College Football Misleading Box Scores: Veritable Victors, Dubious Dominators & Bona Fide Busts from Week 12
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images. Pictured: Feleipe Franks.
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 in which 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.
LSU 27, Arkansas 24
This was a really weird box score. Arkansas was easily the more efficient team from a per-play perspective, but LSU managed to run 90 plays to Arkansas’ 53.
How did LSU manage that? Arkansas somehow did not convert a single third-down attempt. The Razorbacks held a 53% to 43% edge in standard downs Success Rate, but LSU converted 50% of its third-down tries.
Overall, Arkansas held a massive advantage in yards per play (8.4 to 4.7). Additionally, quarterback Feleipe Franks almost doubled up LSU quarterback TJ Finley in terms of yards per attempt (13.0 to 6.6). Arkansas had a post-game win expectancy of 90%, according to College Football Data.
Nevada 26, San Diego State 21
Look, another one in which the losing team had a post-game win expectancy in the 90% range (92%, per College Football Data). The Aztecs continued to dominate on defense, holding Nevada to a 32% Success Rate. San Diego State didn’t exactly light the world on fire on offense but had a clear Success Rate advantage at 40%.
Similar to Arkansas, however, the Aztecs were abysmal on third down. They converted only 2-of-11 attempts, while Nevada went 5-for-16. San Diego State was better at staying ahead of the chains but could not convert when it counted.
Auburn 30, Tennessee 17
Tennessee can’t catch a break this year.
The Vols posted a higher Success Rate, averaged more yards per play, had more scoring opportunities … and were rewarded with a 13-point loss.
Tennessee put up a very high Success Rate of 56% while limiting Auburn to 46%. The Vols also ran 10 more plays, averaged more yards per play, and put up 79 more total yards. Additionally, it moved the ball past the opponent 40-yard line eight times compared to five for Auburn.
However, it was asking a little too much for Tennessee to finally put together a complete game, and the Vols only managed to score 10 points on their eight drives past the Auburn 40. In the end, it probably should have been a toss-up instead of a 13-point Auburn victory.
Pittsburgh 47, Virginia Tech 17
It’s not often that a 54% postgame win expectancy translates to a 33-point margin of victory. Like Tennessee, Virginia Tech continues to be one of those teams that just can’t catch a break. This was actually a two-point game with about three minutes left in the first half, but the wheels fell off after that.
In total, the Hokies were more efficient in terms of yards per play at 6.9 to Pitt’s 6.6. Pitt had the higher Success Rate, however, at 55% to 46%.
Where the game really swung was in opponent territory. Virginia Tech drove the ball past the opponent 40-yard line seven times compared to eight for Pitt, but only one team successfully finished drives. The Hokies only put up seven total points on their seven scoring opportunities, while Pitt turned its eight chances into 40 points. The Hokies were also 0-for-3 on fourth down.
Puzzling Point Totals
Middle Tennessee 20, Troy 17
This is a good example of why finishing drives is so crucial in college football. These teams combined for nearly 800 yards of total offense, but the game never even sniffed the total of 60.5.
Troy and MTSU combined for 12 trips past the opponent 40-yard line, and neither averaged more than 3.5 points on its opportunities. Middle Tennessee averaged 2.86 points after crossing the 40, while Troy averaged 3.4.
Western Kentucky 38, Florida International 21
If the Hilltoppers score 38 points in any game, it’s safe to assume they had some help.
Western Kentucky posted only 278 yards on 59 plays for an average of 4.7 per play. On the other side, FIU ran 81 plays but averaged only 3.2 per play. Western Kentucky’s 33% Success Rate was well below the national average of 42%, and FIU was even lower at 21%.
However, Western Kentucky managed to score defensive touchdowns on back-to-back plays for FIU, which helped this one fly over the total of 42.