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  • From Bryce Love’s record-setting start to the unstoppable Alabama machine to the distance Baker Mayfield is nearly perfect from, these 10 stats tell the story of September. Plus, Michigan State reaps the benefit of a diamond-in-the-rough recruit and why Penn State has a penchant for making strong first impressions.
By Bruce Feldman
October 03, 2017

A month into the college football season, we’ve seen a bunch of interesting developments play out. Here are the 10 most eye-opening stats from September:

1. Stanford speedster Bryce Love has been hyped going back 18 months when he was playing behind Christian McCaffrey, and now he’s backed all that up in a huge way, bursting into the Heisman race by averaging 11.1 yards per carry through five games on 98 carries. In the past nine years, no one who has had at least 100 carries has averaged more than 9.1 yards. Here’s an even more impressive number: Only one FBS team (Notre Dame) has more runs of 20-plus yards than Love’s 18. McCaffrey had 14 as a junior last year, and during his record-breaking 2015 season, he needed all 14 games to get to 19.

2. Clemson has landed five-star QBs in back-to-back offseasons. Last winter it was Hunter Johnson, and this year Georgia prep star Trevor Lawrence has already committed to the Tigers, but it looks like it’s going to be awhile before either gets the keys to the offense. Kelly Bryant has been a revelation, especially his steady play in big games—something that became a trademark of his predecessor Deshaun Watson. Against three Top 15 opponents, Bryant has completed 65% of his passes, thrown for 683 yards, run for 179 more and accounted for six touchdowns with no interceptions.

3. Alabama faced three Power 5 opponents and outscored them, 149–10.

4. Most Power 5 quarterbacks hover around 50% on intermediate-range throws (11 to 20 yards downfield). Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield’s numbers this season: 17 of 18, 341 yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions.

5. LSU ranks No. 69 in run defense, allowing 3.99 yards per carry. Last year Dave Aranda’s run defense ranked No. 8. The year before that when he was at Wisconsin, his defense ranked No. 4. Yeah, I know the Tigers lost a bunch of studs on that side of the ball and they are extremely young, but it was still mind-boggling to see Aranda’s defense give up 191 yards to Troy’s Jordan Chunn, as the Trojans averaged 6.4 yards per carry.

6. Sam Darnold has thrown eight interceptions this season in 175 attempts. That’s one fewer than he threw all of last year in 366 attempts. Of course, a few of those picks are on his receivers as the sophomore works behind a patchwork O-line and an inexperienced crop of wideouts. Still, it’s been surprising to see just how much the Trojans’ offense has struggled.

7. I’m not shocked with how tough Georgia is on defense, but you have to be pleasantly surprised with how sharp the Bulldogs have been on the other side of the ball, especially after turning to true freshman QB Jake Fromm. The Dawgs have gotten points on every trip inside the red zone this season, a perfect 19 of 19, and have scored touchdowns on 14 of those trips, a rate of 73.7% that lands them 28th in the country. In 2016, UGA ranked 64th in red-zone scoring percentage and finished 100th in TD percentage

8. Losing the starting QB can be crippling to a lot of teams, but you just don’t expect a Jimbo Fisher–coached team to struggle as much as it has since Deondre Francois was lost for the year in the season-opener. Florida State ranks 119th in total offense and managed just 270 yards against Wake Forest last week. The Seminoles are dead last in tackles for loss allowed per game at 10.33. No doubt this is a team still coping with the loss of star running back Dalvin Cook, but there’s still a lot of talent around. They are starting only one senior on offense and relying on a true freshman QB in James Blackman, so the hunch here is they will make big strides over the next two months.

9. Josh Allen, a guy who many have said could be a top-five NFL draft pick next spring, ranks 94th nationally in QB rating. The strong-armed Wyoming quarterback didn’t throw a touchdown against either of the Power 5 opponents the Cowboys faced in September, and now in three career games against Power 5 opponents he has a 1–8 touchdown-to-interception ratio. In fairness to Allen, he did lose three good skill guys to the NFL this season, but it’ll be interesting to see how his stock moves in the run-up to April.

10. Scott Frost has UCF relevant. The second-year coach who took over a winless program in 2016, has UCF 3-0 and outscored its opponents, 139-40. Even more impressive is that all three opponents are 9–0 outside of their games against the Knights.

Week 5 Notes

• Michigan State has cranked out some stud defensive in recent years who didn’t arrive in East Lansing as touted recruits, and this year’s team has another one of those dudes to keep an eye on in true freshman Josiah Scott. The 5'10"(ish), 170-pound Scott was ranked by 247 Sports as the nation’s No. 104 cornerback prospect in last year’s class, but Spartans coaches knew they had something special. His three older brothers were all standout players at Division III powerhouse Mount Union. Defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett, who recruited him out of Ohio, told me he thinks other schools saw Scott’s size and shied away from him but added he’s fast and physical and is a great competitor. “You'd want a whole team of Josiah Scotts." Barnett said he reminds them of former Michigan State All-America turned first-rounder Darqueze Denard, especially in terms of his mindset.

As we reported on Sunday morning, Oregon’s excellent sophomore QB Justin Herbert is out with a broken collarbone in his non-throwing shoulder. According to a source, he’s expected to be out around four to six weeks. The injury comes at an especially rough time for the Ducks. The next five games: at home against No. 11 Washington State, back-to-back road games at Stanford and UCLA, then home against No. 20 Utah, then at No. 6 Washington. Combined record of those opponents: 20–4.

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• Saquon Barkley and the Penn State offense get most of the headlines, but another big reason why the Nittany Lions are looking like a playoff contender is how well coordinator Brent Pry’s defense is playing. A great testament to that is how they set the tone: Penn State is the only team in the Big Ten whose defense has not allowed points on the opening drive of either half in all five games.

• Hats off to Maryland offensive coordinator Walt Bell. The Terps are coming off a 31–24 victory at previously undefeated Minnesota. Keep in mind this team is down to its third-string QB (Maryland fans have gotten quite familiar with this kind of injury luck in recent years) yet still ranks No. 31 in yards per play at 6.46 and sits 25th in scoring and 18th in plays of 40-plus yards. Those are some impressive numbers considering those injuries.

• A reminder for us in the media not to go overboard with early season results: Mississippi State blew out LSU at home in Week 3. Well, turns out that win doesn’t look so impressive now. The Tigers just lost at home to Troy, while the Bulldogs have been outscored 80–13 since drubbing LSU.

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