Misleading College Football Scores, Week 11: USC Is a Certified Mess

Misleading College Football Scores, Week 11: USC Is a Certified Mess article feature image

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: J.T. Daniels

  • Ken Barkley dives into college football's box scores from Week 11 to determine which teams played better or worse than you might think.
  • Clemson played even better than the final score indicates, USC is a disaster and Kansas is ... moving in the right direction, maybe?

Every week, we talk about turnover margins, and total yards discrepancies, and poor red zone efficiency. I try to point out some places where hardened narratives are forming where they shouldn’t, or teams getting inflated in the market based on nothing more than fluky, random high-importance plays. And we’ll get to all that very, very soon.

But as interesting as the college game is, I want to start this week with the most misleading team I think I’ve ever seen. They play pro football, but their numbers are too hilarious not to mention. Their whole state of being is misleading at this point.

That team is the Washington Redskins.

Sorry, I’ll re-phrase. That team is your NFC East-leading Washington Redskins.

Washington defeated Tampa Bay Sunday 16-3. The box score is a house of horrors for any Tampa fan (or bettor). Tampa had almost twice as many first downs, almost twice as many total yards, won yards-per-play 7.5 to 5.2(!) and lost by 13. How’d the Bucs do it? They went -4 in turnovers, their fourth straight game they’ve won in that department.

The last game they actually outplayed their opponent was Sept. 23. It’s Nov. 12.

Washington’s probably going to the playoffs now, or at least has the inside track to do so, and that’s kind of misleading. It’s just more evidence that football is random, and some teams don’t deserve their record.

As for the college game, we’ve gone from the misleading to the straight-up wacky portion of the season. Sure, there’s plenty to talk about from the conventional standpoint of this column, but this is always the time of year when some of the results are just absolute head-scratchers.

Wake Forest (almost a 3-touchdown dog) beating NC State? Sure! Old Dominion over North Texas? Why not! UNLV over San Diego State outright? Must be November!

It’s really just that time of year. Whether it’s rivalry games, weeknight games, or just your average Saturday conference affair, these will surely continue. Some of them may have even been a little misleading. Let’s dive in.

Clemson 27, Boston College 7

This was a dominant Clemson performance, even if the scoreline didn’t look like the 77-16 thrashing of Louisville. Yes, Boston College’s quarterback was injured early and did not return, but Clemson dominated this game in ALMOST every possible way.

  • 424-113 total yards edge
  • The only touchdown allowed was on a punt return that deflected off a Clemson player
  • Clemson also was the recipient of a horrible officiating call on a supposedly-muffed punt where their returner was hit prior to the ball arriving.It was sort-of an “everything that can go wrong” type of game for Clemson, and the Tigers won incredibly easily. Yes, they’re still that good. No, a 20-point win doesn’t make it less likely they can beat Alabama.

Texas 41, Texas Tech 34

In games with crazy-high scoring (so basically, all Big 12 conference games), turnovers can be particularly brutal, because the points-per-possession are so high that losing a possession hurts much more. Settling for field goals is the same type of problem. Your defense can’t get stops, so it’s much more difficult to catch up, or bail out your offense for a bad play.

Well, the Red Raiders were -3 in turnover differential, and settled for field goals twice on promising drives. They also committed essentially another turnover, going for it on fourth down in their own territory and failing (leading directly to a Texas touchdown).

Tech ended up winning total yards by 100-plus and was even in basically all other statistics, but those two areas clearly cost them the game despite a furious fourth-quarter rally.

Kansas State 21, Kansas 17

Rarely do you see the phrase “I can’t believe Kansas lost this game” in any football-related publication (I mean, it’s Kansas), but this is a win the Jayhawks absolutely could have had.

They led 3-0 at the half, and that drive probably should have been a touchdown but they stalled inside the 5-yard line on third-and-1. They led 17-14 with 5 minutes left, but allowed a fourth-down conversion and then committed a pass interference penalty to help Kansas State score the go-ahead touchdown.

Then while driving on the game’s final possession, the Jayhawks turned it over.

It’s impossible to know where this Kansas program is headed, but at least this year’s team has provided us with a lot more memorable games, whether positive or negative for them.

Indiana 34, Maryland 32

Oh, dear. This one’s bad. Making things worse, Maryland probably needed this game to make a bowl this year, since it plays Penn State and Ohio State to close the season (and is currently 5-5).

The Terps won first downs 27-18, won total yards by about 170, ran the ball for more than 300 yards, and held the ball for almost 40 minutes. But oh, those pesky turnovers again.

Maryland had four of them (-3 margin), and the first three led directly to 17 Indiana points. Ouch. Making matters worse, the Terps settled for field goals on their first two very-promising drives of the game, both of which got into the red zone. This was essentially a clinic in how to lose a winnable game.

California 15, USC 14

This final score is the one you may have seen detailed elsewhere, but it’s still worth revisiting just how bad USC was. The Trojans had a 14-0 lead at halftime, despite fumbling away their final possession of the half. They also called a fake field goal that didn’t work. It probably could have been game-over, or at least something like 21-0 or 24-0. Oh well, at least you’re still up two touchdowns.

USC would never dare make things easy, so it snaps the ball over J.T. Daniels head into the end zone for a safety to open the second half, and then Cal scores a touchdown on the ensuing drive. 14-9.

Then Daniels promptly throws a pick right after. Full momentum swing, touchdown Cal. 15-14 — 30 minutes of good work by the Trojans undone in the blink of an eye.

But there was still PLENTY of time left to figure things out. USC’s offense can’t move the ball at all, and then on Cal’s final possession, the Trojans commit a horrific penalty on fourth-and-13 that prevents them from getting the ball back, then can’t stop Cal on fourth-and-1 either. Game over, Trojans lose by a point.

This game rightly has people calling for the jobs of basically anyone wearing USC colors, and they wouldn’t be wrong. I didn’t even mention Clay Helton’s timeout management, which was also…sub-par.

And now, as a result of this game, the Pac-12 South is even more muddled, and their title game participant may be somehow even less impressive.

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