Garbage Time
September 25, 2020

This in-depth study of college football blowouts is best use of math we’ve ever seen

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For as much as we glorify it—as many months as we spend waiting for it and as many times as we’ve hailed it as the One Truly American Sport—the reality is that college football is really only competitive about half the time. With no salary cap or league office to enforce artificial parity, the haves reign and the have nots toil. With rosters comprised of 19-year-old kids, when things start to go south, they don’t stop going south. What all of this adds up to is a sport defined not by the Rudy’s of the world, but instead by the blowouts—the massive, eyeball-popping, scoreboard tilting beatdowns that litter the CFB landscape on a weekly basis.

The ubiquity of these unrepentant hammerings is more of a bug than feature, but when looked at under the microscope, as a recent study by Banner Society’s Ryan Nanni seeks to do, they become almost as compelling as your standard top-ten nailbiter. Qualifying a blowout as a victory or loss of 35 points or more and extending his sample size back to 1990, Nanni compiles a series of fascinating winners and losers over the past two decades that highlights the broader college football hierarchy perhaps better than anything we’ve ever seen.

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At the top of the heap is Nebraska, a program that has recorded 77 wins of 35 points or more since 1990. Having had just a single winning season in the past five years, however, this figure is primarily a testament to the absurd dominance of the Cornhuskers in the mid-90s. After the Huskers, Oklahoma, Boise State, Ohio State, and Florida round out the top five. Yes, Boise State. No, not Alabama. You truly, unironically love to see it.

At the other end of the spectrum, down in the deep, dark valley of despair, lies the New Mexico State Aggies, who have taken a whopping 62 whompings to the chin since 1990, followed closely by Kansas, the only Power Five school to make the top five; Kent State; Louisiana-Monroe; and San Diego State. If you’re wondering about Rutgers, don’t worry, they’re sixth and just as bad as you think they are, having sustained 47 blowouts in the same time period.

The true grandaddy—the leader in blowout differential since H.W. administration—is somewhat less surprising, however. That team, THE Ohio State University has recorded 68 blowouts and received just one, bringing their differential to +67. Oklahoma is next in line with a 74-minus-eight total of 66, followed once more by BOISE FREAKIN’ STATE, with a 71-minus-7 differential. Can’t buck them Broncos, folks. Don’t even try.

There’s a lot of other really cool stats buried within, like the single most blowout games recorded by a team in a single season (last year’s Clemson squad) and the most blowout prone matchup (Florida State over Duke) so you should really go dig into the full study. After all, with no non-conference cupcakes on the menu this year, it could be a historically bad year for the lopsided dubya, so you’ll need to get your runaways, laughers, soul-crushers, and humiliations from somewhere.