SDA Week 7: Pitt, Tennessee, Texas Chasing Convention Championships

Whereas the Faculty Soccer Playoff chase is, as ever, the principle speaking level this season—significantly with a chaotic begin to the yr that has left playoff spots large open—loads of convention races are gathering intrigue. Alabama’s stunning upset by the hands of Texas A&M has left the SEC West in full upheaval, with each group having misplaced no less than one sport after enjoying not more than three apiece. The Large 12 is large open, with two undefeated groups (Oklahoma and Oklahoma State) having mixed for only one win by greater than 11 factors. Clemson’s struggles have shuffled the ACC deck, leaving Wake Forest because the lone unbeaten group and North Carolina State, Pittsburgh, and Virginia Tech their solely companions with unblemished convention information.

Not all of those battles will find yourself with playoff implications. Certainly, the surprises chargeable for these free-for-alls make it much less doubtless that groups will emerge with top-four circumstances intact. However as vital because the postseason is, division and convention titles are a extra real looking hope for a lot of groups. Colleges similar to Texas A&M and Auburn normally have an Alabama-sized roadblock in the best way, however the West is up for the taking if the Crimson Tide go down once more—which is all the time a risk at Jordan-Hare Stadium. As for the ACC, no one apart from Clemson and Florida State has gained the convention since 2010, and no one apart from these groups has gained the Atlantic since 2008. These potential accolades might not be as prestigious as nationwide championship glory, however loads of groups all through faculty soccer would like to make the most of the chance to assert them.

This week, we’ll take a deep dive on six video games with loads of postseason weight, even when their individuals are doubtless on the surface of the CFP chase. Within the Large 12, Oklahoma State and Texas will duke it out to see who can stake a lead within the chase for the convention championship sport, whereas Baylor will face off with future convention rival BYU in hopes of securing bowl eligibility as they enter a troublesome second half. Auburn and Arkansas will look to hold across the fringes of the highest 25—and the SEC West scramble—as they meet for the primary time since final yr’s officiating drama. Ole Miss, likewise given new life with Alabama’s loss, will look to outduel Tennessee, which is staring down a pivotal slate of video games (with contests towards Alabama, Kentucky, and Georgia developing). Pitt and Virginia Tech, each with a single win in convention play and thus the tenuous standing of ACC Coastal chief, will look to solidify their convention standing in Blacksburg. And within the madhouse MAC, Kent State will try to keep up their place as the one spotless group within the East, whereas Western Michigan hopes to separate themselves from the five-strong pack of 1-1 groups chasing 2-0 Northern Illinois. As tumultuous because the playoff chase has turn into, this week’s video games function a reminder that even those that could come up wanting final glory nonetheless have lots to play for in a wide range of thrilling convention battles.

All instances are listed as Jap.

Oklahoma State at Texas (-4)—Saturday, 12 p.m. (FOX)

Total Oklahoma State Texas
2021 F+ 24 14
When Oklahoma State has the ball Offense Protection
2021 F+ 57 56
2021 EPA/cross 44 90
2021 EPA/rush 67 95
When Texas has the ball Protection Offense
2021 F+ 9 6
2021 EPA/cross 28 25
2021 EPA/rush 57 43

With most groups having solely performed two or three video games in Large 12 competitors, it is most likely untimely to make sweeping conclusions in regards to the chase for the championship sport. Oklahoma, winners of six straight convention titles, are a near-certain lock to make it, even with their close-game struggles this season. However the second spot, as is commonly the case, is open to a wide range of challengers. Preseason favourite Iowa State has fallen off considerably, however with just one convention loss and video games towards most contenders nonetheless to play, their path to the championship continues to be open. The identical goes for Baylor, who delivered the Cyclones’ sole convention loss and lately reached 3-1 within the Large 12 with a dominant win over West Virginia. TCU, with their solely loss coming by the hands of Texas, may leap into the forefront of the dialog with an upset of Oklahoma this week.

However it’s truthful to say that the winner of the sport between Oklahoma State (2-0 within the Large 12) and Texas (2-1), could have a major lead within the chase. Neither group has really made it to Arlington since 2018, when the Sooners pulled away to defeat rival Texas 39-27, however the two have hovered across the entrance of the league all through the final decade, and with out an upstart like 2019 Baylor or 2020 Iowa State to steal their thunder, they’re the frontrunners within the chase because it stands. That makes this week’s assembly important not simply to the convention race, but additionally to bowl prospects and probably even CFP hopes.

The matchup to observe, naturally, would be the Texas offense towards the Oklahoma State protection. The Longhorns have scored some 44.5 factors per sport, rating fifth within the nation, and the superior stats again up their spectacular efficiency. Texas has produced the Thirteenth-most EPA per play of any offense, largely on account of their ninth-ranked passing efficiency led by star quarterback Casey Thompson (10.0 yards per try, 14 TD, 3 INT). Their play-to-play success fee (46.3%, forty second general) drags a bit, however the Longhorns make up for it with an extremely explosive offense, able to breaking off massive performs behind the third-highest passing explosiveness within the nation. Because of a speeding assault headlined by Heisman contender Bijan Robinson (789 speeding yards, 6.3 yards per carry, 8 TD), they acquire the Twenty fourth-most line yards per carry. And after they get downfield, they persistently money in, averaging 4.84 factors per scoring alternative (14th). Merely put, they’re good at nearly every little thing and solely getting higher, averaging 548 yards of whole offense throughout the final 4 video games.

If there are any issues with all that Texas firepower, it is their power of schedule. Whereas the Longhorns have put up numbers towards good opponents similar to Louisiana, TCU, and Oklahoma, most of them have been related, offense-first groups. The Ragin’ Cajuns quit chunk performs in important conditions (116th in opponent EPA on passing downs), the Horned Frogs cannot cease something up entrance (a hundred and thirtieth in opponent line yards per carry, 129th in opponent second-level yards per carry), and the Sooners are vulnerable to massive performs if they can not get their foe off schedule (a hundred and thirtieth in opponent explosiveness on customary downs). These defenses aren’t horrible, however all of them have clear weaknesses that the well-rounded Longhorns offense exploited in an effort to run up the rating.

Oklahoma State poses a special problem. Throughout EPA/play, success fee, and explosiveness, damaged down by down (customary or passing) and by play (speeding or passing), the Cowboys’ protection ranks among the many prime 50 in 10 of 12 conditions. If Texas is outlined by doing every little thing nicely on offense, Oklahoma State is outlined by doing the identical on protection. Whereas not distinctive in lots of explicit facets—rating top-10 in simply a type of measures talked about earlier than, specifically EPA per play on passing downs—the Cowboys are geared up to deal with nearly something a protection throws at them.

When the Longhorns undergo the air, they will tangle with a secondary that has allowed simply 0.09 EPA per cross, 14th nationally. Ought to they take to the bottom, they will be up towards a entrance seven that has allowed simply 2.74 line yards per carry (thirty second) and a minuscule 0.70 second-level yards per carry (fifth). In both case, they will go up towards among the best purple zone defenses within the nation, with Oklahoma State permitting simply 2.63 factors per alternative (eighth). The Cowboys have playmakers at each stage, with Malcolm Rodriguez (54 tackles, 5 TFL) and Devin Harper (29 tackles, 2.5 TFL, two fumble recoveries) inflicting soccer’s Twenty fourth-highest havoc fee within the entrance seven whereas Kolby Harvell-Peel (27 tackles, two interceptions) and Jarrick Bernard (21 tackles, 5 cross breakups) assist restrict manufacturing by means of the air with the 14th-lowest EPA per cross.

To safe the higher hand within the Large 12’s championship chase, the Longhorns might want to establish and exploit what weaknesses the Cowboys’ protection does possess—most notably, the nation’s One centesimal-ranked havoc fee within the defensive again corps. Energy will meet power in Austin as each Texas, transferring into the second half of Steve Sarkisian’s first season, and Oklahoma State, shifting to an uncharacteristic defense-focused system, enter new and unfamiliar eras.

Look ahead to:

  • Will Jaylen Warren’s high-flying kind (552 whole yards, 4 touchdowns within the final three video games) proceed towards a vulnerable Texas line of defense?
  • Can Spencer Sanders bounce again from a depressing three-interception day towards Baylor?
  • Regardless of the heavy load of 125 speeding makes an attempt (together with 55 within the final two weeks), will Bijan Robinson proceed to excel?

FEI Outright Choose: Texas by 6.9

Auburn at Arkansas (-4.5)—Saturday, 12 p.m. (CBS)

Total Auburn Arkansas
2021 F+ 21 27
When Auburn has the ball Offense Protection
2021 F+ 43 25
2021 EPA/cross 81 21
2021 EPA/rush 41 51
When Arkansas has the ball Protection Offense
2021 F+ 20 34
2021 EPA/cross 67 46
2021 EPA/rush 41 33

Arkansas would not rank extremely (or, for a lot of followers, in any respect) on Auburn’s listing of rivals, however there shall be no love misplaced between the 2 groups after they meet in a rematch of a dramatic, controversial 2020 showdown. Going into that sport, the Tigers had gained six of their final seven towards Arkansas by no less than 18 factors, however a blatantly missed fumble within the ultimate minute proved the distinction as Auburn gained with a subsequent discipline purpose. Each groups, after exceeding preseason expectations throughout September, are coming off a pair of letdown performances—losses to Georgia (37-0) and Ole Miss (52-51) for the Razorbacks, a slim win over LSU (24-19) and loss to Georgia (34-10) for the Tigers. Each are 4-2 and mired in the midst of the wild SEC West, and each enter this sport with rather a lot to show.

There is not any higher instance of that than Auburn quarterback Bo Nix, who has struggled to strategy the numbers he put up earlier within the season (9.8 yards per try, 5 TD towards Akron and Alabama State). Nix has only one passing landing within the final 4 video games, a span through which the Tigers have misplaced to Penn State and Georgia and survived Georgia State and LSU after trailing within the fourth quarter. He is averaging 5.6 yards per try in that stretch with a 101.1 passing effectivity ranking, which might put him fourth-worst amongst all gamers with no less than 100 makes an attempt in that stat. Even along with his early flashes of success, Nix ranks 88th amongst 105 such passers. Suffice it to say that even with the occasional spotlight play, he has struggled.

What makes Nix such a irritating participant, for Auburn and impartial followers alike, is the apparent potential underlying his subpar performances. That single landing cross within the final 4 weeks was an absolute gem, an unlikely scramble through which Nix evaded six tacklers throughout 12 seconds earlier than delivering a wonderfully positioned cross whereas falling out of bounds. The junior is fantastically athletic and might make pinpoint throws. Even his reads, essentially the most often criticized factor of his sport, have the aptitude of constructing him appear like a veteran. However the highlight-reel performs aren’t frequent sufficient to offset the remainder of Nix’s play. The potential has all the time been there for him to show the nook, however he hasn’t but.

This sport might not be the pivotal second of Nix’s profession, however a strong efficiency towards the treacherous Arkansas cross protection would go a great distance in the direction of inspiring confidence in his position because the starter. The Razorbacks have been dominant towards the cross, permitting simply 0.12 EPA per cross and a 35.5% success fee by means of the air. Arkansas has boosted its sack fee considerably as nicely, from final yr’s 3.5% (116th) to 7.1% (forty ninth) this season. That mixture makes them lethal on lengthy downs, rating second in FBS in EPA per play and opponent success fee on passing downs.

Absurdly athletic free security Joe Foucha and bodily cornerbacks Montaric Brown and Jalen Catalon kind the core of a powerful secondary, however the important thing to the Razorbacks’ elite cross protection lies up entrance, with a trio of grad transfers on the road and a pair of defensive leaders within the linebacker corps. Bumper Pool (61 tackles, 4.5 TFL) and Grant Morgan (50 tackles, 4.5 TFL) are among the many finest gamers and prospects Arkansas has, and the 2 have contributed three mixed cross breakups along with often disrupting opposing quarterbacks.

Nevertheless, as up-and-down as Nix is within the passing sport, he has been persistently adept at avoiding sacks. Auburn has suffered simply seven sacks in six video games, tied for the 18th-lowest fee in FBS, and their fee of sacks allowed per dropback (2.9%) ranks ninth nationally. Whereas Nix has handed out of the pocket extra this season—with six speeding makes an attempt per sport, in comparison with 9.8 final yr—he nonetheless clearly has a knack for scrambling, as that very good play towards LSU demonstrates. If he can keep on his ft and let performs develop, as is his standard fashion, the Tigers may acquire the higher hand towards a relentless Razorbacks protection.

Look ahead to:

  • Can Arkansas’ middling run prevention deal with the one-two combo of Auburn rushers Jarquez Hunter (465 yards, 9.9 yards per carry) and Tank Bigsby (458 yards, 5.5 yards per carry)?
  • Will Ok.J. Jefferson be capable to generate massive performs towards Auburn’s shutdown protection, which leads the nation in stopping explosiveness?
  • Arkansas has struggled to capitalize on profitable drives, rating 104th in factors per alternative; can Auburn, permitting the Thirty ninth-highest scoring common, take benefit?

FEI Outright Choose: Arkansas by 0.7

Pittsburgh (-5) at Virginia Tech—Saturday, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN2)

Total Pittsburgh Virginia Tech
2021 F+ 19 43
When Pittsburgh has the ball Offense Protection
2021 F+ 22 36
2021 EPA/cross 32 23
2021 EPA/rush 7 98
When Virginia Tech has the ball Protection Offense
2021 F+ 27 55
2021 EPA/cross 61 66
2021 EPA/rush 18 101

Of all of the groups to place collectively an elite offense, Pitt wasn’t on the radar of many earlier than the season. The Panthers scored a mere 29 factors per sport final yr, with Kenny Pickett wanting common (7.3 yards per try, 13 TD, 9 INT) and just one rusher, Vincent Davis, clearing 300 yards on the bottom within the group’s 11 video games. However quick ahead a yr and Pickett has reworked into one in all faculty soccer’s finest quarterbacks. By way of 5 video games, he is comfortably outdoing his earlier highs throughout 4 seasons because the starter in completion fee (72.0% to 61.6%), yards per try (10.3 to 7.3), touchdowns (19 to 13), and interceptions (one to 6). He is even speeding higher than ever, averaging 3.6 yards per carry after sitting under 2.0 in every of the earlier three seasons. The Panthers are fourth nationally in EPA per cross, third in success fee on passing performs, and first in all of FBS in factors per scoring alternative—and per sport.

What has led to this renaissance, the primary season with higher offensive than defensive efficiency at Pitt because the days of Nathan Peterman? A part of the key lies behind Pickett’s elevated scrambling prowess: he is enjoying lighter on his ft, adjusting delicately within the pocket and firing with out totally setting beforehand. A much-improved offensive line, which produced the Sixteenth-fewest line yards per carry and allowed the 14th-highest success fee final yr, has helped make that fashion adjustment a profitable one. Expertise and confidence have come collectively nicely for Pickett, who has demonstrated a powerful skill to make performs beneath demanding circumstances. The Panthers have a few of the most placing splits between customary and passing downs—a drop in success fee in change for an increase in explosiveness—and that is no coincidence. The fifth-year senior has demonstrated a knack for making high-risk, high-reward performs when the scenario requires them.

Enter Virginia Tech, which presents an intriguing defensive distinction. Whereas Pitt loves creating massive performs on lengthy downs, the Hokies do nicely to stop simply that: they rank thirty eighth in opponent success fee and solely 62nd in opponent explosiveness on customary downs, however these numbers swap on passing downs, after they settle for a drop to 57th in success fee whereas leaping to forty fourth in explosiveness. To place it briefly, Virginia Tech will get a lot better at stopping explosive performs when an opponent’s offense most direly wants them.

The Hokies stop such performs as nicely thanks largely to a chaotic defensive assault. Virginia Tech creates loads of havoc in each the entrance seven (14.6% of performs, twenty first in FBS) and the secondary (7.7%, nineteenth), producing an 8.6% sack fee (twenty sixth) and 1.8 interceptions per sport (second behind solely Iowa). Deep place teams, in each circumstances, have helped produce such numbers, however one of the best exemplars of the Hokies’ havoc are linebacker Dax Hollifield (38 tackles, 4.5 TFL, three sacks) and defensive again Jermaine Waller (27 tackles, 4 interceptions, two cross breakups). For a group that has endured its justifiable share of struggles, shedding video games to West Virginia and Notre Dame and dancing with catastrophe towards Richmond, the protection’s important enchancment from 2020 has been a brilliant spot.

Can the Hokies efficiently restrict Pickett and switch his opportunistic spectacles into the occasional catastrophe within the backfield? That is a tall order; by the numbers, Pickett is having a considerably higher season than any quarterback Virginia Tech has confronted to date. However there’s purpose to consider he is overachieving to some extent, particularly with the relative lack of stress he is confronted. The one groups to carry Pitt beneath 50 factors this yr each created loads of turmoil. In opposition to the Panthers, Tennessee made 10 tackles for loss, Western Michigan made eight, and Pitt’s different three opponents had three, 4, and two. Tennessee and Western Michigan each hurried Pickett 5 instances and sacked him twice; the opposite groups mixed for seven hurries and 4 sacks. Making positive factors towards this dynamic offense is not simple, however there is a clear blueprint to be adopted, and the Hokies are a superb match for that plan. They will have to ship the stress and key-play manufacturing in an effort to pull an upset—and take the lead of the ACC Coastal within the course of.

Look ahead to:

  • How a lot of an influence will the Hokies’ particular groups, holding opponents to the ninth-worst discipline place, have towards Pitt, averaging the Twenty eighth-best?
  • Will Braxton Burmeister’s comparatively disappointing begin to the season proceed, or can he escape towards a median Pitt cross protection?
  • Can any member of Pitt’s three-strong steady of working backs (Vincent Davis, Israel Abanikanda, and Rodney Hammond Jr.) emerge as a transparent prime rusher?

FEI Outright Choose: Virginia Tech by 1.1

BYU at Baylor (-6)—Saturday, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Total BYU Baylor
2021 F+ 34 23
When BYU has the ball Offense Protection
2021 F+ 16 17
2021 EPA/cross 36 36
2021 EPA/rush 59 77
When Baylor has the ball Protection Offense
2021 F+ 52 45
2021 EPA/cross 60 42
2021 EPA/rush 76 9

BYU’s protection faces 6.73 performs per drive, the second-most in faculty soccer. That, on paper, appears unhealthy—it places them in firm with defenses similar to these of Western Kentucky (123rd in EPA/play), Ohio (104th), Kent State (93rd), and Illinois (121st). However the Cougars have really been decently efficient on this facet of the ball, rating 69th in EPA per play and forty first in defensive FEI. How has BYU weathered these lengthy drives and are available out forward so typically?

One key, naturally sufficient, is guaranteeing their opponents begin as far downfield as attainable. Because of a strong offense, plus very good punter Ryan Rehkow (50.3 yards per punt, Thirty ninth in FEI punting effectivity), BYU’s foes common a beginning discipline place simply shy of their very own 25, the 18th-best mark by any particular groups unit. Relating to the protection itself, the Cougars rank slightly under common in most situational metrics, however one quantity stands out: opponents have averaged simply 1.30 EPA per profitable cross, giving BYU the Twentieth-best rank in opponent explosiveness on passing performs. That is a shocking efficiency from a secondary that has in any other case been unremarkable (forty eighth in EPA per cross, eightieth in passing success fee) and has allowed 7.0 yards per opponent try, up from 6.2 final yr.

The protection’s step again from final season, after they held opponents to fifteen.3 factors per sport (fourth nationally) and helped lead an 11-1 season, is comprehensible. In any case, BYU misplaced stars at each stage, from nostril sort out Khyiris Tonga to linebacker Isaiah Kaufusi to safeties Zayne Anderson and Troy Warner. The Cougars’ defensive construction is constructed round expertise and flexibility, and shedding essentially the most skilled and versatile gamers from 2020 was sure to be a blow. Throw in a more durable schedule and it was affordable to anticipate a pedestrian efficiency. However the primary and superior stats agree: BYU has been respectable defensively, even perhaps good. With the offense but to prime 35 factors in a sport, it is the protection that has keyed their 5-1 begin, holding 4 opponents to twenty factors or fewer—amongst them, then-ranked Utah and at present ranked Arizona State.

Given these numbers, one is perhaps inclined to show the preliminary query on its head: if BYU’s protection is mostly strong, why have opponents been capable of transfer the ball so successfully? The reply is comparatively easy: third-down stops merely have not been there for the Cougars. They’ve allowed a 41.8% conversion fee, eighty fifth general, and their 69.2% conversion fee allowed on fourth downs (97th) is not a lot good both. The protection has made stands later in drives, permitting solely 3.55 factors per scoring alternative, however letting groups transfer that far downfield normally ends in some scores, and it is no shock that BYU is likely one of the 9 groups to permit no less than two discipline objectives per sport. Nonetheless, the Cougars have carried out nicely on the entire despite their third-down struggles, and so they’re coming off a superb sport within the loss to Boise State—the Broncos’ sole touchdowns got here on brief fields of 24 and 23 yards, and so they had been compelled to accept 4 discipline objectives and nothing extra when the protection had room to work.

BYU’s opponents have not capitalized nicely—not simply towards BYU, however all season. Arizona ranks 126th in factors per scoring alternative, Utah 54th, Arizona State thirtieth, USF 111th, Utah State 94th, and Boise State 69th. Baylor is one other story altogether, averaging some 4.65 factors per alternative (twenty first). The Bears have generated 2.28 EPA per drive, sixth-highest in FBS, behind a terrifying two-pronged speeding assault and the skillful passing of breakout quarterback Gerry Bohanon. Abram Smith (597 yards, 7.7 yards per carry, 7 TD) and Trestan Ebner (401 yards, 6.1 yards per carry) have led the Bears to 0.43 EPA per rush, the second-best mark in faculty soccer. In the meantime, Bohanon (9.2 yards per try, 11 TD, 0 INT, 6 rush TD) has added to the bottom sport whereas additionally placing up 0.42 EPA per cross (thirty fourth) and a 48.1% passing success fee (twenty third).

That is an intimidating drive for any protection to take care of, however like BYU, the Bears have a evident weak spot—and apparently sufficient, it is in the identical space. Baylor has transformed simply 34.4% of third downs this season, ninetieth general. The Bears do not get off schedule fairly often, with the Thirty sixth-lowest fee of passing downs confronted by any offense, however after they do, they’ve struggled. On such downs, Baylor averages simply 0.30 EPA (eighty fifth), a 30.8% success fee (79th), and 1.75 EPA per profitable play (103rd), all nicely under the typical for FBS groups in that scenario. To come back away with a key non-conference win and punch their bid to the postseason, each BYU and Baylor should overcome their third-down woes and translate their success this season into important performs when it issues most.

Look ahead to:

  • Can both group generate chaos within the secondary towards quarterbacks who’ve astutely prevented defensive again havoc to date?
  • Baylor is at their finest when Bohanon will get the ball to prime receiver Tyquan Thornton (463 yards, 17.1 yards per catch, 5 TD); will BYU be capable to restrict his influence?
  • Will the aptly named Baylor Romney (11.0 yards per try, 5 TD, 0 INT) take over from BYU starter Jaren Corridor (7.1 yards per try, 8 TD, 3 INT) if the latter’s struggles proceed?

FEI Outright Choose: Baylor by 3.2

Kent State at Western Michigan (-7)—Saturday, 3:30 p.m. (ESPNU)

Total Kent State Western Michigan
2021 F+ 99 79
When Kent State has the ball Offense Protection
2021 F+ 69 90
2021 EPA/cross 104 65
2021 EPA/rush 44 66
When Western Michigan has the ball Protection Offense
2021 F+ 116 51
2021 EPA/cross 59 49
2021 EPA/rush 114 48

For a participant from the unrenowned MAC, the expectations positioned on the shoulders of Kent State quarterback Dustin Crum have been staggering. An unregarded two-star recruit from northern Ohio, Crum joined the Golden Flashes in 2017, gained the beginning job in 2019, and promptly threw 20 touchdowns with simply two interceptions. In 2020, going through a four-game conference-only schedule, his numbers rose nonetheless additional, as he improved from 8.4 to 10.5 yards per try whereas throwing 12 touchdowns and two interceptions. That put him fifth nationally in yards per try and adjusted yards per try and fourth in passer ranking, an unimaginable efficiency in his senior season.

Crum has obtained loads of much-deserved media consideration for his spectacular performances, which have led the Golden Flashes right into a golden age and put them within the hunt for his or her first convention title since 1972. However whereas Crum was garnering accolades and NFL hypothesis, one other MAC quarterback with glittering numbers was matching him blow-for-blow from past the highlight. Over in Kalamazoo, Western Michigan had seen Kaleb Eleby turn into one of many nation’s most prolific passers. Throughout that very same pandemic-shortened season, Eleby stepped into the beginning position for the Broncos after redshirting in 2019, and the outcomes had been spectacular. The sophomore averaged 11.2 yards per try, passing for 18 touchdowns and two interceptions. These numbers positioned him second in yards per try, simply behind Alabama’s Mac Jones, and first in adjusted yards per try—to not point out second in faculty soccer historical past, a hair behind Kyler Murray in 2018.

Each Crum and Eleby, in fact, play in a league of a demonstrably worse caliber than the likes of Jones and Murray. However there isn’t any denying that their numbers are spectacular, and it isn’t as if Kent State and Western Michigan have a large expertise benefit over the MAC discipline in any other case. Neither quarterback is prone to begin within the NFL, and naturally neither has any probability of main their group to the playoff. However there are nonetheless information to be set, titles to be gained, and wins to be cherished. Kent State is chasing their first championship in practically 50 years; Western Michigan is hoping to safe their second within the final three a long time. The excessive honors pursued by elite quarterbacks similar to Matt Corral, Bryce Younger, Kenny Pickett, and Grayson McCall aren’t throughout the attain of those MAC stars, however they nonetheless have the chance to enshrine their names in faculty soccer historical past.

Crum’s relative struggles early within the season meant he wasn’t in kind to knock off Texas A&M, Iowa, or Maryland, however he rebounded dramatically towards Buffalo. The Bulls’ protection is nothing particular (113th in opponent EPA per cross), and Crum victimized it for 407 yards on 36 passes, three touchdowns, and no interceptions (plus 72 speeding yards and two extra touchdowns on the bottom). Eleby, by comparability, has struggled with effectivity all through the season—he is averaging solely 7.7 yards per try, solely beating 8.5 yards per try in his sport towards Illinois State. Nevertheless, he has produced loads of yards and touchdowns, passing for 337 yards and three scores in a dramatic upset win over Pitt. Final week’s sport towards Ball State, the defending MAC champion who narrowly prevented falling prey to the Broncos’ 15-lateral landing in 2020, was a letdown for Eleby; he threw his first two interceptions of the season, and the Cardinals piled on 4 touchdowns within the final 20 minutes to tug away and win 45-20. However, Western Michigan has many of the season forward of them and nonetheless has an opportunity to knock off MAC West chief Northern Illinois.

Each Kent State (51st in opponent EPA per cross, seventy fifth in opponent success fee on passing performs) and Western Michigan (eightieth and thirty fourth, respectively) have middling cross defenses, so it is doubtless this sport will come all the way down to which of two good quarterbacks can outduel their reverse quantity. With Crum and Eleby trying to cap their careers with an ever-elusive convention championship, who will lead their group to a key victory because the battle royale within the haywire MAC approaches the ultimate stretch?

Look ahead to:

  • Will the one-two punch of Broncos rushers Ladarius Jefferson (435 yards, 4.1 yards per carry, 8 TD) and Sean Tyler (414 yards, 5.2 yards per carry, 2 TD) be sufficient towards Kent State’s mediocre run protection?
  • With the Golden Flashes having stepped up from amongst FBS’ worst to merely below-average on protection, can Western Michigan efficiently ship on scoring alternatives?
  • Will Kent State begin to incorporate stellar senior Keshunn Abram (315 yards, 18.5 yards per carry) within the passing sport extra typically?

FEI Outright Choose: Western Michigan by 9.6

Ole Miss (-2.5) at Tennessee—Saturday, 7:30 p.m. (SECN)

Total Ole Miss Tennessee
2021 F+ 16 22
When Ole Miss has the ball Offense Protection
2021 F+ 3 37
2021 EPA/cross 4 80
2021 EPA/rush 19 37
When Tennessee has the ball Protection Offense
2021 F+ 84 20
2021 EPA/cross 119 76
2021 EPA/rush 116 7

You could not write a a lot better script for Lane Kiffin’s return to Knoxville. Over a decade after Kiffin’s outrageous one-year stint at Tennessee, the offensive mastermind has been out and in at USC, helped piece collectively an elite offense at Alabama, led FAU to 2 C-USA titles with a 5-7 season in between, and is now constructing Ole Miss right into a contender within the SEC West. Drama has by no means been too distant, however these days, issues are slightly extra tame. Probably the most thrilling parts of Kiffin’s tenure with the Rebels have come on the sector, as he has constructed a sophisticated offense captained by Heisman contender Matt Corral.

Each Kiffin and his reverse quantity, first-year head coach Josh Heupel, have crafted wonderful offensive assaults, however their kinds are markedly totally different. Ole Miss does not really cross fairly as typically as you may anticipate, with the Thirty seventh-highest speeding play fee in FBS, however irrespective of how they assault, it is efficient. Henry Parrish Jr. (332 yards, 6.1 yards per carry, 1 TD), Snoop Conner (247 yards, 6.5 yards per carry, 7 TD), and Jerrion Early (206 yards, 5.2 yards per carry, 1 TD) have led a remarkably underrated speeding assault, which leads faculty soccer with 0.51 EPA per rush and ranks fifth in explosiveness on speeding performs. By way of the air, in fact, they depend on the preposterously good Corral (10.3 yards per try, 12 TD, 0 INT), who has the Rebels seventh in EPA per cross and fourth in passing explosiveness.

Tennessee rushes about as typically as Ole Miss—they rank thirty third in speeding play fee—however with Virginia Tech switch Hendon Hooker (9.5 yards per try, 13 TD, 1 INT) taking the reins at quarterback, a major chunk of that speeding has come from his scrambles. A bevy of working backs have contributed for the Volunteers, with seven gamers toting the ball no less than 20 instances, however two have gotten the majority of the carries: Jabari Small (231 yards, 5.3 yards per carry, 2 TD), the unique beginning again, and Tiyon Evans (482 yards, 6.6 yards per carry, 6 TD), who got here out of nowhere with a 116-yard debut towards Bowling Inexperienced and shortly took up the highest spot. However an ankle damage to Evans will doubtless maintain him out of the sport, briefly reinstating Small as the primary choice. Small has been good—although not so good as Evans—however his standing as a backup within the final two video games meant he took simply three carries towards Missouri and none towards South Carolina.

Each groups have stunningly good offenses, however in a sport that may doubtless be outlined by uncommon stops slightly than frequent scores, their lackluster defenses may very well be simply as important. Tennessee has been susceptible to prolonged stretches of defensive instability; for instance, Pitt scored 27 of their eventual 41 factors towards the Volunteers within the second quarter alone, and two video games later, the Florida sport bought out of hand because the protection faltered. Ole Miss, by comparability, offers up prolonged scoring drives, stopping explosive performs however permitting profitable play after profitable play—and infrequently, their very own ultra-explosive offense scores rapidly and palms the ball proper again to their exhausted protection.

Each offenses have a winnable mismatch on this sport; the query is which group will win these mismatches extra typically. Tennessee has put up massive offensive numbers within the final two weeks, however as they enter the hardest stretch of their schedule (Ole Miss, Alabama, Kentucky, and Georgia), they nonetheless have to show they will rating nicely sufficient to hold with prime groups. Ole Miss proved that past any doubt final week, outlasting Arkansas 52-51, however their protection has left a lot to be desired. A pair of SEC upstarts hoping to determine offensive preeminence in faculty soccer’s prime convention, with a coach making his return to a college he departed amidst chaos years in the past? Effectively, within the phrases of Kiffin himself: get your popcorn prepared.

Look ahead to:

  • With Navy switch Jake Springer (70 tackles, 16 TFL, eight sacks in 2019) lastly getting on the sector for the Rebels, can their protection take a serious step ahead?
  • Can the dynamic Volunteers entrance seven, led by high-flying linebacker Jeremy Banks (33 tackles, 7 TFL, 3.5 sacks), proceed to provide havoc towards a stalwart Ole Miss offensive line?
  • Will the Rebels goal Velus Jones Jr. (342 yards, 15.5 yards per catch, 3 TD) on protection and try and restrict Hooker to different choices within the passing sport?

FEI Outright Choose: Ole Miss by 0.8

FEI Picks: Week 7

Favourite Unfold Underdog FEI Choose FEI Choose ATS Preston’s Choose ATS
at Texas -4 Oklahoma State Texas Texas Oklahoma State
at Arkansas -4.5 Auburn Arkansas Auburn Auburn
Pitt -5 at Virginia Tech Virginia Tech Virginia Tech Pitt
at Baylor -6 BYU Baylor BYU BYU
at Western Michigan -7 Kent State Western Michigan Western Michigan Western Michigan
Ole Miss -2.5 at Tennessee Ole Miss Tennessee Tennessee

FEI’s picks ATS in Week 6: 5-1

FEI’s picks ATS in 2021: 21-15

Preston’s picks ATS in Week 6: 5-1

Preston’s picks ATS in 2021: 19-17

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