College Football Week 7, 2021: Thursday notes and observations

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

The Citadel’s game notes

Furman’s game notes

SoCon weekly release

The Brent Thompson Show

Furman Football, Monday episode

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

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

Broadcast information

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

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

The contest can be heard on radio via The Citadel Sports Network. WQNT-1450 AM [audio link], originating in Charleston, will be the flagship station. Other stations carrying the game include WQXL in Columbia (100.7 FM/1470 AM) and WDXY in Sumter (105.9 FM/1240 AM).

Luke Mauro (the “Voice of the Bulldogs”) calls the action alongside analyst Lee Glaze.

“Live Stats” for the game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roster review:

– Of the 112 players on The Citadel’s online roster, 61 are from South Carolina. Other states represented: Georgia (18 players), Florida (11), North Carolina (9), Virginia (4), Alabama (2), Texas (2), and one each from New York, Oklahoma, Ohio, and Tennessee.

Tight end Hayden Williamson played his high school football in Okinawa, Japan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brief lines/odds discussion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

College Football Week 7, 2021: Tuesday notes and observations

The Citadel’s game notes for the matchup against Furman

Furman has a new quarterback

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A few other stats of note:

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

More to come later in the week…

College Football Week 6, 2021: Thursday notes and observations

Tuesday notes and observations

Game notes from The Citadel

ETSU’s digital gameday program

SoCon weekly release

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

Jaylan Adams returns to Johnson City

The Brent Thompson Show (in podcast format)

Broadcast information

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

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

  • ECBD (Charleston, SC)
  • WBTW (Myrtle Beach, SC)
  • WMUB (Macon, GA)
  • WMYT (Charlotte, NC)
  • WWCW (Lynchburg/Roanoke, VA)
  • WYCW (Greenville, SC/Spartanburg, SC/Asheville, NC).

Pete Yanity will handle play-by-play, while Todd Agne supplies the analysis. 

The contest can be heard on radio via The Citadel Sports Network. WQNT-1450 AM [audio link], originating in Charleston, will be the flagship station. Other stations carrying the game include WQXL in Columbia (100.7 FM/1470 AM) and WDXY in Sumter (105.9 FM/1240 AM).

Luke Mauro (the “Voice of the Bulldogs”) calls the action alongside analyst Lee Glaze.

– From an article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roster review:

– Of the 113 players on The Citadel’s online roster, 61 are from South Carolina. Other states represented: Georgia (18 players), Florida (11), North Carolina (9), Virginia (5), Alabama (2), Texas (2), and one each from New York, Oklahoma, Ohio, and Tennessee.

Tight end Hayden Williamson played his high school football in Okinawa, Japan.

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

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

College Football Week 5, 2021: Thursday notes and observations

Tuesday notes and observations, including lines/odds and conference realignment discussion

SoCon weekly release

VMI game notes

The Citadel game notes

Almost one-fourth of VMI’s roster is from the Richmond, VA metropolitan area

VMI “braces to restrict The Citadel’s option”

Broadcast information

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

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

  • ECBD (Charleston, SC)
  • WHDF (Huntsville/Florence, AL)
  • WMUB (Macon, GA)
  • WMYT (Charlotte, NC)
  • WWCW (Lynchburg/Roanoke, VA)
  • WYCW (Greenville, SC/Spartanburg, SC/Asheville, NC).

Pete Yanity will handle play-by-play, while Jay Sonnhalter 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.

Roster review:

– Of the 114 players on The Citadel’s online roster, 62 are from South Carolina. Other states represented: Georgia (18 players), Florida (11), North Carolina (9), Virginia (5), Alabama (2), Texas (2), and one each from New York, Oklahoma, Ohio, and Tennessee.

Tight end Hayden Williamson played his high school football in Okinawa, Japan.

– VMI has 108 players on its online roster. Of those, 74 are from Virginia. As mentioned in an article linked above, 25 of those players are from the Richmond metropolitan area.

Other states represented on the Keydets’ squad: North Carolina (8 players), Pennsylvania (4), Maryland (3), Alabama (2), Georgia (2), New Jersey (2), South Carolina (2), Tennessee (2), West Virginia (2), and one each from Arizona, Florida, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Texas, and Ohio.

Defensive lineman Terrell Jackson is from Washington, DC.

While only four VMI players are from Pennsylvania, it should be noted that they include quarterback Seth Morgan and star wideout Jakob Herres. Another wide receiver from the Keystone State, sophomore Julio DaSilva, is on the two-deep as well.

Potential area code confusion: 

From the aforementioned story in The Richmond Times-Dispatch:

Keydets from the Richmond area, according to [running back Korey Bridy], will occasionally identify their place of origin by simply saying, “We’re from the four,” as in the 804, the area code for Virginia’s capital.

Charleston, SC is located in the 803 area code. Lexington, Virginia has an area code of 540.

Stats of interest for The Citadel, VMI, and the rest of the SoCon. A few notes:

  • I include sacks in passing yardage statistics rather than rushing, like the NFL (but unlike the official NCAA stats). Hence the “adjusted” tag.
  • There are 128 FCS teams. Five of them are “transitional” schools, but all of them are playing FCS schedules and thus are included in the overall national rankings here. The NCAA separates their stats from the rest of the subdivision for some bizarre reason, but I do not. For the record, the five schools in question are Dixie State, Merrimack, North Alabama, St. Thomas, and Tarleton State.
  • All of these statistics include games played inside and outside the division (in other words, FBS and D2 games are part of the mix). Given that teams have only played three or four games so far this season, this is definitely something to keep in mind.

First, offensive statistics:

Team Yds/Play Rank Adjusted Yds/Rush Rank Adjusted Yds/PA Rank
The Citadel      5.58 50      5.09 39      7.61 19
VMI      5.01 79      5.06 41      4.96 98
Chattanooga      4.54 99      4.68 55      4.36 115
ETSU      6.82 10      6.05 9      8.08 11
Furman      4.79 86      3.27 119      6.63 50
Mercer      6.82 11      6.03 11      8.47 9
Samford      5.94 32      4.18 77      6.94 33
WCU      5.38 60      5.53 23      5.28 86
Wofford      5.48 56      5.08 40      6.14 59

 

Team 3D conv rate Rank RZ TD% Rank TFL allowed/play Rank % Rush plays Rank
The Citadel 43.6% 33 66.7% 51           8.2% 54   80.4% 3
VMI 38.8% 55 78.6% 22           9.1% 69   47.1% 83
Chattanooga 32.6% 86 68.4% 40           7.9% 42   54.7% 40
ETSU 47.1% 15 54.5% 78           5.2% 5   61.8% 18
Furman 39.7% 50 30.0% T121           8.5% 60   53.4% 47
Mercer 51.4% 6 81.8% 15           6.9% 24   67.5% 8
Samford 46.2% 23 65.2% 52           9.0% 67   36.2% 119
WCU 38.8% 54 47.1% 96           6.4% 18   39.5% 107
Wofford 32.5% 87 50.0% T86           6.4% 17   63.1% 15

One oddity in the rankings is that The Citadel is 50th nationally in yards per play despite ranking higher in both of the component stats (yards per rush and yards per pass attempt). That is largely due to the Bulldogs’ 80.4% rush rate; only Davidson and Kennesaw State have run the ball more on a per-play basis.

To further explain: as a group, FCS teams have averaged 5.34 yards per play through September. That number includes 4.64 yards per rush and 6.03 yards per pass attempt, a differential of 1.39 yards. 

However, the overall run/pass play ratio for FCS outfits is almost exactly a 50-50 proposition (50.0015%, favoring pass plays ever so slightly). The Citadel gets “passed” (quite literally) in the yards per play category by teams that throw the ball more often — which, as can be seen, is almost every team in the subdivision.

South Carolina State ranks 49th nationally in yards per play (5.59), one spot ahead of The Citadel, despite ranking behind Charleston’s Bulldogs in both yards per rush and yards per pass attempt. That is because Buddy Pough’s squad has a much more balanced run/pass ratio (rushing on 46.5% of its plays from scrimmage).

There are four FCS teams currently averaging more than 7.5 yards per play. It will not surprise anyone to learn that they are North Dakota State, South Dakota State, Eastern Washington, and James Madison. 

South Dakota State leads the nation in adjusted yards per pass attempt (10.23), while NDSU currently is at the top of the adjusted yards per rush category (8.56).

The bottom five in yards per play: Grambling State (2.50, lowest in FCS), Bucknell, Lehigh, Mississippi Valley State, and LIU.

Looking at SoCon teams, it is clear that to date ETSU and Mercer have had the conference’s most efficient offenses, with good-to-excellent numbers across the board. The Buccaneers could stand some improvement in the red zone, but other than that there can be no complaints from the fans of those teams — not on offense, anyway.

Just for clarification, East Tennessee State ranks just ahead of Mercer in yards per play (6.824 to 6.823). The extra decimal place does not appear on the chart above.

I included a column for tackles for loss on a per-play basis, because I thought it was interesting. From The Citadel’s perspective, a tackle for loss on 8.2% of all offensive plays from scrimmage is not really acceptable. Negative plays are drive killers, particularly for offenses that do not produce a lot of big plays.

Defensive numbers:

Team Yds/Play Rank Adjusted Yds/Rush Rank Adjusted Yds/PA Rank
The Citadel      6.96 118      5.56 102      8.52 114
VMI      5.92 79      5.67 106      6.39 64
Chattanooga      4.89 32      4.07 27      5.53 31
ETSU      4.81 27      4.05 25      5.22 22
Furman      5.56 55      4.63 53      6.52 68
Mercer      4.38 14      3.46 12      5.23 23
Samford      5.36 43      5.01 74      5.68 37
WCU      7.02 120      5.72 108      8.45 113
Wofford      5.76 69      5.64 105      5.92 41

 

Team 3D conv rate Rank RZ TD rate Rank TFL/play Rank % Rush plays vs Rank
The Citadel 50.0% 120 55.6% 38      4.7% 125     52.6% 56
VMI 47.8% 112 64.3% 68      6.0% 112     65.9% 2
Chattanooga 33.3% 32 57.1% 41    10.9% 29     44.3% 107
ETSU 40.3% 76 53.3% 29      8.0% 76     35.0% 124
Furman 40.4% 77 72.7% 91      7.4% 92     50.8% 67
Mercer 40.0% 74 55.6% 36      7.0% 98     47.8% 85
Samford 43.6% 91 66.7% 76      6.5% 106     48.6% 80
WCU 45.1% 102 88.0% 122      8.2% 73     52.4% 59
Wofford 43.6% 93 50.0% 26      6.4% 107     55.9% 37

 

Chattanooga, East Tennessee State, and Mercer have the best defensive statistics in the conference through September. The SoCon as a whole has struggled on this side of the ball — take a look at those third down conversion against rates, yeesh. Getting off the field on third down has been a major problem for most of the league’s teams. 

I included the rushing play percentage category for defense, even though obviously that is opponent-driven for the most part. It is a bit curious that VMI has been rushed against (on a per-play basis) more than any FCS team except for Bucknell.  

These numbers for The Citadel will not shock any Bulldogs fan who has been watching the games. The sole highlight, I suppose, is that The Citadel’s defense has done a decent job in the Red Zone. Opponents have largely rushed and passed against the Bulldogs with impunity.

Princeton leads FCS in yards per play allowed, at 2.61 (albeit while only playing two games, against the less-than-stellar competition of Lehigh and Stetson). James Madison and North Dakota State rank second and third. Deion Sanders’ Jackson State squad is fourth, just ahead of Prairie View A&M.

The bottom five: LIU (allowing 8.42 yards per play, worst in the subdivision), Texas Southern, Southern Utah, Central Connecticut State, and Southeast Missouri State.

To be fair to LIU, it has played three games thus far, and all three have been against FBS opponents (FIU, West Virginia, and Miami of Ohio). The Sharks get a well-deserved break this weekend before resuming their season next Saturday against St. Francis (PA).

Some miscellaneous stats:

Team TO margin/gm Rank TOP Rank Penalty yds/gm Rank Net punting Rank
The Citadel -0.33 T76 31:17 51 40.00 26 40.93 14
VMI -0.50 T81 27:52 101 64.00 T94 38.50 31
Chattanooga 0.67 T34 32:34 26 50.00 T49 40.25 17
ETSU 1.25 T19 33:06 18 63.75 93 36.43 57
Furman 0.00 T57 31:27 45 48.75 42 34.27 83
Mercer -0.33 T76 31:18 50 31.33 9 26.17 123
Samford 0.25 T51 24:35 125 50.25 54 38.79 28
WCU -0.75 T90 30:59 56 53.25 T65 34.91 72
Wofford 0.00 T57 29:48 73 38.00 19 33.80 93

Apologies for the formatting of that table; I realize it is even clunkier than usual.

It is a little strange to see The Citadel not near or at the top in terms of time of possession, but even stranger that Wofford is averaging under 30 minutes TOP per contest.

A few FCS national leaders in each category:

  • Turnover margin: Campbell leads (2.67 per game), a possible benefit of having played Presbyterian. Others in the top five: UC Davis, James Madison, Northern Iowa, and Alcorn State. Brown and the aforementioned Blue Hose are the bottom two, with the Bears enduring a -3 TO margin/game through two contests.
  • Time of possession: Yale is dominating this stat, averaging 37:42 TOP, though the Elis have only played two games. Also in the top five: Central Connecticut State, Princeton, Kennesaw State, and Butler. On the other end of the spectrum, Grambling State is averaging just 22:44 TOP per game and thus ranks last.
  • Penalty yards per game: New Hampshire is averaging only 20.75 penalty yards per game, the cleanest number in the subdivision. Other teams avoiding yellow flags include Bucknell, Howard, Delaware, and Idaho State. Only one team is averaging more than 100 yards per game in penalties — Yale. As already mentioned, that school has played just two games thus far.
  • Net punting: Idaho State has a net punting average of 46.07, which leads the nation, ahead of Montana, Missouri State, Davidson, and Illinois State. You only get one guess as to which team is in last place, with a net punting average of just 9.0. Yep, Presbyterian. No wonder Kevin Kelley doesn’t want to punt. (The Blue Hose have only punted twice.)

We are just 48 hours from kickoff for The Military Classic of the South. The coveted Silver Shako will be at stake, and a sellout crowd celebrating Parents’ Weekend will be watching the action.

Among the spectators, by the way, will be a contingent of about 500 Keydets, including VMI’s band. The atmosphere should be outstanding; I’m hoping the game will be as well.

I can’t wait for Saturday.

College Football Week 3, 2021: Thursday notes and observations

North Greenville’s head coach is a graduate of The Citadel, and his team can beat The Citadel

Brent Thompson’s 9/13 press conference

The Brent Thompson Show (9/15)

The Citadel’s game notes

Broadcast information

North Greenville at The Citadel, to be played on Sansom Field at historic Johnson Hagood Stadium in Charleston, South Carolina, with kickoff at 6:00 pm ET on September 18, 2021.

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

Well, this is going to be short and sweet. I didn’t have a lot of time this week to put together a lot of notes and information, and perhaps it was just as well.

On the bright side, the reunion classes did a great job of raising money for The Citadel. Major props to everyone involved.

Unfortunately, that was the only highlight from Saturday. Nothing went right on the field (and even off the field, the new scoreboard had issues that need to be addressed).

It was an abysmal performance by the Bulldogs. There was no excuse for the team to be so flat, particularly given the circumstances. If the squad plays like that for the rest of the season, the outlook is very bleak indeed.

The defense has not been able to get off the field in two games (66.7% 3rd-down conversion allowed rate), and has yet to force a turnover. Opponents are completing 80% of their pass attempts, as the Bulldogs have only defensed two out of 50 throws. Yards per play allowed: 8.6.

Offensively, things haven’t been great either. The Citadel is averaging only 4.6 yards per play, has struggled to put together drives (33.3% 3rd-down conversion rate), and has averaged 4.9 yards per pass attempt (adjusted for sacks).

In the two games, The Citadel has had five plays from scrimmage that resulted in gains of 20 yards or more. Opponents have had 18.

This week, North Greenville comes to town, and the Crusaders probably think they have a very good chance of beating the Bulldogs. NGU is an excellent D2 team, with several impact players who began their collegiate careers at D1 schools (read Jeff Hartsell’s article, linked above, for details). North Greenville’s starting quarterback can already lay claim to a victory over The Citadel at Johnson Hagood Stadium, from the 2017 season when he started for Mercer.

NGU played quite respectably against The Citadel back in 2016, a year in which the Bulldogs won the SoCon title. If anything, the early season results suggest that the Crusaders are more talented now than they were then — perhaps considerably so. 

North Greenville’s offense is balanced (69 pass plays, 63 rush attempts through two games). Slightly over 60% of its yardage comes via the air.

Defensively, NGU has 13½ tackles for loss (including 3½ sacks) and has forced four turnovers (three interceptions). Opponents are averaging 4.29 sack-adjusted yards per rush.

“We’ve got our work cut out for us this week,” said Brent Thompson at his Monday presser. Yes, the Bulldogs certainly do.

There is no line on The Citadel’s game against North Greenville this week, not too surprising given that NGU is a D2 squad. However, one book does have moneylines for the contest: +290 (North Greenville) and -410 (The Citadel). I’m not an expert on this by any means, but I believe that would indicate a likely spread of 8 to 8½ points, if one existed.

Other SoCon lines this week:

  • Kentucky is a 30½-point favorite over Chattanooga (over/under of 42½)
  • Cornell is a 1½-point favorite over VMI (over/under of 53)
  • Samford is a 13-point favorite at Western Carolina (over/under of 71½)
  • Wofford is a 6-point favorite over Kennesaw State (over/under of 54½)
  • North Carolina State is a 29½-point favorite over Furman (over/under of 42½)
  • East Tennessee State is a 27½-point favorite over Delaware State (over/under of 41½)

Mercer is off this week.

I don’t have any opinion on the FBS vs. FCS games; those spreads look about right to me.

I like VMI’s chances at Cornell, as the Keydets arguably should be favored. My numbers would support Samford covering against Western Carolina (but with the Catamounts being competitive). 

No offense to the Terriers, but I am surprised Kennesaw State is the underdog in that matchup. The spread in Delaware State-ETSU is exactly where it should be “on paper”, but in reality I like the Buccaneers a bit more than that.

As for totals, I would take the over in Samford-WCU and Delaware State-ETSU, and the under in Kennesaw State-Wofford.

This is all just for “recreational purposes”, of course, as I live in a state where gambling on such events is illegal. Also, I wouldn’t be shocked if I went 0-fer on all my picks…

A brief coda: The Citadel had a tough week last week, but it wasn’t even in the running for toughest week for a triple-option program.

Georgia Southern got absolutely smoked by FAU (38-6), but that wasn’t the “winner”, either.

Nothing tops Navy’s 23-3 loss to Air Force, which led to the following sequence of events:

  • Navy offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper was fired after the game, but not by head coach Ken Niumatalolo — no, he was fired by AD Chet Gladchuk
  • Niumatalolo asked Gladchuk to reconsider, and Jasper was subsequently reinstated to the staff as QBs coach
  • Another offensive assistant, Billy Ray Stutzmann, was dismissed for refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine (which is required for all Naval Academy personnel)

Jasper has been at Navy for 22 years (two separate stints), including 14 seasons as the OC (all under Niumatalolo, who has been at Navy himself for 24 years, including the last 20 seasons).

Gladchuk has been the AD at Annapolis for 20 years, so these are all people who have worked together for a long time. The whole situation is bizarre.

Okay, Bulldogs. It is time to win. Style points are not important, just the final score.

College Football Week 2, 2021: Thursday notes and observations

Wednesday’s notes and observations

Links of interest for Thursday:

The Brent Thompson Show (recorded September 8, 2021)

The Citadel is “back open for business” at Johnson Hagood Stadium

The Citadel’s game notes (in case you missed the release earlier this week)

Weekly release from the SoCon

Charleston Southern’s game notes

Weekly release from the Big South

Broadcast information

Charleston Southern 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 September 11, 2021.

The game will be streamed on ESPN+ and televised on four TV stations — ECBD in Charleston, WMYT in Charlotte, WWCW in Lynchburg/Roanoke, and WYCW in Greenville/Spartanburg/Asheville.

Pete Yanity will handle play-by-play, while Jared Singleton 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.

This was reported last week, but I wanted to mention here that The Citadel has added another FBS opponent to a future schedule. The Bulldogs will play at Charlotte on September 5, 2026. 

The Citadel will receive $305,000 for the game, along with 400 complimentary tickets. In addition, the 49ers will provide 600 tickets for The Citadel to sell.

Other future FBS opponents for the Bulldogs include Appalachian State (in the 2022 season), Georgia Southern (2023), Clemson (2024), and Mississippi (2025).

The current administration has established a preference for playing close-to-home FBS opponents, and has been more focused on G5 schools. I understand the reasoning, and sometimes there isn’t much of a difference in the guarantees, but I believe playing P5 teams is generally a better idea, particularly in terms of publicity and cachet. The exception to this would be a matchup against a service academy.

Of the 117 players on The Citadel’s online roster, 66 are from South Carolina. Other states represented: Georgia (17 players), Florida (11), North Carolina (9), Virginia (5), Alabama (2), Texas (2), and one each from New York, Oklahoma, Ohio, and Tennessee.

Tight end Hayden Williamson played his high school football in Okinawa, Japan.

Charleston Southern has 116 players on its online roster. There are 34 natives of South Carolina on the squad. Other states represented include Georgia (30 players), Florida (25), North Carolina (17), Kentucky (3), Texas (2), and one each from Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, and Virginia.

Defensive lineman Devonte Turner played high school football in Florida, but is originally from Windsor, Ontario.

Actually, there are 117 players listed on Charleston Southern’s roster. Lorvens Florestal, a freshman from Delray Beach, Florida, was tragically killed two weeks ago in an off-campus shooting. He was an innocent bystander — simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Lorvens Florestal was 19 years old.

Most of CSU’s players were recruited to North Charleston out of high school. There are 12 players on the Buccaneers’ roster who began playing collegiately at another four-year institution or a junior college. 

Charleston Southern did not play in the fall of 2020, but did compete in four spring games. The Bucs were 2-2, losing road games to Kennesaw State and Monmouth, but winning at home versus Robert Morris and Gardner-Webb.

Spring stats of note for CSU, offense:

  • Points per game: 20.75
  • Yards per play: 4.88 
  • Run/pass ratio: 44.9% rush attempts, 55.1% pass plays
  • Adjusted yards per rush: 3.83
  • Adjusted yards per pass attempt: 5.73
  • Pass completion percentage: 62.7%
  • Sack percentage per pass play: 9.55% (142 attempts, 15 sacks allowed)
  • 3rd down conversion rate: 43.8% (28 for 64)
  • 4th down conversion rate: 33.3% (2 for 6)
  • Estimated points per red zone possession: 4.93

Spring stats of note for CSU: defense:

  • Points allowed per game: 20.00
  • Yards per play allowed: 5.05
  • Run/pass ratio for opponents: 61.2% rush attempts, 38.7% pass plays
  • Adjusted yards per rush allowed: 3.43
  • Adjusted yards per pass attempt allowed: 7.60
  • Pass completion percentage allowed: 55.7%
  • Sack percentage per pass play: 5.83% (97 attempts against, 6 sacks)
  • 3rd down conversion rate against: 37.1% (23 for 62)
  • 4th down conversion rate against: 50.0% (8 of 16)
  • Estimated points per red zone possession allowed: 3.75

Other spring stats of note for CSU:

  • Average time of possession per contest: 27 minutes, 37 seconds
  • Net punting: 37.48 yards
  • Penalties per game: 6.0
  • Penalty yardage per contest: 55.25
  • Turnover margin per game: -0.25 (4 gained, 5 lost in 4 games)

It is difficult to come to any sweeping statistical conclusions about Charleston Southern’s football team, given the small four-game sample size. CSU’s offense had success through the air, though the Buccaneers did allow more than their fair share of sacks. The offensive third down conversion rate was good.

When Charleston Southern had a big play on offense, it almost always came via the pass. In the four games, CSU only had one run of more than 20+ yards.

However, fans of the Bulldogs might remember current CSU starting quarterback Jack Chambers rushing for 33 and 38 yards on consecutive plays during the Buccaneers’ game versus The Citadel in 2019. Chambers entered that contest late in the third quarter and had an immediate impact.

Defensively, Charleston Southern’s spring campaign featured outstanding play in the red zone. Opponents scored only seven times in twelve trips inside the 20-yard line (six TDs and a field goal). CSU got burned by long pass plays a few times (including a 51-yard touchdown toss by Kennesaw State and a 70-yard TD by Monmouth), but was good against the run; in three of the four games, Charleston Southern did not allow a run of 20+ yards. 

Against Kennesaw State, which runs the triple option, CSU did not give up a run of longer than 10 yards, with an adjusted yards per rush allowed of only 3.38.

KSU won that game 24-19; two of the Owls’ scores came on pass plays (Kennesaw was 4 for 5 throwing the ball, with one sack). Also of possible interest: KSU quarterback Jonathan Murphy accounted for half of the Owls’ rushing yardage (and almost 40% of the carries).

The Citadel has an all-time record of 1-5 on September 11. The lone victory came against Presbyterian in 1982. As described in this week’s game notes:

…Randy Gold’s 42-yard interception return in the third quarter proved to be the difference as
The Citadel opened the season with a 21-16 victory over Presbyterian. The victory was the 14th-straight
victory inside Johnson Hagood Stadium. Quarterback Gerald Toney scored on runs of 43 yards and 10
yards in the first quarter, and linebacker Keith McCauley paced the defense with 11 tackles, two forced
fumbles and a blocked punt.

On a rainy night in Charleston, the two teams combined for nine turnovers and the above-mentioned blocked punt. During one drive, PC was stopped on downs inside the Bulldogs’ 1-yard line. The Citadel only had 237 yards of total offense — not much, but just enough.

Getting closer to the long-awaited home opener…

College Football Week 2, 2021: Wednesday notes and observations

Links of interest for Wednesday:

My review of the last time The Citadel and Charleston Southern met on the gridiron, in 2019

Game notes from The Citadel

Brent Thompson’s Monday press conference (September 6)

Nathan Storch “needs some help at b-back” (I think it is coming)

Charleston Southern coach Autry Denson hopes that Johnson Hagood Stadium is “a rowdy, hostile environment” on Saturday

The weather forecast for Saturday afternoon in Charleston, per the National Weather Service: mostly sunny, with a high of 84°.

If there is no rain and the temperature doesn’t get above 85°…well, I think I’ll take it. I have been worried about a 2pm kickoff in Charleston in mid-September ever since the schedule was released.

Obviously, the gametime is due to the “second homecoming”, and so I completely understand it — but I’ve been to night games in September at Johnson Hagood Stadium where the humidity was oppressive, much less an afternoon kickoff that could be really tough. Perhaps we’re going to get a break with the weather. I hope so.

The early lines are out, and The Citadel has opened as a 6½ favorite over Charleston Southern; the over/under is 48½. This is the season opener for the Buccaneers.

Incidentally, for the 2019 matchup, The Citadel was favored by 18½ points; the over/under was 53.

Other lines of interest for this week (as of 5:00 pm ET on Wednesday, September 8):

  • Coastal Carolina is a 25½-point favorite over Kansas (Friday night)
  • Kent State is a 13½-point favorite over VMI
  • Furman is a 10½-point favorite at Tennessee Tech
  • Samford is a 7½-point favorite at UT-Martin
  • Chattanooga is a 6½-point favorite at North Alabama
  • Oklahoma is a 46½-point favorite over Western Carolina
  • Alabama is a 53½-point favorite over Mercer
  • Clemson is a 45½-point favorite over South Carolina State
  • South Carolina is a 1½-point favorite at East Carolina (the line has swung wildly for this matchup)
  • Wake Forest is a 43-point favorite over Norfolk State
  • Charlotte is an 18½-point favorite over Gardner-Webb
  • Miami (FL) is a 9-point favorite over Appalachian State
  • North Carolina State is a 2½-point favorite at Mississippi State
  • Georgia Tech is a 17½-point favorite over Kennesaw State
  • Florida Atlantic is a 7-point favorite over Georgia Southern
  • Georgia is a 24½-point favorite over UAB
  • Kentucky is a 5-point favorite over Missouri
  • Florida State is a 22½-point favorite over Jacksonville State
  • Notre Dame is a 17-point favorite over Toledo
  • Iowa State is a 4½-point favorite over Iowa
  • Utah is a 7-point favorite at BYU
  • Army is a 6½-point favorite over Western Kentucky
  • Air Force is a 5½-point favorite at Navy

There is no available line for ETSU’s game against UVA-Wise (presumably because UVA-Wise is a D2 school). Wofford is off this week.

Per Bill Connelly’s SP+ system, which now include ratings for all D-1 programs, The Citadel is ranked 76th in FCS (dropping two spots from last week). Charleston Southern is 81st.

Other SoCon teams: East Tennessee State (12th), Samford (19th), VMI (26th), Furman (32nd), Chattanooga (51st), Wofford (55th), Mercer (82nd), Western Carolina (95th).

South Carolina State is 58th, while Presbyterian is 108th. The Blue Hose will have to impress against D-1 competition before moving up in most ratings systems, no matter how many points Presbyterian scores versus NAIA teams.

Connelly’s game projections for SoCon teams this week (rounded to the nearest integer):

  • Furman 34, Tennessee Tech 13
  • Chattanooga 30, North Alabama 21
  • Samford 35, UT-Martin 21
  • The Citadel 25, Charleston Southern 22

(There are no projections for FCS teams playing outside the subdivision.)

A couple of items related to the game on Saturday, via Twitter:

I’ll have a few things to add Thursday and/or Friday…

College Football Week 1, 2021: Wednesday notes and observations

Monday’s notes and observations

Tuesday’s notes and observations (ratings and rankings)

A few more links for today:

My game review of the last time Coastal Carolina and The Citadel met on the gridiron

Coastal Carolina preview in the Myrtle Beach Sun News

One sentence from the preview: “How will the Chants react to a loss, if there is one?”

Coastal Carolina preview from WMBF-TV

Jaylan Adams’s learning curve will be a key to success for The Citadel

Broadcast information

The Citadel at Coastal Carolina, to be played on James C. Benton Field at Brooks Stadium in Conway, South Carolina, with kickoff at 7:00 pm ET on September 2, 2021.

The game will be streamed on ESPN+ (as should be the case for every game The Citadel plays this season). Jeff McCarragher will handle play-by-play, while the Renaissance Man himself, Nate Ross, 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.

Of the 117 players on The Citadel’s online roster, 66 are from South Carolina. Other states represented: Georgia (17 players), Florida (11), North Carolina (9), Virginia (5), Alabama (2), Texas (2), and one each from New York, Oklahoma, Ohio, and Tennessee. 

Tight end Hayden Williamson played his high school football in Okinawa, Japan.

Coastal Carolina lists 128 players on its current squad. There are 34 Chanticleers from South Carolina. Other states that have contributed players to the roster: Georgia (22 players), North Carolina (16), Florida (15), Virginia (6), Tennessee (5), Maryland (4), Massachusetts (3), Alabama (2), Arizona (2), Illinois (2), Mississippi (2), New Jersey (2), Texas (2), and one each from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. 

Two CCU players (Wilt Gabe II and Enock Makonzo) are from Canada, while P/PK Kieran Colahan is a native of Australia.

While the majority of Coastal Carolina’s players were recruited to CCU out of high school, a fair number of them arrived via other four-year schools or junior colleges. Two players went to both a four-year college and a JuCo before transferring to play for the Chanticleers.

Among the four-year institutions that various CCU players originally attended: Charleston Southern, Frostburg State, Georgia State, Georgia Tech (two players), Guilford, Indiana, Lehigh, Middle Tennessee State, Morgan State, North Carolina State, North Carolina Wesleyan, Old Dominion, Oklahoma State, Presbyterian, Tiffin, and Vanderbilt.

The junior colleges that have provided players for the team include several well-known for producing talented athletes, such as Coffeyville, Hutchinson, and Independence (all in Kansas), Northeast Mississippi, and Glendale (Arizona).

Two players attended New Mexico Military Institute, whose best-known football alumnus is Roger Staubach, the legendary former Navy and NFL quarterback. Speaking of USNA, two other Chanticleers spent time at USNAPS.

The transfers have definitely made an impact at Coastal Carolina. Quite a few are on CCU’s two-deep, including projected starters at nosetackle, wide receiver, b-back, linebacker, cornerback, and the “spur” position.

Here are a few statistics of note from Coastal Carolina’s 2020 season. The Chanticleers finished 11-1, winning their first eleven games before losing to Liberty in the Cure Bowl.

Among FBS teams (127 of which played last season), CCU ranked as follows in these categories:

  • 1st in turnover margin (+13)
  • 1st in forced fumbles, defense (16)
  • Tied for 3rd in defensive interceptions (16)
  • 36th in defensive havoc rate (17.53%)
  • 13th in yards per play, offense (6.71)
  • 6th in adjusted yards per pass attempt, offense (9.02)
  • 46th in adjusted yards per rush attempt, offense (5.32)
  • 30th in sack rate, offense (4.7%)
  • 6th in big play rate passing, offense (one every 6.84 attempts)
  • 62nd in big play rate rushing, offense (one every 25.20 attempts)
  • 29th in combined big play rate, offense (one every 12.58 plays)
  • 45th in yards per play, defense (5.48)
  • 18th in adjusted yards per pass attempt, defense (5.58)
  • 90th in adjusted yards per rush, defense (5.38)
  • 17th in sack rate, defense (8.5%)
  • 15th in big play rate passing, defense (one every 13.79 attempts)
  • 50th in big play rate rushing, defense  (one every 28.46 attempts)
  • 20th in combined big play rate, defense (one every 18.33 plays)

Note: the “adjusted” yards per pass attempt (and rush attempts) is a reference to sacks, which are included in passing totals in these calculations. Also, big plays are defined here as any play from scrimmage of 20+ yards (rushing or passing).

While the number of forced fumbles by the Chanticleers’ defense is notable, that is not necessarily why CCU led the nation in turnover margin. Coastal Carolina’s opponents fumbled 22 times in 12 games (including those 16 forced fumbles); CCU recovered nine of them. That’s not a completely unexpected outcome; in terms of fumble luck, the Chanticleers were actually -2 on defense (and +0.5 on offense).

The statistic that really jumps out: 16 interceptions. Coastal Carolina defensed 42 passes last season, not an overwhelming number (47th-most in FBS). CCU had a PD rate of 11.47% (42 defensed in 366 opponent attempts).

However, 16 of those 42 PDs wound up being picks, which is remarkable. The average pass defensed results in an interception a little over 20% of the time; CCU’s INT/PD rate last season was 38.1%, which ranked third nationally, and is almost certainly not sustainable.

Other teams with outlier pick numbers in this respect included Kentucky, Indiana, and Wake Forest. Conversely, Missouri only intercepted four passes despite 45 PDs.

Incidentally, The Citadel’s defensive INT/PD this spring was 20.7%, right around the national average. The Bulldogs had a passes defensed rate of 15.76% (29 defensed in 184 attempts).

Coastal Carolina’s offensive numbers were almost uniformly excellent, a fact that can be easily gleaned from the category rankings listed above. CCU was about as efficient a passing team as there was in the country, and its rushing numbers were also good. Defensively, the Chanticleers were generally solid, with the somewhat puzzling exception of the squad’s rush defense, which was statistically below average.

A few other odds and ends for today:

  • Thursday night’s game will be played on artificial turf, which will be the case for all of The Citadel’s 11 regular-season games this fall. That is a first in program history.
  • The Citadel has a record of 2-3 for games played on September 2. Both wins came against Newberry, in 1995 and 2017. I posted a review of the 2017 contest that can be read here: Link 
  • In the 1995 contest against Newberry, Scott Belcher proved to be the difference, with 29 tackles and a blocked PAT late in the game that enabled the Bulldogs to hang on for a 21-20 victory. (I will never understand why Newberry didn’t go for two in that situation.) Stanley Myers rushed for 176 yards and a TD.
  • Congrats to Dee Delaney for making the 53-man roster for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; not bad for an assistant football coach at Whale Branch High School.

College Football Week 1, 2021: Tuesday notes and observations (ratings and rankings)

Monday’s notes and observations

Let’s talk about ratings and rankings for a moment…

There are a lot of computer ratings out there, and some of them include FCS schools. Below is a chart of the SoCon schools in which ten such ratings systems are listed, with their respective preseason rankings of each school compiled and averaged.

Key: 

Please note that I am just listing in-conference ordinal rankings before the first games were played last week; for example, Samford is the highest-rated SoCon team in the Massey Ratings, with VMI second and Chattanooga third. In terms of their ranking within FCS, those schools entered the 2021 fall campaign ranked 42nd (Samford), 51st (VMI), and 53rd (Chattanooga) by Massey.

 

2021 PreseasonMDLBECVSGRRatings avg
Samford11112352332.20
VMI22526134112.70
Chattanooga34433421253.10
Furman57381643424.30
ETSU75658215644.90
Wofford46264766775.50
Mercer83847577566.00
The Citadel68775988887.40
WCU99999899998.90

A few quick observations:

– In general, the computer ratings systems do not favor SoCon schools. An extreme example of this is the Dunchess Ratings, where the highest-ranked league team (VMI) is only 57th nationally. Western Carolina ranks next-to-last in all of FCS in that system.

– The highest-ranked conference squad in any of the ratings systems is Samford, ranked 13th by the Born Power Index. SU fares better in the computer ratings systems than any other league team, both by average and from a median perspective (not ranking lower than third in the SoCon in any of the surveyed systems).

– The computers do not know what to make of Furman this season. ETSU is also a source of considerable confusion.

I also averaged four “human” polls — the SoCon media and coaches’ polls, and the predicted order of finish for Lindy’s magazine preview and The Analyst.

2021 FallLindy’sSoCon MediaSoCon coachesThe AnalystRank avg
Chattanooga31111.50
VMI22322.25
ETSU14433.00
Samford74254.50
Furman64544.75
Mercer46665.50
Wofford57876.75
The Citadel88787.75
WCU99999.00

These rankings tend to mirror each other much more than the computer ratings systems. The humans do not think as much of Samford as the computers do, but like East Tennessee State a lot more than the machines.

I have to wonder if the computers like Samford’s offensive output (this might also explain the ratings systems’ inexplicable love affair with Ivy League teams). On the other hand, there might be a mathematical bias against ETSU’s tendency to play close games.

Flesh-and-blood observers are more inclined to look at the overall record from the previous season, and extrapolate from that — regardless of how that record came to be.

Does any of this matter? Not really. Ultimately, we won’t need computers or preseason polls, as everything will be settled on the field.

(Hopefully.)

Looking at the numbers, 2021 preseason: returning starters in the SoCon

Other preseason posts from July:

One of the major storylines for the upcoming football season is the large number of experienced gridders who are returning to college this fall. The “free year” that was the F20/S21 school year has led to a glut of so-called “superseniors”, players in their sixth years (or fifth-year players who haven’t redshirted).

As a result of the extra year being granted, Clemson has at least two players (linebacker James Skalski and punter Will Spiers) who could conceivably play in 70 games during their college careers. That is just a ludicrous number of games for a college football player, but we live in ludicrous times.

Illinois has 22 superseniors, most in the country (the Illini also have 18 “regular” seniors). In February, the AP reported that over 1,000 superseniors were on FBS rosters, a number that has probably declined since then, but still obviously significant.

Information on FCS programs is sketchier, but there was a recent report confirming that Southern Illinois has 16 superseniors, which has to be close to the most in the subdivision, if not the most. Between Illinois and SIU, there are a lot of veteran pigskin collegians in the Land of Lincoln.

Incidentally, one of Southern Illinois’ superseniors is former Western Carolina running back Donnavan Spencer, who transferred from Cullowhee to Carbondale for the fall 2021 campaign.

All of this is reflected in sizeable “returning starters” lists among a lot of teams throughout the sport, including both the FBS and FCS. As an example, here are some numbers from the ACC and SEC, per Phil Steele’s 2021 College Football Preview:

  • Wake Forest: 20 returning starters (but with tough injury news over the last week)
  • North Carolina State: 19
  • Miami: 19 (and only lost 9 out of 70 lettermen)
  • Syracuse: 19
  • Arkansas: 19
  • North Carolina: 18
  • LSU: 18 (hopefully some of them will play pass defense this season)
  • Florida State: 17 (joined by a bunch of D-1 transfers)
  • Boston College: 17
  • Georgia Tech: 17
  • Vanderbilt: 17 (possibly not a positive)
  • Mississippi: 17

The team in those two leagues with the fewest returning starters is Alabama, with 11. Of course, the Tide had six players from last season’s squad picked in the first round of the NFL draft, so a bit of turnover in Tuscaloosa was inevitable. I suspect Nick Saban isn’t too worried about replacing them.

The returning production totals are unprecedented at the FBS level.

The top 10 includes several very interesting teams, including Louisiana-Lafayette, Arizona State, Nevada, and UCLA. It is somewhat incredible that Coastal Carolina has a returning production rate of 89% and doesn’t even crack the top 15.

Some of the teams at the bottom of this ranking are national powers that reload every year. Alabama was already mentioned, but the same is true for Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Florida.

BYU and Northwestern also had outstanding seasons last year (and combined for three first-round draft picks). The story wasn’t the same for Duke and South Carolina, however.

Okay, now time to talk about the SoCon. Who in the league is coming back this fall? An easier question to answer would be: who isn’t?

SoCon returning starters, Fall 2021

The spreadsheet linked above has 12 categories. A quick explanation of each:

  • F20/S21 Games Played: total number of games played by a team during the 2020-21 school year, both in the fall (F20) and the spring (S21)
  • F20/S21 Participants: the number of players who suited up during 2020-21
  • F20/S21 Starters: the number of different starters during 2020-21
  • F20/S21 Returning Participants: the number of returnees who played during 2020-21
  • F20/S21 Returning Starters: the number of returning starters from 2020-21
  • F20/S21 Returning Starters 2+: the number of returnees from 2020-21 who started at least two games
  • Spring 2021: total number of games played by a team in the spring (all conference games, except for VMI’s playoff matchup)
  • Spring 2021 Participants: the number of players who took the field during the spring
  • Spring 2021 Starters: the number of different starters during the spring
  • Spring Returning Participants: the number of returnees who played in the spring
  • Spring Returning Starters: the number of returning starters from the spring
  • Spring Returning Starters 2+: the number of returnees who started at least two games during the spring

Most of that needs no explanation. The idea of including a category for multiple starts was inspired by Chattanooga’s game against Mercer, when the Mocs fielded what was essentially a “B” team. UTC had 19 players who started that game, but did not start in any of Chattanooga’s other three spring contests.

There are a few players who started one game in the spring, but also started at least one game in the fall. They are listed as having started multiple games for F20/S21, of course, but not for the spring.

The list of starters does not include special teams players. Some programs list specialists as starters, but they generally are not treated as such from a statistical point of view, and for the sake of consistency I am only listing offensive and defensive starters.

Returnee stats are based on each school’s online football roster as of July 26 (the league’s Media Day). 

Players on current rosters who did not start in F20/S21, but who did start games in 2019, are not included as returning starters. There are two players from The Citadel who fit this description; undoubtedly there are a few others in the conference.

I also did not count any incoming transfers with prior starting experience. That is simply another piece to a team’s roster puzzle.

There is no doubt that transfers will have a major impact on the fall 2021 season. For example, Western Carolina has 15 players on its roster who arrived from junior colleges or other four-year schools following the spring 2021 campaign (the Catamounts have 26 transfers in all).

Five of the nine SoCon schools did not play in the fall. Thus, their overall numbers are the same as their spring totals (and are noted as such on the spreadsheet).

As I’ve said before, when it comes to the veracity of the game summaries, I think the athletic media relations folks at the SoCon schools did quite well for the most part, especially when considering how difficult staffing must have been at times during the spring. There were a few miscues, and in terms of data input, the participation charts seemed to cause the most problems.

Did Mercer start a game with no offensive linemen? Uh, no. Was a backup quarterback a defensive starter for Chattanooga? Nope. In three different contests, did Furman take the field after the opening kickoff with only 10 players? It did not.

There was also a scattering of double-counted players, usually a result of misspellings or changes in jersey numbers. Hey, it happens.

Ultimately, I am fairly confident in the general accuracy of the numbers in the spreadsheet linked above, particularly the categories for starters. The totals for participants should also be largely correct, although I will say that it is harder to find (and correct) errors in online participation charts for participants than it is starters. That is because the players who tend to be occasionally omitted from the charts are special teams performers and backup offensive linemen — in other words, non-starters who do not accumulate standard statistics.

According to the SoCon’s fall prospectus, 553 of the 636 players who lettered in F20/S21 are playing this fall (86.9%). That tracks with my numbers, with 83.2% of all participants returning (573 of 689). I did find one player listed as a returnee in the prospectus who is not on his school’s online roster; it is possible there are one or two more such cases.

Samford had by far the most participants, with 95 (in seven contests). Of that group, however, 24 only appeared in one game during the spring. The number of multiple-game participants for SU is more in line with some of the other spring-only teams, such as Furman; the Paladins also played seven games, with 71 participants, 64 of whom played in at least two games.

Having said that, kudos to Samford for being able to maintain a roster that large this spring. That is a credit to its coaching and support staff.

Mercer, which played three games in the fall and eight in the spring, has the most returnees that started multiple games, with 37. There are 25 Bears who are returning after making at least two spring starts.

The Citadel has the most players returning who had 2+ starts in the spring, with 28. Wofford has the fewest (19), not a huge surprise given the Terriers only played in five games.

Chattanooga and East Tennessee State combine to return 122 out of 128 players who participated in the spring season. Those returnees include 75 players who started at least one spring game.

Conference teams average 30.44 returning starters from the spring. No squad has fewer than 25.

For the SoCon, I’m not really capable of fully replicating the formula Bill Connelly uses for his FBS returning production rates; I lack access to some of the necessary data. Therefore, I am just going to list some of the (very limited) spots throughout the conference in which teams will have to replace key performers from the spring. I realize that is more anecdotal in nature than the rest of this post.

  • Furman must replace three starters on its offensive line, including the versatile Reed Kroeber (41 career starts for the Paladins). FU also loses first-team all-SoCon free safety Darius Kearse.
  • Wofford has to replace its second-leading rusher from the spring (Ryan Lovelace), and players who accounted for 61% of the Terriers’ receiving production.
  • VMI loses three defensive stalwarts who were second-team all-conference selections; one of them, lineman Jordan Ward, will be a graduate transfer at Ball State this fall.
  • The Keydets will also miss Reece Udinski, who transferred to Maryland (as was announced before the spring campaign even began). However, Seth Morgan certainly filled in at QB with aplomb after Udinski suffered a season-ending injury.
  • Mercer must replace leading rusher Deondre Johnson, a second-team all-league pick.
  • Samford placekicker Mitchell Fineran, an all-SoCon performer who led the conference in scoring, graduated and transferred to Purdue. He is the only regular placekicker or punter in the conference from the spring not to return for the fall.
  • I mentioned earlier that Western Carolina running back Donnavan Spencer (a first-team all-conference choice) transferred to Southern Illinois. The Catamounts also lost another first-team all-league player, center Isaiah Helms, a sophomore who transferred to Appalachian State. That has to sting a bit in Cullowhee. 
  • WCU’s starting quarterback last spring, Ryan Glover, transferred to California (his third school; he started his collegiate career at Penn). Glover and VMI’s Udinski are the only league players to start multiple games at quarterback this spring who are not returning this fall.
  • Western Carolina defensive tackle Roman Johnson is listed on the Catamounts’ online roster, but also reportedly entered the transfer portal (for a second time) in mid-July. I am including him as a returning starter for now, but there is clearly a lot of uncertainty as to his status.
  • The Citadel must replace starting right tackle Thomas Crawford (the only spring starter for the Bulldogs who is not returning).
  • A few players who appeared in fall 2020 action but not in the spring eventually found their way to FBS-land. Chattanooga wide receiver Bryce Nunnelly, a two-time first team all-SoCon selection during his time with the Mocs, will play at Western Michigan this season. Mercer wideout Steven Peterson, who originally matriculated at Coastal Carolina before moving to Macon, is now at Georgia. Strong safety Sean-Thomas Faulkner of The Citadel will wear the mean green of North Texas this fall.

Odds and ends:

  • Of the 51 players on the media’s all-SoCon teams (first and second), 42 will return this fall. 
  • One of those returnees is ETSU linebacker Jared Folks, who will be an eighth-year collegian this season (the only one in D-1). Folks started his college career at Temple in 2014 — the same year in which Patrick Mahomes debuted for Texas Tech.
  • Robert Riddle, the former Mercer quarterback who did not appear in F20/S21, is now at Chattanooga. Riddle made nine starts for the Bears over two seasons, but his time in the program was ravaged by injuries.
  • Chris Oladokun, who started Samford’s spring opener at QB, transferred to South Dakota State. Oladokun began his college days at South Florida before moving to Birmingham, where he started eight games for SU in 2019. His brother Jordan will be a freshman defensive back at Samford this fall.

So, to sum up: every team has lots of players back, which means (almost) every team’s fans expects the upcoming season for their respective squads to be truly outstanding. College football games this year will all take place in Lake Wobegon, because everyone will be above average.