Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football (consistency sold separately in East Lansing):
FOURTH QUARTER: TEAMS LEFT BEHIND IN THE PASSING REVOLUTION
The season continues along a record-breaking arc in terms of some key passing statistics, most notably passing yards per game (238.61 at present) and completion percentage (61.5). But that doesn’t mean everyone can throw it and catch it with increased competence. If you look at the bottom of the FBS passing stats, there are some notable Power 5 teams languishing. Among them:
Kansas (31). Record: 0–7. Pass efficiency rating: 92.91. National ranking: 121st out of 123, and next-to-last among teams that have played more than one game. Les Miles wasn’t known for his cutting-edge passing game at LSU and, well, let’s just say it has gotten even worse with less talent doing the throwing. Freshman Jalon Daniels has attempted a team-high 139 passes this season, none of them resulting in touchdowns and four being intercepted. They have just 10 passing plays of 10 yards or longer.
Florida State (32). Record: 2–5. Pass efficiency rating: 98.82. National ranking: 118th out of 123, and fourth-lowest among teams that have played more than one game. If you thought the Seminoles’ passing game was pedestrian in recent seasons, guess what? It’s gotten far worse this year. Four different quarterbacks have thrown at least 20 passes this season, and all of them have thrown at least one interception. The team interception rate is 4.5 percent, among the worst in the nation (but not as bad as fellow ACC scatter shooters Duke and Georgia Tech). The past two games have been FSU’s lowest-rated passing performances since at least 2008.
Iowa (33). Record: 1–2. Pass efficiency rating: 100.88. National ranking: 117th out of 123, and fifth-lowest among teams that have played more than one game. The Hawkeyes came into the season slinging it, which seems like a bad idea in retrospect. Their 90 passing attempts in the first two games were the most in consecutive games for the program since 2014, and the result was just a single touchdown and three interceptions. Kirk Ferentz got back to FerentzBall last week in trampling Michigan State, throwing it 29 times and running it 41. Spencer Petras is a first-year starter replacing a guy who threw nearly 1,200 career passes, so some learning curve was expected. The next four opponents all have mediocre-to-bad defenses, so this is an opportunity to sharpen up that part of the Iowa offense.
Nebraska. Record: 0–2. Pass efficiency rating: 104.24. National ranking: 115th out of 123, and seventh-lowest among teams that have played more than one game. Only one FBS team that has played more than one game has failed to throw a touchdown pass. Take a bow, Cornhuskers. They’ve thrown the ball 65 times, and not once has a quarterback completed it to someone wearing the same-colored jersey in the end zone. Adrian Martinez is regressing statistically as a passer, leading Scott Frost to give more opportunities to backup Luke McCaffrey—most notably with the game on the line against Northwestern on Saturday. We’ll see how long Frost stays committed to a two-QB rotation—perhaps until one of them throws a TD pass.
Syracuse (34). Record: 1–7. Pass efficiency rating: 108.18. National ranking: 113th out of 123, and ninth-lowest among teams that have played more than one game. The quarterback position has been a revolving door, with starter Tommy DeVito suffering a reported season-ending injury just during what was his best game of the season, against Duke Oct. 10. Rex Culpepper took over the next three games, but that didn’t go terribly well. Dino Babers then turned to true freshman JaCobian Morgan, who has showed some promise. Given where the Orange season stands, might as well build for the future.
Duke (35). Record: 2–6. Pass efficiency rating: 108.31. National ranking: 112th out of 123, and 10th-lowest among teams that have played more than one game. David Cutcliffe’s reputation as a quarterback whisperer is taking a bit of a beating this season. Unlike some other teams on this list that have gone the youth movement route to try to improve production, Cutcliffe has stuck with Clemson graduate transfer Chase Brice (seven touchdowns, 12 interceptions) as his starter for all eight games. If there is going to be a change to Gunnar Holmberg, this open week might be the time to make the move.
NAME OF THE WEEK
Among the many serendipitous happenings in Arkansas football’s surprising turnaround season is this: Its team leader in tackles for loss and tackles per game is a linebacker named Bumper Pool (36). That’s his real name, not a nickname.
James Morris Pool had been called “Bumper” his whole life by his father, so at age 16 he had it legally made his first name. As one would expect from a linebacker named Bumper from Lucas, Texas, he likes to hit people. Pool is second nationally in tackles per game (12.8) among players who have been in more than one game. He had 14 in Arkansas’s win over Tennessee Saturday.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Texas A&M (37) relies on senior quarterback Kellen Mond and a veteran offensive line—but the youth at the skill positions is enough to put the SEC on warning for 2021 and beyond. To date, 89 percent of the Aggies’ rushing yards and 96 percent of their receiving yards have come from freshmen and sophomores. Twenty-five of their 27 touchdowns have been scored by freshmen and sophomores.
At 5–1 and with a manageable schedule remaining, the future may be now for Texas A&M in terms of trying to sneak into the College Football Playoff as the fourth team. But even if it isn’t, the Aggies’ succession of highly ranked recruiting classes have them poised to be a contender in the SEC West for years to come.
COACH WHO EARNED HIS COMP CAR THIS WEEK
Karl Dorrell (38), Colorado. For years, Dorrell’s name would come up in discussions with Black coaches about the inability to get a second chance at the Power 5 level after being fired. Dorrell went 35–27 at UCLA from 2003–07, 24–18 in the Pac-12, at a time when he was battling with peak Pete Carroll USC. Not great, but not terrible. That record earned Dorrell a 12-year return to the assistant coach ranks from whence he came, mostly in the NFL.
Colorado finally gave him a second shot in February, after being left high and dry by Mel Tucker after one season. Dorrell took over late, didn’t have spring ball, endured the COVID-19 shutdown … and then kicked his former school in the gold pants in his Buffaloes debut. Starting a converted safety at quarterback, Colorado roared to a 35–7 lead and held on for a 48–42 triumph.
As debuts go, not bad. It also was a full-circle moment for Dorrell, whose first game as a head coach at UCLA in 2003 was a loss to Colorado at Folsom Field.
COACH WHO SHOULD TAKE THE BUS TO WORK
Justin Fuente (39), Virginia Tech. Not sure what the stats are on timeouts to ice a kicker, but there are many times it has memorably not worked—and then there was this shrill-shrieking disaster. Locked in a tie game against Liberty in the final seconds, the Flames sent out their kicker to try a no-hope 59-yard bomb. Fuente called timeout just before his team blocked the kick and ran it back for what would have been the winning touchdown. Given another chance, Liberty coach Hugh Freeze put the offense back on the field for an eight-yard completion against soft coverage that improved the field position for a retry at the field goal. Alex Barbir made that one for the win.
“It’s on me,” Fuente told his team in the locker room and the media thereafter.
When thirsty in South Bend after a double-overtime classic and wishing to avoid the bars that were just flooded by students who indulged in a no-social-distancing field storming, The Dash recommends grabbing a four-pack of M-43 IPA. It’s a flavorful hazy rendition by Old Nation Brewing Company (40) just up the road in Williamston, Michigan. Wear a mask and thank The Dash later.