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#ACCKickoff Fun with Numbers: Some Statistical Anomalies and Curiosities

A random deep dive into the statistics that made me say, “whoa”.

NCAA Football: ACC Championship-Clemson vs Miami Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

I’m easily impressed by statistical outliers, and like to be prepared in case I run into some of them at ACC Kickoff, scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday in Charlotte, N.C.

Last year, Clemson’s Christian Wilkins asked Dabo Swinney about moving to safety after I told him he was in the top 50 in the nation in passes broken up. (Wilkins is a defensive tackle.) Virginia’s Micah Kizer topped the ACC in tackles by 18 in 2016, despite playing three less games than Clemson’s Ben Boulware.

Things like this are fascinating, weird, and make for good conversation at Media Days. So, here is a non-exhaustive list of statistical oddities!

-16: Miami’s fall in scoring defense from 2016 to 2017, despite only falling from 9th to 12th in yards per play. The Canes return their top 5 tacklers, and 7 of the top 9, and have the talent to replace defensive linemen Trent Harris, Chad Thomas, and R.J. McIntosh. If the DL gels, look for a top-5 unit in 2018.

-12: Syracuse’s 2017 turnover margin, twice as bad as North Carolina’s second-worst -6 mark, and third worst in the ACC in the past ten years.

0: The amount of interesting statistical factoids I found about Pitt.

4.37: Florida State’s rushing yards per attempt in 2017, 61st in the country. Since making the switch to the offense dubbed the “Gulf Coast Offense”, Willie Taggart’s units have ranked 13th, 2nd, and 18th nationally in this statistic. Cam Akers, Jacques Patrick, Amir Rasul, and Khalan Laborn are about to have a field day.

NCAA Football: Independence Bowl-Southern Mississippi vs Florida State
Cam Akers
Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

6: The numbers of non-running back receptions N.C. State loses from last year. They return their top five wide receivers, who combined for 191 receptions in 2017. With Ryan Finley returning as the incumbent passing efficiency leader in the ACC, the State offense could be deadly through the air. Kelvin Harmon, Jacobi Myers, and Stephen Louis each averaged at least 3 receptions per game last year.

7.1: The percent of Georgia Tech’s rushing attempts from 2017 that do NOT return this year. The difference between an average Tech team and a great one is about half a yard per carry— they were over 6 in 2015, but have hung around 5.5 in the three years since (and the two prior). With TaQuon Marshall, KirVonte Benson, Qua Sercy, Clinton Lynch, and a vereran offensive line...this may be a “sleep on Georgia Tech at your own risk” year.

24.4: Miami’s yards per game margin in ACC play, which ranked third in the Coastal...here’s your reminder that they won the Coastal. For context, Virginia Tech was +137.3 in 2016, UNC was +79.5 in 2015. Among P5 championship game participants; Alabama was +223, Georgia +169.1, Ohio State +254.2, Wisconsin +164.4, USC +93.2, Oklahoma +168.9, TCU +58.6...and Stanford, which was somehow -20.

26: Wake Forest’s ranking in yards per play on offense in 2017. The Deacons were in the bottom 15 IN THE ENTIRE COUNTRY in each of the five preceding seasons. While they lose QB John Wolford, the most efficient passer in the 2017 ACC (there’s a fun trivia question), the #Clawfense is finally not a laughingstock.

56: Louisville’s drop in the national rankings in yards per play on defense from 2016 to 2017, from 8th to 64th. Peter Sirmon is gone, and retread Brian VanGorder (last seen getting fired from Notre Dame after a similar collapse) is now in charge.

58.5: That would be the amount of tackles for loss the vaunted Clemson defensive line RETURNS from last year. Clelin Ferrell led the way with 18, with Austin Bryant (15.5) and Christian Wilkins (8.5) providing plenty of havoc. Why is this unit so devastating, though? A sophomore slump from prospective #1 overall pick Dexter Lawrence, who fell from 9 as a freshman to just 3 in 2017. There are about nine more guys who ranked as 4 or 5 star recruits backing up the first unit, five of whom had multiple TFL in limited playing time. Clemson was 6th in the country with 109 TFL a year ago.

100: Boston College DE Zach Allen had 100 tackles last season, and his 7.7 per game ranked him 11th in the ACC. Allen was the only defensive lineman to show up in the top 34 on this list. Stanford’s Harrison Phillips, at 102, was the only other lineman IN THE COUNTRY to hit triple digits. The last time a single defensive lineman ranked in the top 100 in tackles prior to Allen and Phillips was 2013.

NCAA Football: North Carolina State at Boston College
Zach Allen, ostensibly celebrating one of his 100 tackles.
Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

111.9: Duke’s Daniel Jones’ passer rating last year as a redshirt sophomore. His numbers were way down from his freshman campaign across the board: from 63% completions, 2836 yards, 16 TD and 9 picks to just 56%, 2691 yards, 14 TD and 11 interceptions. As his supporting cast didn’t really turn over from 2016 to 2017, Jones’ regression is without logical explanation.

194: The number of receptions for Steve Ishmael and Ervin Phillips of Syracuse last year that Dino Babers and Eric Dungey will be tasked with replacing. That amounts to 61.4% of their completions from 2017. No other receiver with more than eight catches averaged more than 10 yards per catch for the Cuse.

232: Career tackles for Duke’s Joe Giles-Harris. Giles-Harris will be playing this year as a junior. He’s 300 short of Luke Kuechly’s ACC record of 532, but with 25.5 TFL and 8.5 sacks, he’s on the way to being an all-timer for the Blue Devils either way.

NCAA Football: Duke at Pittsburgh
Giles-Harris
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

324: Josh Jackson’s net rushing yardage at Virginia Tech last year. I had just assumed he had done more damage than that on the ground. For comparison’s sake, Jerod Evans’ 2016 campaign led to 846 yards and 12 rushing TD. Jackson found paydirt on the ground six times in 2017.

396: The combined tackles by Virginia’s Micah Kizer, Quin Blanding, and Jordan Mack last year. Kizer and Blanding left second and third on the ACC’s all time tackle leaderboard, and their third-place tackler had 114 for the season?!? To put that in further context, they had the nation’s fourth, seventh, and T-28th tacklers last year. I can’t find another team besides Rutgers and Arkansas who had more than one player in the top eighty. Think Virginia might miss those guys this year?

1589: Boston College RB A.J. Dillon was the first BC running back to surpass 1000 yards since Andre Williams’ 2013 campaign— one which made him a Heisman finalist. Dillon averaged 179.4 yards per game in the last seven games of 2017.

10,375: Lamar Jackson’s total yards from scrimmage in 2016-17. I’ve said here before that I’m a believer in Jawon Pass, but good lord. Jackson was consistent, putting up averages of 393 and 408 yards per game in 2016 and ‘17, respectively.