There are 128 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision, college football's first division. Through three games, the Maryland Terrapins have been better than all of them at two things: preventing sacks and winning field position.
By the obvious virtue of not having allowed a sack in three games, Maryland leads in that raw stat and in all forms of percentage. Just four other teams haven't allowed a sack: Air Force, Texas Tech, Arkansas and Toledo, which has played just two games. Maryland's offensive line has struggled in run blocking, but the pass protection has been superlative.
To anyone who's watched Maryland kicker Brad Craddock or returner Will Likely, Maryland's field position dominance shouldn't be surprising. But the figure here is sort of jarring anyway:
|FIELD POSITION||Avg. FP||38.7||1||30.4||93||29.6|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Trip in 40||5.09||52||4.53||73||4.68|
|TURNOVER MARGIN||EXPECTED||-0.59||90||Turnover Luck (PPG):
(Data via SB Nation's Bill Connelly.)
The Terps are starting their average offensive series at their own 38.7-yard line, which is outrageous. It means a team could decide to boot all of its kickoffs out of bounds and start Maryland off at its own 35-yard line for every possession, and have that be a totally defensible decision. Last season's No. 1 in starting offensive field position, Nebraska, began on average at its 36.1-yard line, more than two yards worse than Maryland so far this year.
There's a lot that goes into field positioning. A team's offense and defense feed each other in this regard, and neither Maryland's offense nor defense has been all that good. Maryland has an egregious turnover margin so far this season (minus-five, or tied for 10th-worst per game in the country), which is field position anathema. To a degree, that's been bad luck, as Maryland's misfortune in fumble recoveries has led to the Terps giving up about seven more turnover-driven points more per game than their true-talent performance suggests they should.
But that makes Maryland's special teams-driven field positioning even more impressive.
Maryland (read: Likely) is averaging 28.1 yards per return so far, fourth-best in FBS. The Terps' 25.4-yard kickoff return average is 32nd, but that looks less impressive than it is: Teams have frequently kicked balls out of bounds against Maryland or simply kicked them to up-men in front of Likely, which has in turn led to good field position.
That Maryland's defensive field position is 93rd of 128 means Maryland's offense has squandered good field position far too often so far, because these things tend to run in concert. Craddock being in the top 50 nationally in touchback percentage and kickoff yardage hasn't hurt, either, because it's limited where Maryland's opposition starts with the ball.