Remember when option plays were regarded as gimmicky and were only for teams that had nothing else going for them? They're meant for the Navys and The Citadels of the world, not major contenders. But now that Georgia Tech (with the flexbone option), Oregon (with the spread offense), and teams in the Power Five conferences are starting to use them, suddenly it's not so gimmicky. Suddenly having three guys run around in the backfield dancing to Tchaikovsky while flippin' balls to one another is seen as a serious weapon, and a shrewd tactic. Of course, some people would insist the Wishbone offense has been around since the early 1900s and therefore shouldn't be regarded as gimmicky. Those people are probably right, but they have nothing to do with this article, so they can go tell it to a mountain.
-Hey, how about them Georgia Southern Eagles? It was their first year in the FBS, and despite knowing full well they wouldn't be allowed to play in a bowl game (which is super dumb, by the way), they decided to run with malicious intent all over the Sun Belt. The Eagles went undefeated in conference play, losing only to NC State by one point and Georgia Tech by four points, and led the nation in rushing yards, yards per attempt, yards per game, and total rushing touchdowns, with 55. Wisconsin and Navy tied for second-most rushing TDs... with just 43. Of course, the Eagles potent run attack existed only at the near-complete sacrifice of the passing game, which averaged just 107.2 yards per contest. If you're Georgia Southern, though, you have to be pretty pleased with the results. Nine wins in a season is better than most teams can say they did, especially in their first season in the FBS. Fly high, you Eagles of the South.
-I talked at length yesterday about the mediocrity of Penn State, brought on primarily by the below-average play of Christian Hackenberg. I'm afraid, however, that there may be another culprit at PSU that could be real cause for all their losing: the offensive line. You see, in college football, some teams are bad at running the football either because they don't try to or they don't care. Washington State is a great example of this. They had the fewest rushing yards per game, but they also had the fewest rushing attempts per game. Mike Leach doesn't like to run the ball, and that's fine. James Franklin, however, coaches a pro style offense, which means running the ball is necessary. Amongst teams that had at least 400 rushing attempts this season, which qualifies 108 teams, Penn State had the fewest yards per attempt: a pathetic 2.9 yards. After noting yesterday that Christian Hackenberg was the fourth-most sacked quarterback in Division I-A, I suppose this should come as no surprise. That offensive line is an absolute sieve.
-The correlation between sacks and rushing yards per attempt don't end there, folks. John Wolford, Wake Forest's QB, was sacked an FBS-high 45 times. Their rushing yards per attempt? An FBS-low 1.3 yards per carry. Yes, you read that right. Wake Forest ran the ball 383 times this season, and usually got just a hair over a yard on each attempt. Louisiana-Monroe and Miami of Ohio also ended up in the bottom ten in rushing yards per attempt and in the top three in sacks allowed. In case you wanted to know how the year as a whole went for these guys, Wake Forest went 3-9, ULM went 4-8, and Miami (OH) went 2-10. The offensive line matters, you guys.
-Jhurell Pressley, Matt Breida, Devon Johnson, Kareem Hunt, Elijah McGuire, Aaron Green, Steward Butler, Noah Copeland, Melvin Gordon, and Tevin Coleman. Have you ever heard of any of these guys besides Melvin Gordon? They're the top ten leaders in rushing yards per attempt, with a minimum of 100 carries. So why haven't you heard of these guys? Well, in the case of Green, Johnson, and Butler, they were overshadowed by the sudden and spectacular rise of their Heisman-candidate quarterbacks. Others were key cogs in those aformentioned "gimmick" offenses, like Breida and Copeland. As for the leader of the pack, New Mexico's Pressley, he was the best player on an awful team. It's not unheard of for statistical leaders to rack up numbers while the rest of the team falters, but Pressley arguably should have had even bigger numbers, seeing as he only carried the ball 114 times. That's right, the guy who averaged 9.5 yards per carry, almost a yard more than the next player on the list (Breida), only ran the ball nine-and-a-half times per game on average. Because of this, Pressley technically won't count in the NCAA's record books, because you have to have 10 carries or more per game to qualify. But it was worth it to keep him on the bench to get those four wins, wasn't it, New Mexico?
-Hey, remember when I was harping on Wake Forest earlier because they had the worst team rushing stats in the history of the galaxy? Well, turns out their running back also had the worst stats in the nation too. Pour one out for Isaiah Robinson, kids, 'cause that young man averaged 1.8 yards per carry on 99 attempts. That's 174 yards, for those of you without calculators at the ready. It's bad enough having to take such a load as a freshman on a bad team, but as a freshman on one of the worst teams? To have this be the start to your football career? Robinson had less of a chance than some 18-year old cherry on his first tour of duty in 'Nam. The good Lord took Isaiah, as he/she/it took so many bright, flowering young men, at Khe Sanh, and Langdok, and Hill 364. These young men gave their lives. And Donny too. Donny... who loved bowling.