Earlier this week we examined which teams stood above the rest in the NCAA's offensive and defensive statistics. We'll wrap up the series today by examining the third phase of football: special teams.
The lower divisions, namely Division III, have won most of the statistics so far, specifically one D-III team - Mount Union. Will that trend continue today Whose special teams were extra special in 2012? Find out below.
Net Punting - Louisiana Tech (FBS): 43.51 net average. It's no wonder Bulldogs punter Ryan Allen won his second consecutive Ray Guy Award earlier this month.
Punt Returns - Abilene Christian (D-II - TX): 25.2 yards per return. Abilene Christian only returned nine punts in 11 games, but with numbers like theirs one wonders why teams didn't stop kicking to them after, say, five returns.
Kickoff Returns - Kansas State (FBS): 29.2 yards per return. The Wildcats totaled 877 yards and two touchdowns on 30 returns, coming just 33 yards short of matching Florida State's 20-year old FBS record for punt return average.
Field Goals - Patrick Murray, Fordham (FCS): 2.27 per game. The NCAA only provides individual field goal statistics, and Fordham's Patrick Murray stood above the fray after knocking in 25-of-30 attempts in 11 games.
Turnover Margin - Bates (D-III - ME): 2.25 per game. We covered turnovers lost and gained in the previous entries, and Mark Harriman's team combined the two better than anyone in college football. In eight games, the Bobcats posted 32 takeaways and lost 14 turnovers. Bates' turnover margin jumped by a full two turnovers per game over last season and, unsurprisingly, their record improved from 3-5 in 2011 to 5-3 this fall.
Other noteworthy statistics...
Punt Return Yardage Defense - Grand Valley State (D-II - MI): 0.54 per return (three yards in seven returns)
Kickoff Return Yardage Defense - Alcorn State (FCS): 11.29 per return
Fewest Penalties - Brevard (D-II - NC): 3 per game (33 in 11 games)
Fewest Yards Penalized Per Game - Air Force (FBS): 24.67
Our study covered 34 statistics, and Division III came out on top of nearly half of them (16). FBS, FCS and Division II each claimed six categories. With 240 teams, Division III is the NCAA's largest classification by a wide margin; FBS has 124 teams, FCS has 122 and Division II has 167. Outside of one super-achieving team, Division III's statistical championships would have been proportional to its membership.
About that super-achieving team...
Division III's Mount Union (Ohio) matched the other three divisions by itself in winning six categories. The clear champions of this exercise, Mount Union bested the rest of the NCAA membership in passing efficiency, scoring offense, scoring defense, total defense, rushing defense and first downs defense, while also placing second and third in two other categories. It bears repeating that Mount Union scored more points and allowed fewer points than any other team in the NCAA. It's no wonder they went 15-0.