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2014 Underdog Advanced Rushing Stats: The Best Really Are The Best

The top is perhaps unsurprising, and maybe the bottom isn't either, but let't take a look at the numbers anyways.

Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

So what do we have here, oh mighty data gods? Oh look, a table! With colors!

UDDRushTop10

Well look at this. Here you have the top ten running backs in all of FBS football, and half of them (including the top four) are Group of Five players. I was initially a bit skeptical about the validity of Q-Rush as a statistic, since the top players in the two categories used to calculate Q-Rush are not all that different from the top rushers as listed by Q-Rush. Or perhaps that actually means that the best really are the best.

You'll notice one glaring exception there, however. Noah Copeland wasn't just the only running back out of the Q-Rush leaders to not have a positive Opportunity Rate Margin; he finished in the top 10 for Q-Rush despite having the worst Opportunity Rate Margin of any running back in FBS to get at least 100 carries. That essentially means that Copeland produced big plays at a rate almost 15% lower than what we might expect given the offense he played in, and yet he was still one of the most explosive and efficient runners in college football last year. That probably speaks more glowingly of Navy's offense than Copeland's skills, but still. Damn.

Speaking of Opportunity Rate Margin, (ORM) here are your top performers:

Top 10 ORM

  1. Elijah McGuire 7%
  2. Devon Johnson 6.1%
  3. Jhurell Pressley 5.8%
  4. James Flanders 5.3%
  5. Jalen Hurd 5.1%
  6. Larry Rose III 4.8%
  7. Thomas Rawls 4.8%
  8. Travis Greene 4.4%
  9. Shaun Wick 4.3%
  10. Marteze Waller  4.2%

I would argue that the returning players in this list are likely to continue performing at a high rate, except...

UDDRushBottom10

Now we take a look at the ten worst rushers according to Q-Rush, and Tulsa's James Flanders sticks out like a sore thumb, perhaps the anti-Noah Copeland. The man had the fourth highest ORM in all of FBS last season, yet still managed to have the fourth-worst Q-Rush, due in large part to his second worst Highlight Yards per Opportunity. This would indicate that while he did have highlight rushing plays more often than his backfield mates, it was still mostly a factor of his line and not his own individual skill.

Speaking of the bottom, here's the other end of ORM, led of course by Noah Copeland by a wide margin,

Bottom 10 ORM

  1. Noah Copeland -14.1%
  2. Remi Watson -8.9%
  3. Zach Laskey -8.5%
  4. Jordan Parker -8.1%
  5. Xavier Hall -7.7%
  6. Marshawn Williams -7.2%
  7. Terrence Franks -7%
  8. D'Angelo Roberts -6.2
  9. Josh Quezada -6.1%
  10. Alonzo Harris -5.7%
Two interesting notes there - you'll note that two players on this bottom list, Remi Watson and Xavier Hall, have teammates in the top 10 list (Devon Johnson and Larry Rose III, respectively). This ORM statistic probably just proves what the coaches already knew in making Johnson and Rose the featured backs over Watson and Hall, and especially in the case of Johnson and Watson, the film agrees.

Next, we take a look at the quarterback data.