Misleading College Scores

JIM HURLEY'S HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

DON'T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU SEE ON THE SCOREBOARD!

Time once again for our review of the misleading college football scores from the prior week. As we say all the time, the most misleading thing about a game can be the final score. Be sure you're reading recaps, stat breakdowns, and drive charts from as many games as you can.

Here's a review of what we believer were the most misleading final scores on the board last week. Be sure you didn't make some wrong moves in your Power Ratings because you were focused on the final score and not what ACTUALLY happened!

Games are presented in rotation order...

TCU 41, SMU 24
Hopefully you watched this last Friday Night, and saw how fortunate TCU was to get close to the Vegas spread. Total yardage was a virtual dead heat, with the Horned Frogs winning 375-361. SMU actually won yards-per-play by a 5.6 to 5.1 margin. This was not a 17-point win in the classic sense. It was a hardfought battle where a couple of big plays here and there created a misleading final score. TCU did not play like a top ten team in this one. If you stood pat in your ratings, you should probably knock them down a point or two instead. And, give SMU some credit for hanging tough. It might take them awhile to recover from this loss. They'll be hanging tough again very soon we're sure.

PENN STATE 22, TEMPLE 13
The Nittany Lions were actually much more dominant than this score makes it sound. You probably only saw scoring updates all day, and figured they were laying a big ugly egg. Joe Paterno's bunch won total yardage 439-202, and held Temple to 1 of 11 on third downs. There are still growing pains for the young offense. But they are getting better, and will soon learn how to finish drives with a big more authority. If you punished Penn State in your ratings, UN-punish them! They're likely to play to that 439-202 differential in future games vs. lesser teams rather than the 22-13 differential as the young QB matures.

ARMY 35, DUKE 21
This is the first turnover debacle of the week, with Duke winning total yardage 372-333 but losing by two touchdowns because of a 0-5 turnover disadvantage. The Blue Devils were beat up pretty bad by a shootout with Wake Forest, and a physical few quarters with superpower Alabama. They didn't have much left in the tank here, and made too many miscues. But, even tired, they outgained won yards-per-play 6.9 to 4.6. Duke will be back to putting points on the board soon in some run-and-gun ACC shootouts. They'll probably cover some big dog spreads along the way too. We like what we're seeing with Army this year by the way. We have to report, though, that they weren't quite as good as this final score made it look.

AIR FORCE 20, WYOMING 14
Air Force actually crushed Wyoming at the point of attack. The Falcons won total yardage 445-240. Why couldn't they put up a bigger victory margin. We believe fatigue in a "week after Oklahoma" spot did them in late in drives. They could move the ball, but had trouble finishing on the empty tank. Oklahoma was physical, and the game was played on a hot afternoon. Scary to think how big the stats would have been here if Air Force was fresh. Well, you saw what Boise State did on this field the week before. Air Force is better than this score, and is going to offer value we believe in coming weeks in the Mountain West. Wyoming is feisty, but not as good as this score makes it look.

KANSAS STATE 17, CENTRAL FLORIDA 13
Maybe Central Florida was intimidated by the scary storm that looked like it was going to take the stadium, Dorothy, and Toto too along for a big ride. In a game that was delayed for well over an hour, Central Florida won yardage 344-272...with a dominating 252-83 edge on the ground. Normally, you win big like that in the trenches (particularly against Kansas State), and you're going to get the victory. Let's assume Central Florida maintains similar edges in CUSA play. The final scores will be much more impressive than this. And, Kansas State suffered a stat loss at home as a 7-point favorite. We've docked them a point or two in our ratings because of that fact.

HOUSTON 42, TULANE 23
Houston led 28-23 in the fourth quarter, so this was far from the blowout the final score suggests. You get in the habit of seeing big Houston wins in CUSA and you assume it was their standard game. A late pick-six inflated the victory margin...and this is still a team that will be starting it's #3 quarterback the rest of the season. Don't be overrating Houston in your numbers! This game was virtually dead even in total yardage, yards-per-play, third down conversions, turnovers, you name it. Houston isn't much better than Tulane (more potential for cheap points is about it). The difference isn't as big as the market was suggesting this past Saturday. That's what you need to remember.

SOUTHERN MISS 13, LOUISIANA TECH 12
It's easy to see a home dog cover like this for Tech, and think that they might offer value in the future. Be careful with that! Tech was outgained 425-309, and lost the ball four times. They were very fortunate to be in this one in the final minutes. Given their poor stat showing on this field vs. Navy, we're looking at a Louisiana Tech team that's likely to be overrated in WAC play. Note that La. Tech was outrushed 192-47, at home!

TENNESSEE 32, ALABAMA-BIRMINGHAM 29
It's a miracle Tennessee won this game. Alabama-Birmingham missed FIVE field goals! You won't believe the total yardage if you haven't seen it. UAB won yardage 544-287, in Knoxville! UAB held an edge in yards-per-point of 5.9 to 4.7 as well. And, stunning for a CUSA team visiting a much more physical SEC foe, UAB won rushing yardage 115-42. This was a stat blowout for UAB, and a horrible showing for Tennessee the week after the Florida game. 

OREGON 42, ARIZONA STATE 31
Those of you on the East coast probably didn't stay up to watch this...and you assumed that a game landing close to the number meant no harm no foul. Would you believe that the losing team here almost gained 600 yards! Arizona State won total yardage 597-405, rushing yardage 210-145, and third down conversions 45% to 15%. This was the BCS Chaos game that should have happened but didn't! Arizona State suffered SEVEN turnovers on the night, blowing a chance to impact the Pac 10 and national championship races. Oregon almost joined Texas on the list of upset victims, and at least belong on the list of teams who just dodged upsets like Alabama and Oklahoma. The defensive vulnerability Oregon showed here is likely to jump up and bite them at some point in the college season. 

We have some room this week to discuss some keys YOU should be looking for as you evaluate results on the fly this coming weekend...

TURNOVERS: Beware of any team who posted a big result because of a turnover advantage. And, that's particularly true if the game was near pick-em, or the underdog was enjoying a favorite's rare largesse. This is probably the single biggest cause of misreads at the college level from casual handicappers. If you only look up one stat per game, look up the turnovers!

RUSHING YARDAGE: This is the stat that's arguably the best indicator for quality in the college game. You have to own the point of attack to have success consistently. If the game winner owned rushing yardage, you probably have an acceptable final score to use for your evaluations. If they were dominated on the ground, good things are in store for the opponent who owned the point of attack. Turnover edges often tell you who didn't deserve to win. Rushing edges tell you who DID!

THIRD DOWN CONVERSIONS: It's great news for handicappers that all boxscores at ESPN's website now include this stat. It's a GREAT indicator stat for quality. Good teams move the chains. Bad teams don't. It doesn't get any simpler than that. If  the final score doesn't line up with third down percentages...then you should base your future legal football bets on the third down percentages rather than the final score. We don't often talk too much about the elements in our computer simulation programs. We will tell you this is a big one, and we're appreciative that ESPN made it easier to track.

SCORING BREAKDOWNS: Special teams and defensive scores are often the randomizers that create scoreboard illusions. Try to read through the scoring breakdowns so you know if any of those happened. If they swung pick-em games, or allowed an underdog to steal a win, look for a regression to the norm afterward. If the superior team scored the bonus points...that's actually fairly normal in games with blowout spreads. Superpowers have the type of athletes can score from anywhere on the field. Don't penalize Alabama or Ohio State for picking up those additional scores against soft opponents. Penalize mediocrity who got lucky.

Back tomorrow with our review of the week's NFL action, as we continue to use stat reviews to help springboard you into the new handicapping week. If you'd like to play some BIG JUICY WINNERS this week, sign up with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK here at the website. The next football game goes Thursday, with Texas A&M at Oklahoma State in the Big 12. Visit here game day a few hours before kickoff if you just want to try out the service. Any seasonal package would obviously include that game as your first taste of NETWORK success.

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It's not even October yet. THE WINNING IS JUST BEGINNING!

 

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