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College Football Misleading Box Scores: Veritable Victors, Dubious Dominators & Bona Fide Busts from Week 11

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Scott Taetsch/Getty Images. Pictured: Will Levis #7 of the Penn State Nittany Lions.

We’ve all lived through enough bad beats to understand that the final score does not always do the best job of reflecting each team’s performance.

This weekly column highlights matchups where the advanced box score tells a different story than the game’s result, as well as interesting data points that stick out from certain games.

Sports bettors may want to keep this information in the back of their minds before placing next week’s college football wagers.


Check out our new NCAAF PRO Report, where we highlight factors that provide betting edges — like large wagers, historically profitable betting systems, model projections and expert picks — that when combined with sharp money can powerfully detail the smartest bets on a given slate.

Confounding Conclusions

Boise State 52, Colorado State 21

This has to be one of the most misleading results of the 2020 season. When is the last time a team returned two block punts for touchdowns? Boise State blocked a punt on Colorado State’s first drive while the Rams were in their own red zone, and then blocked another at the end of the half. The Broncos had 14 points on blocked punts alone by halftime.

In total, Boise State racked up 52 points on 291 offensive yards. Additionally, it only crossed the Rams’ 40-yard line six times. Colorado State had 24 more total yards than Boise State, and gained more yards on a per-play basis (4.5 yards per play to 4.3).

This win will look good on Boise State’s resume, but bettors probably shouldn’t take much away from it.

Ohio 24, Akron 10

This might be jarring, so I hope you’re sitting down: Akron was competitive in an FBS game.

In fact, Akron could have easily won the game outright based on the box score. The Zips out-gained Ohio 435 to 307, and ran 22 more plays. Yards per play were almost even (6.1 for Ohio, 6.0 for Akron), and Akron had a higher success rate (41% to 38%). Ohio was terrible when it got behind the sticks, and posted a 15% success rate on passing downs.

On third down, Ohio went 2-for-10 while Akron went 7-for-16. However, Akron still found a way to shoot itself in the foot despite being the more efficient team overall. Akron turned the ball over three times, and was unable to force any Ohio turnovers.

According to College Football Data, Akron’s post-game win expectancy was 78%.

Nebraska 30, Penn State 23

Unfortunately for Penn State fans, this isn’t the first time the Nittany Lions have been featured in this column after a loss. The box score sure looked like it should have led to a Penn State win, but it didn’t materialize. In total, the Nittany Lions out-gained Nebraska 501 to 298.

Penn State ran 31 more plays (91 to 60) and was more efficient on a per-play basis. The Nittany Lions averaged 5.5 yards per play compared to Nebraska’s 5.0, and held an advantage in success rate at 47% to 39%. However, Penn State only scored one touchdown on its six red zone trips and lost the turnover battle by one.


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Virginia 31, Louisville 17

A disappointing year gets even worse for Louisville. Due to a COVID outbreak, the Cardinals did not have their two best skill position weapons on offense in Javian Hawkins and Tutu Atwell.

Louisville would have had a valid excuse for getting outplayed here, but they actually didn’t, despite the 14-point loss. Louisville out-gained Virginia by over 100 yards, and the yards per play differential was significant. The Cardinals gained 7.9 yards per play to Virginia’s 5.7.

Louisville also held a slight advantage in success rate (42% to 39%), and crossed the opponent’s 40-yard line twice more than the Cavaliers. However, Louisville’s 1.25 points per opportunity in Virginia’s territory combined with a pick-six was enough to secure a Virginia win.

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