Misleading College Scores

JIM HURLEY'S HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

CORRECTING FALSE IMPRESSIONS FROM MISLEADING COLLEGE SCORES

We plan to do this every Tuesday this Fall, while the final scores from the previous weekend are still fresh in your mind...and as you begin to handicap the new weekend of college action.

Often the most misleading thing about a game is the final score. If you're trying to pick future winners based only on past final scores, this is going to be a significant problem. This is a really big deal for casual wagerers in the colleges because fans miss so many games. Even if you watch the best game in each TV window, you're only seeing a fraction of the full card.

Here's a list of games that had misleading final scores in our view. We'll run through them for you in rotation order so you can make notes on your schedule. The first sample comes from Friday Night, then everything else was from Saturday.

NEVADA 52, CALIFORNIA 31
Don't go getting any ideas that Nevada would compete over a full Pac 10 schedule. They were outmanned at the point of attack, but won big because of a 3-1 turnover advantage. California actually won total yardage 502-497. You'll recall that Nevada got squashed at Notre Dame to start last season, and then routed by SMU in the Hawaii Bowl to finish it off. When NOT enjoying a big turnover edge, Nevada is much less dangerous vs. quality opposition. Cal is better than this score. Nevada will live up to this score vs. weak opposition, but is much less trustworthy vs. quality.

VANDERBILT 28, OLE MISS 14
Vanderbilt didn't play nearly as well as this score makes it look. They were outgained 385-300, and only posted a 9-19-0-73 passing line. You can get away with that when playing from ahead...and Vandy was ahead because of a 3-0 turnover differential (including a defensive touchdown). Ole Miss is having turnover troubles this year. When they fix that, they're probably start covering pointspreads again. Vandy is not likely to impress you when not getting turnover breaks.

MIAMI OF OHIO 31, COLORADO STATE 10
Miami was outgained 306-299, and had a fraction fewer yards-per-play. They won convincingly because of a 4-0 turnover edge. This is obviously going to be the theme today! It's generally the cause of most misleading final scores. Handicappers have to be careful with Miami here. They held their own against Florida, then posted a good score here. Be careful assuming they're now the class of the MAC. Colorado State is HORRIBLE this year, and Miami of Ohio didn't play nearly as well as this score makes it seem.

OREGON STATE 35, LOUISVILLE 28
We were very surprised when we saw this boxscore. Louisville struggled badly in its first two games when you adjust for context. Here, the Cardinals outgained a three-touchdown favorite 453-319, and won third down conversions 47% to 20%. Oregon State may be MUCH worse than everyone realizes. The quarterback was in over his head against TCU in the season opener...then was outplayed significantly here. Louisville is not expected to compete in the Big East this year. Oregon State needed a 2-0 turnover edge and some big plays to squeak bye. Keep that in mind when they visit Boise State this weekend.

BOWLING GREEN 44, MARSHALL 28
Marshall was in a clear letdown spot after the heartbreaking loss to state rival West Virginia. But, they actually held their own stat-wise. Bowling Green only won yardage 393-376. It was a 5-2 turnover differential that doomed Marshall. Don't think of Bowling Green as the surging team "who crushed the guys that almost beat West Virginia." Right place right time for Bowling Green. They're not as good as this score makes it seem. Marshall will be a handful for opponents again when they get their heads on straight.

LSU 29, MISSISSIPPI STATE 7
Turnovers were once again the illusion-creator here...as LSU used a 5-1 edge to make up for a sluggish night. Note that Mississippi State own yardage 268-264 in what was a very evenly played game outside of the turnover differential. Miss. State does have offensive issues, which you saw against Auburn. LSU isn't quite as dominant as this score made it look. LSU beat Vandy by a similar score last week, but CRUSHED the Commodores in the stats. That suggests Miss. State is probably better than Vandy in the big picture.

TEXAS A&M 27, FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL 20
This was one of the head scratchers of the night, as Texas A&M was a 4-TD favorite that had to sweat the end of the game. The Aggies won total yardage 400-232, and were more dominant than the final score suggests. Guess why. Yup...TURNOVERS! Texas A&M lost that category 5-1, turning what should have been an easy win (though probably not a 28-point win) into a nailbiter. The Aggies won't threaten Texas or Oklahoma until they fix their turnover problems. But, they are better than this final score makes it seem.

We strongly encourage to read college football boxscores if you're serious about picking winners. You don't need fancy computer programs or spreadsheets to appreciate what stats are telling you. Click around the internet (espn.com makes it very easy to read every boxscore if you just hop around their scoreboard pages).

Here are the stat categories you should be focused on:

  • Turnovers: as you've seen today, an extreme performance in this category is more likely than any other to trigger a misleading final score. It's a category that's more random than any other, and therefore less likely to repeat. A team that wins turnovers 5-2 this week could just as easily lose by the same margin the next time out. You don't want to bet on teams that just covered because of turnover luck!
  • Rushing Yardage: because owning the point of attack is the most important factor in this sport...and because being able to do that means you can pursue lower risk strategies that make turnovers less likely. Develop an understand of who can run on command and who can't, and you'll trim several probable losers off your investment portfolio.
  • Number of Incomplete Passes: don't even worry about calculating completion percentages. Teams that have single digits in incomplete passes are probably pretty efficient with the ball, and obviously won't have too many problems with interceptions. Teams with a high number of incomplete passes are disasters waiting to happen. Would you rather bet in Las Vegas on "reliable?" Or, on "disasters waiting to happen?" Easy answer.

Make a few notes on every game...and you'll see an IMMEDIATE change in your handicapping performance. KNOWLEDGE IS POWER!

And, because of his SCOUTS, SOURCES, STAT HANDICAPPERS, COMPUTER PROGRAMMERS, and WISE GUY CONNECTIONS, the smartest...and the most powerful man in handicapping is JIM HURLEY!

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College football resumes this Thursday Night with Miami of Florida at Pittsburgh on ESPN. TCU visits SMU Friday Night on TV as well. And, we're looking forward to big games this weekend like Alabama/Arkansas, South Carolina/Auburn, West Virginia/LSU, and Oregon State/Boise State in prime time.

If you're off to a slow start with your own picks in the colleges...sign up with the man in the middle of an information hurricane...proven winner JIM HURLEY!

If you prefer the NFL, we'll be back Wednesday to run our "big three" reports from this past week's pro football action (including Monday Night) that discuss rushing yardage, third down conversions, and our proprietary DRIVE POINT data. You'll learn more taking a few minute to read that report than you will by watching hours of TV pundits!

Be sure you're with us every day in the NOTEBOOK for handicapping coverage you can't get anywhere else. And, be sure you're checking in daily with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK for BIG JUICY WINNERS!

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Nov

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