Thursday, October 22, 2009


The University of Miami (FL) won the national championship in 2001 with a perfect record. They nearly repeated the championship and the perfect record in 2002. Their only loss was due to a controversial call in the national championship game against Ohio State. As the 2003 season opened, all the prognosticators were still gushing about how good Miami was and that they were legitimate national championship game material. Miami played Louisiana Tech in the first game of the season, and won 48-9. I watched this game and heard the TV analysts repeat what they were saying before the game: "Miami is going to challenge for the national championship." I sat there and wondered if they had just watched the same game that I had watched. I knew right then and there that Miami was not going to be in the national championship discussion at the end of the year. Sure enough, Miami lost two consecutive games November 1 and 8, and was barely ranked in the top 10 heading into bowl season.
What did I see that those TV analysts and the other "experts" did not see? I saw the "True Score" of the Miami-Louisiana Tech game. Twenty-one of Miami's 48 points came from a punt return for a touchdown, a defensive fumble return for a touchdown, and an interception return for a touchdown. That means that the Miami offense accounted for 27 points. The "True Score" for this game was 27-9. Legitimate national championship contenders score 60+ points against a team like Louisiana Tech when they have a special teams and two defensive touchdowns. On the surface, 48-9 looked impressive, but the "True Score" revealed that the Miami offense had some major issues that were later exposed when they lost 31-7 to Virginia Tech, and 10-6 to Tennessee.
Texas is a team this year that does not fair well with the "True Score" test. They beat Colorado 38-14 two weeks ago. On the surface, a 24 point win over a conference foe is admirable. However, Texas was only winning 17-14 with 5 minutes left in the third quarter when the defense returned an interception 92 yards for a touchdown. Subsequently, Texas scored on a punt return with 12:29 to play in the fourth quarter. Factor out these two scores and Texas won by a "True Score" of only 24-14. I know I am not unique in saying this, but keep your eyes open; Texas will be lucky to go undefeated this year.
To clarify, the "True Score" works by taking out scores that occur a low percentage of the time. Defensive and special teams scores are rare. Hail Mary and other long pass plays, as well as scores off of trick plays, also qualify for elimination from the score when calculating the "True Score." This does not mean that the points that teams get from these scores are illegitimate. Points are points no matter how they come, and wins still are wins if you beat the other team with one of these plays. The purpose of the "True Score" is to help you properly evaluate a teams performance and predict results over the course of a year. As I said, these are scoring plays that do not happen often. You can't count on a touchdown off of a kick return every game. The offense has to be able to sustain drives down the field and score touchdowns on a regular basis if you expect to have a high winning percentage or to go undefeated.

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