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After Further Review: Can USC’s incredible turnover margin help carry it to the College Football Playoff?

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There are so many games played during college football weekend that some of them slip away and others require further study the next day. Before we move on to Week 13, let’s take a closer look at some of the more interesting results from Week 12.

USC 48, UCLA 45

USC may rank low among all FBS teams in yards allowed per game, but it ranks first in a statistical category that’s even more important: turnover margin.

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USC forced four losses in a thrilling win over UCLA on Saturday night at the Rose Bowl. The Trojans intercepted three passes from Dorian Thompson-Robinson and also forced the UCLA quarterback to tinker. The fourth and final pitch came in the closing minutes of the game, when the Bruins had a chance to either tie or take the lead. Instead, that opportunistic USC defense struck again when quarterback Corey Foreman got in coverage and recorded a game-tying interception with 1:19 left in the game.

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The Trojans had plus three losses in that win, giving them a remarkable plus 20 for the season. USC forced 24 passes and lost only four of their own – one fumble and three interceptions. This is the smallest number of lost turnovers in the country.

USC's Corey Foreman celebrates the Trojans' second-half transmission interception.  beat UCLA on Saturday.  (AP)
USC’s Corey Foreman celebrates a pass interception in the second half of the Trojans’ victory over UCLA on Saturday. (AP)
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USC has forced passes in all but one of its 11 games and has six games with multiple forced passes. This includes forcing four gears on four separate occasions. Three of these four-turn exits occurred in September. Since then, the defense has cooled somewhat, until it posted four more in a victory over UCLA.

To put things into perspective, there are four teams that have achieved more turnover than USC, but none come close to matching USC’s turnover margin. Duke’s turnover margin is plus-14, San Jose State’s is plus-13, and there are only four others with double-digit profits—Louisville (12), Kansas State (12), Western Kentucky (12), and Georgia Tech (11). ).

In the previous six seasons, only three other FBS teams had profit margins of plus 20. The lowest yards-per-game rating of all of these teams was the 2018 Georgia South team. This team ranked 48th in the nation in yards allowed per game and 22 in turnovers.

In comparison, USC allows 6.05 yards per game. It ranks 110th in the national rankings.

Throughout the year, this recipe for skipping a ton of yards with impeccable luck from USC seemed unsustainable. Somehow, USC continues to prove this mindset wrong and is on the verge of a Pac-12 title and a possible college football playoff berth.

– Sam Cooper

South Carolina 63, Tennessee 38

Tennessee’s national title hopes faded Saturday night with a poor defense that conceded nine touchdowns to a South Carolina offense that had scored just 18 touchdowns in the previous seven SEC games.

But a fourth-quarter tear in Hendon Hooker’s left anterior cruciate ligament was far more disappointing for the volunteers. The injury occurred when Hooker’s left knee gave out as he ground his leg and collapsed to the ground. He never returned to the game and hobbled into the locker room, as it was clear that something important had happened to his knee.

Hooker was one of the top quarterbacks in college football and his efficient play made him one of the favorites to win the Heisman Trophy. Hooker threw three touchdowns and no interceptions on Saturday night and has 27 passing touchdowns this year with just two interceptions.

Hooker’s story was also great. Transferring from Virginia Tech, Hooker came to Tennessee after Josh Hupel was hired as the team’s head coach ahead of the 2021 season. Hooker had just one 300-yard passing game in his Virginia Tech career and opened the 2021 season as the No. 2 quarterback at UT after Michigan transfer Joe Milton.

Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker (5) leaves the field after his team defeated Alabama 52-49 in an NCAA college football game on Saturday, October 15, 2022, in Knoxville, Tennessee.  (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker (5) leaves the field after his team defeated Alabama 52-49 October 15 in Knoxville, Tennessee. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

Hooker became the starting quarterback after Milton was injured in Week 2 and has retained the job ever since. He threw for 316 yards and four touchdowns in a win over Kentucky a year ago and then threw for 378 yards and five in an epic overtime from Purdue at the Music City Bowl.

Despite Hooker’s excellent performance at the end of 2021, it’s fair to say that hardly anyone outside of Knoxville expected him to be one of the top quarterbacks in 2022. if its 2022 season has already ended.

Hooker finishes the season with 3,135 passing yards and a completion percentage of nearly 70%, including 430 yards and five touchdowns. His 32 total touchdowns are tied for ninth most in college football. While a knee injury overshadows his draft status ahead of the 2023 draft, Hooker is an intriguing prospect for NFL teams. Too bad we won’t see him in action this season.

– Nick Bromberg

Oregon 20, Utah 17

Believe it or not, it’s entirely possible that Utah will be in the Pac-12 title game despite losing to Oregon on Saturday night.

The away loss dropped the Utes to 6-2 in the conference and 8-3 overall as QB Cam Rising threw three interceptions and only completed 10 passes to players not named by Dalton Kincaid. Utes’ only offensive touchdown came late in a 13-play 86-yard play that tied the game 17–17 in the third quarter.

Utah’s last three drives of the game ended with two losses on downs and Rising’s third interception of the game.

The 2022 season is the first of a non-divisional Pac-12 alignment, with USC claiming a place in the title game by defeating UCLA. Second place is up for grabs as Oregon could get into the title game if they beat Oregon State.

If the Ducks lose to Oregon State, Utah has a way. And it’s semi-realistic.

After all, an Oregon victory over its state rival is hardly a guarantee. QB Bo Nicks is limping and Oregon State went 8-3 with a win over Arizona State on Saturday. The Ducks are a 3.5-point favorite with Oregon State winning two of the last three games in Corvallis.

If Oregon loses to Oregon State, Utah needs to beat Colorado and Washington needs to beat Washington State to create a three-team tie between the Utes, Huskies, and Ducks. Utah also needs UCLA to take down Cal, even though the two teams are not in contention for the Pac-12 title.

Why does this game matter? Utah and Washington have not played this season, so a direct three-way tiebreaker cannot be applied to Oregon, Washington, and Utah.

The next step for the tie-break is the win percentage of the overall conference opponents with the same teams. And even though UCLA played all three of Utah, Oregon, and Washington, his victory over Cal would have been enough to lift Utah’s opponents’ winning percentage in the conference over Oregon and Washington.

– Nick Bromberg

TCU 29, Baylor 28

Can TCU take this provocative game to the college football playoffs?

TCU improved to 11-0 with a last-second win on Saturday. There were so many intense games along the way and beating the Bears was the closest chance.

Late in the fourth quarter, BU led 28–20, but TCU managed to score a touchdown and then field goal in the last 2:07 of normal time. A touchdown cut Baylor’s lead to 28–26 because the Horned Frogs fell short on a crucial two-point try. Baylor was unable to buy time on the ensuing drive, and TCU won with a 40-yard field goal on Griffin Kell.

Prior to this, Baylor missed several opportunities to score a goal. The Bears missed a 46-yard field goal, lost the ball on a down in TCU territory, and set up an interception in the end zone. These missed chances helped TCU complete their comeback and secure another close win. There were many.

Of the 11 TCU victories, eight were 10 points or less. There was little luck as TCU ran into bench guards in their wins over Oklahoma, Kansas, Kansas State and Texas Tech. But there was also resilience as TCU overcame double-digit deficits in wins over Oklahoma and Kansas states.

This team just knows how to win games. And the most impressive thing is that TCU managed to win in many different ways. Whether it’s a shootout or a fight, the Horned Frogs keep getting things done.

TCU has already secured a place in the Big 12 title game, but it needs to take care of business against Iowa State next week to ensure a college football playoff spot is on the line in the conference title game.

– Sam Cooper

Extra points

Michigan 19, Illinois 17: Michigan’s stellar rushing offense and defense disguised a mediocre passing offense led by JJ McCarthy. It almost cost the game against Illinois dearly. The Michigan offense struggled hard with top running back Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards on the sidelines, but McCarthy did just enough to lead the Wolverine to a victory that came from behind.

McCarthy completed only 18 of his 34 passes for 208 yards. There were a few drops mixed in, but McCarthy also missed a few wide-open receivers badly as well. Its accuracy was a problem. Over the past three games, UM McCarthy is just 39 of 78 (50%) for 488 yards. With the trip to Ohio next weekend, McCarthy should be playing much better. This is especially true if Corum and Edwards are still at odds.

Ohio State 43, Maryland 30: The Ohio State Talent Collection never ceases to amaze. The Buckeyes have had a slew of running back injuries this year that have left Mian Williams out and TreVion Henderson hobbled into Saturday’s game against Maryland. Due to the fact that the passing game was a little difficult, OSU needed support for his running game, and he got it from an unexpected source – rookie Dallan Hayden. Hayden showed promise throughout the season before combining 248 yards and four touchdowns in the last two…


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