College Football Misleading Box Scores: Veritable Victors, Dubious Dominators & Bona Fide Busts from Week 13

College Football Misleading Box Scores: Veritable Victors, Dubious Dominators & Bona Fide Busts from Week 13 article feature image
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John Todd/ISI Photos/Getty Images. Pictured: David Shaw (center).

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.

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Confounding Conclusions

Stanford 24, California 23

This was a pretty ugly game all around, but Stanford needed some luck to come away with a win.

For one, Cal scored what should have been the game-tying touchdown with 1:02 left, but the extra point was blocked. Aside from that, the Bears were the more efficient team on offense. There was a significant edge in yards per play, with Cal averaging 6.0 and Stanford averaging 4.5.

Cal found plenty of success on the ground against a bad Stanford run defense and averaged 6.9 yards per carry. However, -2 turnover margin and a blocked extra point were enough to send the Bears home with a loss that dropped them to 0-3.

Washington 24, Utah 21

After looking lost against USC a week ago, Utah came back and jumped out to a 21-0 lead on the road against the undefeated Huskies. However, Washington managed to come all the way back and score 24 unanswered points to secure the win.

Despite the loss, Utah held a significant advantage in Success Rate (48% to 39%). The Utes also had seven drives go past the opponent’s 40-yard line, compared to six for Washington.

However, Utah coughed the ball up twice and added two interceptions, which was enough for the Huskies to complete the comeback. Utah’s postgame win expectancy was 65%, according to College Football Data.

Rutgers 37, Purdue 30

Purdue posted the sixth-highest Success Rate of Week 13, at 59%. The five teams above Purdue all had games that went to garbage time by the team’s eighth drive or earlier, while the Boilermakers didn’t even leave with a win.

Rutgers — and its 44% Success Rate — was greatly aided by a 100-yard kickoff return touchdown right after the Boilermakers scored a touchdown to go up 30-20. Right after that, Purdue got the ball back and proceeded to throw an interception, setting Rutgers up at midfield.

The Knights escaped with a win despite a 6.1 to 5.0 yards per play advantage for Purdue.

South Alabama 38, Arkansas State 31

Arkansas State lost this game outright as 7.5-point favorites, but the box score says it probably should have come away with a win.

For one, the Red Wolves managed to keep the ball clean on offense and forced a South Alabama fumble. They also held a Success Rate advantage at 51% to 42%. When a team wins both the turnover battle and Success Rate battle, it should expect to win the game.

However, although Arkansas State did not have any turnovers from fumbles or interceptions, it did get stopped three times on fourth down. One of these stops was on its own 31-yard line, which led to a 19-yard drive for South Alabama that ended in a field goal.

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Puzzling Point Totals

Iowa State 23, Texas 20

A game with 881 yards of total offense doesn’t typically end with a point total in the 40s.

Combined, these teams drove into the red zone eight times and came away with a touchdown on only three trips. The Cyclones went only 1-for-4, and Texas was 2-for-4.

In total, both teams crossed the 400-yard mark on offense and averaged more than six yards per play. Iowa State held a higher Success Rate, while Texas hit more explosive plays. The Cyclones only held a lead for 1:25 of game time, but they still came out on top.

NC State 36, Syracuse 29

Any time Syracuse puts up 29 points, you should probably assume something weird happened.

Syracuse posted a 24% Success Rate for the game. The only teams that were lower in Week 13 were LSU, Akron, San Diego State, and Kansas. The Orange also gained only 3.7 yards per play and put up only 257 yards. Their first touchdown was a kickoff return, which tied the game at 7. Syracuse then picked off NC State in its own territory, which led to a 0-yard field-goal drive.

The Orange only had two drives in the first half that went for at least 40 yards but went into halftime with 22 points. Syracuse also finished the day with three total rushing yards.

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