9 College Football Teams That Are Better Than Their Records Indicate
A team's win-loss record is the ultimate indicator of how it is performing. A standard rule of thumb is that if you play well, you win; play poorly, you lose. Play well more often than not, you end up with a good record and are considered a good team.
That's the CliffsNotes version. The real story lies in how those wins and losses come about. A myriad of other factors can contribute to winning a game that should've been lost. Or, in a lot of cases with perceived good teams, they end up suffering a loss in a winnable situation.
As the 2013 college football season enters the second half, we look at the teams whose records don't truly represent the type of year they've had.
Washington Huskies (4-2)
Two weeks ago, Washington was an on-the-rise, yet-under-radar program that was starting to get mentioned as a team to watch out for.
Following two hard-fought losses to top-notch programs, the Huskies might have an even better reputation than at any point in more than a decade.
A 4-0 start that included a blowout of Boise State and a solid road victory at Illinois has, at least on paper, been sullied by having to face Pac-12 powers Stanford and Oregon in back-to-back weeks. But the Huskies are much better than their record makes it seem.
Against Stanford, Washington took the then-unbeaten Cardinal to the wire in a 31-28 defeat that showed off senior quarterback Keith Price's skills. Then this past weekend, the Huskies got a shot on the national stage thanks to a visit from both rival Oregon and the ESPN College GameDay crew.
And though they lost 45-24, the Huskies probably gained more backers than detractors by giving the Ducks by far their toughest challenge of the season.
Washington can only carry this reputation so far, though. Just being able to play well, yet still lose, to tough opponents will start to get old, especially if it falls again this week at Arizona State.
Georgia Bulldogs (4-2)
Where would the Bulldogs be if they didn't seem to have such an injury cloud hanging over them?
First Georgia lost stud tailback Todd Gurley to a high ankle sprain in a big win over LSU, a victory that kept it firmly in the national championship picture despite opening the season with a loss at Clemson.
Then backup Keith Marshall was lost for the season with a knee injury against Tennessee, the same game the Bulldogs lost two top receivers and seemed to have training staff come onto the field at Neyland Stadium every other play. Georgia (and senior quarterback Aaron Murray) willed itself to an overtime victory in that one, but all of the missing talent finally caught up this past weekend with a 41-26 home loss to red-hot Missouri.
Gurley should be back soon, which will help Georgia resume its offensive balance. And the schedule actually starts to get easier, with the next two games (at Vanderbilt, followed by the annual cocktail party with Florida in Jacksonville) being the toughest ones remaining.
All things considered, even if Georgia fails to make the SEC title game, it could still find itself in the discussion for a BCS at-large bid. Provided, that is, no more major injuries occur.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights (4-2)
Rutgers has had the misfortune of facing two of the nation's most dangerous quarterbacks, Derek Carr of Fresno State and Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville. Otherwise the Scarlet Knights could be unbeaten to this point.
The Knights gave Bridgewater and Louisville a scare last Thursday, keeping things tighter than the 24-10 final score lets on. They forced Bridgewater into a pair of turnovers, sullying his Heisman Trophy resume in the process.
And to open the season, Rutgers found itself in a wild shootout at Fresno against Carr, who needed every bit of his 73 passes, 456 yards and five TDs in a 52-51 overtime thriller. That game was as much about Carr going off as it was a breakout performance for Rutgers' own QB, Gary Nova, who also threw for five TDs.
In between, the Knights notched a hard-fought 28-24 win over an Arkansas team that at the time was unbeaten and looking strong. In that game, they held fast-starting Razorbacks freshman tailback Alex Collins to 63 yards after he'd become the first SEC back to register three straight 100-yard rushing performances to start a career.
Arizona State Sun Devils (4-2)
Pretty much every piece of news associated with Arizona State's performances this season has come with some level of criticism.
Its biggest wins have come either because of inept officiating (the 32-30 victory over Wisconsin and the downed ball debacle) or against a coach in need of firing (USC's Lane Kiffin was canned just hours after ASU's 62-41 trouncing of the Trojans), while the Sun Devils' best chances to earn national attention (at Stanford and against Notre Dame in Texas) have resulted in losses.
ASU must just be a so-so team, right? Think again.
Todd Graham has put together and explosive offensive team in his second year in Tempe, averaging 44 points per game and basically playing only one bad half of football. That was against Stanford, where the Sun Devils trailed 29-0 before nearly getting back into it after halftime.
Outside of that, ASU has been nearly unstoppable on offense, and it's done so with a talented junior quarterback (Taylor Kelly is averaging 327.5 yards per game and has thrown for 16 TDs) and an efficient run game that is led by Marion Grice and his ability to rush (10 TDs) for or catch (five scores) touchdowns.
ASU gets another chance to shake off its reputation when it faces fellow better-than-its-record foe Washington this weekend.
Northwestern Wildcats (4-2)
Maybe this is just the Northwestern way.
Maybe the Wildcats are a good team, a good program, but not one that's ever going to be able to compete with the biggest of the big boys in the Big Ten, except for the occasional fluke upset.
That's what Northwestern's record would make you think, and the individual scores would back that case further: a 4-0 start against lesser competition, followed by losses in league play to Ohio State and Wisconsin.
Ohio State would probably be the first character witness to testify at Northwestern's reputation trial, though, because the Buckeyes were on the ropes several times in Evanston two weeks ago before ultimately pulling out a much-closer-than-the-score 40-30 win.
The 35-6 loss at Wisconsin this past weekend—well, that could be chalked up to a combination of the opponent, the locale (winning in Madison isn't a common occurrence) and the fact the Wildcats looked emotionally drained following the Ohio State game and were destined to fall flat against the Badgers.
Northwestern's two-quarterback system and its pesky, turnover-causing defense should right the ship this week against Minnesota, but then comes a tough four-game stretch that will really determine how good the Wildcats are.
Boise State Broncos (4-2)
Funny how things change over time.
It used to be Boise State was always one of those overlooked, underrated teams despite often being unbeaten or having just one loss on their record.
But this season the Broncos have uncharacteristically dropped two games in the first half of the schedule, losing badly at Washington in their opener and then falling to upstart Fresno State—this year's Boise?—in a shootout a few weeks ago.
So because Boise is 4-2, it's basically been forgotten, just another school from a non-AQ conference that will probably win a bunch of games and end up in a whatever-type bowl game in mid-December, right?
Fine by the Broncos. This year's group seems perfectly content going about unnoticed, just racking up wins without much fanfare.
Boise could very likely end up 10-2 and face Fresno again in the Mountain West Conference's first-ever championship game in December, and by then it will probably also be back in the rankings and once again hoping none of the big-money schools manages to lure away coach Chris Petersen.
Mississippi Rebels (3-3)
Ole Miss' record to this point can be looked at two ways, depending on whether you consider the glass half full or half empty.
On the positive side it could be said that being .500 at this point despite playing four of six (including three in the SEC) on the road is amazing, especially since that stretch included a trip to Alabama and also resulted in big wins at Vanderbilt to open the season and later at Texas.
The other side of the coin is this: At 3-3 following a wild 41-38 home loss Saturday to Johnny Manziel and his band of lesser-paid Texas A&M teammates, the Rebels need to prove they're good enough to put together a stretch of wins if they want to consider themselves in the upper half of the SEC.
Ole Miss is now in the midst of a ridiculous six-game homestand that began with A&M and continues with Saturday's visit from LSU before it finally gets easier: consecutive home games against Idaho, Arkansas and Troy, a stretch that almost guarantees reaching bowl eligibility.
Ole Miss fans want more than just making a bowl, though, so it's time for the Rebels to act on those fan wishes.
Boston College Eagles (3-3)
If this were college basketball, Boston College would be one of those teams that experts would be calling a "dangerous" opponent come postseason tournament time.
Instead, the Eagles are just a .500 team that just happens to have given the ACC's two best teams absolute fits.
Aside from a 28-point loss at USC that wasn't really a game, BC's other two defeats have been at home to Florida State (48-34) and this past weekend at Clemson (24-14). In both games the Eagles had leads that were causing their opponents to sweat and the nationwide upset police to be on high alert.
BC actually led 14-10 at Clemson entering the fourth quarter before Clemson realized who it was and took over, while against FSU the Eagles had an early 17-3 advantage before the Seminoles woke up.
The Eagles aren't particularly good at anything, but they're not bad at anything, either. And senior tailback Andre Williams (838 yards, seven TDs) has posed a challenge to every defense he's faced, including FSU and Clemson.
Iowa State Cyclones (1-4)
If college football gave an award for the best team that doesn't make a bowl game, Iowa State might have locked up that hardware already.
The Cyclones' four losses have come by a combined 22 points, including their most recent setback, a 42-35 defeat at unbeaten Texas Tech in which they gave the Red Raiders all they could handle.
The other losses were by eight to Northern Iowa (probably the least forgivable, since it was at home to open the season), by six to rival Iowa and maybe the most heartbreaking and controversial, a 31-30 defeat to Texas on Oct. 3.
In that game the Cyclones saw Texas fumble twice near the goal line on the game-winning drive in the final minutes, with ISU recovering one of the muffs only to have a replay overturn the takeaway. Texas scored shortly thereafter, and Cyclones coach Paul Rhoads gave one of the greatest unprovoked postgame rants afterward.
ISU has been good enough to win in all four of its losses, but that doesn't get you anything. It certainly doesn't get the Cyclones a break anytime soon, as now they visit Baylor before hosting Oklahoma State.