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Revisiting the 2007 college football season with advanced box scores

The greatest season ever, told through stats and videos.

Missouri v Kansas Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Apologies in advance: If you’re trying to load this post from your phone, it’s going to suck up quite a bit of data. It’s not that all of these image files are 18 MB or anything (they’re about 240 KB each, it appears) — it’s just that there are, by my count, 39 of them.

Don’t blame me, blame 2007. I included 23 games in the 2005 rundown and 22 in the 2006 post. It was hard to limit myself to 39 games for 2007. This was truly the most exhausting and improbable season of our collective lifetimes. There were other odd seasons, to be sure. But this is the one we wrote a damn book (not literally) about at SBN.

Below, we’re going to walk through the countless key moments of the season, start to finish, using advanced box scores as our guide.

One thing you’ll notice: quite a few of the most surprising results were statistically improbable, too. For most of the huge upsets, it wasn’t that the favorite laid an egg — it’s that every statistically unlikely result came in an important game. Illinois’ post-game win expectancy against Ohio State was 45 percent ... App State’s was 37 percent against Michigan ... Colorado’s was 33 percent against Oklahoma ... Arizona’s was 27 percent against Oregon, even with the Dennis Dixon injury ... Oregon State’s was 21 percent against Cal ... ULM’s was nine percent against Alabama ... Stanford’s against USC? One damn percent.

This was the year the sports god winked at us and said, “Here. You deserve this.”

September 1: Appalachian State 34, No. 5 Michigan 32

Jump ahead in the first half, block a field goal late, hold on for dear life in the middle. What a tone-setter.

September 8: Oregon 39, Michigan 7

The most jarring stat from this game (to me): it could have been so much worse. Oregon created 11 scoring opportunities. Granted, Michigan also created six. This was a 55-28 game that accidentally came out 39-7.

(Michigan’s Mike Hart, by the way: excellent in both of these losing efforts.)

September 8: South Carolina 16, No. 11 Georgia 12

Maybe Steve Spurrier’s most devastating defeat of Georgia, even if we didn’t realize it at the time.

September 15: Kentucky 40, No. 9 Louisville 34

There were so many underrated subplots in this season, and here’s one of them: Kentucky began the season unranked but was in the top 10 by the end of September! This (slightly statistically unlikely) win was a catalyst.

September 28: No. 18 USF 21, No. 5 West Virginia 13

USF’s post-game win expectancy: 34 percent. Before the unlikely loss to Pitt, WVU ended up half-damning itself in this tossup defeat. Pat White: injured in both games. The “If only Dennis Dixon hadn’t gotten injured...” what-if creates wistfulness; the “if White hadn’t gotten injured” what-if creates certainty: WVU was the best team in the country with him at 100 percent.

September 29: No. 6 Cal 31, No. 11 Oregon 24

ESPN GameDay was in Eugene for this game. It was a big one, and Cal’s win — by the tiniest of fumble margins — was a sign of national title intentions. For a little while, anyway.

Oof.

September 29: Colorado 27, No. 3 Oklahoma 24

Basically the only time Sam Bradford looked like a freshman.

October 6: No. 1 LSU 28, No. 9 Florida 24

LSU trailed 17-7 at half, possessed the ball for 22 minutes in the second half, went 5-for-5 on fourth downs, and scored the game-winning points with 69 seconds left.

They had survived the season’s biggest hurdle, and it was surely all smooth sailing from here.

October 6: No. 17 Missouri 41, No. 25 Nebraska 6

Two former Big 8 afterthoughts announced their presence in 2007 by obliterating Nebraska. Mizzou got first dibs.

October 6: Stanford 24, No. 2 USC 23

One! Percent! Postgame win expectancy! This win was as unlikely after it happened as it had been before kickoff. (USC, by the way: No. 1 in S&P+. I’m not sure that makes Trojan fans feel any better.)

October 13: No. 4 Boston College 27, Notre Dame 14

What? Are you accusing me of sneaking this one in here simply to remind you how sketchy Notre Dame was in 2007 (3-9, 84th in S&P+)? Well I never...

October 13: No. 17 Kentucky 43, No. 1 LSU 37

Kentucky had fallen from eighth to 17th following a 15-point road loss to South Carolina (which took UK’s spot in the top 10), then bounced right back to eighth following this one.

I watched the score updates for this one from Owen Field in Norman, and the crowd pop when this one went final was almost as loud as anything that happened in the actual OU game (and the OU game got pretty damn loud).

Why was I in Norman? Because...

October 13: No. 6 Oklahoma 41, No. 11 Missouri 31

Mizzou mostly proves its top-15 bona fides (the Tigers would only fall to 15th and would be up to ninth within three weeks), and ... Chase Daniel probably still has occasional nightmares about Auston English.

October 13: Oregon State 31, No. 2 Cal 28

It’s easy for this one to get lost in the shuffle, but the ending to this one was gut-wrenching. So gut-wrenching that Cal quickly plummeted from 5-0 to 6-6.

October 18: Rutgers 30, No. 2 USF 27

USF was No. 2 ... for one week.

October 20: No. 5 LSU 30, No. 18 Auburn 24

The ending of this might be one of the top 10 “OH MY GOD WHAT ARE THEY DOING OH MY GOD IT WORKED” moments in college football history. (In fairness, I guess Les Miles has about six of the 10 items on that list, but still.)

October 20: Vanderbilt 17, No. 6 South Carolina 6

This season was so crazy that I had absolutely no recollection of Vandy beating a top-10 team and prompting a free fall (South Carolina would finish on a five-game losing streak).

October 27: No. 20 Georgia 42, No. 9 Florida 30

And just like that, Georgia became the best team in the country (a few weeks too late for it to matter).

October 27: No. 5 Oregon 24, No. 9 USC 17

Oregon had to ground out a win with defense and timeliness, as a tremendous USC team actually slowed the Chip Kelly offense down a decent amount. The Ducks would beat a top-10 Arizona State the next week, too, as Dixon positioned himself atop the Heisman frontrunners list.

November 3: Florida State 27, No. 2 Boston College 17

It’s a lot more fun when it’s an actual underdog school playing the plucky underdog role instead of a heavyweight-turned-underachiever.

November 3: No. 8 Kansas 76, Nebraska 39

Here’s the other half of our Big 12 nerd-pummels-bully double feature.

Reesing: “I think we rattled off 11 consecutive touchdowns at one point? I remember talking to a coach on the sideline and saying, ‘Hey, let’s try to score 100!’ They had beaten the pants off of Kansas for, what was it, 50 straight years before we beat them in 2005?”

(It was 36.)

”And often by pretty lopsided margins. I thought we could get them one real bad whoopin’! That was one really enjoyable game to play. It was a beautiful day in Lawrence.”

November 3: No. 9 Missouri 55, Colorado 10

Colorado tried to play Cover-1 on Mizzou. Didn’t work.

God, the music in all these old videos is ... something.

November 10: Illinois 28, No. 1 Ohio State 21

In my head, Juice Williams and Rashard Mendenhall rushed for 350 yards in this game. I was thrown to see only 160. Still, Ohio State couldn’t stop the zone read when it mattered most, which I guess is a very “11 years ago” thing to say.

November 15: Arizona 34, No. 2 Oregon 24

Refs and knee ligaments conspired against Oregon in this one. (I’m not finding video of Dixon’s injury, obviously.)

God bless fan Zapruder videos.

November 17: Texas Tech 34, No. 3 Oklahoma 27

White’s and Dixon’s injuries were the most noteworthy from this season, but Bradford suffering a concussion early in this one, and OU falling behind 27-7 as a result before rallying, had nearly the same impact. OU reaches the BCS title game without this loss.

November 17: ULM 21, Alabama 14

Don’t waste a failure.

November 23: Arkansas 50, No. 1 LSU 48

When the Arkansas offense was clicking — and it’s probably safe to say that “Darren McFadden, Peyton Hillis, and Felix Jones rushing for a combined 380 yards” qualifies as “clicking” — you wondered how anyone could ever keep the Hogs under 40 points. That Arkansas finished only 24th in Off. S&P+ shows that quite a few teams did just that.

LSU’s loss set up the “Tomorrow’s Mizzou-Kansas winner becomes No. 1 in the BCS” scenario, and I’m not sure I’ve ever in my life been more scared than when I came to that realization.

November 24: No. 3 Missouri 36, No. 2 Kansas 28

Because Mizzou was pretty mediocre in September (eking by Illinois because of turnovers luck, giving up lots of points and yards to cupcakes) before accelerating meant that Kansas finished the season ranked higher in S&P+ (eighth vs. 12th). But Mizzou shook the nerves loose about a quarter before KU did, jumped to a big lead, and earned the win in what will forever be the biggest game in rivalry history.

November 24: No. 4 West Virginia 66, No. 20 UConn 21

WVU nearly to the finish line. Only one rivalry win from the national title game.

December 1: No. 11 Hawaii 35, Washington 28

Hawaii gets to the finish line unbeaten, clinching an extremely regrettable Sugar Bowl bid.

December 1: No. 5 LSU 21, No. 14 Tennessee 14

Lol, LSU was number five one day before finding out it had reached the national title game (after damn near losing to Tennessee).

December 1: No. 9 Oklahoma 38, No. 1 Missouri 17

Mizzou survived some early-game skittishness to get to halftime tied at 14-14. Then, disaster.

December 1: Pitt 13, No. 2 West Virginia 9

“We blew it against the s*****est f***ing team in the f***ing world.”

December 23: East Carolina 41, No. 24 Boise State 38

Ah yes, the “Hmm, this Chris Johnson guy’s pretty damn good ... wonder if he’s got a shot at making it in the NFL” game.

December 31: Oregon 56, No. 23 USF 21

Ah yes, the “gives a new definition of hangover game” game.

January 1: No. 4 Georgia 41, No. 10 Hawaii 10

Oof.

January 2: No. 11 West Virginia 48, No. 3 Oklahoma 28

Really strange box score. It never felt like WVU was dominating this game — as evidenced by the solid-not-amazing post-game win expectancy and 36 percent success rate — but every big play when the Mountaineers’ way. And interim head coach Bill Stewart became full-time head coach because of it.

January 3: No. 8 Kansas 24, No. 5 Virginia Tech 21

Tech cuts the lead to three points with three minutes left but can’t get a stop, and KU finishes 12-1.

January 7: No. 2 LSU 38, No. 1 Ohio State 24

Ohio State really could have seized this game in the first quarter but didn’t. And then a couple of Buckeye glitches settled the national title. An LSU team inferior to its predecessor got the ring the 2006 team couldn’t.