K-State win reinforces title hopes, puts it atop UPS Performance Index
With an impressive win at West Virginia last weekend, Kansas State maintained its hold on first place in the Big 12 and made another statement that it's a serious national title contender.
By jumping over Alabama into the top spot of the UPS Team Performance Index, the Wildcats may have added even more credibility to that claim.
Kansas State again proved to be the class of the conference - and, perhaps, the country - as quarterback Collin Klein emerged as Heisman front-runner with an emphatic 55-14 victory over the Mountaineers. The team's overall performance was enough to swap the Wildcats and Crimson Tide at 1-2 in the index.
Using an advanced proprietary formula featuring offensive yards per play, defensive yards allowed per play, various special teams statistics and a microindex of miscues that rewards disciplined teams, UPS has teamed with STATS LLC to normalize those numbers across 120 FBS schools.
From there, balance is measured for all of a team's individual units, with the final index weighted toward excellence in those areas and overall winning percentage.
Kansas State, ranked No. 4 in the AP Top 25, scored on its first eight possessions - including seven straight touchdowns - to build a 52-7 third-quarter advantage and send fans in Morgantown scurrying for the exits. Klein was 19 of 21 for a career-high 323 yards and three touchdowns through the air - but that was only half the story. He also ran for four scores, giving him 24 total TDs on the year.
The Wildcats (7-0) averaged 7.7 yards per play en route to 479 overall, didn't turn the ball over for the fourth time this season and amassed 105 kickoff return yards behind Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson.
The defense, which doesn't have the reputation - or accomplishments - of Klein's unit, looked to be in for a stern test trying to slow down Geno Smith, who came in with an FBS-best 180.8 passer rating, 25 touchdowns and no interceptions. But the group was more than up to the challenge, forcing Smith's first two picks and limiting the Mountaineers to a season-low 243 yards - 300 less then what they averaged in their first six games.
When all was said and done, Kansas State finished the week with an index rating of 136.6 - 2.2 points higher than Alabama - and left quite an impression on West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen.
"We lost to a very good football team," he said. "They were mistake-free on all sides of the ball."
It's been that way most of the season for the Wildcats. Kansas State's special teams index is second overall, its turnover index fifth and offensive index seventh. Defense has usually been the Wildcats biggest weakness - they're ranked 28th in FBS - an area where the Crimson Tide excel.
Alabama (7-0), which received 59 of 60 first-place votes in this week's AP poll, have the nation's best defensive index, with opponents averaging an FBS-low 3.38 yards per play. That unit has forced 20 turnovers.
Despite allowing a season-high 282 yards to Tennessee on Saturday, the Tide did a good job keeping a Volunteers team that came in averaging 38 points per game out of the end zone in a 44-13 victory. In addition, having to face the nation's best defense in practice is doing wonders for coach Nick Saban's offense as the season progresses: Alabama racked up a season-high 539 yards, breaking its previous best of 533, set a week earlier in a 42-10 win over Missouri.
Against Tennessee, the Tide averaged 8.0 yards per play as A.J. McCarron threw for a career-high 306 yards and four touchdowns in his 10th consecutive game without an interception. T.J. Yeldon ran for 129 and two scores on 15 carries for his second consecutive 100-yard game, while fellow freshman Amari Cooper caught seven passes and set a school freshman single-game record with 162 receiving yards.
"I'm really proud of how our players competed in this game," Saban said. "This probably was our most complete game."
Alabama's SEC rival Florida (7-0) didn't put together its best offensive showing of the year against then-No. 9 South Carolina, but its defense sure did its part in a 44-11 victory. The Gators managed just 29 yards and two first downs in the first half, but led 21-6 thanks to three turnovers. They allowed a season-low 191 yards, but were still outgained, finishing with just 183 of their own.
Still, by winning the turnover battle 4-0 and averaging 31.0 return yards, Florida had the week's fourth-best efficiency ranking. The Gamecocks, on the other hand, dropped from 10th to 31st - the worst plunge of any FBS school this week - and fell eight spots in the AP poll to No. 17.
The Gators have the fourth-best score in the index this year, just behind AP No. 13 Mississippi State (7-0), which coincidently also put together the week's third-best efficiency ranking in Saturday's 45-3 victory over Middle Tennessee State.
Rounding out the year-to-date top 5 is MAC upstart Ohio, which held off Akron 34-28 to open its season with seven wins for the first time since 1968.