A statistical look at the 2011 college football season

Mike Huguenin
Yahoo! SportsJanuary 22, 2012

Each week during the season, we looked at some statistics involving individuals and/or teams that we found intriguing. Here is our season-ending version, focusing on one team (Alabama, specifically the defense) and one individual (Houston QB Case Keenum).

Alabama's defense was as dominating as any in recent memory. The Tide led the nation in total defense (183.6 yards per game), rush defense (72.2 ypg), pass defense (111.5 ypg), pass efficiency defense (83.69 points) and scoring defense (8.2 points per game).

Alabama also led the nation in third down conversion percentage defense, allowing foes to convert just 24.5 percent of their opportunities. That's one reason the Tide defense played fewer downs (720) than any other defense in the nation. Army (726) was second, and only nine defenses nationally were on the field for fewer than 800 plays.

Those are staggering numbers across the board. The last defense to allow fewer than 200 yards per game was Alabama in 1992 (194.2 ypg), and this season's Tide surrendered the fewest yards per game since Oklahoma in 1986 (169.6 ypg). The points-per-game total is the lowest since 1988, when Auburn gave up just 7.2 per game.

But as talented as Alabama's defense is, the schedule played a role in the Tide's great numbers. Get this: Alabama played one FBS team that was in the top 80 in offense (Arkansas, at 29th). The second-best offense Alabama faced? Mississippi State's, which ranked 84th overall. Eight of the Tide's 12 games against FBS opponents (we didn't include a game against FCS member Georgia Southern) came against teams that had offenses ranked 95th or worse, including five that were 100th or worse.

The bottom line: Alabama's defense was a stifling one, and the talent level was extremely high. But it's hard to call it the best defense in college football history because of the large number of punchless offenses it went against.

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[Video: Could Alabama win it all again next year?]

As for Keenum, he graduates with all the important passing records in NCAA history. He owns career records for passing yards (19,217), TD passes (155), completions (1,546), 300-yard games (38) and 4,000-yard seasons (three); actually, he had three 5,000-yard seasons. He also holds the career record for total offense (20,114 yards) and touchdown responsibility (178, 155 passing and 23 rushing).

Keenum broke the total offense record by an incredible 3,204 yards. He broke the passing yardage record by 2,145 yards, the record for TD passes by 21 and the completions record by 143. He broke the TD responsibility record by 28.

by the numbers

A breakdown by league of the number of players who reached certain statistical plateaus. Asterisks mean a player reached an even higher plateau, detailed at the bottom.

ACC
1,000-yard rushers: 4
1,000-yard receivers: 3
3,000-yard passers: 5

Big East
1,000-yard rushers: 3
1,000-yard receivers: 3
3,000-yard passers: 1*

Big Ten
1,000-yard rushers: 6
1,000-yard receivers: 4
3,000-yard passers: 3

Big 12
1,000-yard rushers: 5
1,000-yard receivers: 3
3,000-yard passers: 5*

C-USA
1,000-yard rushers: 1
1,000-yard receivers: 4
3,000-yard passers: 5*

Independents
1,000-yard rushers: 2
1,000-yard receivers: 1
3,000-yard passers: 0

MAC
1,000-yard rushers: 4
1,000-yard receivers: 5
3,000-yard passers: 6

Mountain West
1,000-yard rushers: 4
1,000-yard receivers: 0
3,000-yard passers: 2

Pac-12
1,000-yard rushers: 7
1,000-yard receivers: 6
3,000-yard passers: 6*

SEC
1,000-yard rushers: 4
1,000-yard receivers: 2
3,000-yard passers: 2

Sun Belt
1,000-yard rushers: 4
1,000-yard receivers: 3
3,000-yard passers: 2

WAC
1,000-yard rushers: 3
1,000-yard receivers: 5
3,000-yard passers: 2

NOTE: Big East: 1 4,000-yard passer
Big 12: 4 4,000-yard passers
C-USA: 1 5,000-yard passer
Pac-12: 2 4,000-yard passers

Some other season-ending numbers:

• Twelve teams averaged 200 yards rushing and passing this season: Alabama (214.5 rushing/215.2 passing), Baylor (235.6/351.5), Missouri (244.0/231.5), Nevada (247.5/259.2), Northern Illinois (234.1/241.9), Ohio (200.3/249.0), Oregon (299.2/223.6), Southern Miss (205.1/256.2), Stanford (210.6/278.7), TCU (208.6/231.6), Toledo (213.6/267.7) and Wisconsin (235.6/234.3).

• Six teams averaged at least 500 yards per game: Houston (599.1 ypg), Baylor (587.1 ypg), Oklahoma State (549.9 ypg), Oregon (522.8 ypg), Oklahoma (5-12.3 ypg) and Nevada (506.7 ypg). Houston set the NCAA single-season record for total offense with 8,387 yards; the Cougars are the first team to break the 8,000-yard barrier. The record had been 7,978 yards by Tulsa in 2008 (Gus Malzahn was the coordinator).

• For the second season in a row, nine teams averaged at least 40 points per game: Houston (49.3 ppg), Oklahoma State (48.7 ppg), Oregon (46.1 ppg), Baylor (45.3 ppg), Boise State (44.2 ppg), Wisconsin (44.1 ppg), Stanford (43.2 ppg), Toledo (42.2 ppg) and TCU (40.9). Stanford and Wisconsin are pro-style offenses; the other seven run some version of the spread or at least predominantly use three-wide sets.

• Four teams averaged at least 300 rushing yards per game, and all four run the triple option: Army (346.5 ypg), Georgia Tech (316.5 ypg), Air Force (314.8 ypg) and Navy (312.3). Oregon was close, at 299.2 yards per game.

• Houston was the only team to average at least 400 passing yards, at 450.1.

• Twelve other teams averaged at least 300 passing yards per game. Four of them were in the Big 12 (Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech). There were three in the Pac-12 (Arizona, Arizona State and Washington State) and one each in the Big East (West Virginia), MAC (Western Michigan), Mountain West (Boise State), SEC (Arkansas) and WAC (Hawaii).

• For the third season in a row, there were no 2,000-yard rushers this season; there was one in '08, three in '07 and none in '06 and '05.

• There were 47 1,000-yard rushers this season, one fewer than there were last season. There were 53 in 2009, 54 in '08, 56 in '07, 36 in '06 and 46 in '05.

• Keenum was the only 5,000-yard passer this season; it was the 12th time in NCAA history that a quarterback reached that plateau and he is the first to do it three times. There was one such instance in 2010 and '09, two each in '08 and '07 and one in '06 after none reached the mark in '05.

• There were eight 4,000-yard passers this season, including Keenum. There were three in 2010 and '09, six in '08 and '07, three in '06 and two in '05.

• There were a record 39 3,000-yard passers this season, an increase of 11 from last season; there were 25 in 2009 and '08, 36 in '07 – which had the single-season high – 17 in '06 and 18 in '05.

• There were four 1,500-yard receivers this season, the same last season; there were three in 2009, one in '08, two in '07, zero in '06 and one in '05.

• There was an NCAA single-season high 40 1,000-yard receivers this season; there were 38 in 2010, 29 in '09, 33 in '08, 38 in '07, 21 in '06 and 28 in '05.

• The average number of offensive plays per game this season was 69.8, an increase of 1.4 over last season, and the typical game lasted 3:14, two seconds longer than in 2010. Texas Tech led the nation at 82.8 plays per game, while Florida State averaged the fewest at 58.6.

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