Week 7: 'Lies, damn lies and statistics'
One thing about writing a column about numbers each week is the obvious realization that the numbers can be quite deceptive -- we've all heard Mark Twain's diatribe regarding "lies, damn lies and statistics."
I've tried hard in the month and a half I've been doing this to point out spots where I think the statistics might, in fact, be lies, and I've tried to use other numbers to support those assertions.
For instance, two weeks ago, I used some numbers regarding Georgia's opponents' offenses to assert that the Dawgs defense might not be as good as their defensive numbers might lead you to believe. Got that one right. Same thing with Oregon State's D a couple of weeks ago before they played Cal. Of course, I also singled out Oregon's offensive line and Jonathan Stewart for praise last week before they played the Golden Bears -- that one didn't work out so well.
But, the point isn't really whether I'm right or I'm wrong. The point is that there's really an entire category of statistics this time of year, which, for lack of a better term, I'd call reality checks.
There are a few more reality checks and potential reality checks sprinkled through this week's numbers. I'll point them out along the way.
As long as we are speaking of the Dawgs defense, or lack thereof, we start you with last week's biggest reality check.
37: Georgia gave up 37 second-half points to Tennessee last week. The Dawgs had only given up 34 points all season entering the game against the Vols.
8: Along the same lines, Syracuse already has eight TD passes this season. The Orange had six all of last year.
600: Syracuse's opponent on Saturday provides us with one of the week's most amazing numbers. West Virginia has not trailed since the overtime of its game with Louisville on October 15, 2005 (a game the Mountaineers ultimately won). That's a span of 600 minutes of game time.
Despite his team's perfect record, Rich Rodriguez has found a few things to be concerned about this week -- most notably, his teams' ongoing issue with penalties. The Mountaineers had 11 for 132 yards in last week's win against Mississippi State and are the ninth most-penalized team in America. But, bucking conventional wisdom, the numbers tell us that might not be such a big deal.
25-30: The 10 least penalized teams in the nation (based on penalties per game) are a combined 25-30. It's a group that includes Memphis, Northwestern, Stanford and Vanderbilt.
29-26: The 10 most penalized teams in America (based on penalties per game) are a combined 29-26. In other words, the teams with the most penalties are doing better than the teams with the fewest penalties.
The bottom 10 includes not only the undefeated Mountaineers, but also undefeated Florida, which, as it turns out, is the most penalized team in the country.
1996: Despite all of those penalties, the Gators are on a historic high, 6-0 for the first time since 1996, which was also the year they won the national championship.
6: Florida heads into its game against Auburn having won five straight against ranked opponents. The school record is six, set 22 years ago.
3: Amidst all the good Florida numbers, this brief reality check heading into the second-ranked Gators' trip to The Plains on Saturday. Auburn has won six games all-time against top 5 opponents at Jordan-Hare Stadium -- and three of those six have come against Florida.
195.7: Part of the explanation for Michigan's success, a turn around in the run game, thanks to a healthy Mike Hart and offensive line. The Wolverines are averaging 195.7 rushing yards per game, which leads the Big Ten. Last year, Michigan was ninth in the conference in rushing at 161.6 yards per game.
1972: Delving back a bit deeper into the historic starts, when Louisville faces Cincinnati this week, the Cards will be looking to get to 6-0 for just the second time ever. The other time it happened was 1972, when, under the firm and guiding hand of Lee Corso, the Cards survived always-dangerous road trips to Dayton, Tampa and Wichita State en route to a 9-1 season.
1960: Another historic start? Missouri. With a win over Texas A&M, the Tigers would be 7-0 for the first time since Dan Devine's 1960 Orange Bowl team, which was ranked as high as No. 1 in the nation that season. It's a team that's generally considered to be the gold standard for the black and gold.
1992: From the "it's all relative" department, a little more Big 12 history. Dating back to last year's season-ending victory over Oklahoma State, Baylor has now won three conference games in a row. Doesn't seem like much, but it's the first time the Bears have pulled that off since 1992, when they beat SMU, TCU and Houston in consecutive weeks back in the old Southwest Conference days.
46: Now to the reality check. The Bears try to extend the streak to four this week against Texas -- a team that's beaten them by an average of 46 points per game over their last seven meetings.
10: Another sobering historic number out of the Big 12. Dating back to last season, Colorado has lost 10 games in a row. That ties the school record set in the 1963 and '64 seasons.
2: The Buffs' futility has created one statistical oddity. Brian White, who started the season as Colorado's backup quarterback, left the team just after they fell to I-AA Montana State. White transferred to Portland State, which, because it's a I-AA school, meant he was immediately eligible.
Last weekend, White completed 2-of-7 passes for 34 yards as the Vikings fell to -- you guessed it -- Montana State. Meaning White had managed to lose to the same team twice in the same season with two different schools. Those, by the way, two of just three wins for the Bobcats, who are working furiously to facilitate another transfer for White as we speak.
28: By comparison, USC's problems are quite minor, but it has become clear in the last month that the Trojans are not the offensive juggernaut they were last year. USC hasn't scored more than 28 points in any of its last four games. This from a team that scored at least 34 points in every game last season. It's the first time since 2001 the Trojans' offense has gone four straight games without scoring at least 30 points.
7: Though many of USC's defensive numbers are better than they were a year ago, the Trojans are showing a disturbing inability to come up with big plays, as reflected in their seven sacks. USC had 32 last season. Defensive end Lawrence Jackson, who totaled 10 sacks last year, has yet to record one this season.
42: Taking over Jackson's mantle as the Pac 10's sack machine is Washington State's Mkristo Bruce, whose 10 sacks lead the nation. For some perspective, consider that those 10 sacks are more than 42 teams have recorded this year. That list includes not only USC, but also Alabama, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Nebraska, and Florida State.
22: That helps explain the Cougars' impressive defensive turnaround. Last year, they didn't hold any Pac-10 teams to less than 22 points. In three conference games this season, only USC has managed to score more than 10 on the Cougars -- they got 28.
40: Wazzu will be challenged to keep that run alive against a Cal offense that's clicking on all cylinders. The Bears' 45-24 romp over Oregon marked their fifth straight game scoring more than 40 points. That's a school record.
300: The challenge for the Ducks this week is the UCLA defense, which is no longer an oxymoron. Former Redskins secondary coach DeWayne Walker has come in and completely turned around the Bruins D, which has held all five of its opponents under 300 total yards. Last year, only Rice failed to gain at least 300 yards against the Bruins, with 10 of the other 11 opponents all gaining at least 398 yards on them.
16: Only one of the Bruins' five opponents has scored more than 16 points on them this year. Last season, UCLA gave up more than 16 points in every game it played. We'll see whether the Bruins' D suffers a "Georgia-esque" reality check this week.
11: Speaking of the Dawgs -- we started with them and we'll finish with them -- Georgia has won 11 in a row against Vanderbilt, which is this week's opponent. The Commodores' last win in the series came in 1994, when they were coached by, you guessed it, Gerry DiNardo.
Speaking of which, as always, we encourage you to tune in as Gerry, Todd McShay and I break down all the games on "College GameDay" on ESPN Radio Saturday, starting at noon ET. Hope you'll make it part of your weekend.
Dave Revsine is the host of "College GameDay" on ESPN Radio. Listen every Saturday from noon to 7 p.m. ET as Gerry DiNardo, Todd McShay and Revsine break down the action.
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