What’s the Most Important Stat in College Football? Big Ten Players Weigh In

Big Ten Media Days were held in Chicago this week, and we surveyed numerous players from both sides of the ball about what is the most important stat for their position. We framed the question like this: What stat is most important to winning and showing excellence at the position?

Here are their answers, along with explanations why.

The following responses have been edited for clarity and conciseness.

Offense

Adrian Martinez, QB, Nebraska

Most important stat: Touchdown-to-interception ratio

“Wins. Wins is the most important stat. And if we get that, that means my stats were pretty decent and you know, probably turnovers is a big one. I think the turnover ratio, for me, that’s a big one. I want to limit them, I think I had too many last year, too many fumbles. Interceptions I could’ve avoided and upon reflection, watching film, I’ll be working on avoiding those mistakes.”

Anthony McFarland Jr., RB, Maryland

Most important stat: Yards per carry; Limiting turnovers; Limiting negative plays

“Yards per carry. I gotta move the chains. Definitely lack of turnovers (too). When you say lack of turnovers, not trying to turn the ball over as much, not having negative plays, understanding not every play is going to be a big play.

“It’s a tough mindset because even now, I still think when I’m in the game, when the ball is designed to come to me or my number is called, I feel like every time I touch the ball I can make something happen, whether it’s score, whether it’s an explosive play. I have that confidence and that’s something I had my whole life. I know sometimes people can tell that’s where negative plays come from because I’m trying to make the big play, but that’s what I feel like, that’s how you separate yourself.”

Reggie Corbin, RB, Illinois

Most important stat: Yards per carry

“Yards per carry. That means every time you touch the ball, there’s a huge chance that’s exactly what you’re going to get and sometimes when you don’t have that, say you have two yards per carry, it’s only the second quarter but you average a certain thing, that means something’s coming maybe, and it’ll get you up there and it’ll be good for our offense.

“When you average a large number of yards per carry, that’s just as good as a pass, that’s amazing. I think being able to make big plays is huge, if your offensive coordinator and you have five plays picked out but you score on the second one, you’ve got three more you get to keep in your back pocket, so it’s beautiful.”

Mohamed Ibrahim, RB, Minnesota

Most important stat: Yards after contact

“Yards after contact. That first guy could never bring you down so yards after contact is the best stat for a running back. If you can average four yards after contact, that’s amazing. If you can break more than 15 tackles a game, you’re having a great game and you’re going to have stats that show it, so just those type of stats are pretty important to me.”

Nick Westbrook, WR, Indiana

Most important stat: Receiving touchdowns

“Touchdowns. I mean if you think about it, that’s what scores points. If that’s what scores points, that’s what’s going to win games. As long as our receiver group as a whole is scoring touchdowns, we’ll be good.”

Tyler Johnson, WR, Minnesota

Most important stat: Receptions

“Just being able to be productive, really, I feel like as a receiver, you work hard, you find ways to get open, if you can catch the ball, it’s important. All the other stuff will come with it, but catching the ball is the most important thing for a receiver.”

Alex Palczewski, OT, Illinois

Most important stat: The running back’s stats

“Honestly, whatever the stats of Reggie Corbin and Mike Epstein and any one of our running backs has, just whenever they break the big run or have a great game, it’s always awesome to see them because we all know they work super hard and it’s just amazing to make a block and see them spring out and score a touchdown.”

Coy Cronk, OL, Indiana

Most important stat: Sacks allowed; Rushing yards

“Amount of sacks given up and amount of rushing yards. Those two, to me, pretty much quantify it because I think a running back’s success obviously [reflects] on us and the tight ends being able to do our job. Obviously receivers, if the ball’s outside, they gotta block too but those single-handedly, and how many sacks the offensive line gives up in a year because if we’re giving up 25, 30, that’s not good and it’s hard to have big plays. The problem with giving up sacks is you lose confidence in the ability to throw the deep ball because we don’t know if the offensive line can even hold up, so being able to have the confidence with you, the quarterback and the offensive coordinator, I think that can shape an entire season.”

Defense

Jonathan Cooper, DE, Ohio State

Most important stat: Sacks

“I think the most important stat for me is going to be sacks. That’s what everybody’s looking for nowadays, especially the way the NFL is. I would say sacks.”

Carter Coughlin, DL, Minnesota

Most important stat: Sacks

“For me, I gotta go with sacks. I think sacks are game-changers. A lot of times sacks turn into sack fumbles. A sack can mean the differentiation between the offense continuing a drive or turning the ball over on the 25-yard line and now your offense takes over, you know? That could be a 14-point swing.”

Kenny Willekes, DE, Michigan State

Most important stat: Disrupting the quarterback

“I don’t really say one’s more important than the other, my main focus is just to be as disruptive as possible in a game. If I’m not making the sack or making the tackle, to still be able to impact the quarterback’s throwing lane and impact what the quarterback’s doing and impact the play. And the most important stat to me is getting the W at the end of the game.”

Khalil Davis, DL, Nebraska

Most important stat: Affecting the QB

“I wouldn’t say sacks, I would say just affecting the QB, so pressures, batted balls, not necessarily a sack, just affecting the QB in some way because if we get a tipped ball interception, a turnover, I just want to be able to affect the QB as much as I can so if that’s with sacks, tipped balls, pressures, that’s what’s most important.”

Raequan Williams, DT, Michigan State

Most important stat: Knocking the offensive lineman in front of him five yards backwards

“I don’t even know if it’s a stat but knock the guy that’s in front of me at least five yards back. If I can do that every play, I’ll be content with that.”

Joe Bachie, LB, Michigan State

Most important stat: Tackles for loss

“It’s gotta be TFLs. I’d love to hit 10, I don’t think I’ve hit 10 yet so that’s something I’d love to hit. It’s hard sometimes when you have [Kenny Willekes and Raequan Williams] in front of you making the plays, so it makes my job easier, but taking away some of the TFLs, but it’s all good though.”

Reakwon Jones, LB, Indiana

Most important stat: Tackles for loss

“I think something I would really like to see filled up is tackles for loss, that’s something good. Just stops in general, tackles for loss, you know you’re being productive, your D-line is doing what they’re supposed to do so you can shoot the gap and I think that’s a very important stat.”

Mohamed Barry, LB, Nebraska

Most important stat: Tackles for loss

“Making tackles is important, I feel like tackles for loss and tackles at the line is what matters at the linebacker position. Just making tackles is doing your job, you know? Maybe hawking people from left to right, that matters. The type of tackles; what kind of tackler are you? Are you going sideline to sideline? Are you going across the field hawking people down? Are you getting into that backfield and making plays, TFLs, sacks, things like that? Why I think it’s important, too, is making turnovers. If I’m making 112 tackles, that means I had 112 opportunities, minimum, to make a turnover, so that’s one that I stress to myself this year, I want to create turnovers for this team and I think that’s important.”

Antoine Brooks Jr., CB, Maryland

Most important stat: Turnover margin

“I mean, forced fumbles or interceptions, anything I can get the ball into the offense’s hands, to Anthony McFarland’s hands or anybody on the offense. So that’s the only thing I care about – or only stat I care about.”

Tino Ellis, DB, Maryland

Most important stat: Turnovers forced

“Honestly, I feel like the most important one for a DB is creating turnovers, any type of turnover, forced fumble, interception. A turnover can impact a game, I feel like that’s very important so that’s one thing I’ll say that’s very important for DBs.”

Nate Hobbs, CB, Illinois

Most important stat: Interceptions

“Interceptions, definitely, because you could have a lot of pass break-ups, which, that’s a great stat for a corner, but people want people who are going to get the ball for them on their team. That’s what it comes down to, so I think the biggest stat for me this year will be interceptions because I don’t have a lot of career interceptions, I only have one, so I want to increase that number as much as I can.”

MORE: Ohio State’s Young Quarterback Room, Indiana’s Pursuit of a Breakthrough