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The Numerical, Week 6: Everybody stinks, and that's pretty great

Parity has struck college football, at least for now. USC can't defend Hail Marys, Wisconsin can't pass, and Michigan State thinks games are 45 minutes long. (This is awesome.)


Michigan State has been outscored by a 40-21 margin in the fourth quarter this season, and by a 71-58 margin in second halves.

That only means so much when you're winning the first half by a combined 170-32, but the Spartans were outscored 28-3 in the second half against Oregon, and after taking a 27-3 lead over Nebraska into the fourth quarter on Saturday night in East Lansing, they allowed a 19-0 run to the Huskers and gave Nebraska the ball back with a chance to win with a minute left. Trae Waynes eventually picked off Tommy Armstrong Jr. to preserve a 27-22 win, but State is playing with fire here, and after the loss to Oregon, there's no margin for error in trying to seal a Playoff bid.


Northwestern lost to both California and Northern Illinois at home in non-conference play. And after a 20-14 win over Wisconsin on Saturday, the Wildcats are now 2-0 in Big Ten play. Go 1-1 over the next two weeks -- at Minnesota, Nebraska at home -- and they might become the Big Ten West favorites.

Sunshine view: this is an exciting, heart-warming comeback story. Cynical view: man, the Big Ten West stinks.

Another number from Northwestern's win: 259. Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon rushed 27 times for 259 yards on Saturday ... and Wisconsin scored 14 points. I wouldn't have known that was possible. Hell, he only rushed for 140 yards against LSU, and the Badgers still managed 24 points.

The Wisconsin passing game has moved from weakness to albatross; Joel Stave and Tanner McEvoy combined to go 12-for-29 on Saturday for just 138 yards, one touchdown, one sacks, and four picks. That's 4.5 yards per pass attempt (including sacks) with one completion to Northwestern for every three to Wisconsin. Where have you gone, Jared Abbrederis ...

Photo credit: David Banks / Getty Images


Tennessee created just four scoring opportunities (trips inside the 40) against Florida on Saturday. That's not very good, but if you capitalize on those opportunities, you can still get close to or surpass 20 points. Lord knows that would have been enough to beat the Gators. Instead, Tennessee managed three field goals and an interception, averaging 2.25 points per opportunity.

How bad is 2.25 points per opportunity? Florida had four opportunities of its own and finished two of them with punts ... and still averaged 2.5 points per opportunity to won, 10-9.

This game was the clear "This makes me hate football" game of the week, even with now-suspended backup Gator quarterback Treon Harris' late semi-heroics (2-for-4 for 17 yards, four carries for 24 yards, two scoring drives). Let's just move on.


The American Athletic Conference currently has just three teams in the F/+ top 70 (No. 44 ECU, No. 47 Memphis, No. 64 UCF) and three ranked worse than 115th (No. 116 Tulsa, No. 119 USF, No. 125 SMU). The three teams at the top play a combined one game against each other. ECU hosts UCF on December 4, and that's it. Memphis plays neither team. The odds are at least decent that both Memphis and the ECU-UCF winner finish 8-0 in conference play.

Following Memphis' outright destruction of Cincinnati on Saturday -- and honestly, the 41-14 final score may have been kind to Cincinnati; the Bearcats scored on an 80-yard TD pass on the first play of the game and were outgained 610-272 thereafter -- the hierarchy within the one-time major conference is clear. The AAC winner could be well-positioned to score the non-power New Year's bowl slot, if the Playoff committee disapproves of Marshall's strength of schedule. But while ECU and Memphis are the class of the conference, we might not actually know who's more deserving at the end of the year, and that's frustrating.

Then again, to presume that Memphis or ECU is a mid-major frontrunner is to both scorn a dominant team and ignore an old friend.

Top 10 non-power-conference teams, according to F/+
15. Marshall (5-0)
28. Boise State (4-2)
44. East Carolina (4-1)
46. BYU (4-1)
47. Memphis (3-2)
51. Colorado State (4-1)
52. Navy (2-4)
56. Nevada (3-2)
59. Air Force (4-1)
63. Western Kentucky (2-3)

Combine this year's Memphis and ECU with last year's UCF, Houston, and Tulane, and you'd have a solid AAC. Instead, it appears the Mountain West still holds the Best Non-Power mantel.


TCU scored 30 or more points just four times each in 2012 and 2013, after averaging 38 or more points each year from 2009-11.

All head coach Gary Patterson needs is a decent offense to win a lot of games; well, he's got one again this year. The Horned Frogs have scored 30-plus in each game and managed 37 points (seven from the defense) and 469 yards (6.0 per play) in a 37-33 upset of Oklahoma that really shouldn't be considered much of an upset. With the win, TCU is now seventh in the F/+ rankings, just four spots behind Oklahoma. (That's right; losing to TCU on the road is once again something a top-five team is just expected to do. Oklahoma actually rose a spot in defeat.)

After a couple of years in the wilderness, TCU is once again occupying top-10 territory in the F/+ rankings. The Horned Frogs were between fourth and sixth each year from 2008-10, and a road win over Baylor on Saturday would make them the prohibitive Big 12 favorites moving forward.


This is a magnificently strange year so far. And if last week is any indication, it might only get weirder from here. I'm glad this doesn't happen every year, but bring on the craziness.

5, again

You noticed that Georgia Tech is 5-0, right?

The Yellow Jackets' 28-17 win over Miami, accompanied by their Week 4 win at Virginia Tech, makes them reasonably heavy favorites to win the ACC Coastal. A home win over Duke on Saturday might mean that only Virginia -- Virginia! -- stands in the Ramblin' Wreck's way (the Cavaliers are also 2-0 in conference play following their Saturday win over Pitt).


BYU did manage to average 5.3 yards per play against Utah State after Taysom Hill's devastating leg injury. The Cougars had averaged 6.5 per play and scored twice late in the first half when Hill was tackled awkwardly and suffered a significant fracture and ligament tear.

Christian Stewart was able to come in against a decent Utah State defense and engineer a couple of field goal drives. He completed passes of 26, 28, 37, and 41 yards; unfortunately for the Cougars, he also completed three passes to Utah State. He was 10-for-29 for 172 yards, three picks, and a sack.

Meanwhile, fellow replacement QB Darell Garretson (Utah State's new starter after Chuckie Keeton was lost for the season) completed 19 of 25 for 321 and three scores. Garretson is finishing the season for Keeton for the second year in a row, and that experience appeared to make the difference in USU's 35-20 win.

The college football world is now without both Keeton and Hill. The sport is slightly less fun now.


Baylor has held opponents to single-digit scoring six times in the last two seasons, after Saturday's 28-7 win over Texas. The Bears did so six times between 2004 and 2012 as well.

Six times in nine seasons. Baylor beat Kansas State, 17-3, in 2006, beat Northwestern State, 51-6, in 2008, held three 2010 opponents under 10 (Sam Houston State, Buffalo, Kansas), and shut out Stephen F. Austin in 2011. That's it.

6, again

There were six games involving Pac-12 teams on Saturday. They were all decided by a touchdown or less. Arizona upset Oregon, 31-24. Notre Dame scored on fourth-and-11 with a minute left to beat Stanford, 17-14. Oregon State held off a late Colorado rally to win, 36-31, in Boulder. Utah held an early 14-point lead at UCLA, lost it, then won the game via late field goal, 30-28.

And that was the undercard. Saturday night finished with two criminally insane contests in Pacific Standard Time. Washington State gained 812 yards, scored 59 points, and LOST to California thanks to two Cal kick returns, 19 fourth-quarter Golden Bear points, and a missed 19-yard field goal at the buzzer. (Why yes, Mike Leach did fire his special teams coach after the game.)

And, of course...

Another number from this one: zero. That's the number of USC defenders who jumped for the ball while playing the worst Hail Mary defense the world has ever seen. As far as I can tell, only two Trojans actually knew where the ball was.

There were incredible football games in every time zone on Saturday, but the West Coast was still the best coast for raw, uncut crazy. And terrible Hail Mary defense.


With preseason projections almost completely filtered out, and with almost nothing to stand on but underwhelming (for an elite team) performances, Florida State now ranks 12th in the F/+ rankings. I could pile on to what I said about the Seminoles last week -- lord knows that being tied 3-3 with Wake Forest late in the first half isn't a way to turn around public opinion, even if you eventually cruise. I could note that Florida State's slow starts are polar opposites of last year's performances and are symptomatic of a team that might need to lose to get its groove back.

Instead, I'll cut the Seminoles some slack. They should be playing better than they are, but while the injury bug mostly left FSU alone in 2013, it has come to Tallahassee with vengeance in mind this time around.

  • Backup quarterback Sean Maguire injured his hand against Wake Forest and will miss some time.
  • Starting running back Karlos Williams injured his ankle against Wake Forest and will likely miss this week's game against Syracuse. Backup running back Mario Pender missed the NC State game with a concussion.
  • Leading receiver (and one of the best in the country) Rashad Greene suffered a concussion against Wake Forest.
  • Center Austin Barron fractured his arm early against Wake Forest.
  • Defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. missed the NC State game with a concussion.
  • Defensive tackle Nile Lawrence-Stample is out for the season with a pectoral injury. Tackle Derrick Mitchell missed the Wake game with a knee injury. Backup tackle Demarcus Christmas suffered a high ankle sprain against Wake.
  • Linebacker Terrance Smith missed the Wake game with a hip injury, while Markus Eligwe has missed all year with a foot injury.
  • Defensive back Trey Marshall missed the Wake game with a concussion, and starting cornerback P.J. Williams battled a hamstring injury early in the year.

The number of concussions here is frightening, even if part of the high quantity can be deduced from better diagnoses of such injuries. Regardless, the Seminoles are suffering all of the injuries they did not suffer in 2013, and combined with some random academic/NCAA casualties, it's tamped down their ceiling.

The good news is that the 'Noles are in the ACC. There are potential stumbles left on the schedule (Notre Dame at home, trips to Louisville and Miami), but the odds are still in favor of FSU posting a large win total at the end of the year. They need to get semi-healthy by November, though.


UMass and Miami (Ohio) combined to average 21.5 points per game last year -- 11.7 for the Minutemen and 9.8 for the RedHawks. They ranked 122nd and 125th (out of 125), respectively, in Off. F/+ last season. Imagine the exhilaration for the 15,970 in attendance in Oxford, then, when the two teams combined for 83 points and 1,111 yards in a 41-40 Miami win on Saturday.

Hey, we finally joined Facebook!

It wasn't just that there was prolific offense. There was also a mighty comeback. The two combined for 48 second-quarter points as UMass went on a 20-0 run to go up 41-14. But Miami scored late in the first half and scored the only 21 points of the second half to finish the bizarre comeback.

This had to be a gutting loss for UMass, which is now 0-6 for the season and 2-28 in its FBS lifetime (the only win of 2013 came against Miami, 17-10). But the Minutemen are making undeniable progress under first-year coach Mark Whipple, at least on the offensive side of the ball. And hey, at least they're losing fun games now, right?


After Saturday's loss at Rutgers, Michigan stands at 2-4 and 55th in the F/+ ratings. That feels pretty high, to be honest, but it bears mentioning that the Wolverines have six games remaining in 2013, and only one is against a lower-ranked opponent: the bipolar No. 68 Indiana Hoosiers.

A 2-10 record is on the table, in other words. In the last 125 seasons, only five Michigan teams have finished with a win percentage under 0.250, and two of those played in 1881 (0-3) and 1883 (1-4). Michigan has done so only once in the last 75 years (2-7 in 1962).


In their last three games against FBS competition, the Purdue Boilermakers managed a combined 262 rushing yards: 122 against Central Michigan, 56 against Notre Dame, and 84 against Iowa.

They had 349 rushing yards against Illinois in a 38-27 road win.

Illinois just allowed 349 rushing yards and lost by 11 at home to Purdue. There ... might not be any coming back from that.


Georgia running back and Heisman Trophy front-runner Todd Gurley can now add a 520.0 passer rating to his 773 rushing yards, 11 receptions, and 49.0-yard kick return average. The junior rushed for 163 yards, caught two balls for 24 yards, and completed a 50-yarder to Jeb Blazevich in the Dawgs' 44-17 win over Vanderbilt.

Via SEC Network

Pssh, but can he make a field goal?


Since the loss to Virginia Tech, Ohio State has averaged 624 yards and 56 points per game in wins over Kent State, Cincinnati, and Maryland. Redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett completed just nine of 29 passes with three picks against Virginia Tech, but has completed 75 percent of his passes with 14 touchdowns and one pick since. He's added 156 rushing yards as well.

You realize Ohio State's going to beat Michigan State and finish 12-1, right? You realize it would be just like the Buckeyes to ruin our Sparty fun, right?


Before Saturday, the last time LSU lost a game by 34 or more points came when Auburn's Ben Leard completed 16 of 23 passes for 304 yards, Markeith Cooper and Ronney Daniels combined for seven catches and 225 yards, and Auburn jumped out to a 24-0 halftime lead and cruised, 41-7. LSU's Josh Booty completed 29 of 58 passes for only 285 yards, a touchdown and two picks.

The date: September 18, 1999.

You might just want to go ahead and skip the 2029 LSU-Auburn game, LSU fans. After Saturday's 41-7 loss at Auburn, I think I know how that one's going to end.


I mean, even accounting for the slight angle, it kind of looks like Oklahoma State's Desmond Roland crossed the plane of the goal line here.

You could certainly wonder if there's enough evidence here to overturn a no-touchdown call on the field -- this isn't cut-and-dried by any means -- but it looks like Roland scored. Of all of the calls Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard could use to cry conspiracy and take a $25,000 fine, this probably isn't it.