6 Teams That Were Better Than Their Record in 2013

Greg WallaceFeatured ColumnistMay 30, 2014

6 Teams That Were Better Than Their Record in 2013

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    Jeff Driskel and Florida were very close to something bigger and better in 2014.
    Jeff Driskel and Florida were very close to something bigger and better in 2014.Phil Sandlin/Associated Press

    You've heard it in seemingly every pregame or in-game interview done in the last decade or so, and probably beyond.

    “What do you have to do to win this game, Coach?”

    “We have to win the turnover margin.”

    It has turned into a cliche, trite comment, pulled from “The Great Book of Sideline Coaching Platitudes,” but here’s the thing: It’s pretty much true.

    Move the ball with efficiency and turn the ball over less than your opponent, and there’s an excellent chance that you’ll walk away with a victory.

    Among the NCAA’s top 11 teams in turnover margin in 2013, three were BCS qualifiers (Florida State, Michigan State and Baylor) and another five won at least 10 games (Louisville, Oklahoma State, Missouri, South Carolina, Northern Illinois).

    In other words, teams that held onto the ball were successful.

    But what about those that didn't? Who gave it away often or at key times?

    Those were teams that often had disappointing seasons last fall.

    Here's a look at six teams that were actually better than their records in 2013. 

Arkansas

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    Turnovers contributed to an ugly first season at Arkansas for Bret Bielema.
    Turnovers contributed to an ugly first season at Arkansas for Bret Bielema.Danny Johnston/Associated Press

    Bret Bielema's honeymoon in the Ozark Mountains certainly didn't last long. After winning their first three games, the Razorbacks lost nine consecutive games, three by seven points or less, including the final two matchups.

    Turnovers were a major reason. Arkansas finished tied for 113th nationally in turnover margin, with a season rate of minus-0.75 per game.

    Quarterback Brandon Allen told ArkansasNews.com mistake-free football is a must this spring:

    When we have everyone working together, when we have everyone doing the right thing at every single play, we’re tough to stop. We’re a tough offense when we’re clicking and we have all 11 guys on the field doing what they’re supposed to. So I think for us to be successful we need to have that.

    In a 24-17 overtime loss to Mississippi State, the Razorbacks committed three turnovers to the Bulldogs' two, including a game-sealing interception on the final play of overtime. Taveze Calhoun intercepted Allen on fourth down to clinch the victory.

    A 45-33 loss to Texas A&M might have been even more painful.

    The Razorbacks committed three turnovers while forcing none, and Allen threw a pair of interceptions. Arkansas was within three points of the Aggies three times in the second half but could get no closer. Trailing 23-20 to open the second half, Allen threw an interception that Deshazor Everett returned for a 34-yard touchdown. Allen also threw an interception on the Razorbacks’ final drive, sealing the Aggies’ win.

    If it had turned a few of those close games around, perhaps Arkansas would have squeezed out six wins and a bowl bid. Instead, the fans in Hogville will be in anything but a forgiving mood this fall with Bielema.

Florida

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    Turnovers and poor offense are reasons for Will Muschamp being on the hot seat this fall.
    Turnovers and poor offense are reasons for Will Muschamp being on the hot seat this fall.John Raoux/Associated Press/Associated Press

    The Gators were undoubtedly one of college football’s most disappointing teams in 2013, falling from 11 wins and a Sugar Bowl appearance in 2012 to a 4-8 record that cost offensive coordinator Brent Pease his job and put coach Will Muschamp squarely on the hot seat entering 2014.

    Turnovers were a major reason. Florida forced only 18 turnovers while committing 20, finishing No. 74 nationally in turnover margin.

    No game exemplified those troubles like Miami 21, Florida 16. The Gators committed five turnovers while forcing only one, and two in particular proved deadly.

    With Miami leading 14-6 in the second quarter, Florida had a 1st-and-goal at the Hurricanes' 7-yard line. But Rayshawn Jenkins picked off quarterback Jeff Driskel in the end zone, ending the threat.

    With the Hurricanes holding a 14-9 fourth-quarter lead, Miami was again inside the Florida 10. But sophomore Tyriq McCord stripped Driskel and fell on the ball at the 4. Two plays later, Miami scored a back-breaking touchdown for a 21-9 lead.

    A broken ankle ended Driskel’s season after three games, but his replacements, Tyler Murphy and Skyler Mornhinweg, combined for nine touchdowns against six interceptions.

    In a 34-17 home loss to the Commodores, Murphy committed four turnovers, and each of his three interceptions led to Vanderbilt touchdowns.

    At South Carolina, Mornhinweg led the Gators into USC territory on Florida’s final drive, but he was intercepted by Jimmy Legree, which ended the threat and sealed South Carolina’s 19-14 victory.

    Had the Gators found success in several of those key moments, they might have at least scraped out a bowl bid and cooled Muschamp’s seat. Well, at least kept it hot instead of scalding.

    With a healthy Driskel and a new offense led by Kurt Roper, the Gators must be more efficient this fall.

Iowa State

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    Paul Rhoads and Iowa State were hurt by turnovers last fall.
    Paul Rhoads and Iowa State were hurt by turnovers last fall.Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    Iowa State’s 2013 was utterly forgettable. The Cyclones regressed from 2012’s 6-7 record and bowl trip, falling to 3-9. And while there were some truly ugly moments (like a 71-7 loss to Baylor), Paul Rhoads’ team might not have been nearly as bad as it looked.

    Iowa State lost five games by eight points or less, including defeats to bowl teams Iowa, Texas and Texas Tech.

    A 31-30 loss to Texas was particularly frustrating.

    Up 30-24 on the Longhorns late, ISU appeared on the verge of a season-changing win. But deep in Iowa State territory at the 1, Texas tailback Johnathan Gray fumbled a carry, which was picked up by ISU’s Jeremiah George.

    It was reviewed, and officials ruled that Gray was down before losing the ball. He also had a near-fumble on the next play but recovered his own fumble. On the next play, Texas quarterback Case McCoy punched in a one-yard sneak with 51 seconds left for the winning margin.

    ISU coach Paul Rhoads was livid afterward, ranting against what he considered a blown call, per Yahoo! Sports. He was later reprimanded by the Big 12. 

    To make a play on the 1-yard line with our backs against the wall, and have it taken away from them, that's hard to express. You don't just put an arm around a guy and tell him it's OK when that happens to him. I've got pretty good eyesight. The view I had of that gigantic screen in the north end zone showed a guy that was not down and our guy with the football.

    ISU also led TCU late before the Horned Frogs scored with 38 seconds left to take a 21-17 win.

    It was just that kind of season in Ames. The Cyclones finished tied for No. 69 nationally in turnover margin. If it improves the turnover margin under new offensive coordinator Mark Mangino, ISU could take a step forward this fall. 

Northwestern

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    Pat Fitzgerald's Northwestern was one of college football's unluckiest teams last fall.
    Pat Fitzgerald's Northwestern was one of college football's unluckiest teams last fall.Jeff Haynes/Associated Press/Associated Press

    The Wildcats were one of college football’s unluckiest teams in 2013. They began the season 4-0, earning a College GameDay spotlight against Ohio State. That night, a 40-30 loss began what turned into a seven-game skid that cost them postseason eligibility.

    That stretch included a four-game span with a 20-17 loss to Minnesota, a 17-10 overtime loss to Iowa, a 27-24 loss to Nebraska that saw the Cornhuskers complete a Hail Mary touchdown pass on the game’s final play and a 27-19 triple-overtime loss to Michigan.

    The Gophers and Wildcats were tied at 7 late in the third quarter before Trevor Siemian was picked off by James Manuel for a 24-yard interception return touchdown. On the Wildcats’ next drive, Siemian fumbled, and Minnesota turned it into a field goal and a 17-7 lead.

    Take away those turnovers, and there’s an excellent chance that Northwestern isn’t sitting at home for the holidays.

    With less than five minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Northwestern and Iowa were tied at 10. The Wildcats actually reached the Iowa 30 before an illegal block penalty pushed them back 15 yards. On the very next play, tailback Mike Trumpy fumbled a pitch, and Iowa recovered, ending an excellent scoring chance.

    Northwestern’s 2013 was ugly. But it was so, so close to being passable, and the Wildcats know it.

TCU

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    Key mistakes cost Casey Pachall and TCU last fall.
    Key mistakes cost Casey Pachall and TCU last fall.LM Otero/Associated Press

    The Horned Frogs were one of college football’s more disappointing teams in 2013, slipping to a 4-8 record that could have easily been better had they improved on a turnover margin that ranked No. 74 nationally.

    Perhaps the most maddening defeat was a 41-38 regular-season finale loss at Baylor. Quarterback Casey Pachall threw three interceptions, and all three were back-breaking.

    Trailing Baylor 20-17 late in the first half, the Horned Frogs were deep in Bears territory. But Pachall threw an interception that was returned by Orion Stewart for an 82-yard touchdown with 31 seconds left in the half.

    On TCU’s first drive of the second half, Pachall’s mistakes stung again. Eddie Lackey picked him off for a 54-yard pick-six, extending the lead to 34-17. Still, TCU trailed by only three points on its final drive, with the ball at the Baylor 23 in the final seconds. But Pachall went for the end zone and was picked off by Terrell Burt, who grabbed a deflected pass to end the game.

    In a 30-27 overtime loss to West Virginia, TCU committed four turnovers to the Mountaineers' two.

    At Oklahoma State, Trevone Boykin (playing in place of an injured Pachall) had three interceptions in a 24-10 defeat.

    TCU lost four games by three points or less. It’s hard not to think that had the Horned Frogs been a little more careful with the ball, last fall would have been a lot sweeter. With a new quarterback and offensive coordinator this fall, TCU must be more efficient. 

Wake Forest

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    New Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson takes over a team that was close to big things last fall.
    New Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson takes over a team that was close to big things last fall.Chuck Burton/Associated Press

    Jim Grobe’s final season in Winston-Salem was an exercise in frustration. A veteran Wake Forest team lost four games by a touchdown or less and lost its last five games overall, finishing 4-8. Grobe resigned following the season.

    The tone was set early on. Wake couldn’t convert a two-point conversion try in the waning moments and fell 21-19 at home to Louisiana-Monroe.

    At Miami, Duke Johnson’s one-yard touchdown run with 53 seconds left gave the Hurricanes a come-from-behind 24-21 victory.

    Against Duke, Wake trailed the Blue Devils 28-21 in the fourth quarter. The Deacons were driving inside Blue Devils territory with less than nine minutes left when tailback Josh Harris fumbled at the Duke 46, with Kelby Brown recovering.

    Duke missed a field goal on its possession, giving Wake one more shot.

    But quarterback Tanner Price’s pass over the middle was picked off by Duke’s Ross Cockrell at the Duke 48, ending the Demon Deacons’ hopes.

    A week later in the season finale, Vanderbilt’s Carey Spear nailed a 38-yard field goal with 39 seconds left, lifting bowl-bound Vandy to a 23-21 victory.

    It was so close for Grobe’s group. Instead, the Demon Deacons ended up with a 4-8 record and a new coaching staff led by former Bowling Green coach Dave Clawson for 2014.