10 stats that jump out through the first month of college football

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Thursday September 29, 2016

Photo credit: Associated Press

We’re one month into the season, so we can start to surmise information from the numbers. Most teams have started conference play, and identities are forming. So what has stood out about this season? Here are 10 stats that jump out through four weeks.

1. Louisville’s offensive numbers are insane.

Bobby Petrino’s offense is No. 1 in scoring (63.5 ppg), No. 1 in yards per play (9.0), No. 1 in rushing (7.8 ypc), and the Cardinals are scoring touchdowns in 81.4 percent of red zone trips.

Lamar Jackson has 25 touchdowns by himself. That would be tied for second nationally as a team, only behind Michigan’s 28.

The record for scoring is 1944 Army, which averaged 56 points per game. The Cardinals will face their toughest test of the year with Clemson this Saturday.

2. Ohio State’s defense has scored four touchdowns and allowed two.

Greg Schiano and Kerry Coombs’ defensive backfield leads the nation with three interceptions per game (9 total). And this has come against three offenses that were in the top 21 in scoring last year (Bowling Green, Tulsa, Oklahoma).

Are we on a crash course for a monstrous Ohio State-Michigan game in late November?

3. Here are the top 20 and bottom 20 teams in plays per game.

Missouri has gone from one of the slowest teams last year (64.1 snaps) to one of the fasted (82.8) under first-year offensive coordinator Josh Heupel.

Similarly, UCF and Syracuse were around 65 snaps per game last year and are now more than 80 under first-year head coaches Scott Frost and Dino Babers, respectively.

4. Texas A&M can finally run the ball again.

With first-year offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, the Aggies are rushing for 6.96 yards per carry against FBS teams this year, No. 2 nationally. That includes against defenses like UCLA and Arkansas — they averaged nearly 10 per carry against the Hogs. True freshman running back Trayveon Williams is averaging 9.7 yards per carry through four games.

They haven’t been this prouctive on the ground since Johnny Manziel won the Heisman Trophy in 2012. Jim Turner returned this year to coach the offensive line. The question now is, can the Aggies do the same against Tennessee in two weeks and at Alabama the week after that?

5. Stanford has reached the red zone only five times in three games, but they’re 3-0 entering this weekend.

On the other end of the spectrum, Louisville has 27 red zone trips in four games. Stanford has two touchdowns and three field goals in those RZ trips, and just seven offensive touchdowns in three games.

Can Stanford rely this heavily on the defense? Both starting cornerbacks are out with injury for Friday’s huge game against Washington.

6. Maryland and Western Michigan have yet to turn the ball over this season.

They’re a combined 7-0. WMU has played four games, beating Northwestern, Illinois and Georgia Southern, and is averaging 43.8 points per game. They travel to Central Michigan this Saturday.

Three teams have yet to fumble the ball at all this year: Eastern Michigan, Nevada and New Mexico State.

7. North Carolina QB Mitch Trubisky is completing 74.5 percent of his passes, and per Pro Football Focus, his receivers have dropped only one pass.

And that’s with Trubisky No. 7 nationally in pass attempts in his first year as the starter. Credit QB coach Keith Heckendorf and co-offensive coordinator / wide receivers coach Gunter Brewer for the development.

UNC is scoring 41.3 points per game, and they travel to Tallahassee this Saturday.

8. Michigan State has a big problem taking care of the ball.

The Spartans have 7 turnovers through three games. They had 15 or fewer each year from 2013-15. You can usually count on a Mark Dantonio team to hold onto the ball. Per ESPN, MSU is turning the ball over on 18 percent of offensive possessions. That’s nearly one in five drives.

The biggest problem has been QB Tyler O’Connor’s five interceptions. An MSU QB hasn’t thrown more than 10 interceptions since 2007. O’Connor is on pace to go well past that.

9. Florida State is allowing 35 points per game (No. 108) and 6.7 yards per play (No. 121).

They’ve played two top-10 scoring offenses in Louisville and USF, and Ole Miss is averaging 40 points per game, so the competition has been strong. But FSU’s defense has struggled to slow them down.

That defense will be tested again with North Carolina.

10. Jabrill Peppers is doing everything for the Wolverines.

The Michigan linebacker has fit perfectly in Don Brown’s scheme. He’s second nationally with 2.3 tackles for loss per game and second on the Wolverines in tackles.

In special teams, he’s third nationally with 22.7 yards per punt return, including a touchdown. He also has two kick returns for 81 yards, including a 55-yarder.

He hasn’t been used much on offense, only two carries for 24 yards. The MMQB’s Albert Breer wrote Thursday that the redshirt sophomore Peppers could be a top-10 pick if he runs well for scouts.

On to October…

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with CoachingSearch.com and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News, MLive.com, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to chris@coachingsearch.com.