At this point in the season, we are all getting a feel for college football. This week, I was in New York covering a game and visiting family, and was able to get a taste of how the East Coast views the product. Yes, it is later. Yes, more has to be done if a bar in New Haven, CT is to put on the BYU-Boise State game. But no, it is not impossible to watch the Pac-12 when three hours ahead. Sleep is for the birds.
This week's statistical leaderboard takes us back to the basics - passing, catching, running, tackling: the fundamental things that make football teams successful. Being basic isn't always a bad thing, especially when you lead the nation.
Here are some highlights: Michigan State beat Michigan in tremendous, rain-soaked fashion, Miami beat Florida State for the first time in 8 years and Georgia continues to be the only team I think will remain undefeated. (I have to give credit to my buddy who was at the Miami game decked out in his very own turnover chain.)
Oklahoma isn’t down and out yet, but the loss to Iowa State hurt, as did the 368 yards of passing yards the Sooners surrendered. And Stanford managed to defeat a staunch Utah team at the hands of Bryce Love and Keller Chryst, surprisingly. As one of my close friends and colleagues said about Stanford head coach David Shaw: “As soon as you think you have all the answers, he changes all the questions.” (Word to 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper.)
One of the more delightful college football things this week was Washington State head coach Mike Leach talking about expanding the playoff field.
But now, lets get to the numbers. Here's the players and teams who lit up our leaderboard in Week 6.
No. 1 in Passing Touchdowns: Luke Falk, Washington State – 19
Speaking of the Cougars, Leach isn’t the only one to make headlines, as senior quarterback Luke Falk led Washington State to a 33-10 victory over Oregon at Autzen on Saturday. Falk threw for 282 yards and three touchdowns as the 11th-ranked Cougars held the Ducks scoreless after the first quarter of play. Washington State is now 6-0, the best start for the Cougars since winning seven in a row to start the 2011 season. Falk has thrown for 2,000 yards so far this year and a nation-best 19 touchdowns. He’s only thrown two interceptions.
This is very impressive, but I have to give a shout out to Memphis QB Riley Ferguson because I watched him throw for 431 yards and seven touchdowns in three quarters against UConn on Friday night. Plus his dad called the Tennessee program a “dumpster fire” which, although not entirely accurate, is still hilarious.
No. 1 in Receiving Yards: Steve Ishmael, Syracuse – 729
This statistic may not grab you because... who is Steve Ishmael? And also what has Syracuse football done? Well, Syracuse is 3-3 - a solid third in the ACC Atlantic - they just defeated Pittsburgh, 27-24, this past Saturday. As for the senior wide receiver, well he just leads the nation in receiving yards with 729 and receptions per game with 9.3. Ishmael has been a prime target for junior QB Eric Dungey, hauling in 56 catches this season. The Orange have their work cut out for them this weekend as they host the defending champions and 2nd-ranked Clemson, but apparently there is one stat that could spell out upset for the Tigers. Check it out.
No. 1 in Sacks Allowed: Army – 0
The number zero is important in the mathematical world – it allows consideration of math as a concept, not just a counting system. In the sports world, zero can be both dramatic and damning. Zero points, bad; zero turnovers, good. In a world where everyone is trying to get to the quarterback, the fact that Army has allowed zero sacks through six games is remarkable. It's even more impressive since no other team has managed to do so.
The Black Knights are 4-2 and rank first among Independents. They are effective, forcing six turnovers in their game against Rice on Saturday night and turning five of them into points. The 49-12 win over the Owls was solid, as was the 418 yards of rushing. Fun fact: the pick-six in that game was Army’s first since 2014.
No. 1 in Scoring Defense: Penn State – 9 points per game
The Nittany Lions have become a regular in this leaderboard column, and rightfully so. Not only are they fun to watch, have a Heisman contender and a perfect 6-0 record, they also have a defense that is ranked in the NCAA's top 10 in seven different categories. Keeping people out of the red zone and creating turnovers is what head coach James Franklin and defensive coordinator Brent Pry are all about.
In Penn State’s 31-7 win over Northwestern, the defense allowed only one touchdown with just 1:46 left in the contest and the Wildcats only tallied 265 total yards of offense with just 67 rushing yards. The Nittany Lions have allowed just 56 points to be scored on them this season. They are also No. 1 in the nation in turnovers gained with 17 in just six games.
For reference, Penn State had only 21 turnovers gained in 14 games in 2016. The Nittany Lions are sure to eclipse that mark very soon.
FBS Record For Rushing Yards By a Quarterback: Khalil Tate, Arizona – 327
This many not be a national statistic per say, but it is equally impressive to everyone across the country. The sophomore Arizona QB took over for an injured Brandon Dawkins in the opening drive and led the Wildcats to a 45-42 victory over the Colorado Buffaloes. Tate rushed for 327 yards, setting an FBS record and accounted for five touchdowns. He also threw for 142 yards. Tate averaged 23.4 yards on 14 carries. And he almost broke Ka’Deem Carey’s record for rushing yards in a game – in 2012, Carey rushed for 366 yards, also against the Buffs.
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.