The Boston College Double Stuffed Rushing League

October 7, 2009
Boston College running backs Montel Harris (with ball) and Josh Haden (background, #2) go backward more often than most ACC runners.

Boston College running back Montel Harris and teammate Josh Haden (not pictured) go backward more often than most ACC runners.

Boston College is one of the pleasant surprises of the ACC football season. At 4-1, the Eagles have overcome a turbulent offseason and one of the ugliest performances of 2009 (a 25-7 loss to Clemson) to put themselves in position for a decent bowl game.

On Saturday, they rode running back Montel Harris to a 28-21 win over Florida State that wasn’t as close as the final. Harris ran 25 times for 179 yards and two touchdowns. Sixty percent of his carries were successful, and he gained seven first downs on the ground.

Harris’ performance was impressive, but there’s a problem lurking in the BC running game. Harris and his primary backup, Josh Haden, go nowhere more often than any non-Re’quan Boyette running backs in the conference. On nearly a third of Haden’s and Harris’ 148 carries this year, they’ve been stuffed, gaining no yards or going backward. Haden has the highest stuff rate in the conference, moving in neutral or reverse on 42 percent of his carries this season.

Harris is two spots behind, at 27 percent. They’re the tasty wafers on a Boyette-flavored Oreo® brand sandwich cookie.

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IoT’s Power Rankings: Week 4

September 30, 2009
Running back Josh Oglesby and the Hokies pull ahead of Miami and into first place in the Instead of Texting Power Rankings this week. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Running back Josh Oglesby and the Hokies pull ahead of Miami and into first place in the Instead of Texting Power Rankings this week. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Let’s take a little trip in the Wayback Machine, shall we?

Set the dial to Sept. 23, 2009. Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson were the toppermost of the poppermost. President Barack Obama was trying to figure out that Afghan War. People actually still thought/doubted that government-provided health insurance could work.

And ACC Commissioner John Swofford had the football conference he’d been dreaming of for more than five years. Leading the conference was a Floridian first tier, ready to storm the upper reaches of the AP and USA Today polls. A stalwart Virginia Tech team stood ready to challenge the Sunshine Staters. A few steps behind were some frisky-looking contenders (North Carolina, Clemson, Georgia Tech). Most of the remainders were looking ready for basketball.

Ah, those were the days. But things have changed. VT reclaimed the throne by undressing the Miami Hurricanes. Florida State continued to baffle by losing at home to a South Florida team led by a first-time starter at quarterback. Georgia Tech drilled UNC and Clemson lost at home to 15th-ranked Texas Christian.

Maybe some day Swoff-daddy will get the ACC he sought with the 2004 expansion. Not today.

On to the rankings.

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Useful yardage

September 29, 2009
Maryland running back Da’Rel Scott in happier times, running against Cal in a 2008 win. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Maryland running back Da’Rel Scott in happier times, running against Cal in a 2008 win. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Three feet is three feet. All yards are equal.

But in football, as in Animal Farm, some rushing yards are more equal than others.

No ACC running back illustrates that better than Maryland’s Da’Rel Scott.

Scott looks like one of the better running backs in the ACC. Through four games, he’s fourth in the conference in rushing, with 297 yards. He’s averaging more than 5.7 yards per carry, third among ACC backs with at least 45 carries. Scott has put up two 100-yard games in the season’s first four weeks.

Look a little deeper, though, and it’s clear Scott’s not as effective as his standard statistics suggest. Scott is a classic boom-and-bust back. Nearly 40% of his season yardage total came from just three carries.

Scott’s success rate better illustrates his true value this season.

My definition of “success” is a derivative of the one used at footballoutsiders.com: a carry is successful if it (a.) gains at least 40% of needed yards on first down, (b.) gains at least 60% of needed yards on second down, (c.) converts a first down on third or fourth down or (d.) yields a first down or touchdown, under any circumstances.

Scott’s success rate is 36.5%, the second-lowest among conference running backs averaging at least 10 carries per game:

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