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Statistical Summer: The 10 Most Imprisoned Teams Of 2013

How can the story of a season — and the teams within it — be told? Part of the beauty of college football, with a vastness that stretches beyond 120 teams, is that there are so many ways in which to engage in storytelling.

Today, the Statistical Summer continues by looking at 10 teams that could not get out of college football jail. No, this isn’t college football Twitter jail, but gameday jail. What does this mean? The explanation is simpler than the preamble:

College football gameday jail is a reference to a team’s inability to break from a negative pattern. Great teams play the kind of game they want to play. Awful teams keep playing the kind of game they don’t want to play. Here are 10 examples of those teams, the unfortunate bands of brothers who crafted a “Groundhog Day” narrative in 2013.

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10 – UTEP

The Miners gained fewer first downs, total yards, rushing yards, and passing yards relative to their opponents in at least nine of their 12 FBS games last season. Afternoons and evenings of impotence defined the vast majority of UTEP’s Saturdays in 2013.

9 – IOWA STATE

The Cyclones finished with a positive turnover differential in only three of their 11 FBS games last season. That’s exactly how you wind up with a 3-9 season in a tough conference.

8 – WAKE FOREST

The Demon Deacons didn’t play a single FBS game last year in which they committed fewer penalties than an opponent. The Deacs committed more turnovers than the opposition six times (losing all six of those games). They gained more yards than an opponent in only two FBS games; they gained more first downs only twice as well.

7 – NEW MEXICO STATE

The Aggies did not outrush an opponent in a single FBS game last season. Unsurprisingly, they outgained an FBS opponent only once in 2013.

6 – EASTERN MICHIGAN

The Eagles did not outgain an FBS opponent in any game from the 2013 season. Eastern Michigan committed fewer turnovers than an opponent in only one FBS game. That’s why very few chants of “Yippee!” were heard in last year in Ypsilanti, Mich.

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5 – AIR FORCE

The 2013 college football season was a near-total disaster for Air Force and head coach Troy Calhoun... and that didn't even include the recent revelations about the off-field scandals that have tarnished his program.

The 2013 college football season was a near-total disaster for Air Force and head coach Troy Calhoun… and that didn’t even include the recent revelations about the off-field scandals that have tarnished his program and its image.

The Falcons’ story in 2013 is worth noting for one particular reason: Army, a fellow service-academy team with a triple-option offense, lost to Air Force and was little better than the Falcons on an overall level, finishing 3-9 while Air Force ended at 2-10. Yet, Army — for all of its woes — was still able to outrush most of its opponents, doing the one thing a triple-option team ought to be able to do on a regular basis.

Army outrushed eight of its 11 FBS opponents last season. Army often played the kind of game it wanted to play on offense; its defense simply couldn’t keep pace. Air Force, on the other hand, rarely played the kind of game it wanted to play on offense. The Falcons outrushed only four of their 11 FBS opponents. They gained more yards than an FBS opponent on only one occasion last year. The same held true for first downs.

Air Force was feeble on the field, a bitterly ironic note in light of the revelations last Sunday that some of the program’s players have been assaulting women off the field.

4 – SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI

The Golden Eagles were outrushed in all 12 FBS games they played last season. They gained more yards than an opponent only twice. They gained more first downs only twice as well. They enjoyed a positive turnover differential in only one FBS game last season. Moreover, the Golden Eagles forged an even turnover differential only once. Yes, Southern Mississippi endured a negative turnover differential in 10 of its 12 FBS games from 2013. Few teams trapped themselves as much as USM managed to do last year.

3 – PURDUE

We could continue to put teams from the lower-tier conferences here, such as Florida International. The Golden Panthers outgained an FBS opponent only once last year. They outrushed an FBS opponent only once in 2013 as well. However, it’s much more an indictment of a program when it occupies a power-five seat, so Purdue displaces FIU in the third spot.

The Boilermakers gained more first downs than an FBS opponent only once. They gained more total yards than an FBS opponent only once. They never did outrush an FBS opponent in 2013.

Where have you gone, Joe Tiller?

2 – MIAMI UNIVERSITY (OHIO)

The RedHawks’ 2013 season was a classic case of “negative perfection.” The “MAC Miami” did not win a single statistical battle in three categories last season: first downs, total yards, and rushing yards. The RedHawks outpassed an opponent one time, undercutting the notion of “negative perfection” to a slight extent… not that anyone will put too much stock into such a reality.

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1 – KANSAS 

Decided schematic advantage? Yes... for opponents of the Kansas Jayhawks.

Decided schematic advantage? Yes… for opponents of the Kansas Jayhawks.

The Jayhawks are wayward birds under Charlie Weis.

Last season, Kansas did something similar to what Miami of Ohio… uhhhh, errrr… achieved in the example mentioned above. The KU crew failed to win first downs, total yards, and passing yards throughout the FBS season. Not once did the Jayhawks forge a statistical advantage in at least one of those categories. The Jayhawks outrushed opponents twice, but that won’t make anyone feel better… especially not the West Virginia team that somehow managed to lose to the “Weis Guys” on the road.

Matt Zemek

About Matt Zemek

Matt Zemek is the managing editor of The Student Section, covering college football and basketball with associate editors Terry Johnson and Bart Doan. Mr. Zemek is also Bloguin's lead tennis writer, covering the major tournaments in 2014. He contributes to Crossover Chronicles and other Bloguin sites.

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