The Itis: CFB Treats - Observations from Week 12
In this week's recap: Some thoughts on the Heisman race and other individual awards; A big week for 2023 busts; More interesting stats on QB/RB/WRs; And a very important poll at the end.
I will not cut my pie into four pieces, because I am not a savage.
- Peter ‘Yogi’ Berra, Former Baseball Player
Thoughts on the Heisman Race + Random Ramblings
Welcome back, my friends, to this week’s edition of ‘The Itis’. You know— I’ve accumulated so many new subscribers over the course of this season since the first edition of these recap articles, that part of me wonders if half the audience isn’t reading them in a state of constant confusion over the title. Well, this is not the place for me to explain, but I do believe it is a very fitting name this week as I’m sure many of the readers will be celebrating Thanksgiving on Thursday.
In addition to this being a time that marks the advent of the holiday season, we also find ourselves in that time of the year where the race for individual CFB awards is starting to heat up, so much so that the staffs of teams may even alter their behaviours to bolster the resumes of their players. That was certainly the case with LSU’s Jayden Daniels last Saturday against an overmatched Georgia State team. JD accounted for a cool eight total TDs (six passing, two rushing), evidently getting to eat his turkey early this year, and likely putting himself in the driver’s seat of the Heisman Trophy race. While I was happy from a CFF standpoint (I had Kyren Lacy and Malik Nabers in one league), it did re-illustrate to me just how silly the criteria for winning this award is.
One of the popular dark horse names in the offseason (I guess that's sort of an oxymoron) was UGA’s Carson Beck. I actually placed $5 down on Beck in the summer to win it. But, being the degenerate that I am, I also put a fiver on Penix, Nix, Williams, and a few others, to hedge my bets. The only name I didn’t place a bet on who’s still in the running is… you guessed it— Jayden Daniels. But our boy Beck has also had a really strong stretch in November, and I’ve noticed recently that he is beginning to acquire his own hype train.
Those of you who’ve been reading my work from earlier this year will already know my stance on my own team when it comes to CFF: don’t draft them (unless their name is Brock Bowers). This year, the dark lord Bobo (otherwise known as Mike Bobo, current UGA OC), has changed my stance somewhat, as we’ve seen RB Daijun Edwards and even Mr. Dark Horse himself— Carson Beck, become viable CFF assets.
However, I would still maintain that UGA is not one of these types of programs that likes to feed its players, and it certainly wouldn’t do for Carson Beck what LSU did for Jayden Daniels last weekend.
I found this quote by Kirby Smart on Beck’s Heisman campaign after the Tennessee game to be quite telling and confirmed what I believed to be the case regarding the offensive philosophy of the team:
I don't lobby for those guys, but it's easy to sit back and say look at what this guy has done. The worst thing for Beck, individually, is he plays with a good defence because it makes you not want to run it up. Some of these other guys got an opportunity to score 40 a game. With Carson Beck, I don't think we, as an offensive staff, think we have to score 40 a game. I don't think we have to. You're able to call the game differently as an offensive coordinator. I don't think he cares about that, but he is talented. He's smart and a better athlete than you think.
What might elude the casual college football fan is just how much of an impact recruiting dynamics can have on the decisions made during games, which in-turn impacts our CFF outcomes. An illustration of this was witnessed when LSU, comfortably ahead of an inferior opponent, chose to keep Jayden Daniels on the field— a move that might seem perplexing without the context of recruiting dynamics. As highlighted in my PigPen Weekly edition focusing on quarterbacks last week, LSU is currently in active pursuit of QB Bryce Underwood, the highly touted #1 player for the class of 2025 from Michigan, who is set to make his decision in a month or so. This game served as an opportunity for LSU to fortify their recruitment pitch by showcasing that they have a (potential) Heisman winning QB who is leaving this offseason. Or maybe Brian Kelly was just looking out for the CFF managers who were starting Daniels that week— because that fits his personality too, right?
Anyways, I guess the point that I’m haphazardly stumbling towards is: these individual awards are a complete sham. The mechanisms behind which players get the stats are so arbitrary and only somewhat related to how good the player actually is at football, that I’m at a point now where I just don’t care who wins— unless it’s one of UGA’s players, of course, then all of a sudden these awards are super duper important.
QB/RB/WR Stat Tidbits
Three QBs scored 60+ points last week: Bo Nix, Frank Harris and Jayden Daniels. Although I haven’t actually verified this, I’m pretty sure that in most weeks of the CFF period, there is not a single player who scores over 60 points, let alone a QB, and let alone three.
If you thought the USF Bulls were a really good team for CFF, you were correct. The Bulls are the only team in the FBS currently running more than 80 plays a game. That probably explains why QB Byrum Brown has been so good.
Don’t look now, but OK State RB Ollie Gordon has a legit chance at 2K total yards this season. It’s unlikely we’ll see a 2K yard rusher— something that hasn’t been done since 2019, but OGII currently sits at 1675 total yards with two games remaining (includes bowl game).
Two true sophomores— Ollie Gordon and Omarion Hampton, currently lead the FBS in rushing with 1414 yards each. That’s a good sign for the position in 2024, considering Ashton Jeanty will also be returning. I generally feel that each year, there is a Big Three at the RB position for CFF drafts. In 2021, it was Breece Hall, Mo Ibrahim and Bijan Robinson; in 2022 it was Deuce Vaughn, Bijan Robinson and TreVeyon Henderson (based on what we thought at the time…), and I can already see a scenario where the three RBs mentioned above are the top three RBs taken in 2024 drafts (and would likely be considered a tier above any of the other RBs). This year was an anomaly, from the perspective that I felt that there were only two elite-tier pre-draft RB prospects: Rasheen Ali and Quinshon Judkins.
Speaking of, only one runner has seen 200+ carries without crossing 1000 yards rushing yet— Quinshon Judkins.
There are currently 25 runners who have crossed the 1000 yard rushing threshold. By season’s end last year (includes Bowl games), there were around 40.
Only 12 receivers have crossed the 1000 yard receiving threshold. Eight of them are P5 players. Ricky White, LaJohntay Wester, Caullin Lacy and Kris Mitchell make up the group of G5 players.
Only one player has more than 100 receptions— LaJohntay Wester.
LSU’s WR2— Brian Thomas STILL leads the nation in TDs receiving.
Big Week For 2023 Busts
Week 12 in the CFF period was an oddly productive week for many of the biggest busts of the 2023 season. As it happens, my squad in a 24-team league I’m in had quite a few of these guys on the roster, which makes it even more satisfying that this squad is now playing in the championship finals vs. the host of the league himself— CFF Analyst Nate Marchese.
Brennan Armstrong — Ever since Armstrong got demoted, I figured I’d hold onto him in the one league I still had given the off chance that something could happen to MJ Morris, and also because Armstrong’s ceiling is always incredibly high in CFF. They don’t call him the Konami Code for no reason. He rewarded me for my loyalty on Saturday, finishing as my QB1 on a roster with scrubs like Caleb Williams and Davis Brin. He’s actually been pretty good since coming back in after Morris’ announcement two weeks ago, I’m hoping he can get at least 20 points this week vs. UNC.
Ashtyn Hawkins — Hawkins hasn’t been a complete bust this season, but he’s definitely been disappointing. In 2022, he was basically a walking TD for Texas State. This season, the offence — despite being more productive overall — has spread the volume around much more. He’s another one who rewarded my loyalty on Saturday with a beautiful 24 point performance. Am I expecting a follow up this week? Absolutely not, but you never know…
Frank Harris — First of all, prayers up to anyone who had to face Harris last week. Unfortunately, I was part of that group in my home league. I suppose the positive was that at least when I went to sleep Friday night, I already knew I had lost my matchup in that league, so that took some sting out of Saturday. Harris nearly doubled his season high in this game, accounting for three TDs each on the ground and air. What a time to come alive!
Rodney Hammond Jr. — Hammond Jr. resurrected himself last Thursday night like a prized fight boxer jumping off the mat after being KO’d. RHjr. took 15 carries for a cool 145 yards and a score, producing an output of 20.5 points vs. a struggling BC team. Will he continue to be fed this week? I have no idea, but I’ll be crossing my fingers. Sometimes it pays to hold onto these fledgling assets if you have the flexibility to do so, you never know when they will surprise you. The caveat being, that the format of the leagues where I held Hammond, Armstrong and Hawkins were all 45-man roster bestball, so the opportunity cost of holding wasn’t too bad.
Biggest Hits/Misses Of 2023
As we head into the final leg of the CFF season, I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on some of my hits and misses from the offseason. I think one thing to keep in mind, is that when you’re writing about as many players as I am, it’s inevitable that large portion of them will bust. But I’d also argue that it’s important to define what it means to be a miss.
I have listed players like Tyrin Smith below. But, to me this isn’t really a miss. Because ultimately it comes down to the soundness of the argument for why someone will be productive, rather than the actual outcome. There is inherent randomness in CFF, and it’s an inevitable phenomenon that many players who have every reason to succeed, won’t.
With regards to Tyrin, he had every reason to succeed this year when you consider that he was returning off a 19+ FPG average season, with all of the same ingredients in place (OC, HC, QB) and no new major names added in the WR room.
The other names are similar, where the profile in the pre-season period was very strong, from an objective standpoint. It didn’t pan out, and that’s going to happen every year, but I don’t regret drafting these players, nor do I think I really learned much from them busting. Maybe the only takeaway is that we need to always keep in mind that when players transferring are transferring, like Armstrong, they are going to go through an adjustment sometimes, even if they’re playing under a former coach.
What I would say are bigger misses for me are the players that were extremely productive that I didn’t see coming. Georgia State’s Marcus Carroll immediately comes to mind. One of the quintessential CFF value unlock mechanisms is when there is a run-heavy team with two RBs splitting carries, and one of those guys moves on or goes down with injury.
However, when looking at the Panthers the last few seasons, they have split carries every year. Last year it was Carroll and Tucker Gregg, with QB Darren Grainger actually leading the team in carries with 164. The year before it was Gregg and Jamyest Williams, with Gregg leading in carries with 192. In 2020, the three leading carriers were two RBs and the QB, and each had 90 or more carries. The lead rusher had only 166 carries. So not only have they split carries between RBs, but they have traditionally had a running QB eat up a lot of carries too.
On one hand, we had a split last year between Carroll and Gregg, and Gregg moved on, so one might assume there would be a huge value surplus there for Carroll. On the other hand, what evidence did we have that this team was going to all of a sudden rely on one runner, just because one of the starters moved on? The pattern suggested that they would have found another runner, and split carries between Grainger, Carroll, and the RB2. So again, how big of a miss is this? I don’t know that I would blame myself, or anyone, for not being there on Carroll. If you drafted Carroll, betting that the Panthers would randomly rely on one runner instead of two; in your opinion, was that success a function of CFF skill, or luck?
Either way, I think it’s good to keep these thoughts in mind when assessing hits and misses. I liken CFF speculation to investing— that is, if you’ve ever worked in an environment where you were expected to generate trading/investment ideas, or simply do so as a hobby, you already know that there are four paths every idea can follow: 1) there are well-thought-out, good ideas that should succeed and do; 2) There are good ideas that should succeed and don’t; 3) There are bad ideas that are not properly thought out but succeed anyways (this is what we call being lucky, hello pandemic BTC investors) and 4) bad ideas that shouldn’t succeed and don’t.
Ultimately, we want to live in paths 1) and 2), with the understanding that having strong ideas is not a guarantee of success. There is inherent randomness in investing just like there is in CFF. What we can control is our process, which, perhaps contrary to popular opinion, is not a subjective thing. There are objectively good arguments when we speculate on CFF production, and objectively bad arguments.
Some Big Hits:
Dallin ‘Wallstreet’ Holker
Terrell ‘NBA Primetime’ Vaughn
LaJohntay ‘100-Target Man’ Wester
Skipping on RBs like Jase McClellan, Ja’Quinden Jackson and Frank Gore Jr.
Some Big Misses:
Rodney Hammond Jr.
Glimpse Into The Future of Florida Football
The battle of the backup QBs is upon us this week, in what has historically been a very explosive rivalry between the Gators and the Seminoles. It’s not quite to the same level as the FSU vs. Miami rivalry, but this game tends to make for many entertaining moments.
One wrinkle that will spice things up this year is that neither team will be playing with its starting QB. In fact — unfortunate injuries aside — it almost worked out perfectly for competitive balance, in that both teams’ gunslingers went down on the same day. From that perspective, they’re both working from square one with one week to prepare their QB2s. Tate Rodemaker figures to be the guy who will be leading FSU’s attack. On the UF side, Max Brown was the player who came in post-Mertz departure.
I know it was on a limited sample size, but Brown completed 80% of his passes (4/5) and took seven carries for 45 yards on Saturday. That’s not bad for a debut, all things considered (coming in cold vs. a top 10 opponent). I think overall, removing both starting QBs from this game probably benefits UF more (even though Mertz has been great this season), and I think FSU could be on upset alert here. The Gators need this one bad to help with the perception of what has been a disappointing season.
Being the degenerate gambler that I am, I, of course, have a futures bet on UF going under their win total of 5.5, meaning if they win this week, that bet won’t clear. On the other hand, they’d knock off FSU’s chances of getting into the CFP, and provide more leeway for UGA should they lose a close one to Alabama in the SECCG. At least, I’m telling myself I’m in a win-win situation; I guess we’ll see what happens.
Happy Thanksgiving to the American Readers!
So, for those that don’t know, in Canada we celebrate Thanksgiving much earlier than our friends down south. The first weekend of October is generally when the holiday is observed. For me, since I live in a different city from my parents, what I usually do is travel to their place during Halloween, and we celebrate both holidays in one. This means that the dessert pie of choice is almost aways Pumpkin Pie, for obvious reasons.
However, in acknowledging that Americans observe this holiday much later in the Autumnal season, I understand that there is significant variation in the choice of dessert pies served across dinner tables. I’ve been told that geography also has an impact on this consideration. So with that in mind — in perhaps one of the most important polls of the 2023 CFF season — I would like to know what the pie of choice is for the readers (you can answer even if you’re not American).
In fact, while we’re on the topic, I would like to give a quick shoutout to all the readers out there, wherever you may be. Assuming the Substack stats aren’t lying to me, we’ve currently got readers in: Canada, USA, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, England, Ireland, Spain, France, Australia, New Zealand and Germany. That still blows my mind. Thank you for being here! (Get it?— I’m giving thanks because it’s Thanksgiving— alright… I’ll stop here… I can feel the eyes rolling through the screen)
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