Misleading College Football Scores, Week 3: Notre Dame Escapes Again

Misleading College Football Scores, Week 3: Notre Dame Escapes Again article feature image

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Brandon Wimbush

  • Final scores aren't always representative of performance, especially in college football.
  • Ken Barkley dives into Week 3 box scores to tell you who played better or worse than the final score indicates.

Alabama really made me pay for doubting it this week. After Week 1 against Louisville, I wasn’t totally convinced, especially with what we’ve seen from the Cardinals since then.

I was so bold as to declare Ole Miss +21 as a value and that line being an overreaction. Then Saturday happened.

In a world of misleading final scores, Alabama put up numbers that basically said “mislead THIS!”  That 62-7 was every bit as dominant as you’d think, and maybe could’ve been worse.

For that reason, Alabama is not listed below. But here are some games that are worth reconsidering:

Ohio State 40, TCU 28

We’ll start with the game everyone watched. I don’t think Ohio State was ever 12 points better than TCU here. The Buckeyes did all of their damage via turnovers — TCU was -3 turnover margin in this game, and two of the turnovers were returned for touchdowns.

You may call that opportunistic defense by Ohio State, and there’s no question the Buckeyes deserve credit for their ball skills. But in the overall numbers, the two teams were essentially even in total yards, rushing yards and time of possession.

TCU’s defense was making Dwayne Haskins incredibly uncomfortable with pressure, and his accuracy suffered as a result.

I would feel better about TCU’s long-term prospects than the final score indicates.

Notre Dame 22, Vanderbilt 17

The Commodores really let one get away here. They outgained Notre Dame 420-380 in total yards, and passed for more than 300 against the vaunted Irish defense. They took Brandon Wimbush and made him even more of a pure runner than usual — he was just 13 of 23 for 122 yards passing.

But oh, there are those turnovers again. Vandy was -3 in turnover margin, missed a field goal and turned it over on downs in the red zone on its final meaningful drive with a dropped pass.

After struggling with Ball State and now Vanderbilt, both at home, Notre Dame’s next three opponents:

  • at Wake Forest (which gets QB Kendall Hinton back, although he might not play right away)
  • vs Stanford,
  • at Virginia Tech

The quality of the Fighting Irish’s competition is improving dramatically, and it will be interesting to see if the quality of Notre Dame’s play rises to the occasion.

Stanford 30, UC Davis 10

This was wild. UC Davis lost total yards only 351-308, and first downs 17-15.

Now, sometimes, you’ll go through an FCS blowout such as this one and see reasonably close total yards, or first downs, and it’s primarily because the heavily favored team stopped doing much when the score got out of reach. That couldn’t be further from the truth here.

The Aggies had 14 possessions in this game. They were in Stanford territory on six of them!

Not only was the Cardinal offense turning it over more than usual, but the Aggies were moving the ball, too. UC Davis ended up settling for field goals, missing field goals, or turning it back over on the majority of those drives.

With Oregon on deck, and Bryce Love out, maybe a sloppy Stanford performance was expected, but this was really not a good look for it.

Oklahoma State 44, Boise State 21

Sometimes, special teams swing an entire game, regardless of what the offenses and defenses are doing. Boise QB Brett Rypien was actually pretty good in this game, and Cowboys QB Taylor Cornelius was effective, but not dominant.

The teams were basically even in total yards. But oh, those special teams.

Oklahoma State blocked two punts, returned one for a touchdown, and the other immediately led to another score. Oklahoma State’s kicker was 3 for 3, and Boise State’s kicker hit one off the upright. That’s how you get 44-21.

Syracuse 30, Florida State 7

This score doesn’t appropriately demonstrate how bad Florida State was, and I really mean that. And Syracuse won this game 30-7.

In the first quarter, the Orange had three possessions in Florida State territory.

  • On the first, they got to the FSU 3-yard line before settling for a field goal.
  • On the second, they turned it over on downs.
  • On the third, they missed a field goal.

It was 3-0 and it could have been way, way worse. Florida State had one first down until just before halftime. The Seminoles ended the game 1 for 14 on third down.

They ran for fewer than three yards per carry against a Syracuse defense that allowed 8.6 YPC to Western Michigan.

I know 30-7 implies a level of incompetence, but this was more like 300-7.

South Florida 25, Illinois 19

A mismatch in every way except on the scoreboard.

South Florida outgained the Illini 626-380(!), and had more first downs, 31-21. The Bulls moved the ball on almost all of their possessions, but they were undone by a series of mistakes in essentially all other areas that can swing a game.

They turned the ball over twice (once near midfield, the other in Illinois territory), they missed two field goals and they had a whopping 14 penalties for 124 yards.

USF actually needed to score 18 unanswered in the fourth quarter just to win the game because of how much they shot themselves in the foot. For someone holding a USF -10 ticket, this was quite the series of unfortunate events.

Louisville 20, Western Kentucky 17

The Cardinals stole one here. Western Kentucky dominated in total yards (428-292) and first downs (25-16). The Hilltoppers led the game 14-6 late in the third quarter. Bobby Petrino’s team was headed for disaster.

And then things flipped. Western Kentucky missed a field goal, and Louisville scored a touchdown. Then the Hilltoppers drove into Louisville territory again, got in the red zone, but had to settle for a field goal. They led 17-13. Louisville drove down and scored to take the lead, 20-17.

Western Kentucky’s next two possessions with a chance to tie or win ended with a turnover on downs in Louisville territory and a missed FG as time expired.

It’s incredible that Louisville pulled this one out. For those following the Cardinals closely, after being bludgeoned by Alabama, they’ve now almost lost to FCS Indiana State and Western Kentucky.

It may be the most deceiving 2-1 record in the country.