clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Ranking college football’s Week 7 games by surprising-ness

New, comments

In Week 7, college football got weird. It was about time.

NCAA Football: West Virginia at Iowa State Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

There is usually a week that makes no sense, and it usually happens in October. We thought we understood the stakes for the rest of the way, and we thought we at least understood who was good and who wasn’t. And then college football goes “PSYCHE” and shakes everything up.

Week 7 was a shakeup weekend. And it was almost even crazier.

The list of upsets was impressive, but the list of near-upsets shows us how close we came to something unheard of.

  • Upsets: No. 2 Georgia got trucked by No. 13 LSU, No. 6 WVU got roughed up in Ames, No. 7 Washington lost (both the game and maybe control of the Pac-12 North) to Oregon, No. 8 Penn State got Michigan State’d, No. 16 Miami fell into a QB morass and lost to UVA, and No. 21 Auburn lost at home to Tennessee. That’s a lot! (No. 19 Colorado also lost to USC, but that wasn’t an upset.)
  • Near-Upsets: No. 3 Ohio State looked as vulnerable as possible while still handling Minnesota by 16, No. 5 Notre Dame tried to lose to Pitt, No. 9 Texas thought long and hard about losing to Baylor, No. 10 UCF survived by a point at Memphis, No. 14 Florida rallied over Vanderbilt after falling behind by 18, and No. 23 USF had to score 15 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to survive Tulsa by 1.

There was a mess everywhere you looked this weekend. We watch college football for these stupid weeks.

Let’s look back at Week 7 action by looking at the difference between projection and reality. S&P+ had a fine and terrible week, really. Its absolute error — the average difference between projected and actual scoring margin — in FBS vs. FBS games was 12.8, which is in the “perfectly fine” range and is exactly the same as last week, when it hit 58 percent against the spread.

This week, however, Vegas got the bounces. S&P+ went 24-29-1 against the spread (45 percent), its first sub-.500 week in a month. But with as much uncertainty as was in the air, 45 percent doesn’t fell all that bad. It could have been worse.

Using the S&P+ projections as a guide, let’s look at which games played out as expected and which ones very, very much did not.

Right on (projection and reality within 3 points of each other)

NCAA Football: Mississippi at Arkansas Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
  • Ball State 24, CMU 23 (projected margin: BSU by 0.6)
  • Buffalo 24, Akron 6 (projected margin: UB by 18.9)
  • EMU 28, Toledo 26 (projected margin: EMU by 1.1)
  • FIU 24, MTSU 21 (projected margin: FIU by 4.0)
  • NIU 24, Ohio 21 (projected margin: NIU by 4.5)

S&P+ had an almost perfect read on the MAC this week, anyway. Goodness.

  • Houston 42, ECU 20 (projected margin: UH by 20.1)
  • Ole Miss 37, Arkansas 33 (projected margin: Rebels by 6.0)

I enjoy when a game gets batty — Ole Miss gained 181 yards in four minutes in rallying to turn a nine-point deficit into a four-point win — and S&P+ pithily goes “Yeah, that’s what I expected.”

  • Temple 24, Navy 17 (projected margin: Owls by 9.1)
  • Texas A&M 26, South Carolina 23 (projected margin: A&M by 5.5)

This looked like it was going to be an A&M blowout — the Aggies were up 13-0 at halftime — but turned into almost exactly what was projected.

Mostly on (3 to 7 points)

NCAA Football: Nebraska at Northwestern Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports
  • Northwestern 34, Nebraska 31 (projected margin: NW’ern by 6.3)

Another ridiculously chaotic game — Northwestern trailed by 10 with 2:30 left, kicked a field goal, forced a three-and-out, then drove 99 yards in under two minutes to force OT and eventually win — that ended up pretty much exactly like the numbers expected. This sport is weird.

  • Fresno State 27, Wyoming 3 (projected margin: FS by 20.7)
  • Texas 23, Baylor 17 (projected margin: UT by 9.6)

And the “Tom Herman teams get up for big games and sleepwalk through little games” meme lives on, though UT quarterback Sam Ehlinger did miss most of the game.

  • Boston College 38, Louisville 20 (projected margin: BC by 14.3)
  • Florida 37, Vanderbilt 27 (projected margin: UF by 13.8)
  • Texas Tech 17, TCU 14 (projected margin: TCU by 1.0)
  • UCF 31, Memphis 30 (projected margin: UCF by 6.3)
  • Virginia Tech 22, North Carolina 19 (projected margin: VT by 9.4)

Tech scored the game winner with 19 seconds left, and combined with Miami’s loss, we could now have ourselves a delicious mess of an ACC Coastal race.

  • USC 31, Colorado 20 (projected margin: USC by 4.4)

A little off (7 to 17 points)

  • Utah State 59, UNLV 28 (projected margin: USU by 23.9)

USU moved into the S&P+ top 25 and is still underrated, apparently.

  • Ohio State 30, Minnesota 14 (projected margin: OSU by 23.5)
  • Virginia 16, Miami 13 (projected margin: Canes by 4.9)
  • Boise State 31, Nevada 27 (projected margin: BSU by 11.9)
  • South Alabama 45, Alabama State 7 (projected margin: USA by 29.4)
  • Appalachian State 35, Arkansas State 9 (projected margin: App State by 17.4)

App State moved into the S&P+ top 15 and is still evidently underrated as well. Goodness.

  • Oregon 30, Washington 27 (projected margin: UW by 6.4)

UW had a field goal attempt to both win and cover at the end of regulation. Didn’t happen.

  • Maryland 34, Rutgers 7 (projected margin: Maryland by 17.6)
  • Alabama 39, Missouri 10 (projected margin: Bama by 19.6)

Alabama was about to pull its “win easily but fall just short of covering with the second-stringers in” routine again until a fourth-quarter safety and a TD following the free kick flipped the cover over to the Tide.

  • Colorado State 20, New Mexico 18 (projected margin: UNM by 7.6)
  • Miami (Ohio) 31, Kent State 6 (projected margin: UM by 15.4)
  • SDSU 21, Air Force 17 (projected margin: SDSU by 14.2)
  • WMU 42, Bowling Green 35 (projected margin: WMU by 18.7)
  • USF 25, Tulsa 24 (projected margin: USF by 13.0)
  • Duke 28, Georgia Tech 14 (projected margin: Duke by 1.3)

Duke: very, very much a part of the chaotic Coastal race.

  • Marshall 42, ODU 20 (projected margin: Herd by 8.0)
  • North Texas 30, Southern Miss 7 (projected margin: UNT by 9.0)
  • Georgia Southern 15, Texas State 13 (projected margin: GS by 16.7)
  • Michigan 38, Wisconsin 13 (projected margin: UM by 9.9)

UM broke the Curse of No. 5 — the No. 5 team in S&P+ had underachieved massively all season — with style. I’m curious if the Wolverines pass Ohio State when the rankings are updated.

  • Louisiana Tech 31, UTSA 3 (projected margin: LT by 11.3)
  • Liberty 22, Troy 16 (projected margin: Troy by 10.9)

What was that, Trojans?

Way off (17-28 points)

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Penn State Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports
  • Notre Dame 19, Pitt 14 (projected margin: ND by 22.1)

There should be a “Pitt playing against a top-five team” adjustment in the projections.

  • UAB 42, Rice 0 (projected margin: UAB by 24.7)
  • Michigan State 21, Penn State 17 (projected margin: PSU by 14.7)

There should be a “Michigan State playing against a top-10 team” adjustment in the projections.

  • UL-Lafayette 66, NMSU 38 (projected margin: UL by 9.0)
  • Tennessee 30, Auburn 24 (projected margin: AU by 13.9)
  • Utah 42, Arizona 10 (projected margin: Utes by 11.8)
  • Iowa 42, Indiana 16 (projected margin: Iowa by 5.0)

This one didn’t even feel as close as 26 points. Iowa looked mostly fantastic.

  • BYU 49, Hawaii 23 (projected margin: BYU by 3.6)
  • Iowa State 30, WVU 14 (projected margin: WVU by 8.8)

A team goes to Ames with title hopes and heads home sad? That never happens.

Way, way off (more than 28 points)

NCAA Football: UCLA at California John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports
  • LSU 36, Georgia 16 (projected margin: UGA by 9.1)

LSU wants Bama.

  • Purdue 46, Illinois 7 (projected margin: Boilers by 9.5)
  • Charlotte 40, WKU 14 (projected margin: WKU by 8.4)
  • Army 52, SJSU 3 (projected margin: Army by 14.5)
  • Kansas State 31, Oklahoma State 12 (projected margin: OSU by 17.2)

So ... it appears OSU peaked in mid-September ...

  • ULM 45, Coastal Carolina 20 (projected margin: Coastal by 11.4)
  • UCLA 37, California 7 (projected margin: Cal by 10.3)

In Thursday’s picks post, I asked, “Was last Saturday’s solid showing against Washington the start of some UCLA momentum? Just a one-off?” Well, um, we might have gotten our answer here.