College Football Week 8, 2021: Wednesday notes and observations

The Citadel’s game notes for the Western Carolina matchup

Tuesday notes and observations, which mainly consists of a review of The Citadel’s future non-conference football schedules, with additional information included

The weather forecast for Saturday in Charleston, per the National Weather Service: sunny, with a high near 79°

Link to my working spreadsheet for FCS statistics (through October 16)

Okay, some comparisons between The Citadel and Western Carolina. As always, keep in mind there are 128 FCS teams.

Also, a word on definitions: adjusted yards per rush and adjusted yards per pass are averages with sack yardage included in the passing totals, rather than the rushing numbers. I believe these more accurately reflect a team’s ability on the ground and through the air, both offensively and defensively.

I also calculate Red Zone proficiency by estimated points per Red Zone possession, rather than scoring rate. All of that is included in the spreadsheet.

The Citadel’s offense vs. Western Carolina’s defense

  • The Citadel’s offense is 60th in yards per play (5.45), while Western Carolina’s defense is 120th in yards per play allowed (6.68).
  • The Bulldogs are 40th in adjusted yards per rush (5.09), while WCU is 117th in adjusted rush yards allowed (5.83).
  • The Citadel has an adjusted yards per pass on offense of 6.94, which ranks 40th nationally; however, it is worth noting that the Bulldogs have attempted 71 passes, third-fewest in FCS. The Catamounts’ D ranks 113th in adjusted yards allowed per pass (7.74).
  • On offense, the Bulldogs have run the ball 80.8% of the time, the 3rd-highest rate nationally (behind Davidson and Kennesaw State, and just ahead of North Dakota State and Lamar). Opponents have rushed on 55.1% of plays from scrimmage against Western Carolina’s defense (38th-most among FCS squads).
  • The Citadel’s offensive third down conversion rate is 44.2%, 22nd in FCS. Defensively, Western Carolina has allowed a third down conversion rate of 45.8% (111th).
  • The Bulldogs are 8 for 20 on 4th down attempts (40.0%). The Catamounts have only faced three 4th-down attempts by an opponent (allowing a first down on two of those occasions), tied for the fewest faced by a defense in all of FCS.
  • Conversely, The Citadel’s twenty 4th-down tries is tied for the 7th-most in FCS. That brings me to “go rate”, my statistic for showing how aggressive a team is on 4th down. The Citadel is 6th nationally in go rate, at 42.6%.
  • In the Red Zone, The Citadel’s offense ranks 62nd in efficiency by my metrics, while WCU’s defense ranks 126th, third-worst in FCS (ahead of only Holy Cross and last-place Georgetown).

Western Carolina’s offense vs. The Citadel’s defense

  • Western Carolina’s offense is 81st in yards per play (5.16), while The Citadel’s defense is 114th nationally in yards allowed per play (6.60).
  • The Catamounts are 53rd in adjusted yards per rush (4.84); the Bulldogs’ D is 107th in FCS in that category (5.61).
  • WCU is 90th in adjusted yards per pass (5.39), with the crew from Cullowhee averaging 44.3 throws per contest (which is the 6th-highest rate in FCS). Meanwhile, The Citadel is 116th in adjusted passing yards allowed per play (116th).
  • On offense, Western Carolina has run the ball 40.6% of the time, which is the 15th-lowest rate in the subdivision. The Bulldogs’ opponents have rushed on 56.0% of their plays from scrimmage (29th-most in FCS).
  • Western Carolina’s offensive third down conversion rate is 35.5% (76th nationally). The Citadel’s defensive third-down conversion rate is 45.2%, which ranks 110th — one spot ahead of the Catamounts’ defense.
  • WCU is 6 for 13 on 4th-down attempts (46.2%), 69th in FCS. The Citadel has allowed four successful 4th-down conversions on 6 tries by its opponents. The Bulldogs are in a tie for 9th-fewest 4th-down attempts faced with several teams (including Furman and Wofford).
  • The Catamounts are 49th in go rate (23.6%).
  • In the Red Zone, Western Carolina’s offense ranks 101st overall by my numbers, while the Bulldogs’ D is 59th.

A few other stats of note:

  • The Citadel remains 6th in net punting (41.79), while Western Carolina is 59th (36.32). Montana continues to lead the nation in this category (44.8).
  • For the season, the Bulldogs have a turnover margin of exactly zero, having gained and lost the same amount of turnovers (7). Western Carolina has a net of -8, for an average of -1.33 per game (ranking in the bottom 10 nationally).
  • This week, I compiled the stats for Havoc Rate. The Citadel’s defense has the 5th-lowest Havoc Rate in FCS (10.8%). I discussed this statistic in a post I made in July In the spring, the Bulldogs had a Havoc Rate of 14.38%, which was below average but still better than the current output. The squad must increase its number of disruptive and negative plays (to be fair, last week was a respectable one in that department for The Citadel’s D).

A statistical tour of FCS, beginning with offensive productivity:

  • Eastern Washington leads the nation in offensive yards per play (7.78). The rest of the top five includes South Dakota State, Southeastern Louisiana, North Dakota State, and Nicholls State. ETSU is 6th. The national average is 5.39.
  • The bottom five in offensive yards per play: Lehigh (2.61, last), Bucknell, Grambling State, LIU, and Morgan State.
  • In adjusted yards per rush, South Dakota State ranks first, at 6.56. Second through fifth: North Dakota State, Southern, Nicholls State, and Abilene Christian. The top 25 includes four SoCon teams: ETSU, Chattanooga, Mercer, and Wofford. The national average is 4.72.
  • The bottom five in adjusted yards per rush: Georgetown (2.06), LIU, Albany, Robert Morris, and Alabama State.
  • For adjusted yards per pass, Eastern Washington leads the way at 9.54 per pass play, ahead of South Dakota State, Davidson, Southeastern Louisiana, and Princeton. While Davidson ranks third in this category, it should be noted that the Wildcats have only attempted 53 passes this season, the fewest in all of FCS. They have made them count, though.
  • The national average is adjusted yards per pass is 6.07. ETSU and Mercer both are in the top 25, while the bottom five includes Lehigh (just 2.18 yards per pass play), Bucknell, Grambling State, Morgan State, and Mississippi Valley State.
  • I mentioned the most run-oriented teams above. The teams most likely to pass are Presbyterian (70.7% of the time), Western Illinois, Dixie State, Houston Baptist, and Alabama A&M. Samford is in the top 10.
  • Southeastern Louisiana’s offensive third down conversion rate of 59.5% leads the nation. Others in the top five: Eastern Washington, Davidson, Dartmouth, and Merrimack. ETSU, Samford, and Mercer join The Citadel in the top 25. The national average is 37.2%.
  • On average, teams convert 4th-down attempts at a 49.5% clip. Alas, poor Lehigh is somehow 0 for 10 on 4th down this season. It has been a very tough season for the Mountain Hawks, which have scored only nine points in six games.
  • As expected, Presbyterian is far and away the leader in 4th-down attempts, with 45. Stetson is a distant 2nd (29 tries). Monmouth, Central Connecticut State, and Merrimack round out the top 5. 
  • Presbyterian has an astronomical go rate of 93.8%, having only punted twice while attempting no field goals. Other teams that are more than willing to go for it on 4th down (though not as often as the Blue Hose) include Stetson (55.8%, second-highest), Southeastern Louisiana, Merrimack, and Davidson.
  • The team least likely to go for it on 4th down? That would be Chattanooga (4.2%). Other programs taking a more conservative approach include Missouri State, Eastern Kentucky, Grambling State, and Montana State. 
  • Per my metrics, the most efficient Red Zone team is Georgetown; however, the Hoyas have a win/loss record of just 1-4, in part because in five games they have only reached the Red Zone 12 times. Among teams with at least 30 Red Zone possessions, the top outfit is Southeastern Louisiana, which is in the discussion for having the nation’s best offense. Three SoCon teams (Samford, ETSU, and VMI) also fare well in this category.
  • Samford has the fastest offense in FCS (18.24 seconds per offensive play). Other teams lining up to snap the football as soon as they can include Presbyterian, Austin Peay, Eastern Washington, and Charleston Southern. Western Carolina is 10th, while The Citadel is 64th. The national average is 27.01 seconds per play.

Now, let’s look at the defenses:

  • Jackson State leads FCS in yards allowed per play, surrendering just 3.61 on average. JSU’s defense has been one of the two or three best units in the subdivision. Second through fifth in yards allowed per play: Princeton, Harvard, James Madison, and North Dakota State. Three SoCon teams rank 32nd through 34th — respectively, Chattanooga, Mercer, and ETSU.
  • James Madison is the standard-bearer for adjusted yards allowed per rush (2.84). Defending national champion Sam Houston State is 2nd, followed by Harvard, Villanova, and Princeton. 
  • The worst rush defenses are Youngstown State (6.76), Texas Southern, Alabama A&M, Western Illinois, and Lehigh.
  • The top defenses against the pass are Jackson State (adjusted yards per pass of 3.55), Prairie View A&M, Princeton, Florida A&M, and North Dakota State. Deion Sanders’ squad also leads FCS in total sacks and sack rate (12.3%).
  • The bottom five versus the pass: Southern Utah (allowing an adjusted rate of 10.57 yards per play), Central Connecticut State, LIU, Hampton, and Maine.
  • Opponents have rushed against VMI at a higher rate more than any other team (65.4% of the time). As mentioned last week, the Keydets have faced several run-heavy offenses (including Davidson, Wofford, and The Citadel), which accounts for that.
  • Harvard’s opponents have a pass play rate of 64.1%, most in the subdivision; one reason for this is that the 5-0 Crimson have only trailed in one game all season, and even then it was for less than ten minutes.
  • Yale’s defensive third down conversion rate of 21.3% leads the country. Other teams doing a great job of getting off the field on third down include North Dakota State, James Madison, Weber State, and Cornell. Among SoCon squads, Chattanooga leads the line at 14th nationally.
  • The bottom five in defensive third down conversion rate: LIU (60.0%), Southern Utah, Brown, Illinois State, and Jacksonville State. I will point out here that the Sharks have faced three FBS opponents this season, and that has definitely had a negative impact on their stats.
  • My numbers suggest that North Dakota State has the best Red Zone defense in FCS. The only caveat is that the Bison have only faced seven Red Zone possessions all season. Of course, that also says something about NDSU’s defense.
  •  I mentioned Havoc Rate above when comparing Western Carolina and The Citadel. The leading team in Havoc Rate in FCS is, not surprisingly, Jackson State (25.0%). The rest of the top five: Stephen F. Austin, Florida A&M, James Madison, and Sam Houston State. 
  • Wofford has the lowest Havoc Rate in the nation (9.40%). The SoCon has a whole is very deficient in this area; only ETSU and Chattanooga are above the national average.

More to come later in the week…

College Football, Week 8: Tuesday notes and observations

Brent Thompson’s Monday press conference

Starting around the 17:00 mark of Brent Thompson’s Monday presser, there is an interesting question-and-answer discussion of recruiting, focusing on the impact the “free COVID year” has had. Over about five minutes, Thompson goes over a lot of the aspects involved, and not just from The Citadel’s perspective.

According to Thompson, his staff has offered about 80% fewer players this year than in a typical year. Considering that, as the coach notes, The Citadel is a “high school recruiting program”, it looks like this will be another very difficult year for prep prospects.

Time to talk about future non-conference schedules…

In a normal year, The Citadel has three non-conference games. One is always a “money” game against FBS opposition. At least one of the other matchups must be played at Johnson Hagood Stadium, because otherwise there would only be four home contests in a season.

During the 2024 season, FCS teams have the option to play 12 regular-season games because of the way the calendar falls, and The Citadel will indeed fulfill that quota. How, you ask? We’ll get there in a moment.

First, the 2022 campaign. The Bulldogs will open the season in Buies Creek, North Carolina, playing at Campbell on September 3.

The next non-conference tilt is also in the state of North Carolina, in Boone against Appalachian State. That matchup was originally supposed to take place on September 24, but was moved forward one week, to October 1. That change was apparently requested by App, and as a result The Citadel’s payout was for the game was increased, from $325,000 to $350,000.

The final out-of-league game of the 2022 season will be a home game for the Bulldogs, and it will be very late in the year – November 12, to be exact. The Citadel’s opponent will be Virginia University of Lynchburg (VUL), which is not a D2 school or even in the NAIA. Rather, VUL is a member of the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA).

VUL, an HBCU with about 500 undergraduate students, has five FCS schools on its schedule this season. It has played three of them so far. Combined score of those three games: 154-27. The winless Dragons have also played Mars Hill and Erskine, among others.

I am honestly not sure of the last time The Citadel played a program that was not in the NCAA or the NAIA. It is possible that it hasn’t happened since before World War II.

The fact the game is on November 12 is also odd. I can only assume The Citadel had difficulty finding a home opponent to fill out its slate. VUL will receive $40,000 to make the trip to Charleston.

In 2023, The Citadel will again play only five home games. The FBS opponent that season will be Georgia Southern, and it will be the season opener (September 2). The payout for that contest is $320,000.

The following week (September 9), Campbell will play the Bulldogs in Johnson Hagood Stadium, completing a two-game agreement.

Two weeks later, on September 23, The Citadel will travel to Orangeburg to play another set of Bulldogs – South Carolina State. That will be the first of a two-game series between the two schools; the return matchup will be held in Charleston in 2024.

As mentioned earlier, 2024 is a 12-game regular season. The home game against South Carolina State will be on September 7. The following week, on September 14, The Citadel will host North Greenville. The Crusaders will receive $40,000 for their appearance (matching the VUL payout, so that appears to be the going rate for such games).

The other two non-conference contests will be road games for The Citadel. The first is the season opener, on August 31, at Charleston Southern. I am on record as saying that scheduling this contest is a serious mistake that does not reflect well on The Citadel’s department of athletics. This is the first of a two-game agreement (more on that later).

On November 23, The Citadel will play at Clemson, completing a contract that included the 2020 matchup between the two schools. The payout for the contest is $475,000, plus an additional consideration – besides the standard 300 complimentary tickets, the military college has the option to request an additional 2,000 tickets for sale.

The Citadel has only one scheduled non-conference game so far for the 2025 season. That is a matchup with Mississippi, now scheduled for September 6. The payout is $500,000.

In 2026, the return matchup for the two-game contract with Charleston Southern will take place in Charleston on September 19.

That contest was originally supposed to be played on September 5, but CSU apparently asked for the game to be moved (presumably to pick up an FBS opponent). Charleston Southern agreed to pay The Citadel $20,000 to change the game date. The contract addendum making the adjustment was completed on May 5 of this year.

Less than three weeks later, The Citadel signed an agreement to play at Charlotte on September 5, for a payout of $305,000; The Citadel will also receive 600 tickets for sale.

I’ll post my normal stats breakdown either later today or perhaps on Wednesday…

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 6, 2021: Tuesday notes and observations

Brent Thompson 10/4 press conference (featuring Duggar Baucom)

ETSU head football coach Randy Sanders’ 10/4 press conference

East Tennessee State having fun while relishing role of favorite

Logan Billings returns, scores two touchdowns

The weather forecast for Saturday afternoon in Johnson City, per the National Weather Service: a 40% chance of showers, with a high of 76°.

William B. Greene Jr. Stadium opened in 2017. It has a listed capacity of 7,694, with the playing field an artificial turf surface. 

ETSU is actually averaging more fans per game (9,926) than the stadium’s listed capacity. The Buccaneers have played three home contests so far this season, against UVA Wise, Delaware State, and Wofford (with 10,153 fans in the stadium for the game versus the Terriers).

Fans of the Bulldogs planning on making the trip to Johnson City should know that ETSU head coach Randy Sanders highly recommends the stadium food, suggesting during his Monday presser that people should come to the game “just for the hot dogs. They’re amazing.” 

Sanders also mentioned that he believes Greene Stadium needs a “cigar section”. When a reporter pointed out that ETSU has a tobacco-free campus, Sanders wryly noted that the campus was also supposed to be alcohol-free, but “I see a lot of bottles [lying around] when I leave in the evening”.

ETSU’s press conference also featured starting quarterback Tyler Riddell and linebacker Jared Folks, an eighth-year (yes!) college football player. As I’ve mentioned before, Folks started his collegiate gridiron career at Temple in 2014, the same year in which insurance pitchman Patrick Mahomes debuted for Texas Tech.

The early lines are out. East Tennessee State is a 10½-point favorite; the over/under is 59½.

Other SoCon lines:

  • Chattanooga is a 10-point favorite at VMI (over/under of 51½)
  • Mercer is a 16½-point favorite at Western Carolina (over/under of 72½)
  • Furman-Wofford is a pick’em (with an over/under of just 37½)

Samford is off this week.

A few other FCS lines of interest:

  • Morehead State is a 3½-point favorite at Presbyterian; the over/under is 90½
  • Florida A&M is a 10-point favorite against South Carolina State; over/under of 54½
  • Charleston Southern is an 18-point favorite against Robert Morris; over/under of 48½
  • Campbell is a 9-point favorite at Gardner-Webb; over/under of 67½
  • James Madison is a 10½-point favorite over Villanova; over/under of 63
  • Kennesaw State is an 18-point favorite over Hampton; over/under of 66½
  • Elon is a 6-point favorite at Maine; over/under of 53½
  • Austin Peay is a 7½-point favorite over Southeast Missouri State; over/under of 68½

For anyone interested, here is my working spreadsheet for FCS games played through October 2:  Link

East Tennessee State, which is averaging 37.6 points per game (15th nationally), fares very well in most offensive categories.

Among all FCS teams, ETSU is 10th in both yards per play (6.72) and adjusted yards per rush (5.85). Senior running back Quay Holmes is second in rushing yards per game (123.4), trailing only a Harvard player who has played in two fewer contests.

The Buccaneers are 8th overall in adjusted yards per pass attempt (8.05) and11th in adjusted pass efficiency (9 TD passes, 3 interceptions), with a 62.3% completion percentage and a third down conversion rate of 49.3% (9th-best in the subdivision). ETSU quarterbacks have been sacked on less than 3% of all pass plays.

East Tennessee State is 36th in estimated points per Red Zone possession (5.35), and 8th in FCS in time of possession (34:10). 

ETSU runs the football on 60.7% of its plays from scrimmage.

Defensively, the Buccaneers are 30th nationally in yards allowed per play (4.89). They are 32nd in adjusted yards allowed per rush (4.24) and 22nd in adjusted yards allowed per pass attempt (5.30).

ETSU has allowed 7 TD passes, but has 5 interceptions. Opponents are completing 63.8% of their throws. The Buccaneers’ adjusted defensive pass efficiency rating ranks 38th in FCS.

East Tennessee State’s defense is allowing 18.4 points per contest (19th-best overall). It is 28th in estimated points allowed per Red Zone possession (4.50) and 48th in third down conversion rate against (35.7%). Against the Bucs’ D, opponents have run the football 38.2% of the time.

ETSU is tied for 25th in FCS in turnover margin per game (0.8). The Buccaneers have gained 9 turnovers (four fumble recoveries, five interceptions) while losing 5 (two fumbles, three picks).

East Tennessee State is called for a few more penalties than the typical FCS squad, drawing an average of 7 flags per contest (tied for 42nd-most in the country), for 59 yards per game (50th). The Buccaneers are 77th nationally in net punting (35.29).

The Citadel’s offense is averaging 28.8 points per game, 43rd overall. It is averaging 5.95 yards per play, which is 34th nationally.

The Bulldogs are 28th in adjusted yards per rush (5.31) and 2nd in adjusted yards per pass attempt (9.16, behind only South Dakota State). Their adjusted pass efficiency rating is 26th, with 2 TDs, 1 pick, and a completion rate of 53.8%. Bulldog QBs have been sacked on 11.3% of pass plays, obviously a stat that needs to improve.

The offense is converting third downs at a 44.2% clip (29th in FCS). The Citadel is 48th nationally in time of possession (31:21), which is lower than in past seasons. The Bulldogs are averaging an estimated 5.21 points per Red Zone possession, 41st in FCS.

The Citadel has run the football on 83.2% of its offensive plays from scrimmage, 3rd nationally (behind Davidson and Kennesaw State).

On defense, The Citadel is allowing 31.8 points per game. The Bulldogs give up on average 6.46 yards per play, which ranks 108th in FCS. That includes an adjusted yards allowed per rush of 5.36 (96th overall) and an adjusted yards allowed per pass attempt of 7.60 (105th). Bulldog opponents are completing 63.4% of their passes, with 8 TDs (against 4 interceptions). The Citadel’s adjusted defensive pass efficiency rating is 98th in the country.

The Bulldogs are allowing a third down conversion rate of 52.1% (123rd nationally). The defense is 39th in estimated points allowed per Red Zone possession (4.64).

Against The Citadel, opponents have an almost even pass/run ratio — 50.8% rush attempts, and 49.2% pass plays.

The Citadel is tied for 39th in FCS in turnover margin (0.5). The Bulldogs have gained five turnovers (1 fumble recovery, 4 interceptions) while losing three (two fumbles, one pick).

With an average of just 4.25 penalties, The Citadel ranks 14th nationally in fewest flags per contest. The Bulldogs rank 33rd in fewest penalty yardage per game (46.75), indicating that the squad needs to get better at avoiding major infractions. It could also indicate that the officials in last week’s game against VMI were a little too officious.

The Citadel is 16th overall in net punting (40.24). 

More to come later in the week…

College Football Week 5, 2021: Friday notes and observations

Why the coveted Silver Shako matters

Thursday notes and observations (including a myriad of statistics)

Tuesday notes and observations (lines/odds and conference realignment discussion)

Starting QB for VMI “not revealed quite yet”

This is just a very quick post. The main purpose of it is to provide a link to my working spreadsheet for FCS statistics through Week 4. I thought there might be some interest (there also might be no interest whatsoever).

Anyway, here it is:

Assorted 2021 FCS statistics through September 26

It is admittedly rather cumbersome, and you will have to decipher a few space-saving acronyms, but it shouldn’t be too bad. Note that there are no overall subdivision totals included.

The NCAA has posted attendance numbers through September 26. Not every team has played a home game yet, and a couple of schools didn’t release attendance totals, which makes things more complicated. Anyway, I’ve cleaned up the NCAA’s chart a bit to make things more readable. Here are how things currently stand in the subdivision in terms of home attendance:

Rank Institution Games Avg Att Stadium Capacity Pct Capacity
1 Jackson State 1 33,652 40,000 84.1%
2 Montana 2 25,419 25,217 100.8%
3 James Madison 2 22,169 24,877 89.1%
4 Harvard 1 20,748 30,323 68.4%
5 Jacksonville State 2 19,820 24,000 82.6%
6 Montana State 2 19,452 17,777 109.4%
7 Texas Southern 1 18,297 22,000 83.2%
8 Southern 2 15,614 28,500 54.8%
9 South Dakota State 1 15,162 19,340 78.4%
10 North Dakota State 2 15,137 18,700 80.9%
11 North Carolina A&T 1 15,009 21,500 69.8%
12 Norfolk State 1 14,012 30,000 46.7%
13 Eastern Ky. 2 13,627 20,000 68.1%
14 Delaware 1 13,351 22,000 60.7%
15 Cornell 1 12,555 21,500 58.4%
16 Missouri State 2 11,993 17,500 68.5%
17 Alabama A&M 1 11,500 21,000 54.8%
18 Youngstown State 2 11,194 20,630 54.3%
19 Alabama State 2 11,163 26,500 42.1%
20 Cal Poly 1 11,075 11,075 100.0%
21 NC Central 1 10,918 10,000 109.2%
22 Furman 2 10,916 16,000 68.2%
23 Central Arkansas 2 10,501 8,500 123.5%
24 Elon 2 10,305 11,250 91.6%
25 New Hampshire 1 10,247 11,015 93.0%
26 North Dakota 1 10,143 12,283 82.6%
27 Villanova 2 10,110 12,000 84.3%
28 UC Davis 1 9,865 10,849 90.9%
29 The Citadel 2 9,504 11,500 82.6%
30 Western Carolina 2 9,354 13,742 68.1%
31 Northwestern State 1 9,146 15,971 57.3%
32 Towson 1 9,109 11,198 81.3%
33 Weber State 2 9,012 16,500 54.6%
34 ETSU 2 8,868 7,694 115.3%
35 Mercer 1 8,727 10,200 85.6%
36 McNeese 1 8,665 17,810 48.7%
37 Abilene Christian 2 8,568 9,000 95.2%
38 Northern Arizona 1 8,564 7,000 122.3%
39 Prairie View 2 8,476 15,000 56.5%
40 Holy Cross 1 8,211 23,500 34.9%
41 Illinois State 1 8,148 13,381 60.9%
42 Arkansas-Pine Bluff 2 8,145 14,500 56.2%
43 Albany 1 8,144 8,500 95.8%
44 Chattanooga 1 8,115 20,668 39.3%
45 Stephen F. Austin 3 8,097 14,575 55.6%
46 Tarleton State 2 8,094 9,000 89.9%
47 Sacramento State 1 8,067 21,195 38.1%
48 Morgan State 1 8,035 10,000 80.4%
49 Southern Illinois 2 7,978 15,000 53.2%
50 North Alabama 2 7,857 14,215 55.3%
51 Sam Houston 1 7,728 14,000 55.2%
52 Dixie State 2 7,468 5,500 135.8%
53 Nicholls 1 7,314 10,500 69.7%
54 Southern Utah 1 7,096 8,500 83.5%
55 Northern Iowa 1 6,886 16,324 42.2%
56 Murray State 1 6,874 16,000 43.0%
57 Morehead State 1 6,607 10,000 66.1%
58 Richmond 2 6,526 8,700 75.0%
59 Eastern Illinois 1 6,424 10,000 64.2%
60 Kennesaw State 1 6,348 8,300 76.5%
61 William & Mary 1 6,162 12,400 49.7%
62 Marist 1 6,154 5,000 123.1%
63 Indiana State 2 6,096 12,764 47.8%
64 Tennessee Tech 2 6,018 16,500 36.5%
65 Stony Brook 2 5,971 12,300 48.5%
66 UT Martin 1 5,869 7,500 78.3%
67 Bucknell 1 5,856 13,100 44.7%
68 Rhode Island 1 5,735 6,555 87.5%
69 Northern Colorado 2 5,687 8,500 66.9%
70 Lehigh 2 5,576 16,000 34.9%
71 Lamar 1 5,411 16,000 33.8%
72 Western Illinois 1 5,385 16,368 32.9%
73 Butler 1 5,371 5,647 95.1%
74 Idaho State 2 5,332 12,000 44.4%
75 Maine 2 5,295 10,000 53.0%
76 South Dakota 1 5,247 9,100 57.7%
77 Brown 1 5,244 20,000 26.2%
78 Sacred Heart 2 5,233 4,000 130.8%
79 Idaho 1 5,214 16,000 32.6%
80 Dartmouth 1 5,121 11,000 46.6%
81 St. Thomas 1 5,051 5,025 100.5%
82 VMI 2 5,043 10,000 50.4%
83 Campbell 2 5,005 5,500 91.0%
84 Samford 2 4,965 6,700 74.1%
85 Austin Peay 1 4,821 10,000 48.2%
86 Wofford 1 4,597 13,000 35.4%
87 Eastern Washington 1 4,523 8,600 52.6%
88 Hampton 1 4,500 12,000 37.5%
89 Yale 2 4,452 64,269 6.9%
90 Gardner-Webb 2 4,440 8,500 52.2%
91 Princeton 1 4,429 30,000 14.8%
92 Drake 2 4,355 14,557 29.9%
93 Monmouth 1 4,235 4,200 100.8%
94 Bethune-Cookman 1 4,173 9,601 43.5%
95 Davidson 2 4,143 4,500 92.1%
96 SE Missouri State 2 3,986 10,000 39.9%
97 Valparaiso 1 3,856 5,000 77.1%
98 Merrimack 1 3,827 3,500 109.3%
99 Central Conn. State 2 3,809 5,500 69.3%
100 Charleston Southern 1 3,801 4,000 95.0%
101 Fordham 1 3,752 7,000 53.6%
102 Portland State 2 3,610 7,200 50.1%
103 Columbia 2 3,602 17,000 21.2%
104 Dayton 2 3,387 11,000 30.8%
105 Lafayette 2 3,177 13,132 24.2%
106 Delaware State 3 3,137 7,000 44.8%
107 Robert Morris 1 2,514 3,000 83.8%
108 Tennessee State 1 2,513 67,500 3.7%
109 Georgetown 1 2,509 2,500 100.4%
110 Colgate 3 2,464 10,221 24.1%
111 Duquesne 1 2,454 2,200 111.5%
112 Presbyterian 2 2,443 6,500 37.6%
113 San Diego 2 2,339 5,792 40.4%
114 Bryant 1 2,276 4,400 51.7%
115 Wagner 1 2,271 3,300 68.8%
116 Houston Baptist 1 2,135 5,000 42.7%
117 Incarnate Word 2 2,075 6,000 34.6%
118 Stetson 2 1,397 6,000 23.3%
119 St. Francis (PA) 2 1,353 3,500 38.7%

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 5, 2021: Tuesday notes and observations

Brent Thompson’s Monday press conference (9/27)

The Citadel’s game notes for its matchup against VMI

VMI has been rewarded for its patience

– The weather forecast for Saturday afternoon in Charleston, per the National Weather Service: sunny, with a high of 81°.

– The early lines are out. The Citadel is favored over VMI by 1½ points; the over/under is 65½.

I have no idea why the Bulldogs are favored in this game. My own numbers, which are admittedly experimental in nature and not to be trusted, suggest that VMI should be favored by around 9 points. 

When the coveted Silver Shako is at stake, however, anything can happen. 

– Other SoCon lines:

  • Chattanooga is favored over Western Carolina by 21½ points (over/under of 57½)
  • East Tennessee State is favored over Wofford by 14½ points (over/under of 49½)
  • Mercer is favored over Samford by 7½ points (over/under of 68½)

Furman is off this week.

– Also of note from a local or semi-local perspective: South Carolina State is favored by 7½ points over Bethune-Cookman; Kennesaw State is a 2½-point favorite over Jacksonville State; Davidson is favored by 10 points at Stetson; North Carolina A&T is favored by 19½ points over Robert Morris; Richmond is a 12½-point favorite over Elon; and Campbell is a 3-point favorite at North Alabama.

Presbyterian and Charleston Southern are both idle this weekend.

Above, I mentioned my experimental power ratings for FCS teams. This is just a tryout and probably won’t come to anything, but I decided to compare my numbers to the spreads for all FCS vs. FCS contests and see how many outliers there were.

I basically came up with seven games (not including VMI-The Citadel) in which my ratings differed from the opening line by more than a touchdown. Here they are, with my system’s pick against the spread in bold:

  • Sacred Heart-Howard: the Pioneers are 4-point favorites at HU
  • Duquesne-Merrimack: the homestanding Warriors are favored by 3 points
  • Dayton-Morehead State: the Flyers are 2½-point road favorites
  • Brown-Bryant: the Bears are 1½-point road favorites
  • Delaware State-Wagner: the Seahawks are a 1½-point favorite at home
  • Dixie State-South Dakota State: the mighty Jackrabbits are 45-point favorites
  • Central Arkansas-Abilene Christian: ACU is a 1-point favorite at home

Yes, six of the picks are road teams. Feel free to giggle when all of the home teams cover this weekend.

Some FCS conference realignment news: Texas A&M-Commerce, which won the D2 football national title in 2017, announced today it is moving up to FCS and will be a member of the Southland Conference. For you old-timers, this is the school that until 1996 was called East Texas State. Its most notable football alums: Dwight White, Harvey Martin, and Wade Wilson.

Of course, conference realignment rumors (and actual moves) are all the rage right now, both at the FBS and FCS level.

Austin Peay is leaving the OVC for the A-Sun. An OVC school that does not play football, Belmont, is headed to the MVC — and yet another OVC member, Murray State, is widely rumored to be moving as well.

Texas A&M-Commerce probably won’t be the only Division II school to move up, either. There are a host of D2 programs all over the nation reportedly interested in the verdant pastures of Division I. In the southeastern part of the country, keep an eye on (among others) Valdosta State, West Georgia, West Florida, and Queens University of Charlotte.

West Florida, Valdosta State, and Texas A&M-Commerce are the last three national champions in football at the Division II level.

Queens is a small private school (less than 2,000 undergraduates) that does not sponsor football. It does have a dominant swimming program (both men’s and women’s), and its men’s hoops squad beat Howard last season and only lost to George Mason by one point.

Per Wikipedia, the Queens Sports Complex includes a statue of Rex (the school’s mascot), which is “the largest standing lion sculpture in the world.” That sounds D1 to me…

Also, while I haven’t heard anything yet about Anderson University moving up to D1, it did hire Bobby Lamb to start its football program — and has more students than Queens (which, like Anderson, is in the South Atlantic Conference). Anderson’s enrollment has more than doubled over the last 15 years.

Just something to think about.

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.