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Bearcats Football Top 10: #5 Andrew Gantz

I know he is the kicker, but let me explain.

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The case for Gantz is really a simple one. The 2013 and 2014 Cincinnati Bearcats sport identical 9-4 records. They beat many of the same teams, in similar ways. They came up short against the best non conference competition both in the non conference slate and the bowl games. The offense had some new components but was basically the same, perhaps a notch or two better this year. The defense had an amazing roller coaster of a season to end up almost exactly where the 2013 squad ended up. There are many and more similarities between the 2013 and 2014 teams.

And yet, through the eyes of Football Outsiders the 2014 Bearcats weren't just a little bit better than the 2013 edition, they were considerably better. The 2014 Bearcats finished the year ranked 48th, the 2013 squad ended the year ranked 64th. That's an improvement of 16 spots, which is statistically significant. The question is why are two teams that are effectively identical viewed so differently by Football Outsiders F/+ rating system.

The answer is, for the most part Andrew Gantz. You can credit the entire special teams for their improvement which was massive. But the way that F/+ works values a team's ability to convert scoring opportunities into actual points. The Bearcats were terrible at converting scoring chances* into points in 2013, and the Cats repeated failures to get points in the kicking game played a big role in UC's ranking 123rd in special teams that year.

*Typically defined as trips inside the opponents 40 yard line, though there is no single uniform agreed upon metric. Some prefer the 30 yard line as the marker for the college game while using 40 for the NFL. For simplicity's sake scoring chances will always be defined as the trips inside the oppositions 40 on this site.

Andrew Gantz was so good, and so consistent this year that the Bearcats special teams ranking skyrocketed to 30th in 2014. That happened even though not one but both kick return units were worse this season than they were in 2013. Though, truth be told, I will take Shaq Washington back there catching punts over Anthony McClung every single day. Even if he only gets one good return a season. It really is all about Gantz and his ability to convert scoring opportunities on the relatively rare occasions where the offense got stopped.

The best news of all from this season is that we get three more season's of Gantz Money, and for that we can all be thankful.