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A Brief History of College Football Knockouts

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Who are some of the best and worst teams in terms of KOs? What were some of the quickest KOs? And where does Auburn fit in all this?

Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

As I said in my last post, I was able to redefine the college football knockout because I found detailed drive data from fbsdrivestats.com. Every FBS vs. FBS game since 2005 is included. So that means we have 10 whole seasons of numbers to dig through.

As a reminder, the new definition is

A knockout occurs after the last play in which the losing team had possession while within one score (8 points).

I'm going to leave much of the digging to whomever wishes to do so. Want to use this stat in a ranking of your own? Go for it. Want to see how a particular team has improved or worsened through the years? Take it away. Want to compare coaches rather than teams? Good idea! Got another idea for how to use this? Please, show us!

KO time for every game since 2005: URL or downloadable .CSV

Average KO time for every team since 2005: URL or downloadable .CSV

Now, let me show off a few things.

Best/Worst Average KOs

The best KO averages since 2005.

Year Team Wins Losses Avg KO rk
2012 Oregon 11 1 40:26 1
2010 Boise St. 12 1 40:23 2
2013 Florida St. 13 0 39:56 3
2012 Alabama 12 1 38:40 4
2011 Boise St. 12 1 38:14 5
2008 Florida 12 1 36:15 6
2008 Oklahoma 11 2 35:41 7
2010 TCU 12 0 35:06 8
2011 Alabama 11 1 34:35 9
2013 Alabama 10 2 33:50 10

Oregon has had two shots at the national title in the last 10 years (2010, 2014), but a three point loss to Stanford prevented the 2012 team from making it three. The only opponents to make it past halftime were Stanford and Cal (and the Ducks ended the Cal game with five straight TDs for a final of 59-17).

It's no surprise to see Bosie State listed twice. They have been a very good team in a weak conference for most of the last 10 years. It's also no surprise to see Florida State's 2013 team listed at number 3 (and for the same reasons).

Now, the worst averages since 2005.

Year Team Wins Losses Avg KO rk
2006 Utah St. 1 11 -37:05 1205
2012 New Mexico St. 0 11 -37:27 1206
2013 Eastern Michigan 1 10 -37:38 1207
2011 New Mexico 1 10 -37:39 1208
2005 New Mexico St. 0 12 -38:15 1209
2008 North Texas 1 11 -40:06 1210
2005 Temple 0 11 -40:43 1211
2013 Cal 0 11 -40:56 1212
2008 Washington St. 1 11 -42:04 1213
2009 Washington St. 1 11 -44:53 1214

Ouch. Washington State could only stick with opponents for about a quarter in 2009. And they weren't much better the year before.

As you well know, Auburn has had it's ups and downs over the last 10 years. It's no surprise that 2012 delivered Auburn's worst average KO time of -18:18. On average, the fourth quarter wasn't worth playing.

But it is surprising that the 2005 team has the best average KO time of the last decade despite three losses. As fun as 2010 and 2013 were, there were a lot of close calls. Our Tigers got plenty of W's, but you and your heart know too well just how many of those games went to the wire. The 2005 team blew a lot of teams out of the water and of its three losses, two were knockouts in the last  three minutes.

Year Team Wins Losses Avg KO rk Yearly rk
2005 Auburn 8 3 22:37 80 5
2006 Auburn 11 2 10:28 295 28
2007 Auburn 8 4 6:09 418 40
2008 Auburn 4 7 1:48 544 55
2009 Auburn 7 5 5:27 440 44
2010 Auburn 13 0 17:22 160 17
2011 Auburn 7 5 -7:23 810 79
2012 Auburn 2 9 -18:18 1044 105
2013 Auburn 11 2 11:53 263 30
2014 Auburn 7 5 9:46 314 31

Quickest KOs

Just how quickly can a game get out of hand? Would you believe less than 60 seconds?

Season Date Home Score Away Score KO rk
2008 09/06/08 Washington St. 3 Cal 66 59:08 1
2014 10/04/14 Indiana 49 North Texas 24 59:06 2
2010 10/09/10 Ball St. 16 Western Michigan 45 59:01 3
2012 10/20/12 Louisiana Tech 70 Idaho 28 58:58 4
2010 11/20/10 Tulane 14 Central Florida 61 58:48 5
2009 11/28/09 Houston 73 Rice 14 58:41 6
2011 09/10/11 Middle Tennessee 21 Georgia Tech 49 58:35 7
2013 11/16/13 Wisconsin 51 Indiana 3 58:30 8
2007 10/20/07 West Virginia 38 Mississippi St. 13 58:27 9
2007 09/01/07 Oklahoma 79 North Texas 10 58:26 10

The Cal Bears claimed the quickest KO when they beat those poor 2008 Cougars 66-3. Cal scored a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage, intercepted a Wazzu pass on the third, and scored again on the fifth. The Cougars never had the ball down one score again.

As you would expect, a lot of these games involve non-BCS/Group of 5 teams. What if we only look at BCS/Power 5 matchups?

Season Date Home Score Away Score KO rk
2008 09/06/08 Washington St. 3 Cal 66 59:08 1
2013 11/16/13 Wisconsin 51 Indiana 3 58:30 8
2007 10/20/07 West Virginia 38 Mississippi St. 13 58:27 9
2012 01/02/13 Florida 23 Louisville 33 58:11 13
2009 10/31/09 Tennessee 31 South Carolina 13 58:08 15
2012 10/27/12 Oregon 70 Colorado 14 58:05 16
2014 11/08/14 Kentucky 31 Georgia 63 57:58 18
2006 10/21/06 Arkansas 38 Mississippi 3 57:49 20
2014 11/22/14 Baylor 49 Oklahoma St. 28 57:49 21
2009 11/07/09 Arizona 48 Washington St. 7 57:48 23

Most of these are total blowouts, so how did Florida get KO'd with that much time left and still only lose by 10? Well, the Gators threw a pick six on the first play from scrimmage and then went three-and-out on the next possession. The Cardinals would go up by 14 after their next drive and that lead would be the same at halftime. Louisville pushed the lead to 33-10 before two Florida touchdowns in the last eight minutes of the game made the final look respectable, but in reality, the Cardinals controlled that game from start to finish.

Auburn's quickest KO came against Florida-Atlantic in 2013. Auburn scored on its first drive, forced a fumble and then scored on the next play. Jeremy Johnson came in to start the second quarter, added another touchdown with his first pass, and won SEC Player of the Week. Also in the top 5 is the 2005 Iron Bowl, the one where Brodie Croyle may have literally been knocked out by one of the 11 sacks he took.

Season Date Home Score Away Score KO rk
2013 10/26/13 Auburn 45 Florida Atlantic 10 56:34 112
2010 10/02/10 Auburn 52 Louisiana-Monroe 3 56:04 177
2005 09/17/05 Auburn 63 Ball St. 3 53:54 450
2014 10/04/14 Auburn 41 Louisiana St. 7 53:50 461
2005 11/19/05 Auburn 28 Alabama 18 53:36 496

Last year's blowout over LSU takes the top spot when looking only at matchups against BCS/Power 5 opponents, followed by that 2005 Iron Bowl. 2005 Auburn also takes the 4th and 5th spot in blowouts over Mississippi State and South Carolina.

Season Date Home Score Away Score KO rk
2014 10/04/14 Auburn 41 Louisiana St. 7 53:50 461
2005 11/19/05 Auburn 28 Alabama 18 53:36 496
2007 10/06/07 Auburn 35 Vanderbilt 7 51:02 863
2005 09/10/05 Auburn 28 Mississippi St. 0 49:06 1140
2005 10/01/05 Auburn 48 South Carolina 7 49:04 1143

How quickly has Auburn been knocked out? Well, the quickest was that rain-soaked night in Baton Rouge in early 2013. Yes, we (or at least I) felt like Gus Malzahn could have had us right back in it, but Auburn never had the ball down one score after just five minutes. But, hey, LSU got their comeuppance in 2014.

The next three are all from 2012 (no surprise) followed by the first of Barry Alvarez's many swan songs.

Season Date Home Score Away Score KO rk
2013 09/21/13 Louisiana St. 35 Auburn 21 54:59 303
2012 10/27/12 Auburn 21 Texas A&M 63 54:48 324
2012 11/24/12 Alabama 49 Auburn 0 54:32 353
2012 11/10/12 Auburn 0 Georgia 38 49:30 1085
2005 01/02/06 Auburn 10 Wisconsin 24 48:39 1197

Fortunate Wins and Untimely Losses

Some teams didn't win many games and were fortunate to win the ones they did. Take UTEP's 2007 team for example. It only won three games that year. The knockout only came in those games when the final whistle blew.

Season Date Home Score Away Score KO
2007 09/01/07 UTEP 10 New Mexico 6 0:00
2007 09/29/07 SMU 45 UTEP 48 0:00
2007 10/06/07 UTEP 48 Tulsa 47 0:00

Similarly, Vanderbilt only won four games in 2005. The Commodores delivered KO's with 0, 1, 13 and 16 seconds left.

On the other side of fortune, Clemson lost four games in 2005 and it was knocked out at the last possible moment in all four.

Season Date Home Score Away Score KO
2005 09/17/05 Clemson 30 Miami (FL) 36 0:00
2005 09/24/05 Clemson 13 Boston College 16 0:00
2005 10/01/05 Wake Forest 31 Clemson 27 0:00
2005 10/29/05 Georgia Tech 10 Clemson 9 0:00

Perhaps even worse was Notre Dame's six losses in 2009. The Irish stumbled to 6-6 that year, but their losses averaged a knockout time of only 31 seconds.

The closest thing I could find like this applying to Auburn was in 2007. Auburn lost to Mississippi State with less than a minute left and lost to South Florida in overtime. LSU knocked Auburn out with over three minutes to go, and Georgia had the game in hand with 18 minutes to go. A few close ones, but nothing like what some teams faced.

One more thing about Auburn

Finally, I don't know why 2005 is the cutoff, but that's what it is for all college football advanced stats. I've always wished 2004 could be included just to see how Auburn stacked up against USC and Oklahoma that year. Anyway, I went the extra mile and hand-calculated Auburn's 2004 KOs.

Average time of knockout: 36:40, the best number for Auburn in the last decade by over 12 minutes.

I don't know how it compares to other teams that year, but 2004 Auburn ranks 6th when compared to 2005-2014 teams. If there's ever any doubt as to how good that team was, here's their schedule and KO times.

Season Date Home Score Away Score KO
2004 09/04/04 Auburn 31 Louisiana-Monroe 0 51:46
2004 09/11/04 Mississippi St. 14 Auburn 43 52:55
2004 09/18/04 Auburn 10 Louisiana St. 9 0:09
2004 10/02/04 Tennessee 10 Auburn 34 46:14
2004 10/09/04 Auburn 52 Louisiana Tech 7 54:05
2004 10/16/04 Auburn 38 Arkansas 20 55:46
2004 10/23/04 Auburn 42 Kentucky 10 54:41
2004 10/30/04 Ole Miss 14 Auburn 35 13:01
2004 11/13/04 Auburn 24 Georgia 6 39:56
2004 11/20/04 Alabama 13 Auburn 21 16:51
2004 12/04/04 Tennessee 38 Auburn 28 16:29
2004 01/03/05 Auburn 16 Virginia Tech 13 38:07
avg 36:40

Only one game was still a game into the fourth quarter. (Granted, it went deeeeep into the fourth quarter.) Only three other games lasted into the third quarter. And six games were over before the end of the first quarter. It may be hard to definitively say this was the best Auburn team in the last 15 years, but it was certainly the most dominant.

If you want to see every Auburn game since 2005, I have them filtered out right here.

So with that, I'm done with KO's until September or so. I'll get something set up so that rankings can get updated automatically throughout next season. Nothing to spend much time on, but something that might be interesting as the season progresses.