Cal’s Defense Flips The Script In This Week’s College Football Statistical Leaderboard

This week’s statistical roundup is dedicated to the unlikely heroes – the unranked teams that pulled off miraculous upsets against top-ranked opponents.

The Syracuse Orange, who toppled the mighty Clemson Tigers. The Sun Devils, who stymied Washington’s usually productive offense. The LSU Tigers, who won back some favor with a close victory over Auburn. And the California Golden Bears, who left Washington State’s head coach scratching his head in the post-game presser after Cal held the Cougars to just three points.

Week 7 was like the Wild West – four teams in the top-10 went down, seven in the top-25 suffered losses. In the Pac-12 alone, two top teams went down which is why the ‘Conference of Champions’ just can’t have nice things. But like I said in this week’s podcast, don’t mistake upsets for conference prowess.

Several key statistics played a role in these surprising victories – we celebrate those in this week’s leaderboard. But some of the other non-upset statistics are just as impressive. Lets take a look together.

No. 1 in Turnovers Gained: California – 20

We now live in a world where the California Golden Bears’ defense wins games. And it is glorious. The Bears toppled eighth-ranked Washington State in true Friday the 13th fashion. Cal quarterback Ross Bowers executed a near-perfect flip into the endzone for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter.

A protestor sat silently on the 5-yard line.

And WSU quarterback Luke Falk was sacked nine times and intercepted five times – for context, Falk entered the game with just two interceptions in 262 passes.

The Bears ability to force mistakes is now one of their biggest weapons and garners them respect on the national stage. Cal freshman cornerback Camryn Bynum tallied two of the five interceptions, the first of his career.

Fun fact: At this time two years ago, Cal also lead the nation in turnovers gained with 21 under then-head coach Sonny Dykes. They were 5-1, 2-1 in the Pac-12 and had just lost a 30-24 contest to Utah in Salt Lake City.

It’s comforting to know that even in the Pac-12, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

No. 1 in Passing Yards: Tyler Rogers, New Mexico State – 2,495

The name Tyler Rogers might require some goggling for those outside of the Sun Belt family but the senior quarterback from Peoria, Arizona can throw a football. So much so, that he leads the nation in passing yards with 2,495 – that is 127 more than the next QB, Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph. Rogers also has 19 touchdowns on the year.

Beyond his numbers, Rogers demonstrates a mental toughness that the Aggies depended on heavily in their 35-27 in over Georgia Southern on Saturday – their first ever win over the Eagles in Sun Belt Conference play. Rogers, who was intercepted six times the week before against Appalachian State, finished 31 of 51 for 382 yards, three touchdowns and only two interceptions.

“For me personally I just wanted to show my team that they could trust and believe in me because last week I cost us the game,” Rogers said in the Las Cruces Sun-News. “I’m proud of our guys for fighting and believing in me and for the defense in grinding it out.”

No. 1 in 3rd Down Conversion Pct: TCU – 56.7%

TCU reminds me of the friend that goes hard in the paint at the bars but always shows up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to work the next morning. We all know someone like that. And we love them for their company but hate them for their lack of misery.

The sixth-ranked Horned Frogs shut down the Kansas State Wildcats Saturday 26-6 despite a three-hour rain and lightning delay that forced both teams into the locker rooms just minutes prior to the coin toss and again in the fourth quarter. And it kind of felt like K-State never really came back out.

Offensively, it wasn’t the most prolific performance but several solid statistics pointed to comprehensive play, including the 9-of-18 converted third down attempts. For comparison, Kansas State only converted twice on its 15 tries. Basically, TCU can’t and won’t stop extending drives and giving its offense chances to create.

Quarterback Kenny Hill gets a lot of credit – he went 27-37 for 297 yards, averaging 8 yards per pass.

No. 1 in Fewest Penalties Per Game: Arizona State – 3.33

This statistic isn’t the sexiest – it hardly does justice to a Todd Graham-coached team but with the Sun Devils knocking down big dog Washington 13-7 this past weekend, it is only fitting that Tempe gets some love.

Washington lost at Arizona State for the seventh straight time and hasn’t won in Tempe since 2001. Also, the Huskies are the highest ranked team the Sun Devils have beaten since they defeated then-No. 21 Nebraska on Sept. 21, 1996.

ASU edged Washington in nearly every category, except rushing and yards per rush, including penalties – the Sun Devils only earned one penalty for a measly five yards. They lead the nation in fewest penalties per game with 3.3, having only committed 20 infractions this year. Not making mistakes and losing yards is what can win games and being a disciplined team helps when playing in the Pac-12, especially after dark.

No. 1 in Receiving Yards: Michael Gallup, Colorado State – 948

Another name you might not recognize is Colorado State senior receiver Michael Gallup, who now leads the nation in receiving yards with 948 after a monster showing in the Rams’ 44-42 victory over Nevada Saturday night. His stat line read like this: 13 catches for 263 yards and three touchdowns. What it didn’t reveal was that the 6-foot-1 pass-catcher was two yards short of a CSU single-game record.

For his efforts, he was named Mountain West Offensive Player of the Week on Monday, the first Ram to win that honor since 2015. Gallup also ranks second in receiving yards per game with 135.4, only 11.6 yards behind Oklahoma State’s James Washington. He also ranks third in the nation in receptions per game with 8.4 and he has five receiving touchdowns so far this year. He is on pace to break CSU’s single-season record of receiving yards (1,750) set by Rashard Higgins in 2014.

He also makes a hell of a highlight reel.

No. 1 in Turnovers Lost: Alabama – 3

Alabama made sure everyone understood that there would be no upset in Tuscaloosa this week, despite all the Friday 13th madness going on around the country. The Tide took care of business, defeating Arkansas 41-9.

But the score didn’t quite tell the whole story – one that showed an unusual amount of carelessness with the football. Bama leads the nation in turnovers lost, only giving the ball up three times, two fumbles lost and one interception. Alabama entered the game against Arkansas having only given up the ball up once in six games. Quarterback Jalen Hurts’ third-quarter interception ended a streak of 206 consecutive passes without a turnover, Alabama’s second-longest streak.

Part of what makes Alabama so deadly is its death-grip on the ball. So while we saw a bit of unusual sloppiness from the Tide on Saturday, I suspect Nick Saban will nip that trend in the bud and we will see Bama with a vice-like grip on this statistic until January 2018.

Because nobody holds Jalen Hurts down.

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