The reason I love writing this column is simple: in an ever-changing sports climate, numbers are the only constant. Rankings, scores, statistics, game clocks – everything in sports has a numerical value. And college football feeds off of it. From Twitter feuds over completion percentages to Facebook live rants about this week’s AP poll, college football lives inside integers. And at The Sports Fan Journal, we don’t just hand you poll numbers or game scores – we search NCAA statistics to find the best, and sometimes worst, weekly performances.
Week 3 of college football was a thing of beauty, brimming with upsets, double-overtimes and shutouts. More Heisman talk for USC’s Sam Darnold, less for Louisville’s Lamar Jackson. Despite UCLA’s loss to Memphis, everyone knows Josh Rosen still leads the nation in passing TD’s (13), passing yards (1,283), points responsible for (84) and points responsible for per game (28). But check out the other teams and players that lit up our TSFJ leaderboard this week.
No. 1 in Punt Return Touchdowns: Dante Pettis, Washington – 3
Special teams needs love too. And UW’s senior wide receiver Dante Pettis got a lot of it after this weekend, when he scored four touchdowns in Washington’s 48-16 win over Fresno State.
One of those touchdowns just happened to be an NCAA-record tying eighth punt return TD, putting him on the same line as former Texas Tech Red Raider Wes Welker for most career punt return touchdowns. Pettis has three punt return touchdowns already this season, one in each game the Huskies have played in (and won). Pettis won Pac-12 special teams player of the week honors for his punt return efforts. He has also contributed 12 receptions for 209 yards, averaging 17.4 yards per catch as the team’s leading receiver. Pac-12 punters beware, his return bites.
No. 1 in Time of Possession: San Diego State – 112 minutes (37 minutes per game)
Time of possession probably doesn’t grab you – it’s not a very sexy statistic. It’s more rooted in common sense: the more often you have the ball, the less your opponent has the opportunity to score.
Case in point: San Diego State trailed Stanford, missed a field goal and still managed to upset the No. 19 Cardinal 20-17 on Saturday night. And not just because they boast the Swiss army knife of running backs in Rashaad Penny but because they had possession of the football for 41:14 whereas the Cardinal only had it for only 18:46. A big part of that time belongs to Penny, who has 71 carries for 588 yards on the year so far. The Aztecs grind, which will make them difficult to beat in conference play.
No. 1 in Total Touchdowns: Royce Freeman, Oregon – 9
Makes sense when a team has put up 168 points in just three games this season that they would boast the number one touchdown guy, senior running back Royce Freeman. The Ducks defeated Southern Utah, Nebraska and Wyoming – perfect warm-up games for the tough conference schedule ahead. Freeman has been a sparkplug offensively, tallying 82 carries for 460 yards and averaging 5.6 yards per carry, helping to cement the ground game and balance the Ducks' offensive attack. The next closest guy is three touchdowns back, so for now Freeman is king of the end zone.
No. 1 in Passing Offense: Texas Tech – 496 yards per game
We saw Texas Tech quarterback Nic Shimonek make our leaderboard last week with his impressive completion percentage. Granted, it was one game, but still. Haters have been saying this is the end for Kliff Kingsbury in Lubbock, but the Red Raiders are 2-0 and have the most successful passing offense in college football. Not surprising, since Kingsbury is the quarterback whisperer. Texas Tech has completed 68 of 85 passes for 992 yards and 10 touchdowns with no interceptions. The Red Raiders average 11.67 yards per attempt and 14.59 yards per completion.
The number one target for Texas Tech: junior wide receiver Keke Coutee, who leads the nation in receiving yards per game with 142.5. Coutee has 17 receptions for 285 yards and three touchdowns. And just in case Big 12 opponents double-down on Coutee, the Red Raiders have utilized 13 other receivers, keeping things interesting in the air.
No. 1 in Turnover Margin: Texas A&M – 8
Everybody’s favorite metric right? The best way to tell how well a team is protecting the ball on offense and just how much damage they are doing on defense. In this case, the Aggies have gained 10 turnovers, second only to Central Michigan who has 11. But Texas A&M has only committed two turnovers, both in the Aggies' last game against Louisiana-Lafayette. Yes, a turnover margin of eight is not super impressive when it has been calculated from a unfortunate loss to UCLA and wins over Nicholls and the Ragin’ Cajuns. But still, silver lining people. If Kevin Sumlin wants to keep his job, he is going to need to cling to all the ball protection he can, especially when the SEC West looms large in the distance.
Sports writer. Avid fan, former player, once-upon-a-time coach, reluctant referee. I do digital media things with my friends. I also jinx kickers. Bay Area born & raised.