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Wait, how many USC quarterbacks are starting?

Wait, how many USC quarterbacks are starting?

There was a streak in jeopardy in week 17 of the 2012 season. With former Trojan Carson Palmer injured, the Raiders skipped over his former USC teammate, Matt Leinart, and started ex-Ohio State Buckeye Terrelle Pryor at quarterback for the season finale. Since the Chiefs had previously benched Matt Cassel for Brady Quinn, if it wasn’t for Greg McElroy missing the Jets last game against the Bills — which reinserted Mark Sanchez into the starting lineup for New York — USC’s streak of consecutive weeks with a starting quarterback in the NFL would have ended. Instead, the streak is now up to 81 weeks with at least one of Sanchez, Palmer, Cassel and/or Leinart starting.

As impressive as that might sound, it’s not even halfway to the record. You can take a second to think about which school had the longest run with at least one of its former players starting at quarterback, but first, another bit of trivia: I noticed that in week 12 of the 2009 season, Matt Leinart, Matt Cassel, Mark Sanchez, and Carson Palmer all started. But believe it or not, that’s not a record, either.

In week 13 of the 2000 season, five quarterbacks from the University of WashingtonWarren Moon, Mark Brunell, Damon Huard, Chris Chandler, and Brock Huard — were starting in the NFL. Add in Washington State’s Drew Bledsoe and Ryan Leaf, and seven quarterbacks that played college in the Evergreen State were starting in the NFL that weekend.
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The Chiefs play the Baylor game on an endless loop for the other 31 teams.

The Chiefs play the Baylor game on an endless loop for the other 31 teams.

A few weeks ago, I discovered cfbstats.com, which has made available for download an incredible amount of college football statistics from the last eight seasons. Thanks to them, I plan to apply some of the same techniques I’ve used on NFL numbers over the years to college statistics. If you’re a fan of college football, you’re probably already reading talented writers like Bill Connelly and Brian Fremeau, but hopefully I can bring something new to the table for you to enjoy.

There are many differences between college and professional football, but many of the same stats still matter. For quarterbacks, Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt is still the king of the basic stats1, and it is arguably even more important in college where teams play at varying different paces.

There’s a small problem, however, if you want to calculate ANY/A at the college level: the NCAA counts sacks as rush attempts and sack yards lost as negative rushing yards. I manually overrode2 that decision in my data set, so going forward, all rushing and passing data will include sack data in the preferred manner (keep this in mind when you compare the statistics I present to the “official” ones).
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  1. For the uninitiated, ANY/A is calculated by starting with passing yards per attempt, adding 20 yards for each touchdown and subtracting 45 yards for each interception, and subtracting sack yards lost from the numerator and adding sacks to the denominator. []
  2. Unfortunately, some estimation was involved. The player game logs at cfbstats do not identify quarterback sacks, but the team game logs do. So for each quarterback, we know how many passes he threw in the game and how many times his team was sacked. For quarterbacks who threw 100% of their team’s passes in a game, this is easy. However, for quarterbacks who threw fewer than 100% of their team’s passes, they were assigned a pro-rata number of their team’s sacks. []
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