The Wildest Stats from the 2021 College Football Season So Far
Heading into Week 5 of the 2021 college football season, a number of interesting trends and storylines are developing.
Georgia's defense has suffocated its opponents. A pair of SEC West offenses in Ole Miss and Arkansas are putting up big numbers. We've already seen a record number of ranked teams lose games, too.
Let's run through some of the wildest statistics of the college football season thus far.
Georgia's Defensive Dominance
Georgia returned five starters from last season's defense that gave up 321 yards per game, which ranked 12th in the nation. They've been even better this year.
The Dawgs are allowing only 5.8 points per game, by far the fewest in the country. Their defense doesn't appear to have an obvious weakness, either.
They're second nationwide in passing defense, having allowed only 115.8 yards per game. They're also tied for fifth in interceptions (seven), first in yards per passing attempt allowed (4.6) and first in total defense (185.3 yards per game).
In their 62-0 shutout victory over Vanderbilt last week, the Dawgs held Commodores to only 77 total yards of offense. Georgia had more touchdowns (eight) than Vanderbilt had third-down conversions (two).
The Dawgs will face their toughest test of the season Saturday against No. 8 Arkansas, but they're currently an 18.5-point favorite, per DraftKings Sportsbook. That's largely due to how dominant their defense is.
Arkansas' Surprise 2021 Season
Arkansas is 4-0 for the first time since 2003. The Razorbacks' No. 8 spot in this week's Associated Press poll is their highest ranking since November 2002.
Arkansas burst onto the national college football scene after upsetting No. 15 Texas at home in Week 2. It proved that win was no fluke two weeks later, as it beat then-No. 8 Texas A&M 20-10.
The Razorbacks had 307 total yards against the Aggies in the first half alone, which was the most yards in a half put up against a Top 10 team in 15 seasons. Arkansas is also 1-0 in the SEC for the first time in 11 years, and it's the only other team other than No. 1 Alabama to have multiple wins over Top 15 opponents.
Razorbacks quarterback KJ Jefferson is the only player in the SEC and one of only six players nationwide with over 800 yards passing and 200 yards rushing. The redshirt sophomore also leads the nation in average yards per completion (18.4) and ranks second in yards per attempt (10.8).
Arkansas ranks 11th in the nation in scoring defense (14.5 points per game allowed) and 12th in total defense (267.3 yards). As a result, the Razorbacks have outscored their opponents 34-0 in the first quarter.
Georgia will undoubtedly be Arkansas' toughest test yet. We'll see Saturday whether the Razorbacks can keep their dream season going.
Clemson Looks Mortal for a Change
Clemson's 10-3 season-opening loss to then-No. 5 Georgia didn't seem to be too catastrophic at the time. The Tigers still could have run the table and won the ACC to make it into the College Football Playoff with one loss.
But heading into Week 5, Clemson's five-year streak of making it to the ACC title game appears to be in grave danger.
The Tigers lost to the unranked NC State Wolfpack in double overtime Saturday, 27-21. Clemson had won the last eight straight against NC State, and State was unranked coming into the matchup.
It was Clemson's first loss to an unranked team since 2017. The Tigers are now 2-2 for the first time since 2014. NC State's defense also held Clemson to 214 total yards, the fewest in this series since 1994.
The loss caused Clemson to fall to No. 25 in the AP Poll, which marked the first time since September 2015 that it wasn't inside the Top 10, per ESPN Stats & Info. The Tigers had been ranked inside the Top 10 for 97 straight weeks, which was second behind Alabama in the modern AP poll era.
Head coach Dabo Swinney, who appears to be on the verge of missing out on a CFP bid for the first time since 2014, insisted to reporters that his team isn't panicking just yet:
"There ain't no funeral around here. We're all right, We'll be just fine. I know what the problems are. I don't need to call anybody for somebody to tell me what the issue is. I know what the issue is. I have lots of friends in the business, but just spend time with the people here. But we all know where we are and how we got here and what we have to do. Just keep moving forward. It's not complicated, it's very simple actually. But simple things lead to big things, and until we get great at the details we're not going to get it turned around."
The loss to NC State was only Swinney's 16th ACC loss in his 13 seasons at Clemson, according to North Georgia announcer Jim Stewart. Starting off the season 2-2 isn't necessarily a death knell, but it's shaping up to be a long season for Clemson.
Florida State's Rocky Start
Things aren't going so well for second-year Florida State head coach Mike Norvell.
The Seminoles have gotten off to an 0-4 start, which is their worst mark since 1974. Their 20-17 home loss to Jacksonville State in Week 2 was their first loss to an FCS opponent in school history.
That game ended on a wild, last-second touchdown by the Gamecocks. But Jacksonville State had the edge in time of possession, and FSU went only 4-of-14 on third down.
On Monday, Norvell laid out a vision for how Florida State needs to approach the rest of the season:
"I'm pissed off that we're 0-4, and we can bring up how many years it's been. I can't control that. I can control this team at this moment and right now with the opportunity. So we're going to work our butts off to go get better, and we're going to do it the right way. And we're going to have a standard how we operate, the same standard of everything that we do. I'm going to hold myself to it because I've got to be the example.”
Florida State still has games against North Carolina, Clemson, NC State and Florida remaining. It's hard to see the Seminoles being favored in any of those games. Their best chance for a win might be against UMass on Oct. 23, which speaks to the depths to which this program has fallen at the moment.
Ranked Teams Are Falling in Record Numbers
Twenty-five ranked teams have already lost this season. That's the highest number of ranked teams to lose through the first four weeks of a season since 1936, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
Some of the most notable upsets include:
- No. 10 North Carolina lost to an unranked Virginia Tech in Week 1.
- No. 16 LSU lost on the road to UCLA 38-27 in Week 1.
- No. 14 USC lost 42-28 in Week 2.
- No. 15 Texas lost 40-21 to an unranked Arkansas on the road in Week 2.
- No. 13 UCLA lost 40-37 to an unranked Fresno State team in Week 3.
- No. 15 Virginia Tech lost to an unranked West Virginia in Week 3.
- No. 9 Clemson lost to an unranked NC State in Week 4.
That volume of upsets should make things interesting for the CFP Selection Committee in the coming weeks.
In each year of the CFP, conference champions that were either undefeated or with one loss made it in. What happens if there are multiple conference champions with more than one loss? Is this the year an undefeated non-Power Five team makes it in?
We'll have to see whether chaos continues to reign supreme.
Wisconsin Is the FBS' Only Team with a Top-10 Defense and Losing Record
So much for the saying "defense wins championships," right? Through four weeks, the Wisconsin Badgers are 1-2, coming off a 41-13 loss to Notre Dame last week thanks to two pick-sixes and a kickoff-return touchdown.
However, they have the No. 2 defense in the country behind Georgia, giving up just 212.3 yards per game. Wisconsin has the nation's top-ranked rushing defense, allowing just 25 yards per game. The Badgers are also sixth in the country in third-down conversion defense, letting their opponents convert on just 25 percent of their attempts.
It's remarkable that Wisconsin's defense has been able to perform so well and the Badgers are 1-2. But the biggest problem with Wisconsin is the offense. Wisconsin is 112th in scoring offense, having scored just seven touchdowns and four field goals through three games. That's good for an average of just 19 points per game, and 34 points came against Eastern Michigan.
As we saw versus Notre Dame, it was the offense and special teams that surrendered most of the points, so for this talented defense's sake, hopefully Wisconsin can figure things out offensively.