI 30.6 41.6
Sacred Heart Long Island 29 13.1
Fordham Colgate 32.9 23.9
San Diego Stetson 35.3 22.1
Columbia Cornell 26.1 22.4
Bryant Merrimack 27.1 23.9
Murray State Eastern Illinois 27.5 19.7
Holy Cross Bucknell 39.9 8.9
Indiana State Illinois State 17.7 26.4
Princeton Penn 27.7 16.7
Youngstown State Southern Illinois 22.7 40.8
Maine New Hampshire 27.0 21.6
Villanova Delaware 30.6 14.2
Albany Stony Brook 19.6 23.5
Furman Samford 34.2 36.0
Northwestern State McNeese State 15.9 35.2
Gardner-Webb North Carolina A&T 22.2 30.6
Monmouth Kennesaw State 25.3 26.2
North Alabama Hampton 30.2 29.1
Drake Davidson 17.0 30.3
Mercer ETSU 23.0 27.7
The Citadel Chattanooga 13.8 36.1
UT Martin SE Missouri State 32.3 23.1
Sam Houston State Abilene Christian 40.5 17.3
Presbyterian St. Thomas 27.3 46.8
Morehead State Valparaiso 27.6 30.9
South Carolina State Norfolk State 28.1 27.6
Arkansas-Pine Bluff Alabama A&M 27.0 40.0
Montana State Montana 21.0 22.5
Jacksonville State Eastern Kentucky 23.3 26.7
Rhode Island Elon 23.6 25.4
Alcorn State Jackson State 17.3 28.9
Delaware State NC Central 22.0 24.4
Western Illinois Northern Iowa 18.6 35.8
Towson James Madison 13.2 37
Texas Southern Alabama State 29.3 33.3
Tennessee Tech Austin Peay 15.9 36.5
Incarnate Word Houston Baptist 46.7 20.2
Northern Colorado Weber State 10.4 33.8
Idaho Idaho State 29.7 25.9
North Dakota South Dakota State 18.9 29.8
South Dakota North Dakota State 17.4 27.3
Florida A&M Bethune-Cookman 32.2 18.7
Richmond William and Mary 22.3 21.5
Eastern Washington Portland State 41.8 26.9
Stephen F. Austin Lamar 36.3 13.2
Central Arkansas Tarleton State 34.6 25.8
Northern Arizona Cal Poly 32.0 24.3
Sacramento State UC Davis 26.0 24.8
Missouri State Dixie State 41.5 16.7

Note: the game between Florida A&M and Bethune-Cookman is actually a neutral-site contest taking place in Orlando.

In terms of posts, this will probably be it from me for a couple of weeks or so. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

College Football Week 11, 2021: Thursday notes and observations

Wofford prepares to tackle The Citadel’s option offense

The Citadel’s game notes

My blog post from Tuesday, primarily a preview/review of statistics for The Citadel, Wofford, and FCS in general

Broadcast information

Wofford 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 November 13, 2021.

The game will be streamed on ESPN+. Play-by-play will be handled by Dave Weinstein, 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

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 111 players on Wofford’s online roster, 48 are from South Carolina. The remaining Terriers are from the following states: Georgia (19 players), Florida (12), North Carolina (12), Tennessee (5), Ohio (4), Alabama (3), Texas (2), and one each from Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, New Jersey, and Virginia.

Wofford added several transfers to its roster after the spring campaign, including a few junior college players. Two of the transfers on the squad began their collegiate careers at Appalachian State; two more are from Presbyterian. The others are from ASA College (Miami, FL), Hutchinson CC, Iowa Central CC, Independence CC, Jacksonville State, and Navy.

FCS lines are now not readily available until Saturday morning, at least in terms of consensus spreads and totals. As such, I won’t be listing any lines and totals for the subdivision as a group. There are some spreads out there for the games involving SoCon teams this Saturday (though not totals), and I’ll list those here. 

  • Florida is a 31½-point favorite over Samford 
  • The Citadel is a 3-point favorite over Wofford
  • Furman is a 2½-point favorite over VMI
  • East Tennessee State is a 10-point favorite at Western Carolina
  • Chattanooga is a 6-point favorite at Mercer

I do have numbers again from my own projection system; as must be noted, it is highly experimental and very dubious. This is what my numbers say about Saturday’s FCS games (I include the tenths of a decimal point to show how precise these calculations are, even though there is nothing really precise about them):

Road team Home team Road tm score Home tm score
Wagner Sacred Heart 8.7 32.2
Merrimack St. Francis PA 20.0 27.0
Central Conn. State Duquesne 19.4 26.0
Valparaiso Butler 31 21.6
Robert Morris Monmouth 16.7 39.6
Davidson Dayton 31.1 26.9
Georgetown Lehigh 21.4 23.1
Bethune-Cookman Grambling State 26.8 28.4
Penn Harvard 13.1 29.6
North Dakota State Youngstown State 32.8 13.5
Colgate Lafayette 14.7 24.2
Holy Cross Fordham 33.0 30.0
Brown Columbia 30.3 41.5
Stony Brook Villanova 13.0 28.9
Morgan State Albany 9.8 30.3
Southern Illinois Indiana State 34.5 21.9
Yale Princeton 22.2 26.4
Eastern Kentucky Sam Houston State 18.2 37.2
Long Island Bryant 18.8 29.4
St. Thomas Drake 18.5 14.6
Stetson Morehead State 26.5 40.9
Marist Presbyterian 44.7 32.2
Hampton Campbell 25.0 32.7
Norfolk State Delaware State 26.4 23.7
New Hampshire Rhode Island 21.5 26.7
North Carolina Central Howard 24.3 23.7
Charleston Southern Gardner-Webb 34.2 30.6
North Carolina A&T South Carolina State 24.4 22.1
Cornell Dartmouth 11.1 31.6
Alabama State MS Valley State 23.9 18.4
East Tennessee State Western Carolina 38.6 27.0
VMI Furman 27.9 27.1
SE Missouri State Murray State 28.2 24.6
South Dakota State South Dakota 28.3 21.4
Tarleton State Abilene Christian 28.7 25.6
Elon Towson 21.2 25.2
Delaware Richmond 15.3 23.2
Wofford The Citadel 24.7 25.9
UT Martin Tennessee Tech 32.6 15.6
McNeese State Houston Baptist 38.2 21.2
Alabama A&M Texas Southern 39.7 33.2
Prairie View A&M Alcorn State 26.5 21.9
Austin Peay Tennessee State 31.4 23.8
Kennesaw State North Alabama 32.5 19.0
Chattanooga Mercer 26.3 21.3
Idaho Montana State 15.6 37.0
Florida A&M Arkansas-Pine Bluff 33.8 18.4
Northern Iowa Missouri State 22.6 25.6
Illinois State North Dakota 17.9 24.8
Montana Northern Arizona 34.3 21.2
James Madison William and Mary 30.1 16.2
Weber State Southern Utah 35.2 16.0
Incarnate Word Nicholls State 35.1 34.9
Jacksonville State Lamar 29.8 14.9
Stephen F. Austin Central Arkansas 29.3 33.2
Jackson State Southern 29.8 19.9
Northwestern State SE Louisiana 21.2 47.3
Eastern Washington UC Davis 39.5 36.1
Idaho State Cal Poly 30.8 25.6
Portland State Sacramento State 21.2 30.2

Happy Homecoming, everyone.

College Football Week 11, 2021: Tuesday notes and observations

Brent Thompson’s Monday press conference

Wofford game notes

Willie Eubanks takes aim at the NFL

A quick summary of Wofford’s season to date:

The Terriers have a record of 1-8 with two games remaining, this Saturday’s contest against the Bulldogs and a trip to Chapel Hill to face North Carolina on November 20.

Wofford won its season opener at Elon, prevailing 24-22 after partially blocking a 46-yard field goal attempt by the Phoenix with eight seconds remaining. The next week was the Terriers’ bye week. Since then, Wofford has lost on eight consecutive Saturdays by an average score of 35-18.

Going back to the spring campaign, the Terriers have lost eleven straight SoCon games.

Here is my working spreadsheet for FCS statistics:

FCS statistics for games through November 6, 2021

It wasn’t the easiest week for compiling stats. Among other things, the NCAA’s website screwed up the total number of games played for several teams, leading to a lot of errors. I think I found all of them. 

This week features an NCAA attendance update, and the spreadsheet includes a tab for those numbers. The NCAA attendance totals are still missing two games, which I’ve noted at the bottom of the tab. It is not inconceivable there are a few more games missing (in terms of attendance; the other statistics should be okay).

I’ve also included a tab for the ever-popular onside kick numbers, a category dominated by Presbyterian. Incidentally, PC’s game at Valparaiso on Saturday resulted in one of the more entertaining box scores of the season; if you’re a true stats nerd, you might want to check it out: Link

In summary, the spreadsheet includes three offensive and three defensive tabs, including one each for Red Zone possessions; a separate tab for defensive interceptions; and tabs for punting, turnovers, penalties, time of possession, onside kicks, and attendance.

Neither The Citadel nor Wofford has had a good year on the field, and that is reflected in a lot of these numbers. I’ve listed some of the more relevant stats for each school below, along with the top five and bottom five in FCS for each category; I also occasionally note other SoCon schools that are high (or low) in those areas.

Also, for the uninitiated: I include sack numbers in passing statistics, rather than running stats. That is what the “adjusted” part of adjusted yards per rush and adjusted yards per pass is referencing.

Offense

– Yards per play (national average: 5.42; there are 128 teams in FCS)

  • Top 5 in FCS: Eastern Washington (7.30 yards per play), Southeastern Louisiana, South Dakota State, Incarnate Word, Nicholls State
  • Bottom 5 in FCS: Bucknell (3.38), Lehigh, Houston Baptist, Grambling State, Wagner
  • Wofford is 65th (5.37), The Citadel 89th (5.06). ETSU is 14th, Mercer 15th.

– Adjusted yards per rush (national average: 4.73)

  • Top 5: Sam Houston State (6.63), Nicholls State, North Dakota State, South Dakota State, ETSU
  • Bottom 5: Georgetown (3.02), Bucknell, Cal Poly, Robert Morris, Alabama State
  • Wofford is 30th (5.22), The Citadel 64th (4.65). Mercer is 11th, Chattanooga 17th.

– Adjusted yards per pass (national average: 6.12)

  • Top 5: Davidson (10.20), Kennesaw State, Eastern Washington, Southeastern Louisiana, South Dakota State
  • Bottom 5: Lehigh (3.51), Bucknell, Grambling State, Houston Baptist, Wagner
  • The Citadel is 37th (6.66), Wofford 85th (5.70). Mercer is 11th, ETSU 24th.

According to the NCAA’s “raw” stats, The Citadel is 8th nationally in yards per pass attempt (8.53). However, the Bulldogs also have the 5th-worst sack rate against in FCS (12.1%). Those sacks really have an impact on the actual yardage gained on pass plays.

The Citadel’s quarterbacks have been sacked 16 times this season, while attempting 116 passes. Southeastern Louisiana’s offense has also suffered 16 sacks — but the Lions have thrown 396 passes.

– The Citadel’s 116 pass attempts ranks as the third-fewest in the subdivision. Only Davidson (81 pass attempts) and Kennesaw State (108) have thrown fewer. Wofford has attempted 154 passes, fifth-fewest; Mercer has thrown the seventh-fewest.

– Not surprisingly, Davidson, Kennesaw State, and The Citadel rank 1-2-3 in percentage of run plays, with the Wildcats rushing on 84.6% of all plays from scrimmage. The Bulldogs run the football 79.5% of the time.

The SoCon as a whole prefers the ground attack. Wofford (68.6%) is 5th nationally in run rate, Mercer 8th, Chattanooga 13th, ETSU 20th, and Furman 22nd.

– Presbyterian has a pass play rate of 73.4%, tops in FCS. The rest of the top 5: Western Illinois, Morehead State, Incarnate Word, and Southeastern Louisiana. The Blue Hose are averaging 59.3 passes per game.

– Points per offensive play (national average: .383)

  • Top 5: South Dakota State (.627), Eastern Washington, Southeastern Louisiana, Sam Houston State, Central Arkansas
  • Bottom 5: Bucknell (.161), Lehigh, Dixie State, Cal Poly, Drake
  • Wofford is 91st (.320), The Citadel 96th (.313). Mercer is 12th, Samford 16th, ETSU 20th.

– Third down conversion rate (national average: 37.52%)

  • Top 5: Davidson (54.81%), Southeastern Louisiana, Eastern Washington, Incarnate Word, Missouri State
  • Bottom 5: New Hampshire (22.52%), Bucknell, Wagner, Eastern Illinois, Grambling State
  • The Citadel is 32nd (42.03%), Wofford 97th (33.33%). ETSU is 12th, Mercer 13th.

 – Fourth down conversion rate (national average: 48.99%)

  • Top 5: Kennesaw State (88.24%, 15 for 17), Furman and Delaware (tied for 2nd at 80.0%, 8 for 10), Norfolk State, Davidson
  • Bottom 2: Howard is 1 for 11 on 4th down, while Lehigh is 2 for 16
  • The Citadel is tied for 46th at exactly 50% (16 for 32), while Wofford is tied for 105th (36.36%, 4 for 11)
  • VMI is 7th, Mercer 9th (albeit on only 7 attempts), Samford 17th.

– Fourth down attempts

  • Presbyterian is 22 for 70 on fourth down attempts. Stetson has the 2nd-most attempts (38), followed by Eastern Illinois and (in a tie for fourth) The Citadel and Central Connecticut State.
  • Montana State has the fewest fourth down tries, with 5 (one successful). Eastern Kentucky and Central Arkansas have gone for it six times; Mercer and Chattanooga have each made seven attempts.

– Go rate

  • Presbyterian’s go rate of 87.5% leads the nation, as expected. Stetson, Davidson, Brown, and Southeastern Louisiana round out the top 5.
  • The Citadel is 8th (41.56%), Wofford 105th (15.15%).
  • Montana State has the lowest go rate, at 7.81%; Chattanooga is third-lowest.

– Red Zone offense (scoring)

  • Holy Cross has an estimated points per red zone possession rate of 6.15, best in FCS. The rest of the top 5: Youngstown State, Central Arkansas, Southeast Missouri State, and Southeastern Louisiana.
  • Bottom 5: Arkansas-Pine Bluff (3.03), Cal Poly, Lehigh, Dixie State, Indiana State
  • The Citadel is 65th, Wofford 101st. 

– Red Zone offense (possessions)

  • Southeastern Louisiana leads the nation in red zone trips per game, at 6.11. The national average is 3.51.
  • Other teams with lots of trips inside the opponents’ 20-yard line: Eastern Washington, Norfolk State, Samford, and VMI.
  • Lamar (1.00) has the fewest red zone trips per game.
  • The Citadel ranks 74th (3.33), Wofford 117th (2.44).

– Fastest/slowest offenses

  • Top 5, fastest: Samford (18.76 seconds per play), Presbyterian, Charleston Southern, Eastern Washington, Brown
  • Top 5, slowest: Delaware State (31.65 seconds per play), Lamar, Duquesne, Chattanooga, North Dakota State
  • The Citadel has the 67th-fastest offense (27.49 seconds per play), Wofford 120th-fastest (30.18). The national average is 26.96.

– Curious statistic that I thought was worth mentioning…

The Citadel’s offense has only picked up seven first downs via penalty this season. The Bulldogs have run 645 offensive plays, so the first down via penalty rate on a per-play basis is just 1.085%, which is the lowest rate in all of FCS. Wofford, by comparison, has a rate of 2.107%, slightly below the national average (2.571%).

No, I don’t know what it all means either…

Defense

– Yards per play (national average: 5.55)

  • Top 5: Jackson State (3.74), James Madison, Harvard, Prairie View A&M, Villanova
  • Bottom 5: Southern Utah (7.15), Western Illinois, Youngstown State, Brown, Butler
  • Wofford is 116th (6.45), The Citadel 122nd (6.74). Chattanooga is 14th, Mercer 21st.

– Adjusted yards per rush (national average: 4.81)

  • Top 5: James Madison (2.93), Harvard, Sam Houston State, Montana, Villanova
  • Bottom 5: Youngstown State (6.34), Lamar, Western Illinois, Butler, Alabama A&M
  • Wofford is 114th (5.63), The Citadel 118th (5.77). Chattanooga is 24th.

– Adjusted yards per pass (national average: 6.31)

  • Top 5: Jackson State (3.27), Sacred Heart, Prairie View A&M, Merrimack, Dartmouth
  • Bottom 5: Southern Utah (9.14), Brown, The Citadel (8.05), Idaho State, Robert Morris.
  • Wofford is 108th (7.49). Chattanooga is 15th, ETSU 23rd.

Jackson State’s prowess against the pass is best illustrated by its sack rate of 12.9%, tops in the nation.

– VMI’s opponents have run the football on 62.1% of their plays from scrimmage, the highest percentage in FCS. The rest of the top 5 in that category: Butler, Eastern Illinois, Western Carolina, and Samford. 

There are several other SoCon schools in the top 25, including Furman (11th), The Citadel (12th), Mercer (22nd), and Wofford (25th).

– Harvard’s opponents have passes (or attempted to pass) on 60.7% of their plays from scrimmage, the highest rate in the subdivision.

– Points allowed per play (national average: 4.04)

  • Top 5: North Dakota State (.172), Montana State, Harvard, Montana, Jackson State
  • Bottom 5: Presbyterian (.835), Brown, Lamar, Western Illinois, Wagner
  • Wofford is 99th (.484), The Citadel 118th (.544). ETSU is 16th, Chattanooga 19th.

– Third down conversion rate against

  • Top 5: North Dakota State (23.4%), Yale, Harvard, James Madison, Prairie View A&M
  • Bottom 5: Southern Utah (54.6%), Lamar, Idaho State, Jacksonville State, LIU
  • The Citadel is 112th (45.3%), Wofford 122nd (49.2%). Chattanooga is 8th.

– Fourth down conversion rate against

  • Top 5: St. Thomas (17.6%, 3 for 17), Holy Cross, Alcorn State, Harvard, Furman (2 for 8). 
  • The Citadel is 70th, Wofford 79th.
  • Bethune-Cookman has allowed 12 of 13 fourth down conversion attempts (92.3%). North Alabama and Mercer have each allowed 11 of 14 (78.6%).

– Fourth down attempts against

  • Four teams have faced only eight 4th-down attempts: Furman, Youngstown State, The Citadel, and Drake.
  • William and Mary has faced 28, the most of any team not named Presbyterian or that has not played Presbyterian.

– Havoc Rate

  • Jackson State (23.46%) leads the nation in Havoc Rate, followed by James Madison, Chattanooga, Prairie View A&M, and Stephen F. Austin.
  • Wofford is last in Havoc Rate (9.16%). The rest of the bottom five includes Southern Utah, Bucknell, The Citadel (10.78%, fourth-worst), and Marist.

Of the bottom 25 teams in Havoc Rate, only two have winning records — Fordham and VMI.

– Red Zone defense (scoring)

  • Top 5: Dartmouth (2.84 estimated points per red zone possession), Harvard, North Dakota State, Montana, Kennesaw State
  • Bottom 5: Western Carolina (6.28), Columbia, Lamar, Brown, Butler
  • The Citadel is 59th, Wofford 101st. Chattanooga is 6th.

– Red Zone defense (possessions)

  • Top 5: James Madison (allowing 1.44 red zone possessions per game), North Dakota State, Sacred Heart, Jackson State, Villanova
  • Bottom 5: Presbyterian, Southern, Houston Baptist, LIU, Western Carolina
  • Wofford is 55th, The Citadel 91st. Chattanooga is 15th.

Miscellaneous

– St. Thomas leads FCS in interceptions per pass attempt (one pick every 16.23 opponent throws). Chattanooga ranks second in this statistic, followed by Holy Cross, Villanova, and Stephen F. Austin. Mercer is 11th, Furman 13th, The Citadel 57th (33.57), and Wofford next-to-last (131.50). Howard has faced 253 pass attempts, but has only one interception.

– Montana continues to set the pace in net punting (44.20). The Citadel is 28th, Wofford 60th, and Presbyterian (predictably) last.

– Furman is averaging the fewest penalty yards per game in FCS (31.00). The rest of the top five includes Bucknell, Wofford (32.67), Princeton, and South Dakota. Mercer is 8th, The Citadel 27th (47.00).

Florida A&M averages the most penalty yards per contest (96.33).

The cumulative record of the ten teams with the worst penalty yardage numbers is 49-40. The cumulative record of the ten teams with the fewest penalty yardage stats is 40-47.

– James Madison has a turnover margin per game of +1.33, tops in FCS. Chattanooga and Montana State are tied for 2nd. The next group of tied teams includes East Tennessee State, McNeese State, South Carolina State, South Dakota State, and UC Davis.

The Citadel is tied for 95th (-0.33), Wofford tied for 77th (-0.11). Presbyterian (-2.56) is last.

– The Citadel is 14th in time of possession, while Wofford is 87th.

– The Citadel’s home attendance per game is 27th-highest nationally; Wofford’s is 88th.

I’ll probably have another relatively short writeup as Saturday’s contest draws closer.

 

College Football Week 10, 2021: Friday notes and observations

From Tuesday, my weekly statistical review/preview (including The Citadel, Samford, and FCS in general)

Keys for The Citadel, from The Post and Courier

Game notes for The Citadel

Game notes for Samford

SoCon weekly release

Broadcast information

The Citadel at Samford, to be played on Bobby Bowden Field at Seibert Stadium in Birmingham, Alabama, with kickoff at 3:00 pm ET on November 6, 2021.

The game will be streamed on ESPN+. Play-by-play will be handled by Curt Bloom, while Damian Mitchell supplies the analysis. Graham Doty 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.

– Samford has 119 players on its online roster. Of those, 42 are from the state of Alabama. Other states with players on SU’s squad: Georgia (29), Tennessee (14), Florida (10), Mississippi (8), North Carolina (2), Arkansas (2), Kentucky (2), Louisiana (2), and one each from California, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia.

The one Palmetto State product on Samford’s team is freshman reserve placekicker/punter Henry Bishop, who attended Spartanburg High School.

The Birmingham Bulldogs’ punter, three-year regular Bradley Porcellato, is from Melbourne, Australia.

– SU has 15 players who transferred in from four-year schools and four others who arrived from junior colleges. Three of the university transfers are from UAB. The others are from Dartmouth, Jackson State, Jacksonville State, Morehead State, Murray State, North Carolina State, North Texas, Southern Mississippi, Texas Tech, Vanderbilt, William Jewell College, and the University of Sioux Falls.

– Because all of Samford’s players have assigned jersey numbers, 21 of them actually share a number with another player. It isn’t unusual for multiple players to have the same number, of course, but 21 is a lot. Ensuring that two players with the same number aren’t on the field at the same time (particularly on special teams) is probably a regular duty for someone on the coaching staff.

– For Samford to have 119 players on an FCS roster, especially into the month of November, is slightly unusual and arguably rather impressive. It should be noted that SU also had by far the most players on its roster in the spring among SoCon programs (95).

Given that FCS lines are now not readily available until Saturday morning (at least, from what I have been able to determine), I won’t be listing any lines and totals for the subdivision. There are some lines out there for three of the SoCon games on Saturday (but not totals). The Citadel-Samford is the one league contest for which I can’t find any line. 

  • Chattanooga is an 18½-point favorite at Wofford (as of 11/6, the Mocs are 19½-point faves; o/u of 45½)
  • Furman is a 6½-point favorite at Western Carolina (as of 11/6, FU is a 4½-point fave; o/u of 51½)
  • East Tennessee State is a 7½-point favorite against VMI (as of 11/6, ETSU is a 6-point fave; o/u of 59)

Mercer is off this week.

Edit: Saturday, November 6, at 11:45 am ET — Per one source that deals in such matters, Samford is a 9½-point favorite over The Citadel, with an over/under of 77½.

I do have numbers from my own projection system, which as I have mentioned before is highly experimental and even more highly suspect. This is what my numbers say about Saturday’s FCS games (I include the tenths of a decimal point just to look cutting-edge):

 

Road team Home team Road tm score Home tm score
Sacred Heart St. Francis PA 18.5 18.4
Merrimack Wagner 30.6 17.4
Bryant Central Conn. State 24.9 21.4
Drake Marist 15.5 20.2
Kennesaw State Robert Morris 32.0 11.9
Alcorn State Bethune-Cookman 28.9 23.0
Stony Brook Maine 22.2 23.3
Yale Brown 37.0 24.7
Lafayette Holy Cross 15.3 26.8
Fordham Georgetown 38.4 23.4
Cornell Penn 20.2 25.4
Duquesne Long Island 28.0 15.7
Harvard Columbia 25.2 18.4
St. Thomas Davidson 21.1 25.7
Dixie State Sam Houston State 12.0 46.1
VMI ETSU 26.5 29.7
North Carolina A&T Charleston Southern 24.9 29.1
Missouri State Southern Illinois 28.0 32.0
Northern Iowa Illinois State 26.3 14.3
South Dakota Western Illinois 31.0 21.6
Youngstown State North Dakota 18.5 31.8
New Hampshire Albany 21.6 21.2
William and Mary Delaware 22.8 15.5
Lehigh Bucknell 18.4 18.1
Nicholls State McNeese State 28.1 27.2
Dayton Stetson 34.5 27.3
Gardner-Webb Hampton 32.7 29.0
North Alabama Monmouth 19.5 36.8
Chattanooga Wofford 30.8 11.1
Presbyterian Valparaiso 29.4 44.8
Furman Western Carolina 32.8 24.4
Tennessee Tech Murray State 16.7 25.4
Howard South Carolina State 19.6 32.1
Mississippi Valley St. Alabama A&M 23.8 33.7
Towson Richmond 18.9 22.3
Abilene Christian Jacksonville State 20.0 28.5
Villanova Elon 27.7 17.8
Norfolk State NC Central 27.5 21.0
Texas Southern Jackson State 20.0 39.0
Montana Northern Colorado 30.7 12.4
Alabama State Prairie View A&M 15.4 28.0
Grambling State Arkansas-Pine Bluff 25.8 20.7
Eastern Illinois Austin Peay 18.4 35.4
SE Louisiana Incarnate Word 37.4 34.5
The Citadel Samford 33.9 45.9
UC Davis Northern Arizona 32.0 24.1
Portland State Weber State 17.4 32.6
Tennessee State UT Martin 15.1 28.4
North Dakota State South Dakota State 22.1 21.1
Campbell James Madison 14.0 37.9
Morehead State San Diego 27.9 33.3
Southern Utah Idaho 24.6 30.8
Houston Baptist Northwestern State 26.8 33.3
Montana State Eastern Washington 32.9 35.9
Eastern Kentucky Stephen F. Austin 25.2 24.5
Florida A&M Southern 26.8 20.5
Lamar Tarleton State 17.3 29.1
Cal Poly Sacramento State 14.6 38.6

Based on the FCS lines available as of Saturday morning, my numbers favor taking Presbyterian +20, North Dakota State +3, and Eastern Kentucky +3½. All of them are road underdogs.

As far as the totals are concerned, my system likes one over (North Carolina A&T at Charleston Southern, with a current total of 47½) and a bunch of unders:

  • Alcorn State at Bethune-Cookman (total of 59)
  • Yale at Brown (69)
  • Duquesne at LIU (51½)
  • Gardner-Webb at Hampton (68½)
  • Mississippi Valley State at Alabama A&M (64½)
  • Norfolk State at North Carolina Central (55½)
  • Southeastern Louisiana at Incarnate Word (81½)
  • Southern Utah at Idaho (62½)

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)…

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: 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 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…