Misleading College Football Final Scores, Week 5: Coaching Matters

Misleading College Football Final Scores, Week 5: Coaching Matters article feature image

Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: James Franklin

  • Ken Barkley examines the most misleading college football scores from Week 5, since the result can often differ from performance.
  • This week, turnovers and poor situational coaching made some games seem different than they actually were.

It was quite a Saturday night in Happy Valley. Quite disappointing for the home fans (except maybe for the one who got a rise out of James Franklin as he was walking off). Quite a relief for Buckeye fans and those of us holding Ohio State futures.

The box score won’t insist that this was Penn State’s game to lose; the statistics for the game overall point to a draw. But for those of us who watched the game, Franklin made a series of decisions that actually seem to make it the most misleading final score of the week.

Sure, there’s the play-call on fourth-and-5 to end the game. But it’s so much more than that. He burned timeouts repeatedly to further discuss that play — timeouts that would have come in handy because the Nittany Lions could have gotten the ball back (probably with about 35-40 seconds left, probably at about their 15-20 yard line). And with college timing rules and Trace McSorley, a field-goal attempt is possible in those circumstances.

But again, it’s so much more than even THAT.

  • On its first drive of the game, Penn State punted from the Ohio State 39-yard line. It gained 19 net yards of field position, forgoing an opportunity to get a first down that leads to points a lot of the time.
  • On fourth-and-5 from the Ohio State 37 with just under five minutes to play, Penn State took a delay of game, and then punted from the 42. This punt was successfully downed inside the 5, but Penn State essentially gave up an opportunity to put the game away at that point.

Let’s all just agree there was a lot happening in this game from a decision standpoint, and in many cases, Penn State did not make the correct one. And that’s why it lost by a point despite the game being dead-even.

The Nittany Lions will be thinking about that game the rest of the season, especially if they end up 11-1 and measured for the playoff against a team such as 12-0 Notre Dame or even an 11-1 Ohio State (tons of permutations where this happens, and Michigan State or Michigan go to the Big Ten title game).

Or a 12-1 Alabama that lost to Georgia for the SEC title.

Here are some other final scores that may have been misleading:

Miami 47, UNC 10 (Thursday)

The turnover chain appeared so much on the sidelines, it was hard to even keep track of who had it and when. UNC had three turnovers returned for touchdown and six in the game.

The Tar Heels had 24 first downs to Miami’s 14 (to be expected when Miami never gets the ball with its defense scoring), total yards were pretty even and UNC was even able to run the ball effectively (215 rush yards, 5.4 YPC).

It’s not that the Heels should have pulled an upset here or anything, just that this is the type of score that makes you think Miami’s offense was electric. In reality, freshman quarterback N’Kosi Perry (who probably needs reps more than anything at this point) threw just 12 passes.

North Carolina’s mistakes just happened to all be as painful as possible for their chances.

Next up
Miami (-11) vs. Florida State
UNC vs. Virginia Tech (Oct. 13)

Washington 35, BYU 7

A weird inclusion, but I actually think Washington dominated even more than the scoreline indicates. The Huskies had a 26-7 edge in first downs, outgained BYU by 270 total yards and held the Cougars to 28 rushes for 34 yards!

The Huskies shut them out until the final minute of the game. Considering this same BYU team beat Arizona and Wisconsin, that’s incredible.

Next up
Washington (-21) at UCLA
BYU (+2.5) vs. Utah State

Kentucky 24, South Carolina 10

Look, I love what’s happening with the Wildcats. It’s always fun when a team that’s perennially awful becomes famous for a few weeks in a huge conference.

But this wasn’t nearly the level of dominant performance you see in a two-touchdown victory. South Carolina lost a fumble in the first quarter, leading directly to three Kentucky points. The Gamecocks’ next drive got into the red zone but stalled and South Carolina settled for a field goal.

A Jake Bentley interception later in the half led directly to seven more Kentucky points. South Carolina got just outside the red zone again before halftime and missed a field goal.

I guess what I’m saying here is, South Carolina was moving the ball pretty effectively, and got just abysmal results out of most of its promising drives. The two teams ended up virtually even in first downs and total yards.

But hey, it seems like a magical season is brewing for Kentucky. Maybe the ‘Cats will just win all these coin flips?

Next up
Kentucky (-5.5) at Texas A&M
South Carolina (+1.5) vs. Missouri

Oregon 42, Cal 24

Another final score defined much more by turnovers than by anything else. You might be wondering at this point how turnovers make a final score misleading.

Fumbles specifically, but turnovers in general, tend to be luck-based, monumental plays that swing scorelines of games, and are often not representative of the talent differences between those teams.

Sure, a quarterback who loves throwing it to the other team is a bad thing to have, but a lot of interceptions are tipped passes, or miscommunications between quarterback and receiver. These types of discrepancies can be important when evaluating spreads going forward because sometimes teams will be undervalued or overvalued if these plays happened in their favor or against them.

Anyway, Cal did everything wrong here. Somehow it ran the ball for more than 200 yards, averaged almost six yards per carry and still got blown out.

Not sure how you do that….unless…oh, right, turnovers. Cal had five of them, and Oregon returned two for touchdowns.

Next up
Washington at Oregon (Oct. 13)
Cal (-1.5) at Arizona

Purdue 42, Nebraska 28

This one is pretty wild. Nebraska ended up winning in first downs, total yards, and ran the ball for 6.6 yards per carry, but still lost by two touchdowns.

And the Huskers only turned the ball over once. How did this occur?

Well, for starters, they had 11 penalties for 136 yards. But really, this was all about Nebraska drives being effective for a time and then stalling at the worst possible times, and in a variety of ways.

Nebraska had four drives in the first half that went into Purdue territory, and it ended up with a total of seven points.

Penalties, failed 4th-and-1 conversions and missed field goals were all involved. In the second half, the offense was rolling again, but then down 14 the Cornhuskers had three straight drives end with either an interception or a turnover on downs.

Two of those drives were in Purdue territory as well. The Huskers just couldn’t finish a possession to save their lives.

Next up
Nebraska (+21) at Wisconsin
Purdue vs. Illinois (Oct. 13)