Misleading Final Scores

 HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

DON'T ALWAYS TRUST THE SCOREBOARD
WHEN ANALYZING FOOTBALL TEAMS

by Mathew Hurley, Managing Editor

We often say that the final score can be the most misleading thing about a game. We'll do our best once again this year to alert you to situations where what happened on the field doesn't really match the perceptions you may have gotten from scoreboard watching during the weekend.

Now, the past few days, schedules have been so lame that many of the blowouts were legitimate. There were way too many 48-10 type wins (in terms of entertainment value) where the superior team gained something in the 450-550 range in yardage, and the losers couldn't break 200 yards. And, it's tough to properly read what those mean anyway because you don't know when various coaches called off the dogs. All you know is that the losers got a nice paycheck for showing up!

There were a few games though that we want to draw your attention to. We believe future pointspread results for the teams involved are more likely to reflect the stats from these games than the final scores. Oddsmakers react to final scores when adjusting their Power Ratings. The public bets based on final scores, particularly now that ESPN runs those scores on the bottom of the screen round the clock all weekend. YOU need to be smarter than that if you want to pick some winners!

SCORE: Utah 27, Pittsburgh 24 (in overtime)
REALITY: It wasn't really that close!

*Utah won Total Yardage 405-266
*Utah won Yards-Per-Play 6.4 to 4.2
*Utah won Yards-Per-Carry 4.5 to 2.3
*Utah won Third Down Conversions 50% to 36%

If not for a 3-2 loss in the turnover department for the Utes, this wouldn't have been much of a game. Going forward, be aware that Pittsburgh wasn't as good here as the score made it look, particularly on offense. And, that poor showing for a Big East team was consistent with what we saw later on the board from entries like Connecticut, Cincinnati, and even Louisville down near the bottom. Rutgers only led Norfolk State 6-0 at halftime of a non-board game too. Bad showing for Pittsburgh that signaled an unimpressive weekend for the Big East.

SCORE: Florida 34, Miami of Ohio 12
REALITY: Florida was horrible!

If you watched the game, you know this. Many didn't because they assumed it would be a slaughter. The final score makes it sound like Florida was fairly dominant, even if they weren't able to cover the high 38-point spread. That's an illusion created by cheap points (and a legitimate edge in physicality if not execution).

Did you realize...

*Florida only had 26 offensive yards after three quarters of play? It would only take them a few plays to do that in the Tim Tebow era. Nobody else in the country was that bad offensively through three quarters, and that's even before you adjust for the fact that they were playing a bad team on a tough home field.

*Florida averaged just 3.8 Yards-Per-Play even after breaking off a very long run for a TD in the fourth quarter.

*Florida converted only 25% of their third down tries, and lost the ball three times.

The final score doesn't tell the story of this game at all. It more like a 13-12 slopfest where the Gators exposed MANY problematic areas in the transition to a new quarterback. A 34-12 win makes it sound like they stubbed their toe. They played like they were wearing blindfolds.

SCORE: TCU 30, Oregon State 21
REALITY: TCU was much more dominant!

*TCU won Total Yardage 453-255

*TCU won Rushing Yardage 278-73

*TCU won Third Down Conversions 65% to 36%

Oregon State has a history of getting squashed in early season road games against quality opposition. This wasn't a true road game because it was played in an NFL stadium. But, they were still basically squashed again. TCU lost the turnover category 2-0, which prevented the Frogs from turning their on-field edges into scoreboard edges. The game had more like a 38-17 fell to it in terms of what was happening in the trenches.

Note that this poor defensive effort from Oregon State came on the heels of a poor defensive effort from Southern Cal the prior Thursday vs. Hawaii. Most of the Pac 10 scheduled soft. Those who didn't struggled on defense. Washington allowed over 400 yards in a loss to BYU as well.

The Touchdown Club of the Jim Hurley Network is on a 4-0 run after cashing in Maryland (+6.5) over Navy 17-14 outright. Click here to learn how you can spend a season in the end zone with the Hurley Network!

 

SCORE: Penn State 44, Youngstown State 14
REALITY: Penn State didn't do much on offense

We wanted to include a non-board game too, particularly in the case of a Penn State team that will be on TV several times in the coming weeks. If you saw the final score of 44-14, you probably assumed it was a standard issue garbage game blowout. Not really.

*Penn State gained just 371 yards...on a day where most of the blowouts were seeing 100 yards more than that.

*Penn State only rushed for 132 yards, which is very low for a power team facing an outmanned opponent.

*Penn State allowed Youngstown State to go 21-25-0-189 passing, which means they weren't applying much pressure at all. If you allow a non-board team that kind of completion percentage, what's going to happen against Alabama (this week) or quality Big Ten foes?

You're seeing many in the media refer to a 'big four' in the Big Ten this year...with Ohio State, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Penn State. The Nittany Lions are the only team in that group breaking in a new quarterback. Yardage from the opening week suggests it's really a 'big three' right now, and Penn State will have to earn their way in.

Ohio State was +330 yards over Marshall
Iowa was +278 yards vs. Eastern Illinois
Wisconsin was +258 yards over UNLV (on the road)
Penn State was +127 yards vs. Youngstown State

Sticks out like a sore thumb when you put it in context.

That wraps up our look at misleading final scores.

Honorable mention goes to:

*Kentucky 23, Louisville 16 (yardage was 466-317, but Kentucky made the mistake of sitting on their lead too early...this could have been a 17-21 point victory after a 20-6 first half for the Wildcats).

*Fresno State 28, Cincinnati 14 (yardage was a closer 296-234, and Fresno State struggled on offense with just 49 rushing yards and a 23% mark on third down conversions...this wasn't a 'breakout' game for Fresno, but a grinder defensive battle with a misleading final score).

*Georgia 55, Louisiana Lafayette 7 (yardage was just 377-128, so the Georgia offense wasn't as explosive as it seemed...well, they were A LOT less explosive than it seemed in terms of moving the ball).

*Boston College 38, Weber State 20 (yardage was 411-381, and BC had sequences of sluggishness that you just shouldn't endure when a lesser team travels all the way across the country for an early kickoff).

A new week of scores will begin Thursday with Minnesota/New Orleans kicking off the NFL season, and Auburn/Mississippi State kicking off the SEC season. Then, a great weekend is on tap with marquee matchups in both the colleges and the pro's. You've already made good money with JIM HURLEY to this point on the calendar. Keep the winnings rolling in by signing up for the BLUE RIBBON CLUB or the CLOSED CIRCUIT CLUB online here at the website.

You can also purchase game day releases a few hours before kickoff (or a few hours before first pitch in baseball). If you have any questions about what's available, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453.

Final Scores can create illusions in the world of sports. That's why we're here to comb through the numbers. Only JIM HURLEY can tell you WHAT'S REALLY HAPPENING...and then show you HOW TO MAKE MONEY OFF IT!

This article is part of the VSM MASTERS SERIES presented by VegasSportsMasters.com and JimHurley.com. For more information on JIM HURLEY'S handicapping packages, call 1-800-323-4453.

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