Skinny Post - CFB Week 7 Recap

This was part of an ill-fated attempt at a weekly college football Substack newsletter for the layman from October 2019. I still like the content and format enough to re-use it some day in the future, so let’s call this a v0.1.

Welcome to The Skinny Post, your weekly layman’s guide to college football. First time? Long time? Let’s dive in.


Week 7 Scores to know (more details below)

  • #3 uga fell to unranked South Carolina in 2OT, 17-20.

  • #5 LSU outlasted #7 Florida in Baton Rouge, 42-28.

  • #10 Penn State dominated #17 Iowa on the ground to steal a 17-12 win in Iowa City.

Major narratives to keep in mind

  • With losses by #20 Virginia and #19 Wake Forest this week, there is really no clear 2-seed in the ACC behind #2 Clemson, and this is…problematic.

  • Does #3 Georgia keep pace in the College Football Playoff race despite a nasty loss to unranked South Carolina?

  • Will #10 Penn State and #8 Wisconsin challenge #3 Ohio State for the B1G title?

Three for Three

Good in the red zone and for water-cooler talk

South Carolina 20, #3 uga 17

Key Stats

  • Georgia’s average starting field position: own 18

  • Number of turnovers from UGA QB Jake Fromm: 4

  • Number of blown scoring opportunities by UGA: 3

  • Combined FG% in this game: 3 for 7 - 42.9% (yikes!)

Why It Matters

Given their record, one might think South Carolina is mediocre at best (since, you know, being .500 is the definition of mediocre). Au contraire, mon ami: if you look at some advanced metrics (the one we’ll use here is SP+), South Carolina is actually #35 in the nation, which puts them just outside the top 25% of FBS teams. Despite their average offensive play (#65 in SP+, so literally the average), their defense ranks #26 in the country — this is pretty good!

But consider this: Georgia is (well, was) the #5 team in the nation by the same metric, and said metric also projected that Georgia would be a 16.4-point favorite over South Carolina on a neutral field (sidenote: this rises to 18.9 points when you adjust for the game being played in Athens). Losing to a rival is bad. Losing to a rival when predicted to win by ~20 is worse. Expect Georgia to drop when the AP poll is released at 2pm ET Sunday. They probably won’t drop as much as you might think, and this loss doesn’t completely eliminate them from the College Football Playoff — it just makes their path crystal clear: win out, and you’re in.

#7 Florida 28, #5 LSU 42

Key Stats

  • LSU QB Joe Burrow’s completion percentage: 21 for 24 - 87.5%

  • LSU’s total offensive yards: 511

  • LSU’s yards per play: 11.4

  • LSU’s success rate on standard downs: 61.1% (national average: 46%)

  • LSU’s success rate on passing plays: 75%

Why It Matters

LSU’s Achilles’ heel in recent years has been its lack of offensive effectiveness. Given the success of the tandem of offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger and quarterback QB Joe Burrow (see literally all of the stats above), I think it’s safe to say they’ve shored up that weakness quite nicely. That thought should strike fear into the rest of their schedule (including #1 Alabama, whom the Tigers face on 11/9 and has yet to be seriously challenged this season). They’re clear College Football Playoff contenders.

But before you go penciling the Tigers into your brackets, consider this: Florida was in this game the whole way — mostly thanks to the arm of QB Kyle Trask. Trask threw for 310 yards, Florida held the ball for almost 40 minutes, and a quarter (25%!) of Florida’s completed passes went for 15+ yards against an LSU secondary that fancied themselves “DB-U” (Defensive Back University). This game really came down to two key stops by the Tiger defense:

  1. Forcing Florida to punt from their own end zone when the game was tied with 5 minutes left in the 3rd quarter

  2. Picking off Trask in the red zone to end a 12-play, 76-yard Florida drive

That’s the bottom line.

#10 Penn State 17, #17 Iowa 12

Key Stats

  • Iowa average starting field position: own 17

  • Iowa success rate on rushing plays: 27.6% (national average: 41%)

  • Penn State stuff rate: 24.1%

  • Iowa explosiveness rate on rushing plays: 3.4%

  • Iowa rushing yards: 70

Why It Matters

Iowa is known to most as a run-first team that relies a large corn-fed Midwestern offensive line to help their speedy, physical running backs find space. Penn State made sure they did nothing of the sort, limiting a Hawkeye rushing corp that came in averaging 174.2 yards per game to just 70 yards. On just about every fourth Iowa rushing attempt, the Nittany Lions took down the runner either at or behind the line of scrimmage — that’s insane. Iowa was forced to throw the ball to win, and while QB Nate Stanley isn’t exactly terrible at that, it’s not a situation that the Hawkeyes necessarily want to be in (despite this incredible catch).

But here’s the problem for Penn State: their offense was not particularly inspiring in this game. Iowa’s defense is no joke — they held the Nittany Lions to 294 yards and only 117 passing yards. The Penn State running back corps might have given the Hawkeye defense a taste of their own medicine, rushing 53 times for 177 yards, but the yards-per-rush there isn’t great, and none of their rushing attempts went for 15+ yards. Defense was the name of the game in Iowa City, and Penn State narrowly won a war of attrition.

Is Penn State a Big Ten contender? Yes. Can they beat #8 Wisconsin and #3 Ohio State? TBD. We’re going to need to see the 10th ranked offense (by SP+) put together a solid performance versus a good defense — next week’s game versus #16 Michigan should be a good test of where the Nittany Lions’ offense stands.

Various and Sundry

Other scores and notes from around the nation

  • #11 Texas 27, #6 Oklahoma 34: In the 115th edition of one of America’s most back-and-forth rivalries, Oklahoma’s offense proved it was nigh unstoppable; Texas’s defense added more missed tackles to its already nationally-worst total; and Oklahoma’s defense finally faced a quality opponent and rose to the occasion. But even given all those things in OU’s favor, this game (as all good rivalry games do) went down to the wire. OU is still the prohibitive favorite to win the Big 12 title, and I’d say you could even go as far as to pencil them into the College Football Playoff bracket (assuming, of course, they win out).

  • Michigan State 0, #8 Wisconsin 38: The Badgers are 6-0 and have only allowed 29 total points this season. They haven’t played a weak schedule either — Michigan and Michigan State aren’t pushovers, and Northwestern has a strong defense. This is a legit team, and their 10/26 game at #3 Ohio State will probably decide the Big Ten.

  • Hawaii 37, #14 Boise State 59: Boise had this one out of hand quickly. Unfortunately for them, QB Hank Bachmeier suffered a leg injury that looked pretty serious.

  • Washington State 34, #18 Arizona State 38: A shootout in the desert! The Sun Devils are 5-1 and could be…really good? At this stage, I wouldn’t be surprised if they win the PAC-12 South over rival Arizona and USC. Their matchup versus #15 Utah (who demolished Oregon State 52-7) next week should be appointment viewing.

  • Louisville 62, #19 Wake Forest 59: Louisville survived multiple comeback bids in the last five minutes by the Demon Deacons to escape Winston-Salem with their second-consecutive ACC win.

  • Texas Tech 30, #22 Baylor 33 (2OT): Baylor might be good, but getting a scare from a meh Texas Tech team is not great. BAY HC Matt Rhule has done a great job in Waco, though — being undefeated in the Big 12 is nothing to sneeze at.

  • #23 Memphis 28, Temple 30: In a battle amongst the cream of the crop in the Group of 5 conferences, Temple led this game 23-7 at one point in the second quarter, and the Tigers didn’t back down from the challenge.

  • Nebraska 7, Minnesota 34: The Golden Gophers are still undefeated and could remain that way even when the first College Football Playoff rankings are released in a few weeks (given games against Big Ten bottom-feeders Rutgers and Maryland ahead), despite having not played anybody we know to be “good” just yet. Talk to your kids about an undefeated and ranked Minnesota (like you may have with Iowa a few years ago).

  • Washington 51, Arizona 27: In this week’s only PAC 12 After Dark match, UW pulled away late to win. This game was much closer (especially early on) than the final scoreline indicates.

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