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Revisiting the 2006 college football season with advanced box scores

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From the Notre Dame hype to the Florida title game swarm.

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SEC Football Championship: Florida v Arkansas Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Our journey from past to present continues. Once again, I have expanded my database capabilities and have redesigned S&P+ once again, and to slowly enjoy the fruits of both of those efforts, I’m walking back through each season in my data set — 2005 to present — in a two-part process: first, I look at the key advanced box scores each season has to offer, and then I unveil that year’s new S&P+ rankings.

We’ve completed 2005, so it’s on to 2006, a year with one of the more underratedly topsy-turvy national title races we’ve seen. Yes, it was preordained that the Ohio State-Michigan winner would get one of the two spots in the BCS Championship game. For the other spot, however, about 18 different teams thought it was theirs at one point.

A Playoff race, with three other spots up for grabs instead of one, would have been amazing here.

September 2: No. 2 Notre Dame 14, Georgia Tech 10

After a fun, successful debut season, Charlie Weis and Notre Dame were the story of the offseason. Ohio State was an obvious preseason No. 1, but the hype in South Bend was ... well ... even louder (and seemingly more justifiable) than the normal hype in South Bend. Weis! Brady Quinn! Jeff Samardzija! A seemingly solid defense! I mean, watch this intro!

The warning signs were evident right out of the gates. The offense turned out to be merely good (18th in the new Off. S&P+), and the defense couldn’t hold up against a good offense (54th in Def. S&P+). The Irish survived Week 1 against Georgia Tech only because, despite the presence of Calvin Johnson, Georgia Tech didn’t have a good offense. Reggie Ball in this one: 7-for-11 for 111 on passes to Johnson, 5-for-13 for 29 to everyone else.

September 9: No. 1 Ohio State 24, No. 2 Texas 7

This year’s Game of the Century was a rematch of Texas’ 2005 win in Columbus. This time around, the road team once again took both the victory and a spot in the national title game. Ohio State won by being Ohio State — solid and balanced offensively (as with most games, Troy Smith’s numbers were good but not eye-popping), mistake-free from a turnovers perspective, dominant in field position, and unforgiving in big-play defense. Colt McCoy was not yet ready for Ohio State.

September 16: No. 16 Michigan 47, No. 2 Notre Dame 21

And the Notre Dame title dreams die in Week 3, almost from the opening kick. Michigan’s, meanwhile, pick up steam.

September 16: No. 16 Oregon 34, No. 15 Oklahoma 33

Tight score, but obviously Oregon was the better team here. I’m sure nothing controversial happ—

September 16: Kent State 16, Miami (Ohio) 14

In the oddest Super Bowl precursor ever, Kent State quarterback Julian Edelman went 14-for-22 for 244 yards and 66 rushing yards, while Miami (Ohio) receiver Sean McVay caught four of six passes for 47 yards.

October 7: Arkansas 27, No. 2 Auburn 10

Arkansas: one of those 18 teams that ended up with BCS aspirations at some point. The Hogs began the season unranked and got smoked by USC in the season opener, then proceeded to win 10 games in a row. This was the coming-out party, as Darren McFadden and Felix Jones rushed for 249 yards (against a Tommy Damn Tuberville defense), and the Hogs won easily on the Plains.

From unranked, they’d reach fifth by mid-November.

October 14: No. 11 Auburn 27, No. 2 Florida 17

Auburn bounced back the next week ... and got awfully lucky. Florida had a better success rate, finished drives better, and had a nearly perfect first half offensively, but a safety and two return scores knocked Florida (briefly) out of the title race.

Things started going awry for Florida around the 14-minute mark here:

October 21: No. 7 Tennessee 16, Alabama 13

Just wanted to commemorate the last time Tennessee won a game in this rivalry.

October 21: No. 5 Texas 22, No. 17 Nebraska 20

Nebraska fans will go to their graves talking about how they were hosed in the 2009 Big 12 title game against Texas. But this is the one the Huskers absolutely, positively should have won. TWENTY POINT SEVEN POINTS’ WORTH OF TURNOVERS LUCK.

November 2: No. 5 Louisville 44, No. 3 West Virginia 34

By far the most fun part of 2006 was when the Big East suddenly took over the title race in November. WVU, with Pat White and Steve Slaton, was in the top five for all of the first two months, and both the Mountaineers and Bobby Petrino’s Louisville were 7-0 for this suddenly epic Thursday night battle. (Couldn’t find highlights, but the one-hour version’s here.) UL quarterback Brian Brohm was amazing, and an awesome Cardinals team (third in S&P+) announced that it was ready for a legitimate title run...

November 9: No. 15 Rutgers 28, No. 3 Louisville 25

...until the next Thursday night in Piscataway. when the 8-0 Cardinals lost to 8-0 Rutgers. Hey, Jeremy Ito...

(Rutgers would lose the next week at Cincinnati.)

November 11: Kansas State 45, No. 4 Texas 42

Ron Prince: 2-0 against Texas.

November 18: No. 1 Ohio State 42, No. 2 Michigan 39

Okay, no, Ohio State and Michigan probably weren’t the two best teams in the country in 2006. (The Buckeyes ended up fourth in S&P+, the Wolverines eighth.) But this was an amazing college football event.

November 24: No. 9 LSU 31, No. 5 Arkansas 26

All Arkansas needed to do was beat 9-2 LSU in Little Rock to create a potential win-and-you’re-in game against Florida in the national title game. (We weren’t thinking like this at the time because it very much looked like it would be Ohio State-USC in the title game. No way was USC going to lose to unranked UCLA...)

Statistically, the Hogs basically got the job done. McFadden and Jones rushed 37 times for 319 yards. Against LSU. But after McFadden’s 80-yard run cut LSU’s lead to 24-19, Trindon Holliday returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown. That made the difference.

Start about the 5:30 mark here:

(I don’t think anyone would have complained if McFadden had won the damn Heisman, by the way.)

December 2: UCLA 13, No. 2 USC 9

Shot:

Chaser:

Despite all the ups and downs in the Big East and SEC, the title race was still pretty cut and dried ... right up to the point where USC left its offense in the locker room for the early kickoff.

December 2: No. 4 Florida 38, No. 8 Arkansas 28

Suddenly, the SEC title game mattered again. The Gators survived, then narrowly got the edge over Michigan in the BCS standings.

The CFP this year probably would’ve been 1 Ohio State vs. 4 Louisville and 2 Florida vs. 3 Michigan. Sold!

December 29 (Sun Bowl): No. 24 Oregon State 39, Missouri 38

Probably the most fun I ever had watching my team lose. Mizzou ran like 13 trick plays, Tony Temple went over 200 yards rushing and then lost a ton on his final carry, OREGON STATE GOT THE BENEFIT OF LIKE 17 BAD CALLS (sorry, the Mizzou fan in me slipped out there, though there were a couple of true doozies), and this game came down to the final play. Super fun.

January 1 (Rose Bowl): No. 8 USC 32, No. 3 Michigan 18

USC ended up second in S&P+ but would have probably even missed the playoff because of UCLA and Oregon State.

January 1 (Fiesta Bowl): No. 9 Boise State 43, No. 7 Oklahoma 42

College football perfection.

January 8 (BCS Championship): No. 2 Florida 41, No. 1 Ohio State 14

I know Ted Ginn Jr. got hurt on the first kick of the game, but ... damn.