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Examining statistical leaders for major categories across all of college football

St. Thomas wide receiver Jack Gilliland (4) is tackled after his reception by Mount Union defensive back Tre Jones during the first half of the the NCAA Division III football championship game in Salem, Va., Friday, Dec. 18, 2015. (AP Photo/Michael Shroyer)

Credit: AP Photo

When we talk about a unit, a metric being "the best in college football," most leave an essential identifier unspoken. When someone - be it coach or media member - says a given team's third down defense is the best in college football, they're talking about major college football.

So we decided to take a look at 26 major categories and examine who was actually the best, on a pound for pound basis, at stopping the run or throwing the ball efficiently.

As you'll see, Division III produced most of the winners - which makes sense considering A) it's the largest division and B) because of its size, Division III offers a large disparity between its best and worst teams.

But this exercise does shine a light on some interesting trends. For instance, if I'm a program looking to improve my passing game for next season, I'm speaking with the folks at Wesley College in Dover, Delaware. The Wolverines led all of college football with nearly 400 passing yards per game while also posting the second-best passing efficiency numbers in the game. Or if I'm a coach looking to turn my defense around in 2016, I'm calling Rich Wright at Northwest Missouri State or Chris Kappas at Mount Union to tap into how they do it.

Check it out:

Scoring Offense
FBS: Baylor, 48.1 points per game
FCS: Prairie View A&M, 44.9
Division II: Slippery Rock, 45.2
Division III: Mount Union, 53.3
NAIA: Morningside, 58.9

Total Offense
FBS: Baylor, 616.2 yards per game
FCS: Sam Houston State, 531.7
Division II: Angelo State, 560.4
Division III: Wesley, 592.2
NAIA: Morningside, 593.1

Yards Per Play
FBS: North Carolina, 7.28
FCS: Montana State, 6.82
Division II: Angelo State, 7.02
Division III: Salisbury, 7.65
NAIA: Morningside, 7.74

Rushing Offense
FBS: Georgia Southern, 363 yards per game
FCS: Cal Poly, 387.3
Division II: Lenoir-Rhyne, 384.7
Division III: Washington & Lee, 433.9
NAIA: William Penn, 352.2

Yards Per Carry
FBS: Georgia Southern, 6.48
FCS: Alcorn State, 6.66
Division II: Colorado State-Pueblo, 6.50
Division III: Salisbury, 7.02
NAIA: Cumberlands, 6.25

Rushing Touchdowns
FBS: Georgia Southern, 54
FCS: Jacksonville State, 53
Division II: Harding, 52
Division III: Mount Union/St. Thomas, 63
NAIA: Reinhardt, 58

Passing Offense
FBS: Washington State, 389.2 yards per game
FCS: Eastern Washington, 353.3
Division II: Colorado Mines, 365.3
Division III: Wesley, 399.7
NAIA: Faulkner, 385.8

Passing Efficiency
FBS: Western Kentucky, 177.38
FCS: Northern Arizona, 180.18
Division II: Augustana, 172.26
Division III: Wesley, 186.13
NAIA: Morningside, 195.62

Yards Per Attempt
FBS: Air Force, 10.86
FCS: Northern Arizona, 9.42
Division II: Augustana, 10.12
Division III: Thomas More, 10.4
NAIA: Morningside, 11.13

Passing Touchdowns
FBS: Western Kentucky, 50
FCS: Grambling, 40
Division II: Grand Valley State, 48
Division III: Wesley, 57
NAIA: Morningside, 51

Third Down Offense
FBS: Texas Tech, 51.72 percent
FCS: James Madison, 53.98
Division II: Ferris State, 56.4
Division III: Gustavus Adolphus, 58.09
NAIA: Reinhardt, 54.4

Red Zone Offense
FBS: Navy, 94.83 percent
FCS: Mercer, 93.81
Division II: Ohio Dominican, 96.0
Division III: Redlands, 94.29
NAIA: Not provided

Scoring Defense
FBS: Wisconsin, 13.7 points per game
FCS: Dartmouth, 10.1
Division II: Northwest Missouri State, 12.3
Division III: Mount Union, 9.3
NAIA: Grand View, 13.9

Total Defense
FBS: Boston College, 254.3 yards per game
FCS: Stony Brook, 250.1
Division II: Northwest Missouri State, 224
Division III: Mount Union, 197.6
NAIA: Grand View, 237.5

Yards Per Play
FBS: Boston College, 4.07
FCS: Dartmouth, 3.80
Division II: Northwest Missouri State, 3.59
Division III: Mount Union, 3.16
NAIA: Northwestern, 3.81

Rushing Defense
FBS: Alabama, 75.73 yards per game
FCS: Harvard, 84.4
Division II: Northwest Missouri State, 59.3
Division III: Mount Union, 55.2
NAIA: Marian, 74.0

Yards Per Carry Allowed
FBS: Boston College, 2.39
FCS: Dartmouth, 2.56
Division II: Northwest Missouri State, 1.79
Division III: Mount Union, 1.64
NAIA: Doane, 2.34

Rushing Touchdowns Allowed
FBS: Boston College, 6
FCS: Dartmouth, 5
Division II: Minnesota State-Mankato, 4
Division III: Ripon, 2
NAIA: Marian/Northwestern/Georgetown, 5

Passing Defense
FBS: Georgia, 156.5 yards per game
FCS: Youngstown State, 116.7
Division II: American International, 132.5
Division III: Northwestern-St. Paul, 129.45
NAIA: Missouri Valley, 138.1

Pass Efficiency Defense
FBS: Michigan, 94.61
FCS: South Carolina State, 89.98
Division II: Northwest Missouri State, 87.81
Division III: Linfield, 86.59
NAIA: Dickinson State, 87.6

Yards Per Attempt Allowed
FBS: Michigan, 5.41
FCS: South Carolina State, 5.03
Division II: Azusa Pacific, 5.14
Division III: Rowan, 5.01
NAIA: Grand View, 4.76

Passing Touchdowns Allowed
FBS: Northwestern, 5
FCS: St. Francis, 6
Division II: Morehouse, 8
Division III: Amherst, 3
NAIA: Lindsey Wilson, 9

Third Down Defense
FBS: Boston College, 24.14 percent
FCS: South Carolina State, 23.16
Division II: Northwest Missouri State, 24.34
Division III: Mount Union, 21.37
NAIA: Grand View, 23.7

Red Zone Defense
FBS: Appalachian State, 63.64 percent
FCS: Dartmouth, 51.85 percent
Division II: Merrimack, 52.5
Division III: Trinity (Conn.), 45.83
NAIA: Not provided

Sacks Per Game
FBS: Penn State/Arizona State, 3.54
FCS: South Carolina State, 4.18
Division II: Northwest Missouri State, 4.0
Division III: Mount Union, 4.53
NAIA: Faulkner, 4.8

Turnover Margin
FBS: San Diego State, 1.57
FCS: Southern Utah, 1.67
Division II: Shippensburg, 1.82
Division III: Stevenson, 1.91
NAIA: Not provided