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Revisiting the 2005 college football season with advanced box scores

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NCAA Football - Big 12 Championship - Colorado vs Texas - December 3, 2005 Photo by G. N. Lowrance/Getty Images

January is my prep month. I’ve been setting up my preview files and prepping stuff for the 2019 S&P+ projections and preview series — that began basically the moment the Clemson-Alabama game ended — and I’ve been doing a lot of data update things I’ve been meaning to get to for a while.

One of those items: revamping S&P+ (again). I’ve added a couple new layers of opponent adjustments to the proceedings, and I really like their effects. For grins, I’ll be posting updated S&P+ rankings year by year; that way, I’ll be able to revisit and discuss each season individually.

For further grins, each update will be a two-post process.

  • First, we’ll revisit key games from each season using the advanced box scores that you’ve hopefully grown accustomed to in each year’s statistical profiles (this year, I ran them through Google Docs).
  • The next day, we’ll unveil the updated S&P+ rankings.

I have play-by-play data going back to 2005 (I still have hopes for earlier years, but that hasn’t come together just yet), so we’ll start there and move toward the present. The timeline for this will be a little bit awkward here and there — when I put out the “five-year history” portion of the 2019 S&P+ projections, it will be using rankings you haven’t seen yet — but I enjoy the story-telling process, and this seems like a fun way to go about it, yeah?

So let’s begin. I do hope to eventually end up with play-by-play for seasons earlier than 2005, but because of the historical significance of the 2005 season — the Texas-USC game will forever be regarded as one of the best games in the history of the sport — it’s always felt like a pretty good starting point all the same.

Below, you’ll find a selection of key games from the 2005 season; I solicited requests on Twitter and went from there. Obviously this doesn’t include every impactful game of the year — I don’t think even our amazing content management system could handle 100 box score images and YouTube clips without faltering — but it’s got the major ones. Click on the image for each advanced box score, and it should produce something readable. (If it doesn’t, let me know, and I’ll adjust my process accordingly.)

September 3: No. 13 Georgia 48, No. 18 Boise State 13

The ultimate status-check game. Dan Hawkins’ Broncos were winning a lot of games but didn’t have the play-making ability (or the stable quarterbacking) to beat a big-time P5 foe yet. A year later, with Chris Petersen in charge, they would.

September 5: No. 14 Florida State 10, No. 9 Miami 7

When you’ve got a higher success rate, create more scoring opportunities, and endure fewer turnover opportunities, you’re likely going to win. Miami figured out a way not to on the first Monday night of the season.

September 10: No. 2 Texas 25, No. 4 Ohio State 22

Man oh man, there have been few home-and-home non-conference series as well-timed as this one. Texas goes to Columbus and scores a season-defining win on the way to the national title game, and then the next year Ohio State goes to Austin and does the exact same thing.

September 10: No. 20 Notre Dame 17, No. 3 Michigan 10

After a couple of insanely mediocre seasons finished off the Tyrone Willingham era in South Bend, Charlie Weis came to town, and ... man ... it’s almost impossible to express just how strong the Wake Up the Echoes buzz was in 2005-06. And Weis’ own cockiness made it seem like a permanent breakthrough was all but inevitable. Until 2007 happened, anyway.

September 17: No. 6 Florida 16, No. 5 Tennessee 7

The Phil Fulmer era never really recovered from 2005. The Vols began the season ranked third in the AP poll but just couldn’t score. They would rebound from this loss with an upset win at No. 4 LSU and would reach 3-1, but they then lost five of six and finished 5-6.

September 17: No. 13 Miami 36, No. 20 Clemson 30

A couple of different people requested this one.

Clemson loved itself some bubble screens in 2005, apparently. That’s a lot of Charlie Whitehurst passes that didn’t really go anywhere.

September 24: Wyoming 24, Ole Miss 14

For my podcast spouse Steven Godfrey.

October 8: No. 2 Texas 45, Oklahoma 12

OU was re-tooling in 2005. Texas was not.

Zero. Percent. Success rate. On passing downs.

October 8: No. 16 Penn State 17, No. 6 Ohio State 10

Texas and USC were on a collision course all season, but perhaps the biggest subplot of the year was Penn State’s rise. They had finished with a losing record in four of the last five seasons, and it very much looked like Joe Paterno had over-stayed his welcome in State College. He needed rejuvenated recruiting to come through in a major way, and he needed a huge year. He got it. PSU went 11-1, won the Orange Bowl, and would’ve easily been the No. 3 seed in the CFP had the CFP existed. This game was a coming-out party of sorts. It also created the White Out as we know it.

October 15: Michigan 27, No. 8 Penn State 25

This loss didn’t end up meaning much — you have to assume that an 11-0 Penn State still finishes behind USC and Texas — but coming a week after the breakthrough Ohio State win, this was a stomach punch.

October 15 was only beginning.

October 15: No. 1 USC 34, No. 9 Notre Dame 31

This tweet got me mini-ratio’d.

October 15: West Virginia 46, No. 19 Louisville 44

Another season subplot: the ascendance of the Pat White/Steve Slaton West Virginia teams. Rich Rodriguez’s Mountaineers lost to No. 3 Virginia Tech on October 1 but didn’t lose again, and this win, which featured 188 yards from Slaton and 79 more from White — who had officially overtaken Adam Bednarik as first-string QB — was the catalyst.

October 29: No. 2 Texas 47, Oklahoma State 28

For the second straight year, OSU bolts out to a huge early lead (35-7 in 2004, 28-9 in 2005) and then watches Vince Young erase every bit of it.

November 5: No. 5 Miami 27, No. 3 Virginia Tech 7

Marcus Vick and Tech were unbeaten and third in the polls, but Miami came to town and destroyed them. (They’d go on to suffer an upset loss to FSU in the ACC title game, too.)

November 12: No. 15 Auburn 31, No. 9 Georgia 30

Man, this might be the closest football game of all time, from both stats and eyeballs perspectives.

November 19: USC 50, Fresno State 42

When USC struggled in 2005, it was because of the defense. Fresno State was able to pass awfully efficiently against the Trojans here, for instance, and only turnovers prevented an upset. But we were all lucky that FS was staying so close. It meant Reggie Bush had to stay on the field.

December 3: No. 13 Georgia 34, No. 3 LSU 14

Georgia rides turnovers and a vicious passing downs defense to its second SEC title in four years.

December 3: No. 2 Texas 70, Colorado 3

lol this was a conference title game.

Honestly, I was surprised to see that the yardage margin was this close. I’d have guessed something more like 600-50. (This was the utter low point for the Big 12 North. Colorado stunk, Nebraska, Missouri, and Kansas weren’t ready yet, Bill Snyder was about to retire at K-State, and a mediocre Iowa State damn near won the division.)

December 30: UCLA 50, Northwestern 38

One of the silliest, most enjoyable bowl games I can ever remember watching. Northwestern had huge turnovers luck, generated nearly twice as many scoring opportunities, and bolted to a 22-0 lead, UCLA responded with a 36-0 run, and the Bruins held on when Brandon Breazell returned two onside kicks for touchdowns in the final three minutes. Delightful.

(Goodness, the days before HD TV really caught on were something else, weren’t they?)

December 30: Missouri 38, South Carolina 31

On the same afternoon as UCLA-Northwestern, Gary Pinkel potentially saved his job at Mizzou when the Tigers overcame a 28-7 deficit and Brad Smith put on one final Brad Smith performance.

January 3: No. 3 Penn State 26, No. 22 Florida State 23

The second-to-last game of the season might have been the second-best, too, at least when it comes to late-game, both-teams-blow-like-17-chances-to-win tension.

January 4: Texas 41, USC 38

Utter college football perfection.

Now that we’ve made our way through that rabbit hole, I’ll unveil the updated 2005 S&P+ rankings in my next post.