Land of 10 breaks down something we learned from the previous weekend’s games, focusing on a key statistic that takes you beyond the box score …
When Ohio State needs three yards and a cloud of dust, Mike Weber gives them seven. And pain.
We’re starting a new feature and a new week with a simple question: Who are the most clutch tailbacks in the Big Ten?
The ones the offensive coordinator can count on to keep the chains moving, the one who’ll protect the ball — and possession — with the lead in a tight contest? And what numbers best frame that particular argument?
With the help of SportSource analytics’ fine cfbstats blog, we decided to focus on the single-most clutch thing a running back can do — power the offense to a first down on third-and-short, 3 yards or fewer.
The cfbstats blog tracks situational statistics for just such a comparison both nationally and by conference. Most of the names won’t surprise you, but here are the Top 10 runners in the Big Ten (minimum: five attempts) at converting a third down with 3 or fewer yards to go, ranked by the percentage of times they earned a new set of downs:
That’s perfection, and even this late into the season, that volume of perfection is rare for a featured runner. Among qualified tailbacks in the FBS, Weber is only one of two in the country with at least eight attempts on third-and-short to convert every opportunity presented; Navy quarterback Will Worth (9-for-9) is the other.
And Weber’s doing laps around the backs in the Heisman Trophy conversation, too, including Georgia’s Nick Chubb (7-for-13, .538), Florida State’s Dalvin Cook (7-for-12, .583), Tennessee’s Jalen Hurd (9-for-11, .818) and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey (7-for-9, .778)
Also of note: Former Buckeyes tailback Ezekiel Elliott converted 22 of 31 third-and-shorts last fall (.710), while Carlos Hyde was credited with a 9-for-14 showing (.643) in 2013.
At 222 pounds, Weber certainly passes the eye test on short yardage. No. 25 is a load, especially once the Detroit native has built up a good head of steam:
Mike Weber runs with power up the middle https://t.co/10TEJcSYXH
— Dynasty Perfect (@BMatz08) September 3, 2016
RS Fr. Mike Weber showing burst, power, strength, balance while dragging defenders for extra yards https://t.co/KYgLJrV2Cx
— Ty Wurth (@WurthDraft) September 5, 2016
When defenders are trying to knock him east or west, Weber’s first instinct is to lower a shoulder and keep the legs churning north and south. Which means these stats sure as hell don’t lie. And Woody would be proud.