Oregon still No. 1, but Sunshine State trio making headway in UPS Index
While the school atop this week's UPS Team Performance Index once again resides in the Pacific Northwest, a trio of perennial powers from the Sunshine State are starting to show there's some top-notch college football being played at both ends of the country.
Meanwhile, contributions from all three phases of the game has the two-time defending national champions - and last year's Index king - creeping back up the board.
Using an advanced proprietary formula featuring offensive yards per play, defensive yards allowed per play, quality of opponent, various special teams statistics and a micro index of miscues that rewards disciplined teams, UPS has teamed with STATS LLC to normalize those numbers across 125 FBS schools.
From there, overall balance is measured across all of a team's individual units, with the final index weighted toward excellence in those areas as well as overall winning percentage.
After enjoying a bye week before embarking on Pac-12 play this weekend, Oregon remained atop the Index with a 142.99 rating. The average across all FBS teams this week is 98.85.
Ranked second in the AP poll and averaging 61.3 points per game, the Ducks (3-0) own a 6.93-point lead over Florida State.
The Seminoles' (3-0) 54-6 rout of Bethune-Cookman from the FCS last Saturday did little to help their case in terms of opponent quality. It also left coach Jimbo Fisher expecting more from a team that is tied for third in the FBS in scoring defense (8.7 points per game) and 13th in total offense (547.3 yards per game).
"We have to keep improving in all three phases, I'm not happy in all three phases yet," said Fisher, whose squad ranks third offensively and ninth defensively within the Index. "We're still not clicking on all cylinders."
While dynamic young quarterback Jameis Winston has been a key to Florida State's early success, rival Miami hopes senior signal-caller Stephen Morris won't miss any time after he injured his ankle in last weekend's 77-7 win over Savannah State.
The Hurricanes' jump from eighth to third was the biggest increase among teams previously in the Index's top 10, and came after they set a school record for points and scored on their first seven possessions against the overmatched Tigers. Miami has an FBS-low standard deviation of 1.24 between their offensive, defensive, special teams and miscues ranks, making them the most well-balanced team in college football thus far.
Morris, who leads an offense ranked 17th in the ratings, was hurt during the first quarter, but coach Al Golden expects him to be ready Saturday when Miami (3-0) faces winless South Florida.
"The X-rays are negative," said Golden, whose respective units also rank in the top 20 in defense and special teams within the Index. "We'll be cautious with him. We're blessed and we're grateful that he's healthy and he's going to be OK."
The news was not as good some 340 miles north in Gainesville, where Florida's 31-17 win over Tennessee last Saturday was overshadowed by a season-ending injury to quarterback Jeff Driskel.
Though that victory helped the Gators leap an Index-high 51 spots to 34th, the junior needed surgery after he broke a bone in his lower right leg during the first quarter. Backup Tyler Murphy entered and went 8 for 14 for 134 yards with a touchdown, and also ran 10 times for 84 yards and a TD.
"One man's misfortune is another man's opportunity," Florida coach Will Muschamp said. "Everybody wants it now. (Murphy's) a guy that's worked extremely hard and cashed in on his opportunity, and I look forward to seeing him play the rest of the year."
Muschamp's offense ranks a dismal 80th in the Index, but a defensive unit that's allowed just 3.88 yards per play - tied for seventh-lowest in the country - has led the way.
Alabama once again sits atop the AP Poll, but still has work left to crack the top 10 of the UPS Index even though it saw some overall improvement from last week.
Finding different ways to score points, the Crimson Tide (3-0) moved up 10 spots to 13th after Dillon Lee's touchdown return of a blocked punt highlighted last Saturday's 31-6 home victory over Colorado State - a squad coached by former Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain.
The Tide have now already returned a punt, kickoff, blocked punt and two interceptions for touchdowns this season. Within the confines of the Index, however, Alabama ranks 38th offensively and 80th in defense while still recovering from its wild 49-42 win at Texas A&M on Sept. 14. It's a respectable 23rd in special teams.
"We always want to make big plays on special teams," linebacker C.J. Mosley said. "(The blocked punt versus Colorado State) was a big momentum changer. It put points on the board.
"At the end of the day, we want our special teams to make plays and put points on the board."
Louisville (4-0) jumped five spots to crack the top 10 at seventh, behind LSU, Arizona and Stanford - fourth through sixth, respectively.
Baylor, the Index's top offensive team which is ranked eighth overall, has averaged a nation-high 69.7 points per game against an FCS school and two teams from non-BCS leagues. Maryland is ninth, with Central Florida rounding out the top 10.
Arkansas State took the week's biggest tumble, 46 spots down to 78th after a 31-7 loss at Memphis. The Tigers, meanwhile, tied for the second-highest improvement from 112 to 79.
One of six 0-4 teams in the FBS, New Mexico State ranks last in the Index at 54.91.
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