5 crazy good stats in college football: National Championship
Every week this season, Ryan Jenson dove into the data to bring you the most impressive performances from around the nation. Here are the numbers that stood out when Alabama beat Clemson for the national title.
Deshaun Watson (QB, Clemson) had the best game of any quarterback against Alabama all season.
Alabama was — and still is — our top-rated defense heading into the game, and by a wide margin. They finished with an overall grade of +393.7. Second place was Michigan at +276.3. Since Week 8 of the regular season, here are the grades for Alabama’s opposing quarterbacks: -3.5, -6.1, -2.1, -2.7, -5 and -3.2. Included in those grades are Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott (+21.6) and Michigan State’s Connor Cook (+25.8). Watson brought the negative grade streak to screeching halt with a grade of +5.6.
Besides the impressive stats (405 yards passing, 73 yards rushing and four touchdowns), Watson showed tremendous awareness to extend plays while keeping his eyes downfield. He faced pressure on 18 drop backs and was only sacked three times. Watson finished the season as PFF’s fourth-rated quarterback at +45.9 and will enter the 2016 season as the Heisman Trophy favorite.
Walk-on freshman Hunter Renfrow (WR, Clemson) outplayed five-star freshman Minkah Fitzpatrick (CB, Alabama)
To be honest, you don’t need stats to realize this one. Just from watching the game it was pretty clear – Fitzpatrick struggled to cover Renfrow. While being covered by Fitzpatrick, Renfrow had three catches on five targets for 44 yards and two touchdowns. Fitzpatrick’s grade in coverage was -1.7. Overall Renfrow was only a -3.2 on the season, but he finished strong with a +1.6 against the best defense in the country. His 10 targets in the National Championship Game was four more than any other game this season.
O.J. Howard (TE, Alabama) posted 9.9 yards per route run (YPRR)
YPRR is designed to show a receiver’s overall production in the passing game. It takes the total receiving yards and divides it by the total routes run by the receiver. Howard had 208 yards on only 21 routes. 9.9 YPRR is an insanely high number for a tight end. The previous high this season was NC State’s Jaylen Samuels with 6.29 in Week 2. Just as impressive is Howard’s 144 yards after the catch. Howard’s big plays in the passing game was exactly what Alabama needed to cash in on Clemson’s determination to contain Heisman running back Derrick Henry. Howard was a five-star recruit in 2013 and is listed at 6-6, 242 pounds. Besides being physically imposing, the man can run. After his performance Monday night, Howard will likely have a first-round grade if he decides to declare himself eligible for the NFL draft.
D.J. Pettway (DE, Alabama) had his best game as a college player in the national championship game.
In February of 2013, D.J. Pettway’s future in college football was questionable at best. He was involved in a robbery and assault of some fellow students that led to his dismissal from the Alabama football program. In December of the same year, Pettway had earned back the trust of coach Nick Saban and was re-enrolled. On Monday, Pettway played the best game of his college career. Pettway was the best defender for either team earning a grade of +4.8. He did it all. He graded +2.6 as a pass rusher, +2.1 against the run and batted down two passes. He led all defensive players in the game with a run stop percentage of 15.4.