Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Missouri-South Carolina
- Ken Barkley dives into college football box scores from Week 6 to determine which teams played better or worse than you might realize.
- Mississippi State, South Carolina and Utah were the benefactors of some positive luck and circumstance.
Without a truly marquee college game last week (I guess LSU-Florida was the most dramatic and resonant?), I thought I’d open this week talking about kickers. And not “Dicker the Kicker,” a call made famous by Gus Johnson during Texas-Oklahoma. Kickers made some NFL final scores yesterday look … interesting.
Mason Crosby became the “wanna get away” poster boy against the Lions. He missed four field goals and an extra point, and the Packers lost by only eight! Green Bay had almost DOUBLE the total yards of Detroit (521-264) and had 12 more first downs. The Packers dominated.
Then there’s Cleveland. The Browns won 9-6 in overtime. Their kicker, Greg Joseph, was 2-for-3, and is now 6-for-7 on the season. The thing is, he hasn’t made a kick longer than 45 yards, and (eye test alert) if you watched that game-winner against Baltimore, I’m not sure how can you think he is helping your team long-term. The result was good. The process wasn’t.
Anyway, go Browns. Enjoy that win. But kickers can skew outcomes in a big way.
Here are some college football games that weren’t played the way the final score would indicate.
Houston 41, Tulsa 26 (Thursday)
“Houston by 15” is not really the message I’d take away here. There’s a lot to unpack, so let’s try to do it briefly. Tulsa was starting a freshman quarterback, Seth Boomer, who really couldn’t make any downfield throw … at all. Despite that, it was 23-17 Tulsa going into the fourth quarter. This was a really, really embarrassing game for both Houston’s offense and defense.
Tulsa had time-consuming drives (it had the ball 11 minutes longer), and Houston couldn’t generate much offense until midway through the fourth.
Houston finally caught fire, broke some big plays, and once momentum swung, Tulsa’s talent deficiency was magnified.
Just a weird, uninspiring effort by Houston though. Already this season, it’s struggled against Rice and beaten Arizona by nearly four touchdowns. Unpredictable every week.
Houston -16.5 at ECU
Tulsa (N/A) vs. South Florida
Alabama 65, Arkansas 31
Arkansas scored in every quarter, and averaged 5.5 yards per carry. I know Alabama is the greatest team in history already, and was never going to lose this game, but I just wanted to point those things out.
Alabama -28 vs. Missouri
Arkansas (+6) vs. Ole Miss
Notre Dame 45, Virginia Tech 23
This was really weird, because I watched this game. Or at least, I had it on one of my many televisions in the Locky Man Cave. I didn’t get as much of a sense that the Hokies had a chance, but the numbers are pretty jarring. Virginia Tech had more total yards, more first downs and held the ball longer. It was only -1 in turnover margin.
The big problem? Cashing in on drives. The Hokies were in Notre Dame territory four times in the first half, got one touchdown, but settled for three field goals. They also had two second-half drives stall in ND territory and missed field goals there, as well.
Va Tech moved the ball very well against Notre Dame between the 20s.
Notre Dame (-20.5) vs. Pitt
Virginia Tech (-5.5) at North Carolina
Mississippi State 23, Auburn 9
Look, I had the Bulldogs every which way Saturday night. I wrote about them as my favorite bet in our staff college football bets piece. I wrote about them in the betting guide we did for the game. Wherever you went, I was telling you Mississippi State had a great chance to win this game and the number was wrong.
Well, Mississippi State won, and that’s great. But this game hinged on two incredibly important reviews, both of which were controversial, and both went Mississippi State’s way.
With four seconds left in the first half, MSU led 6-3. The Bulldogs had the ball, fourth-and-goal, at Auburn’s 1. A classic situation where some coaches go for it, and some don’t.
Considering this was a really low-scoring game and Auburn has the No. 1-ranked S&P+ defense, I would actually have been more fine with kicking than usual considering all factors involved.
Joe Moorhead went for it. And I swear I think Nick Fitzgerald was short. And remember, I’m holding buckets of Mississippi State +3.5/+4/moneyline tickets, and I think he’s short. The problem is, the call on the field was a touchdown, and there was never, ever going to be a definitive replay angle to overturn. Call stood. 13-3 going to halftime. Huge play.
Late third quarter, it’s now 16-6. Auburn’s JaTarvious Whitlow breaks a big run, and he’s headed into the end zone, when the ball comes loose around the same time he goes in. The ball ends up going out of the back of the end zone. The officials huddle, and signal touchback. Now, there’s a lot going on here.
First off, YET AGAIN, the call on the field was the vital piece of information, because there was no camera down the line on the goal line, which could give conclusive evidence one way or another. I am even more convinced than the first play that this call was wrong. But there was no way it was being overturned. Call stands. Score stays 13-3.
In a low-scoring game like that, you can’t lose two calls and win the game. It’s just not possible.
Anyway, go Bulldogs. As a friend of mine always says, “credit my account, please.”
Mississippi State at LSU (Oct. 20)
Auburn (-16.5) vs Tennessee
Utah 40, Stanford 21
Bias alert! I bet Stanford. Which is the kind of thing that I shouldn’t admit considering the final score. Maybe I undervalued what Bryce Love was worth to the team. I dunno. Allow me to explain why this game is here.
On Utah’s second drive, the Utes were making the conservative decision to punt from Stanford territory on fourth down. Stanford was going to get the ball back in a scoreless game. A Stanford player runs into the punter. Penalty. First down Utah. Touchdown. That was one of only two Stanford penalties in the entire game.
Next Stanford drive, it’s marching. K.J. Costello throws a pick in the end zone that’s returned 100 yards for a touchdown. 14-0.
Next Stanford drive, marching again. Costello throws a pick in the red zone. Utah scores on the ensuing drive. 21-0.
I understand that Utah’s defense was pretty good in this game, particularly against the run, where the Cardinal could do nothing without Love. I also understand that Stanford’s defense didn’t hold up well in many spots throughout.
But that is one of the crazier three-possession swings of the entire season. That was three consecutive drives. Stanford did almost everything right on all three drives. But it made one mistake on all three, and it was 21-0. The Cardinal ended up outgaining Utah, having more first downs but finished with a -4 turnover margin.
Stanford at Arizona State (Oct. 18)
Utah (-14) vs. Arizona
Arizona 24, California 17
In a relatively low-scoring game where mistakes are amplified, Cal threw two interceptions returned for touchdowns. It also turned the ball over on downs inside the Arizona 30, and then again inside the Arizona 5-yard line in the second half.
The Bears almost doubled Arizona in first downs and won total yards by 200-plus. But their mistakes were the biggest you could make, in a game that they dominated in many respects and probably should’ve won.
Arizona (+14) at Utah
Cal (-7.5) vs. UCLA
South Carolina 37, Missouri 35
Oh, Missouri. Oh no. How did you do this? You had only one loss, and it was to Georgia. You could have still had a memorable season! Instead you lost to a backup quarterback in a game the other team had no business winning.
How did Missouri let this one slip away? The Tigers had the worst drive-finishing of any team I’ve seen this entire season.
Missouri had 16 drives in this game (15 if you throw out the 1-play end-of-game situation). It punted THREE TIMES. The Tigers could do whatever they wanted against the Gamecock defense for the entire game, and still lost. It’s incredible.
Up 17-7 in the first half, the Tigers had three drives that looked promising, all of them got into the red zone (one got inside the 5), and they settled for field goals all three times. They could’ve been up about 30, and instead they were up nine.
In the second half, Drew Lock threw a pick-six at about the worst possible time to put South Carolina up 8. The Tigers had three more drives end with a field-goal try. Two were made, one wasn’t.
Missouri ended up with more total yards, first downs and won time of possession…AND held the Gamecocks to 2.7 yards per carry. And they were facing Jake Bentley’s backup.
It’s so difficult to lose that game. And yet, here we are.
Missouri (+28) at Alabama
South Carolina (OFF) vs. Texas A&M