College Football Week 1 Misleading Box Scores: Unexpected Results from Florida State vs. LSU, NC State vs. East Carolina
Chris Graythen/Getty Images. Pictured: LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels.
If you’ve ever watched any sport, particularly college football, you’ll understand that the best team doesn’t always come out victorious.
Once you look at the metrics behind the game, you can better understand how the game actually played out rather than just looking at the final score.
This weekly column looks deeper than the basic box score statistics to point out games from the past week that didn’t end as expected. This information can help us become more informed as sports bettors going forward so we get a better idea of who these teams really are.
Old Dominion 20, Virginia Tech 17
Old Dominion pulled off the top Group of Five upset of the day Friday — in a very unlikely way. Virginia Tech was actually much more efficient on offense than the Monarchs were, but that ended up not mattering.
The Hokies posted a 44% Success Rate on offense to Old Dominion’s 31%, which is in the second percentile. Old Dominion was also in the 0th percentile in EPA per play and yards per play in what was one of the worst offensive showings of the week.
For context, South Dakota State vs. Iowa is receiving all of the jokes about putrid offenses this week, but Old Dominion’s offense only performed slightly better than these two teams and somehow scored 20 points in a victory.
ODU was outgained in total yardage, 340-245, and didn’t have a drive over 50 yards until its game-winning touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. Virginia Tech’s five turnovers are what really killed it, combined with the 6.14 EPA that Old Dominion gained on penalties. The Monarchs lost 27.61 EPA on offense.
Looking forward to Week 2, I will be using this information to fade the Old Dominion offense as it faces a solid East Carolina defense that held NC State in check. I will be previewing this game later in the week, and you can follow my picks in the Action App.
NC State 21, East Carolina 20
Speaking of the East Carolina-NC State game, this one also had a result that didn’t match what really happened.
NC State had a post-game win expectancy of 43.1%, per Bill Connelly’s SP+. That makes sense when you consider East Carolina’s field goal woes. However, there was much more to it than that.
The Pirates offense wasn’t great by any means but still put up a Success Rate in the 41st percentile and an EPA/play figure in the 22nd percentile compared to 19th and fifth for NC State in those two categories, respectively.
ECU also outgained the Wolfpack in yards per play at 6.25-5.82.
Where the game really turned was on special teams. East Carolina had -13.50 EPA on special teams. Not only did the ECU kicking game leave four points on the board, including the game-winning field goal, but it also allowed a punt to be blocked for a touchdown, gifting NC State with another seven points.
All in all, East Carolina played like the better team on Saturday, and those people who picked NC State to be a possible playoff dark horse should probably be concerned going forward.
Liberty 29, Southern Miss 27
Liberty pulled out a double-overtime victory over Southern Miss on Saturday, but the dominant team again didn’t prevail.
Southern Miss’ offense moved the ball at will in this one. It posted a 48% Success Rate (87th percentile) and gained 57% of available yards in this game. Compare this to Liberty, which recorded just a 41% Success Rate (41st percentile) and gained 45% of available yards.
Most of Southern Miss’ damage was done through the air. Its yards per dropback was 8.96, which is in the 96th percentile. Liberty was quite the opposite as it finished in the second percentile in yards per dropback.
Liberty was one of the least likely teams to come out with a victory this weekend, per SP+. The Flames’ post-game win expectancy came in at just 24.3%, which is an expected five-point loss. If you had USM on the moneyline at +140, you likely should have been able to cash this ticket.
Unfortunately for Southern Miss, it plays a stout Miami team this week. I’m not sure that success against Liberty’s passing defense will carry over.
Liberty, meanwhile, plays UAB this week. The Blazers ranked 59th in Passing Success Rate last year and had the sixth-most explosive passing offense in the country.
Dylan Hopkins returns as UAB’s starting quarterback this season, and it’s fresh off of a dominant 59-0 win over FCS Alabama A&M. I will be taking UAB -6.5 against Liberty this week.
Florida State 24, LSU 23
This game was just an insane way to close the weekend. You may not know it from the final score, but both offenses were actually outstanding. If you bet the over in this game, you have my condolences.
LSU posted a 52% Success Rate and 0.32 EPA/play. Those numbers may not mean anything to you on the surface, but those are 99th and 100th percentile outcomes.
Florida State’s offense was great as well, ranking in the 87th and 82nd percentiles, respectively, in those same figures.
Let’s just take a look at all of the points that were left on the table:
- Two missed field goals (one blocked)
- Two field goals inside the red zone
- FSU fumble from the one-yard line
- Turnover on downs from the eight-yard line
- Blocked extra point
Even if all of the missed field goals and turnovers just become field goals, that’s 13 extra points. That’s not to mention how much higher scoring this would have been if any of those field goals became touchdowns.
With an over-under of 50 points, this game should have soared over that total. Instead, only 47 points were scored in what was one of the worst beats of the weekend.
Neither team has a game this weekend that you will be able to use this information on. Florida State’s on a bye and LSU plays Southern, but keep this in mind for when totals come out in Week 3.
If the market hasn’t picked up on this, these offenses may be underrated and there may be a mispriced line to take advantage of.