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Oklahoma Is Good, Kentucky Is Atrocious And Projections Are Occasionally Successful

Week 6 of the college football season was semi-predictable and full of blowouts, but certain programs made a mark, in both positive (Oklahoma, Georgia, Houston) and negative (Kentucky, Florida State, Minnesota) ways.

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It was, to say the least, a lovely weekend for the F/+ picks. The numbers had a much better feel for the college football landscape last weekend, going 34-17-1 (66.3%). That means that the volume of teams significantly overachieving or underachieving their projections was diminished this week. But there were still some market shifts. Let's take a look.

Week Six's Big Winner: Oklahoma.
Week Six's Big Loser: Poor, Poor Minnesota.


Overachiever: Maryland and Underachiever: Georgia Tech (Projected Margin: Ga. Tech +29.1 | Actual Margin: Ga. Tech +5). Maryland is, more or less, the Metta World Peace of college football: outlandish, somewhat unreliable and prone to extreme bouts of competence when you least expect it. They beat Miami and almost beat West Virginia, but then they got steamrolled by Temple and outgained by Towson. Naturally, then, the projections severely favored a Georgia Tech team that had been quite impressive to date. And naturally, that didn't happen; Tech won, 21-16. In a game lacking in offensive fireworks (the two teams combined to complete 10 of 45 passes with three interceptions), the Terps' defense handled Tech's flexbone as well as anybody has in 2011. They didn't have enough offense of their own to get the job done, but they held Tech under five yards per play and overachieved because of it.

Overachiever: Wake Forest and Underachiever: Florida State (Projected Margin: Florida State +13.0 | Actual Margin: Wake +5). Clearly, the numbers did not account for turnovers -- Florida State committed five of them, worth 24.1 Equivalent Points (as defined here). The Seminoles outgained Wake by a 425-391 margin, but they couldn't get out of their own way, and quarterbacks E.J. Manuel and Clint Trickett combined to complete just 25 of 46 passes with two touchdowns, two sacks and four interceptions. Credit Wake, however, for forcing mistakes and for freeing up both receiver Chris Givens (12 targets, six catches, 101 yards) for a decent day and running back Josh Harris (13 carries, 136 yards) for a great one.

Underachiever: North Carolina (Projected Margin: +20.5 | Actual Margin: +7). I didn't catch a single second of UNC's 14-7 win over Louisville, and I am totally okay with that; the two teams combined for 537 yards -- 162 fewer than Nevada gained by itself against UNLV. Louisville outgained the Heels, 273-264, but UNC avoided upset because Louisville could only manage seven points in four trips inside the UNC 30. Yuck. Meanwhile, Carolina managed only two similar trips but scored touchdowns each time. UNC quarterback Bryn Renner was as efficient as ever when he got the pass off (12-for-18, 178 yards), but he was sacked four times, three times by UL's Marcus Smith.

Big 12

Overachiever: Oklahoma and Underachiever: Texas (Projected Margin: Oklahoma +17.5 | Actual Margin: Oklahoma +38). The Red River Rivalry is not immune to blowouts -- Texas won by 33 in 2005, Oklahoma by 52 in 2003, Oklahoma by 49 in 2000 -- and when blowouts do happen, it is typically a sign of great things to come for the victor (in all three of the above examples, the winner went to the national title game, winning twice). So congrats on that, OU. The Sooners' offense was good in their 55-17 win, gaining 453 yards (6.4 per play) and succeeding as much in the pass attack as I hinted they might (my boy Jaz Reynolds: nine targets, six catches, 92 yards), but the defense was the reason this game got out of hand. The Sooners held the Horns to 259 yards (3.2 per play), forced five turnovers worth 35.8 Equivalent Points, and scored two more defensive touchdowns (three) than Texas scored offensive touchdowns (one).

Big East

Overachiever: Rutgers and Underachiever: Pittsburgh (Projected Margin: Pittsburgh +4.8 | Actual Margin: Rutgers +24). As mentioned earlier today, Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova was far from spectacular in Rutgers' 34-10 win over Pitt -- 11-for-24, 174 yards, two touchdowns, one sack (6.6 yards per pass attempt) -- but he avoided mistakes and allowed his defense to do its thing. In two second-half drives, Pittsburgh gained 116 yards in 11 plays, scoring seven points in the process; the rest of the game: 57 plays, 155 yards (2.7 per play), three points. Pitt committed four turnovers, all interceptions, worth 20.7 points, and thanks to that, Rutgers touchdowns on drives of 18, 14 and zero yards (pick six). We'll see how much of an impact the loss of end Michael Larrow has, but right now the RU defense is playing at a very high level.

Big Ten

Overachiever: Purdue and Underachiever: Minnesota (Projected Margin: Purdue +3.0 | Actual Margin: Purdue +28). As I mentioned Friday in Varsity Numbers, that Purdue was projected to only beat Minnesota by three points said a lot more about the Boilermakers than the Gophers. They clearly did not take kindly to such disrespect. In Minnesota's first six drives, the Boilers allowed just 49 yards (2.2 per play) and forced three turnovers (worth 18.2 Equivalent Points) and three punts. Boiler backs Akeem Hunt and Akeem Shavers combined for 112 yards in 19 carries, and after bolting to an early lead, PU didn't have to do much. (Which is good because backup quarterback Robert Marve indeed did very little: 4-for-6 passing, 15 yards, a touchdown and a sack.)


Overachiever: Arizona State and Underachiever: Utah (Projected Margin: ASU +4.4 | Actual Margin: ASU +21). I will continue to pound my chest about my "Michigan will make the Big Ten title game" pick while completely ignoring that I thought Utah would do the same in the Pac-12. The Utes' defense has proven ready for Pac-12 play, but the banged up offense just hasn't gotten the job done. In their 35-14 loss to Arizona State (which all but ceded the division title to the Sun Devils), Utah committed five turnovers worth 22.1 Equivalent Points (are you noticing that most of these overachiever-underachiever games featured crazy turnover margins?), and ASU was able to turn the game around because of it. Utah led 14-10 after 40 minutes, but the Sun Devils rode turnovers to a 25-0 run over the next ten minutes. Including sacks, ASU's Brock Osweiler averaged just 7.3 yards per pass attempt (25-for-41, 325 yards, three touchdowns, two sacks), but he avoided the mistakes that new Utah starter Jon Hays (18-for-30, 199 yards, one touchdown, three interceptions, three sacks) could not.

Overachiever: Oregon State and Underachiever: Arizona (Projected Margin: Arizona +0.7 | Actual Margin: Ore. St. +10). If nothing else, Oregon State has begun to show some life. They began the season with lifeless performances versus Sacramento State and Wisconsin, and they blew an opportunity to steal a win versus UCLA. But they have now overachieved in consecutive weeks, first by playing well in a loss to Arizona State, then by playing even better in a win over Arizona. The Beavers scored 27 points in the second quarter and ran up a 30-6 lead before Nick Foles and the Arizona offense finally got rolling. For the game, the Wildcats outgained the Beavers, 431-408, but the early lead obviously defined the game. Oregon State showed some play-making potential in the secondary, breaking up eight passes in 14 incompletions. Cornerback Jordan Poyer led the way with six tackles and four PBU.


Overachiever: South Carolina and Underachiever: Kentucky (Projected Margin: S. Caro. +22.2 | Actual Margin: S. Caro. +51). Oh, Kentucky. Each week, I decide that they might have the worst offense among all BCS conference teams, then they go out and look even worse. The Wildcats were outgained by a staggering 639-96 margin by a South Carolina squad breaking in a new starting quarterback. Kentucky quarterback Morgan Newton almost certainly wouldn't be starting if there were any better options, but amazingly, his brutal performance (4-for-21, 17 yards, one interception) was actually better than that of various replacements (0-for-5, three interceptions). It's just impossible to know how to begin the rebounding process when things crater so quickly and drastically.

Overachiever: LSU and Underachiever: Florida (Projected Margin: LSU +11.3 | Actual Margin: LSU +30). The projections didn't take "Florida will be starting a true freshman quarterback who has never taken a snap" into account, and naturally they whiffed on this one, a 41-11 LSU win. All things considered, this could have been worse. Florida starter Jacoby Brissett was obviously not wonderful (8-for-14, 94 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions and a sack -- 5.9 yards per attempt), but honestly, in taking both Brissett and some early offensive success for LSU into account, I may have guessed that LSU would win by 45. So Florida has that going for them, at least.

Overachiever: Georgia and Underachiever: Tennessee (Projected Margin: Tennessee +7.9 | Actual Margin: Georgia +8). Poor Tennessee is giving Florida a run in the "cruel injuries" department; in fact, I give the Vols the edge. Two games after they lost stud receiver Justin Hunter for the season, they lost quarterback Tyler Bray for a month late in Tennessee's 20-12 loss to Georgia. Bray was solid if unspectacular against Georgia (18-for-33, 251 yards and a sack), but the Vols had no running game and gained just 270 yards overall (4.3 per play) versus a quickly improving Dawgs defense. Georgia had little offensive success in three of four quarters, but they exploded in the third: 16 plays, 184 yards, 14 points. Tennessee in that span: 11 plays, 11 yards, zero points. In an otherwise even game, that will take you down.


Overachiever: Houston and Underachiever: East Carolina (Projected Margin: Houston +8.2 | Actual Margin: Houston +53). The Houston defense was evidently frustrated about hearing how terrible they are (their awful defense has become almost as much of a season storyline as their great offense), so they went out and sacked ECU quarterbacks nine times (backup Rio Johnson was sacked six times in just 27 pass attempts) and picked them off four times in a 56-3 win. Houston doubled up the Pirates in terms of yardage (572 to 284) won the Turnover Points margin by 16.6 Equivalent Points, and ... well, if this is the New Houston, then they aren't going to lose again. They were undefeated with an atrocious D, but we'll have to see if defensive coordinator Brian Stewart's unit can replicate this effort in coming weeks.

Overachiever: Southern Miss and Underachiever: Navy (Projected Margin: Navy -6.8 | Actual Margin: So. Miss +41). Southern Miss was a Conference USA favorite before the season began, but they looked poor early on, creeping by Louisiana Tech in the first game and losing to Marshall in the second. Since then, however, things have clicked, never more so than in their jarring, 63-35 win over Navy. This was a bend-don't-break masterpiece: Navy gained 569 yards (7.8 per play), but in eight trips inside the Southern Miss 20, the Midshipmen only scored five times. Meanwhile, USM gained 584 yards behind Austin Davis' near-perfect performance: 21-for-23, 283 yards, three passing touchdowns, 75 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown to boot. Man oh man, could a Houston-Southern Miss Conference USA title game be fun.

Overachiever: Temple and Underachiever: Ball State (Projected Margin: Temple +10.8 | Actual Margin: Temple +42). I wasted my "Metta World Peace" reference on Maryland; I should have saved it for the Owls, who in the last three weeks have a) whipped Maryland to move from 68th to 43rd in the F/+ rankings, b) got rolled by Toledo to fall back to 37th, and c) beat Ball State by six touchdowns on the road. They will probably see another nice bump when the F/+ ratings are updated tomorrow. Temple won in Temple fashion: efficient-and-rare passing from Chester Stewart (10-for-13, 160 yards) mixed with a heavy dose of running back Bernard Pierce (30 carries, 121 yards).