It’s not like college football has the market on odd and compelling stats. Four teams won at least 99 games in Major League Baseball this regular season and then proceeded to go 1-11 in the playoffs. So there.
But as the football season runs a power sweep past the halfway mark and playoff scenarios start falling like October leaves off the backyard maple tree, there certainly are numbers taking funny bounces out there. Here are 20 of them:
- Welcome to Portalville. What do USC’s Caleb Williams, LSU’s Jayden Daniels, Colorado’s Shedeur Sanders, Washington’s Michael Penix Jr., Notre Dame’s Sam Hartman, Oregon’s Bo Nix, Oklahoma’s Dillon Gabriel, Georgia Tech’s Haynes King and Maryland’s Taulia Tagovailoa have in common? They are nine of the top 11 national leaders in touchdown passes, combining for 169 scoring strikes. They also are all transfers who once played quarterback for another school.
This is college football circa 2023: Williams won a Heisman for USC but used to be at Oklahoma, where Gabriel is now the quarterback after leaving UCF. Meanwhile, Tagovailoa is starring at Maryland, but was once at Alabama, which is the rival of Auburn, where Bo Nix used to play but now he’s at Oregon. Last week, Nix and the Ducks lost to Washington and Heisman candidate Penix, who once played at Indiana. If Penix wins the Heisman, that would give the Pac-12 consecutive winners from USC and Washington guys who used to be in the Big 12 and Big Ten, where both the Trojans and Huskies will be next season. For that matter, five of those touchdown pass leaders play for schools who will be in different leagues next season. And so it goes.
- The assumption in many corners is Georgia looks vulnerable at No. 1, and now All-American tight end Brock Bowers is out after ankle surgery. But the operative number is 24. When a team has won 24 in a row, it is not beatable until someone does it. Also, the defense seems to be warming to the task of a run at a three-peat national championship. The past three opponents — Kentucky, Auburn and Vanderbilt — are 6-for-32 in third down conversions.
- Alabama is 6-1, but five teams have been within a touchdown of the Tide in the fourth quarter, and three of those have been in Tuscaloosa. “We should be dominating games rather than just winning games,” offensive lineman Tyler Booker told reporters after the recent 24-21 near-miss with Arkansas. “And there’s a difference.”
- Three Big Ten teams — Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State — are in the top seven in this week’s Associated Press poll, and they’re there because it has been maddeningly hard to score against them. They’re Nos. 1-2-3 in the nation in scoring defense, the Wolverines allowing only 6.7 points a game, the Nittany Lions 8.0, the Buckeyes 9.7. OK, there have been a lot of Saturday walks in the park on the schedule, but still, if you put all their averages together, they’d be giving up 24.4 points a game and that’d be No. 60 in the nation in scoring defense, three spots ahead of 6-1 Missouri.
- After seven months and four denials from the NCAA, North Carolina receiver Tez Walker finally became eligible last week — and promptly caught three touchdown passes to help beat Miami. So the Tar Heels are 6-0 for the first time in 26 years and only the second time in four decades.
- USC has given up 40 points to three consecutive opponents while being ranked in the Associated Press top-10. Only three teams have ever done that in the 88-year history of the AP poll. Sometimes it might not matter how many touchdown passes Williams throws.
- Gambling on fourth down giveth and it taketh away. At least at Oregon. The Ducks had been 8-for-10 on fourth down conversions until they went 0-3 in the loss to Washington. Their last defeat before that was to Oregon State last season, when they 0-for-5. That makes Oregon 0-for-8 going for it on fourth down the past two losses. A more pleasant number is the Ducks leading the nation with one turnover all season, a lonely interception.
- Oklahoma showed up in four of the first six College Football Playoffs but — as every card-carrying member of Sooner Nation knows — has missed the past three. But the current defense has allowed an offensive touchdown in only six of 24 quarters this season, and if that keeps up, January might be more fun.
- Big Ten dominance, Ann Arbor style: Michigan’s defense has scored three touchdowns. The Wolverines’ have allowed only five, which means the opponents’ offenses are outscoring the Michigan defense by only 12 points for the season. The No. 2 Wolverines have scored at least 30 points and allowed no more than 10 in all seven games. According to ESPN, no ranked team had ever done that in the history of the AP poll, and that’s been coming out since 1936.
- Big Ten dominance, Columbus style: Ohio State’s defense has not allowed a play longer than 36 yards all season. Meanwhile, eight different Buckeyes have had plays on offense go longer than that. This is one reason the Buckeyes are 6-0 despite being — sorry, Woody — 92nd in the nation in rushing. And there’s this scheduling quirk: Ohio State’s road games so far have been at Indiana, Notre Dame and Purdue, making the Buckeyes the unofficial state champion of Indiana.
- Big Ten dominance, State College style: Penn State quarterback Drew Allar has thrown 241 passes in his career and yet to see his first interception. Meanwhile, 15 different Penn State defenders have at least one quarterback sack. They have won 11 consecutive games by at least 14 points. They have scored 35 touchdowns but allowed only 67 first downs. Let’s see how all those streaks fare Saturday in Columbus.
- At one stage late Saturday night, October 7, the Miami Hurricanes were 4-0, ranked in the top 25 and had allowed only four touchdowns in the previous 12 quarters. Then, rather than take a knee and probably ice the game against Georgia Tech to go 5-0, coach Mario Cristobal called a real play instead. Fumble. Georgia Tech last-second touchdown. Hurricane loss. Next week, a 41-31 thumping by North Carolina. Since that no-knee moment: Two defeats, six touchdowns coughed up and summary exit from the polls. Now here comes Clemson. That gift Georgia Tech touchdown represents the only points Miami has given up off turnovers this season.
- Florida State has won 12 consecutive games by a combined score of 506-219. But included in that surge was the back-to-back September escape act when the Seminoles were outgained 886-661 yards by Boston College and Clemson and lost the combined time of possession 78 minutes to 51. They beat BC by two and Clemson in overtime. Such things can make a team believe.
- Penix has thrown 20 touchdowns with only three interceptions for Washington to move into serious Heisman consideration. Two years ago at Indiana, his ratio was 4-7.
- While the Pac-12 lights up the scoreboards — four of nation’s top 12 scoring teams are lodge members — Utah moves on with defense. The Utes have given up 73 points all season and lead the nation by allowing 66.8 rushing yards a game. At least officially. More about that later.
- Tennessee has won 13 consecutive home games, something the Vols had not done since the close of the 20th century. One of the quarterbacks putting together the streak back then was named Peyton Manning.
- Iowa is 6-1 and leads its division in the Big Ten, managing that despite only 87 first downs all season by its offense, fewest in the nation. Good thing the Hawkeyes can play defense. A more significant number for the offensive coordinator is the Iowa scoring average. Brian Ferentz’ unusual contract clause has become well known; if the Hawkeyes don’t put up 25 points a game this season, his contract will be on the chopping block. The current average is 20.9.
- James Madison received more points in the Associated Press rankings this week than Clemson. The 6-0 Dukes are on the cusp of the top 25 and if they were included in the official NCAA standings, they would be leading the nation by allowing a paltry 42.8 rushing yards a game. That’s 24 yards better than official leader Utah. Still, no bowl for James Madison because of the transitional period for James Madison going from FCS to FBS. Looks like the Dukes are pretty much transitioned. They’re 14-3 since joining the FBS.
- How can a team named Air Force throw only 28 passes in six games? No matter, the Falcons won them all and are now No. 22 in the AP poll. They have 468 passing yards for the entire season. Colorado’s Sanders had 510 his first FBS game against TCU.
- Ah yes, the Colorado Buffalos. First in fanfare, first in celebrity VIPS on the sideline, first in individual passing yards with Sanders . . . but 123rd in the nation in points allowed. The defensive average is 35.9 points a game, which is 11 points more than Michigan, Penn State and Ohio State combined. Some of the defensive meltdowns have been breathtaking: A blown 29-0 lead against Stanford, 35 points allowed in the first half by Oregon, 34 in the first half by USC.
Meanwhile, at the current rate, Sanders will throw 36 touchdown passes this season. He will also be sacked 59 times. Fascinating numbers in Boulder, and lots of places.