Another college football weekend has come and gone and given us a lot to think about moving forward. One top College Football Playoff team lost. Three of them flirted with a loss. And, of course, we saw a lot of fluky final scores in light of what actually happened in the game.
My process that includes college football box score study always uncovers something interesting and actionable for the following week and sometimes even multiple weeks as things become a trend. Week 10 was no different in that regard.
Eastern Michigan 52, Toledo 49
Holy MACtion! This was a very unexpected development, given that Toledo racked up 672 yards of offense and 49 points while being 118th in red zone efficiency and 116th in third-down conversion rate going into the game. Toledo had 8.62 yards per play to Eastern Michigan’s 6.28 and managed to lose the game.
The Rockets had three turnovers to just one for the Eagles, though Eastern Michigan did have the only turnover on downs. Toledo also had 206 yards on the last three drives of the game, trailing by 16, 10, and 3, while ending the game on a last-ditch lateral attempt.
Bet Toledo Unders – This was an out-of-body experience for the Rockets offense. QB Dequan Finn threw for 461 yards on 30-of-45 passing. He had 38 completions for 627 yards in the four games prior. He’s also taken 15 sacks in the last three games. This was also a Toledo defense that came into that game 12th in yards per play allowed. This was the exception, not the norm, but their totals may now be inflated going forward.
Cincinnati 28, Tulsa 20
Phillip Montgomery nearly got his signature win at Tulsa. What has largely been a pretty successful tenure was nearly punctuated with a road win over the No. 6 Cincinnati Bearcats.
Tulsa outgained Cincy 457-380, though keep in mind that the Golden Hurricane ran 84 plays to just 58 for the Bearcats. The yards per play were actually 6.55 to 5.44 in favor of the ranked Bearcats, but Tulsa did manage to run a lot more plays, despite being 4-of-14 on third down. The Golden Hurricane had a good bit of early-down success, which is a bad indicator for Cincinnati going forward.
Tulsa turned the ball over on downs three times, including a 4th-and-5 at the 6-yard line with 1:14 left. Cincinnati fumbled one play later, but Tulsa fumbled into the end zone after having three cracks from the 1-yard line to score a touchdown and go for the game-tying two-point conversion.
Play on Tulsa (this week) – I like Tulsa this week against Tulane. The Golden Hurricane are better than their 3-6 record and they need to win out for a bowl. I’d be worried the following week in a big favorite role against Temple and then against SMU in the regular season finale if the Mustangs can right the ship. In the short-term, I think Tulsa is good enough and has solid coaching to overcome the heartbreaking loss, but I’m not sure about long-term. A loss this week and they could crater.
Arkansas 31, Mississippi State 28
The Bulldogs got a lot of respect for a 5-3 team in the College Football Playoff rankings, but maybe they deserved it. Saturday’s loss dropped the Mississippi State to 5-4, but it was one that probably never should have gone in the loss column. Mike Leach’s squad is looking for a kicker after Brandon Ruiz missed from 23 and 46 and Nolan McCord missed from 40 with a chance to tie the game.
The Bulldogs left nine points on the field that way and also had an interception inside the Arkansas 40. Mississippi State outgained the Razorbacks 486-393 and threw for 417 yards, but managed only 28 points. The Bulldogs’ only obscene performance was against Alabama. Otherwise, they’ve lost three games by eight combined points.
Play on Mississippi State – The Air Raid attack has really taken hold in Starkville and this is a team that has a decent defense and a good quarterback in Will Rogers at the helm. The remaining schedule features Auburn, Tennessee State and Ole Miss and the Bulldogs are plenty live in those two games against ranked opponents. Leach will probably just go for it more on fourth down and with his offense, which might not be a bad idea.
Miami (FL) 33, Georgia Tech 30
The Hurricanes seem to be doing enough to give Manny Diaz at least one more year in Coral Gables. This game should have been much more lopsided than it was. Tyler Van Dyke has played some excellent football since taking over the team from injured QB D’Eriq King and the beauty of it is that Van Dyke is just a freshman.
The Glastonbury, CT native has a solid 15/4 ratio and has completed just under 64 percent of his passes. He’s thrown for 325 or more each of the last three weeks with a 10/1 TD/INT ratio. Miami’s dominance in this game was obscured by three lost fumbles and two turnovers on downs. The Hurricanes racked up 563 yards and 7.41 yards per play to Georgia Tech’s 329 yards and 4.7 yards per play. This should not have been just a three-point win for the ‘Canes.
Play on Miami – Van Dyke seems to be legit and this Hurricanes defense has enough talent to improve as the season winds down. The Hurricanes also racked up 174 yards on the ground in this game. Quietly, Miami could be 5-0 in league play, having lost to Virginia by two and North Carolina by three. Of course, the three wins have been by eight combined points, but Florida State, Virginia Tech and Duke are very winnable (and cover-able) games the rest of the way.
Western Kentucky 48, Middle Tennessee 21
Western Kentucky more than doubled Middle Tennessee this past week and only outgained the Blue Raiders by three yards. It seems impossible to believe, but the Hilltoppers had 352 yards on 73 plays for 4.82 YPP and scored 48 points. That is because Middle Tennessee effectively had TEN turnovers in this game. The Blue Raiders threw six interceptions, lost a fumble and turned it over on downs three times.
MTSU is down to the third-string quarterback, as transfer Bailey Hockman was hurt and then backup Chase Cunningham was lost for the season. Mike DiLiello was thought to be the starter here, but the nod went to Nick Vattiato, who threw five interceptions on 41 attempts. DiLiello threw a pick of his own late for good measure.
WKU had a pick-six, scoring drives of 19, 54, 10, 33, and 4 yards in the rout.
Fade MTSU – The Blue Raiders came into that game second in the country in turnover margin at + 14. They left that game tied for 18th. The defense is actually pretty solid, ranking 34th in yards per play allowed going into this week. FIU and FAU are going to be tough games. Maybe you look for an under against Old Dominion in two weeks, but the Blue Raiders have no offense to speak of right now.
Houston 54, South Florida 42
Sometimes a winning bet is still a bad one. Case in point, I played USF last week. The Bulls covered the + 13, but gave up 646 yards to Houston. The Cougars had a 646-399 edge in yards, scored 54 points and failed to cover. USF even had the game’s only two turnovers, plus two more turnovers on downs. So, what the heck happened?
USF had two Brian Battie kick return touchdowns in the first half. The Bulls actually led 28-26 going into the intermission as a result of the second one, but that lead didn’t last long. The Cougars had 9.94 yards per play to USF’s 5.47. It might be the luckiest cover I’ve ever had.
Play on Houston – The Cougars are for real. Clayton Tune seems to be the right guy for the offense and the Cougars are actually really strong on special teams themselves. Temple, Memphis and UConn are left on the schedule before what should be an undefeated AAC showdown with Cincinnati. The Cougars are one bad half away from having an unblemished record overall, but they’re going to go 9-0 in AAC play. This team is legit.