Each week we’ll take a look at the players who stood out and analyze some of their advanced stats. Here’s our crew from Week 1:
J.T. Barrett, Ohio State
One of the major flaws in Barrett’s game in 2015 was his inability to make plays down the field.
It was easy to speculate that this was a result of his inconsistent playing time, due to sharing the load with Cardale Jones. But we didn’t really know for certain until we saw Barrett light it up in Week 1.
Barrett was phenomenal throwing the ball down the field (here’s his full pass chart). He completed 8 of 11 passes thrown at least 10 yards down the field, seven of which went for touchdowns.
He looked extremely comfortable in the pocket (where he competed 71.4 percent of his passes) and appears poised to lead a high-power Buckeyes passing attack in 2016.
Tarvarus McFadden, Florida State
Yes, McFadden allowed two touchdowns—which is more than some elite corners will give up all season. But both came on targets from the three yard line and McFadden contested each one.
Targets inside of 10 yards down the field are extremely difficult to defend. This fact is the basis for the game’s most high-powered offenses, such as Baylor’s fast-paced passing attack. The average completion rate allowed in coverage at this range was over 60 percent in 2015.
Realistically, all you can ask of your cornerbacks on those types of plays are to contest the pass—which McFadden did both times.
On passes down the field—where a cornerback’s talent becomes a far more critical factor—McFadden locked down his assignments. He was targeted five times at 10 or more yards downfield, and did not allow a single reception. He also intercepted one of these targets.
Based on his performance down the field, McFadden appears to be on pace to become the next dominant Florida State defensive back.
Nick Chubb, Georgia
There was no sign of hesitancy in Chubb’s running style as he returned from injury, as he picked up 111 yards after contact and forced seven missed tackles against North Carolina’s defense.
Chubb’s combination of strength and balance make him incredibly difficult to bring down, and he deserves to be in the conversation as one of the top running backs in the college game.
Nyles Morgan, Notre Dame
Morgan had a strong performance against Texas, collecting 14 tackles with zero missed tackle attempts. But what really makes him stand out is the contrast in his performance to man he replaced, Joe Schmidt.
Schmidt was a liability all season for Notre Dame in 2015, missing a dreadful 22.7 percent of his tackle attempts.
A 14-for-14 day from Schimdt would have been an impossible dream, especially against a physical, downhill running team like Texas.
If Morgan can make plays like that against a power-running team, he should be a massive upgrade in the middle of the Irish defense this season.