Week 6: Defensive numbers key in SEC, Big 12
It's a huge week approaching in the SEC: three games involving five teams ranked in the top 13, and the sixth, while not ranked, is 2-0 in conference play. There are plenty of great numbers to get to on those games, but let's pause for a quick reflection on Week 5, and specifically on Ohio State.
Todd McShay, Gerry DiNardo and I did our "College GameDay" radio show from Iowa City Saturday. You'd be hard-pressed to find better conditions for an upset -- night game, national TV, a crowd that's raucous on normal Saturdays at a fever pitch. Everything set up perfectly for Iowa. One problem: Ohio State is really, really good.
I've seen the Buckeyes in person twice now, and I'm definitely sold. They're completely impervious to what's going on around them. They're workmanlike, methodical. It's really impressive to watch.
It's clear the Buckeyes feed off Troy Smith, who, as good as he was last year, is a completely different QB this year. And the numbers reflect that:
4.4: The Buckeyes QB is averaging 4.4 rushing attempts this year. You could argue that's a negative, because Smith's willingness to stay in the pocket has diminished one dimension of his game significantly, but consider this:
12: Smith has already thrown 12 TD passes this year. He had 16 all of last season. His top two targets -- Ted Ginn Jr. and Anthony Gonzalez -- have already exceeded their TD totals from last year. Smith is making the players around him better and using the weapons at his disposal -- and it's worked wonders for Ohio State.
13: But the most amazing number of all concerning the Buckeyes is that they've already forced 13 turnovers this season. That's one more than they forced all of last season. Remember, this is a defense that lost nine starters from last year, including six NFL draft picks, and yet they really haven't missed a beat. Remarkable.
Now that the Hawkeyes are out of the way for Ohio State, it's beginning to look like smooth sailing for OSU and Michigan as they head on a collision course for what should be a battle of unbeatens on Nov. 18 in Columbus with the Big Ten title on the line. Especially when you consider these two numbers:
0-8: The teams remaining on OSU's and Michigan's schedules before their meeting are a combined 0-8 this year against teams that are currently ranked.
274-115: In those eight games, those teams have been outscored 274-115.
On the flip side of the scheduling world, we give you Florida. Fresh off its win over Alabama, the Gators now take on LSU in Game 2 of one of the most demanding schedule stretches I can recall.
2nd, 3rd and 1st: The points will not be easy to come by for the Gators over the next three weeks. Their opponents -- LSU, Auburn and Georgia -- are ranked 2nd, 3rd and 1st, respectively, in the nation in scoring defense. Won't be easy for Florida's opponents either. The Gators are No. 4 in scoring D.
35: Florida will challenge those defenses with a vastly improved offensive attack. The Gators already have 35 plays of 20 or more yards this season. They had just 45 all of last year.
14: The Tigers' starting defense has actually created 14 points this season on a pair of interception return TDs by Jonathan Zenon, which means when LSU's starting defense is on the field, the Tigers are more likely to score than the opposition is.
1: As for Florida's opponent in Week 8, Georgia is the 1 team in the nation that has given up fewer TDs (3) than field goals (4).
0: Problem is, the Bulldogs' offense really is struggling. Aside from kickers, Georgia has 0 players ranked in the top nine in the SEC in any offensive statistical category. None. By comparison, Vanderbilt has three.
21: As for the Dawgs' in-state rivals, Georgia Tech scored 21 points in its first 12 offensive plays against Virginia Tech. That's only two points fewer than the Hokies had given up in the first four weeks of the season and six points fewer than the Hokies gave up in the first quarter all of last season.
67: The marquee game in the ACC this week, though, involves the biggest surprise team in the conference: Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons' five wins already are more than they totaled in 67 of their 104 years of football.
1944: With a win over Clemson, Wake would be 6-0 for the first time since coach "Peahead" Walker's team started 7-0 in 1944.
I mention this for no other reason than to use the name "Peahead" in context, although Walker is the source of one of the great football quotes of all time. After being disciplined by the university president for using some offensive language during a game, Walker responded by saying, "Damn to a football coach is like amen to a preacher." Where have all the Peaheads gone?
110th, 53rd, 11th: That fact is just one more indication of how dramatically the Tigers' offense has improved the last two years under offensive coordinator Rob Spence. When Spence came over from Toledo, he inherited a team that had finished 110th nationally in total offense in 2004. The Tigers were 53rd last season and are 11th this season. Clemson also ranks ninth in the nation in total defense. Impressive, but not quite as impressive as
2nd, 10th: Missouri is 2nd in the nation in total defense and 10th in total offense -- the only team in the nation that's in the top 10 in both categories. Which might help explain:
277:17: Not only are the Tigers undefeated, they've led for 277:17 of a possible 300 minutes this season and have yet to trail in any game.
5: Missouri gets Texas Tech this week, one week after the Tigers handed Colorado its 5th straight loss in the still-winless Dan Hawkins era. Hawkins lost just 11 games in his tenure at Boise State, meaning he's dropped almost half as many games in 5 weeks in Boulder as he did in 5 years in Boise.
43-2: As for the biggest game in the Big 12 this week -- Oklahoma vs. Texas -- the Longhorns are 43-2 since 2000 against conference teams other than the Sooners. Those two losses have come by a total of six points.
1-5: In the same span, the Longhorns are 1-5 against OU, with the five losses coming by a total of 135 points.
41, 20, 1: OU fans (and its university president) are still fuming over the loss to Oregon, which battles Cal Saturday in Berkeley. Officials' calls aside, part of the explanation for the Ducks' success is their offensive line, which has grown as a unit over the past three years. The Ducks gave up 41 sacks in 2004, 20 in 2005, and have yielded just 1 this season.
100, 7: That line has also opened plenty of holes for running back Jonathan Stewart, who, along with Cal's Marshawn Lynch, are two of just four running backs in the country averaging at least 7 yards per carry and 100 yards per game. Northern Illinois' remarkable Garrett Wolfe and Boise State's Ian Johnson are the others.
35: I'm not normally a point-spread guy, but the guys in Vegas have Johnson and his BCS-hopeful Broncos installed as the biggest favorites in the nation this week: by 35 points over Louisiana Tech. No matter how bad it gets, the Bulldogs can take solace in this: There's no way they'll match the worst defeat ever on an Oct. 7, because
222-0: Yes, Saturday is the 90th anniversary of coach John Heisman and Georgia Tech's 222-0 win over Cumberland in 1916, the most lopsided game in college football history. Ahhh, sportsmanship.
Gerry, Todd and I will follow all the games for you Saturday -- close, one-sided and everywhere in between -- starting at noon ET on ESPN Radio. Hope you'll join us then.
Dave Revsine is the host of "College GameDay" on ESPN Radio. Listen every Saturday from noon to 7 p.m. ET as Gerry DiNardo, Todd McShay and Revsine break down the action.
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