18 PFF stats to know for the first week of college bowl games
With the first week of bowl games upon us, we dig through the Pro Football Focus database to bring you 18 unique pieces of PFF data you need to know for the upcoming matchups.
To see analyst Josh Liskiewitz’s spread picks for the first week of college bowl games, click here.
Gildan New Mexico Bowl
New Mexico Lobos vs. UTSA Roadrunners
1. New Mexico RB Teriyon Gipson has recorded the ninth-best elusive rating in the country.
New Mexico runs the football often, and the Lobos are the most dangerous when the pigskin gets in the hands of Teriyon Gipson, who averages 9.2 yards per carry. Furthermore, Gipson is one of the most elusive players in college football, breaking 36 tackles on 138 touches this season, including receptions, as well. In addition, he averages 4.57 yards after contact—expect him to make life difficult on UTSA defenders on Saturday.
2. UTSA’s Michael Egwuagu is tied for the 16th among FBS cornerbacks with 15 run stops.
Egwuagu has been one of the most versatile hybrid defenders in college football this season, as he can play various positions, although played slot cornerback the most. He has been excellent in coverage, and is among the best in the nation when coming up to the line of scrimmage and making plays against the run. The Roadrunners’ defense will need Egwuagu’s physicality against the Lobos’ dangerous running attack.
Las Vegas Bowl
Houston Cougars vs. San Diego State Aztecs
5. Houston DT Ed Oliver has a run-stop percentage of 12.4 percent, the third-best mark in the nation.
The Cougars’ Ed Oliver burst onto the college football scene as a true freshman, and has immediately become one of the most disruptive interior defenders against the run. While he is not at the level of the elite interior defenders when it comes to pass-rushing, his ability to shed blocks and find the ball carrier in the backfield offers a fascinating matchup against San Diego State.
4. San Diego State’s Calvin Munson owns the sixth-most total QB pressures among inside linebackers, with 25.
Munson is one of those linebackers who is not only versatile, but performs well in all facets of the game. He can drop into coverage, stop the run, and rush the quarterback. San Diego State will need him to do all three against Houston in the Las Vegas Bowl. The Aztec linebacker will have to use all his athletic ability to make plays against Greg Ward Jr., the Cougars’ elusive dual-threat quarterback.
AutoNation Cure Bowl
UCF Knights vs. Arkansas State Red Wolves
5. UCF edge rusher Shaquem Griffin has recorded at least one QB pressure in 10 of his last 11 games.
UCF’s outside linebacker has been one of the leaders of the Knights’ defense this season, together with twin brother Shaquil, who plays cornerback. Shaquem keeps making plays week in and week out against both the run and as a pass-rusher, despite having only one hand. Expect him to have some sort of impact in the game against Arkansas State in his last college outing.
6. Red Wolves DE Chris Odom has a sack in each of the last four games.
Arkansas State’s Odom had an excellent season, making PFF’s All-Group of Five Team. While he started the year well, he has been even better lately, recording at least one QB pressure in every game and notching six sacks and 21 total QB pressures in his last four outings. Odom could have a huge impact against the Knights, as UCF QB McKenzie Milton has struggled under pressure in his freshman season.
Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
Appalachian State vs. Toledo Rockets
7. Appalachian State RG Colby Gossett has not surrendered a single QB pressure in five of his last eight games.
Although he was not as dominant as in 2015, Gossett had another impressive season in his junior year. While his forte is his run blocking, Appalachian State’s right guard is above-average in pass protection, too, and has allowed only seven total QB pressures all year. His matchup against Toledo’s stud interior defender, John Stepec, will be one to watch in the Camellia Bowl.
8. Rockets RB Kareem Hunt has forced the most missed tackles in college football, with 88.
Toledo’s Kareem Hunt was PFF’s highest-graded running back this season, despite getting just 240 rushing attempts. When he has the ball in his hands, Hunt is one of the most unpredictable backs in the nation. In addition, he is a three-down back, as he is equally as dangerous as a receiver out of the backfield as he is as a pure runner. In fact, Hunt forced 19 missed tackles on just 39 receptions this season.
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles vs. Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns
9. Golden Eagles QB Nick Mullens has recorded a (NFL) passer rating of 131.9 when using play-action, the 10th-best mark in the nation.
Mullens took a step back this season compared to his amazing 2015 campaign, but this was somewhat expected due to the departure of WR Michael Thomas, his favorite target. However, he still flashed some ability this year, and has been among the best when using play-action. Mullens has thrown 11 touchdowns and turned the ball over only once on these plays. As a result, it will be crucial for Southern Miss to get the ground game going against Louisiana-Lafayette so they can take advantage of play-action passes.
10. Louisiana-Lafayette’s Drew Bailey made a run stop on 13.3 percent of his snaps this season, the second-best percentage among defensive tackles.
Whereas Bailey does not offer much as a pass-rusher (he recorded only 12 total pressures this season), he is tied for the sixth-most defensive stops, with 34. Bailey is coming into this game with three consecutive strong games, recording at least three run stops in each of them. He will play a key role as the Ragin’ Cajuns attempt to slow Southern Miss RB Ito Smith, who averages 110 rushing yards per game.
Miami Beach Bowl
Central Michigan Chippewas vs. Tulsa Golden Hurricane
11. Chippewas QB Cooper Rush threw for 1,063 yards on deep passes (throws traveling 20-plus yards in the air) this season, 11th-most in college football.
People were expecting a breakout season from Central Michigan QB Cooper Rush, but he couldn’t quite make the leap in his senior year. However, he still had a solid season, highlighted by a win over Oklahoma State. In addition, his deep-ball accuracy is among the best in the nation, as Rush is on target on 47.9 percent of his passes that travel 20 or more yards in the air, for the 24th-best percentage in college football.
12. Tulsa LG Tyler Bowling has not allowed a single QB pressure in seven of his last 10 games.
While Tulsa’s offense being built around a quick release by the quarterback certainly helps, guard Tyler Bowling is enjoying an excellent season on the left side of the Golden Hurricane’s line. Although he flashed ability and had some good games in run blocking, his real forte has been pass protection. Bowling allowed only four QB pressures all season, and the only sack he gave up came against Ohio State in Week 2.
Boca Raton Bowl
Memphis Tigers vs. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
13. Memphis CB Arthur Maulet has not surrendered more than 77 yards in any game this season.
After having a disastrous 2015 season, Maulet has bounced back nicely this year, and has been excellent in coverage. Despite being the sixth-most-targeted cornerback in football, with 88 passes thrown his way, Maulet has allowed only one touchdown all season. In addition, he is allowing an (NFL) passer rating of only 53.7, and recorded 11 pass breakups, tied for fourth-most among cornerbacks.
14. Western Kentucky’s Mike White has the most yards on deep passes with 1,581.
White had large shoes to fill with the departure of Brandon Doughty, but he lived up to the expectations and had a terrific season, especially when it came to throwing deep. Not only did White throw for the most yards (1,581) and the most touchdown passes (20) on deep attempts (throws traveling 20-plus yards in the air), he also has the highest passer rating in the entire nation on passes on deep targets.
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
BYU Cougars vs. Wyoming Cowboys
15. BYU FS Kai Nacua has not allowed a single touchdown in coverage for two straight seasons.
The ball-hawking Nacua will present a challenge for Wyoming QB Josh Allen, who likes to attack defenses deep. Nacua has been targeted a total of 59 times these past two seasons, and has yet to surrender a touchdown. In addition, he recorded 11 interceptions and five pass breakups during the same period.
16. Wyoming’s Josh Allen passed for 11 touchdowns under pressure this season, the second-most in college football.
Although Allen had a slow start to his first season as the Cowboys’ starting quarterback, he really started turning heads in the second half of the year. Allen showcased some traits that already have NFL scouts raving about him. In fact, one of his most highly-touted abilities is how he can escape pressure, extend plays, and find open receivers downfield even after the play breaks down. As a result, the BYU secondary will be required on occasions to cover receivers twice in one play in the Poinsettia Bowl: once when Allen is in the pocket, and again when he gets outside of it.
Idaho Potato Bowl
Idaho Vandals vs. Colorado State Rams
17. Idaho’s Kaden Elliss allows 0.59 yards in coverage, the seventh-lowest mark among 4-3 outside linebackers.
Overall, Elliss was the highest-graded linebacker in coverage this season, while he was above-average when rushing the passer and defending the run, too. He allowed only two touchdowns the entire year, as well as just two receptions that for more than 20 yards. In addition, Elliss leads all linebackers with five interceptions, and comes into the Idaho Potato Bowl with picks in back-to-back games.
18. Colorado State G Fred Zerblis has the nation’s seventh-highest pass-blocking efficiency score, at 99.1.
Although the entire Colorado State offensive line has been playing well this season, right guard Fred Zerblis stands out from the unit. Besides his strong run blocking, he has been an excellent pass protector, too. Furthermore, Zerblis has not allowed a single QB pressure in eight of his 12 games in 2016.