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Processing the Numbers, Week 8 | Texas A&M

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Stopping this guy is going to be kind of important

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

All statistics are courtesy of Football Outsiders, home of the F/+ Combined Ratings for college football.
The Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI) was created by Brian Fremeau; check out his website BCFToys for other goodies.
The S&P+ rating was created by Bill Connelly; check out his college football analytics blog, Football Study Hall.
Hat tips to Addicted to Quack's kalon and FO's 7th Day Adventure column for the inspiration.

So, how’d last week go?

Ugh, what a rough game. We came out with a victory, but clearly it did not go as well as expected. On the other hand, if anyone who told you last week that we’d fumble four times on special team (losing two of those on muffed punts), shank a 30 yard field goal, only complete 11 passes, and win because of ANOTHER blocked extra point, you’d have laughed them out of the room. Instead of winning handily against an overmatched team, we got an Arkansas defense playing above their heads and a return unit seemingly determined to fumble the game away, and so needless to say we did not come close to covering the spread. Hopefully the returners were worked so hard they’ll have recurring Saban-centric nightmares about the experience positive reinforcement was provided this week in practice with respect to these special teams hiccups, and we can move forward without seeing them again. Hopefully Leon Brown’s demotion to the bench to start the Arkansas game cures him of his falsestartitis, because man do we need him out there.

Before we get to the goods, I’d like to point out some of the statistical stuff being done over at Good Bull Hunting, SBNation’s Texas A&M site. I was remiss in not linking to Adam Ford’s excellent game preview over at Arkansas Fight last week1, so I’m not going to make the same mistake this week.

1 Mainly because I didn’t know it existed.

You’re probably familiar with GBH for their Tailgate series (which is outstanding), but SpreadsheetAg does a pretty cool score simulation series for them that you might also find interesting. The one for the Ole Miss game is here; I’ll update the post with a link to the Alabama one once it comes up.

Update: The GBH stat simulation for the 'Bama game is here.

The Goods

Overall Quality
ALABAMA TEXAS A&M The Edge
F/+ 25.4% (10) F/+ 13.1% (36) ALABAMA
FEI 0.190 (15) FEI 0.096 (43) ALABAMA
S&P+ 258.7 (3) S&P+ 232.6 (16) ALABAMA
Spread -11.5 Spread 11.5 ALABAMA

The Matchup on Offense
ALABAMA TEXAS A&M The Edge
OF/+ 11% (22) DF/+ 1% (59) ALABAMA
OFEI 0.294 (31) DFEI 0.025 (70) ALABAMA
OS&P+ 125.2 (4) DS&P+ 108.6 (39) ALABAMA
Rush OS&P+ 118.6 (37) Rush DS&P+ 117.0 (28) PUSH
Pass OS&P+ 160.9 (3) Pass DS&P+ 122.0 (22) ALABAMA
SD OS&P+ 134.4 (5) SD DS&P+ 109.7 (42) ALABAMA
PD OS&P+ 131.6 (23) PD DS&P+ 137.3 (18) TEXAS A&M

The Matchup on Defense
ALABAMA TEXAS A&M The Edge
DF/+ 17.6% (8) OF/+ 11.1% (20) ALABAMA
DFEI -0.548 (14) OFEI 0.312 (27) ALABAMA
DS&P+ 133.5 (4) OS&P+ 124 (7) ALABAMA
Rush DS&P+ 184.7 (1) Rush OS&P+ 135.3 (10) ALABAMA
Pass DS&P+ 135.4 (12) Pass OS&P+ 135.5 (16) TEXAS A&M
SD DS&P+ 153.4 (3) SD OS&P+ 130.5 (11) ALABAMA
PD DS&P+ 142.5 (15) PD OS&P+ 142 (16) TEXAS A&M

Special Teams and Field Position
ALABAMA TEXAS A&M The Edge
ST F/+ -3.2% (111) ST F/+ 1.1% (47) TEXAS A&M
FPA 0.455 (112) FPA 0.481 (83) TEXAS A&M

Bold numbers indicate national ranking.

"The Matchup On Offense" refers to the Alabama offense vs. the opponent’s defense, and vice versa.

Wondering what all these terms are?

  • FEI: The Fremeau Efficiency Index, an overall team quality metric that is drive-based and opponent-adjusted. For a more detailed discussion of FEI, check out the PTN primer.
  • OFEI: The offensive component of FEI.
  • DFEI: The defensive component of FEI.
  • FPA: FEI Field Position Advantage, a measure of how much field position value a team earned against its opponents.
  • STE: FEI Special Teams Efficiency, a composite measure of a team's efficiency in all facets of special teams (kicking, punting, and returning), based on points per game.
  • S&P+: Another overall team quality metric, S&P+ is primarily play-based and consists of three components: Success Rate, Equivalent Net Points per Play, and a drive efficiency component. The "+" refers to opponent adjustments. For a more detailed discussion of S&P+, check out the PTN primer.
  • OS&P+: The offensive component of S&P+.
  • DS&P+: The defensive component of S&P+.
  • Rush OS&P+: S&P+ calculated on rushing plays for the offense — a good measure of a team's effectiveness at running the ball.
  • Rush DS&P+: S&P+ calculated on rushing plays for the defense — a good measure of a team's effectiveness at stopping the run.
  • Pass OS&P+: S&P+ calculated on passing plays for the offense — a good measure of a team's effectiveness at throwing the ball.
  • Pass DS&P+: S&P+ calculated on passing plays for the defense — a good measure of a team's effectiveness at defending the pass.
  • PD: Passing Downs, defined as later downs with medium yardage or more to go (3rd, 4th downs in excess of 5 yards to go), as well as 2nd down with more than 8 yards to go.
  • SD: Standard Downs, defined as all downs that are not Passing Downs.
  • SD OS&P+: S&P+ calculated on standard downs for the offense — a good measure of a team's offensive effectiveness on earlier downs and short yardage.
  • SD DS&P+: S&P+ calculated on standard downs for the defense — a good measure of a team's defensive effectiveness on earlier downs and short yardage.
  • PD OS&P+: S&P+ calculated on passing downs for the offense — a good measure of a team's offensive effectiveness on later downs and long yardage.
  • PD DS&P+: S&P+ calculated on passing downs for the defense — a good measure of a team's defensive effectiveness on later downs and long yardage.
  • F/+: The F/+ combined ratings combine FEI and S&P+ into one metric that serves as Football Outsiders' official rankings for college football. For a more detailed discussion of F/+, check out the PTN primer.
  • Off. F/+: The offensive component of F/+.
  • Def. F/+: The defensive component of F/+.
  • ST F/+: The special teams component of F/+.
  • Swanson Giddiness Index: Easily the most accurate predictor of success in college football, the Swanson Giddiness Index is a qualitative, completely unsupportable metric that is presented via the tone of that week's image/animated gif of Ron Swanson — beloved Parks and Recreation character and official spirit animal of Processing the Numbers.

Wondering what all of this means? Check out the PTN primer!

WE FINALLY HAVE ALL THE STATS!

If you’ve somehow missed the handsome "Show the Glossary" button up above2, I’d take a quick peek at that this week. There’s a lot of new terms to discuss, so I suggest brushing up before moving on to the next section. To that end, all of the advanced metrics are now based solely on results from this season’s games. Everything is opponent-adjusted and normalized where appropriate. This is the really, really good stuff, and the articles will be even longer now to cover everything! I know you are as excited as I am.

2 Hand-crafted using the finest organic locally-sourced free-range gluten-free HTML the mid-90s had to offer.

So, what do we know?

Man, where to begin. First off, this may be the last week you see the spread in the table. I have a hard enough time pinning down this team without Vegas floating straight nonsense in my face, mucking everything up. Secondly, you’ll note we have a rather healthy advantage over the Aggies3 in the overall quality metrics.

3 I finally decided to go figure out what the heck an Aggie (Aggy?) is. Most of the internet wants you to believe it’s a diminutive of "Agricultural"
and used to describe someone affiliated with an agricultural college. In reality, an Aggie is a member of the friendliest football cult around.

Shockingly, we also have a pretty solid advantage against the A&M defense. Despite our recent offensive woes, the Tide are still one of the best offenses in the country on a play-by-play basis, which shows up in the various S&P+ splits. These numbers are still buoyed by the early creampuffs and whatever you want to call Florida, but as far as Mr. Connelly is concerned the Tide boast the third-finest passing offense in the country; we’re also pretty nasty on standard downs.

Update: These numbers are in fact not buoyed by creampuffs, as they are now fully opponent-adjusted. Whoops.

Unfortunately, we seem to have some issues to work out running the ball and on passing downs. A&M’s rush defense is equally middling, but they are better than you think when forcing the opponent into passing situations. This is undoubtedly due to an underrated pass rush lead by freshman end Myles Garrett, who appears to be Very Good At Football.

Of more interest is probably the defensive matchup, which is more favorable to the Tide than you may think. Our rush defense is dirty, currently best in the country in rushing S&P+4, and that’s after dealing with Arkansas and their third-ranked rush offense. Texas A&M is no slouch on the ground, ranking 10th, but the Tide has the clear edge here, with a corresponding edge on standard downs.

4 Stanford and their schedule of pass-happy Pac-12 offenses is a bit behind at 173.1, and then you drop all the way down to 155 for Kansas State in third.

The interesting matchup comes in the passing game, where the stats are dead-even on passing S&P+ and passing downs. I gave the edge to A&M here, because I have a feeling that, unless we can get Kenny Hill rattled, giant receivers Josh Reynolds, Edward Pope, and Ricky Seals-Jones will have a field day on our corners (not to mention the shorter but quicker Speedy Noil and Malcome Kennedy). This matchup is key, and I feel will probably decide the game.

You’ll note neither team fairs particularly well in the FEI splits, and in Alabama’s case that’s due to a troubling inability to finish drives. There are a number of reasons for this — a sudden inability to kick field goals, a penchant for drive-killing penalties, and many, many turnovers come to mind — but hopefully all of these issues are behind us and we can return to the dominant world-beaters that we are!5

5 gump gump gump gump gump roll tide

Yeah… special teams. Outside of the very exciting punting battle punting battle between Texas A&M’s lone Heisman candidate, Drew Kaser, and REIGNING RAY GUY AWARD PUNTER OF THE WEEK J.K. Scott, this should be a matchup clearly in A&M’s favor. Unfortunately, I have a sinking suspicion that will be the case the rest of the season against all of our future opponents, as we seem to have some serious, serious issues in this department. You’ll note we currently rank 111th in special teams F/+, which is Really Bad, and is the main reason we dropped so much in the overall F/+ rankings this week. If we had even a middling special teams unit, say 1% in special teams F/+, we’d be sitting in fourth overall behind three of our SEC West brethren. The special teams woes tie directly into our equally-abysmal field position rating, also a tick in A&M’s favor.

All that being said, there's a whole lot more crimson up there than there is maroon, which is telling. If we're able to limit Hill and company's impact, we should be able to pick apart a middling Aggie defense and take this one home. If A&M shows up like we're their Super Bowl, those big receivers start making plays down the field (or on crossing routes, our current bugaboo), watch out. Texans are rather proud of Texas and being Texan, and to have lost back-to-back games against Mississippi has got to be galling. I expect A&M will show up pissed off and ready to play, but ultimately we're going to pull this one out.

How do we stack up with the rest of the country?

The F/+ rankings look… odd. The Mississippi schools are at the top, followed by Auburn, and I guess that all makes sense. But then we have: Oklahoma (no), TCU (no), Oregon (seriously?), Baylor (ok, for now), Stanford (… really?), and Georgia (ABSOLUTELY NOT) ahead of the Tide. There will be some shuffling around as all of these teams get through the meat6 of their schedules, but right now the Tide are on the outside looking in.

6 Or, in the case of TCU/Oklahoma/Baylor, the rice cake of the schedule.

That being said, we’re absolutely still in this. You can see all of the ranks in the tables up above, and the one I want to focus on is the 3 next to overall S&P+. What that tells me is that all the pieces are in place on this team to make it to the playoff, and the reason we aren’t so high in F/+ and FEI is the special teams woes and our inability to finish drives. The return game can be fixed, and the penalties can be fixed, and while interceptions will depend on the status of injuries to Blake Sims and the offensive line, the fumbles can be fixed. Nick Saban or Bobby Williams or A’Shawn Robinson or somebody needs to gently rub Adam Griffith on his back, tell him what Superman would do in these situations, calm him down7 and get him his confidence back, because we need him to start making field goals again.

7 This is what my good friend has to do with his three-year-old son, who, like most three-year-olds, is somewhat prone to flipping out. It works!

Any intangibles to consider?

Injuries are the story for the next couple of weeks. I’m pretty sure Blake Sims is still injured, Ryan Kelly is still out, Denzel Devall is still out, Arie Kouandjio may be slowed, Brian Vogler may or may not have re-aggravated a high-ankle sprain, and so on. DeAndrew White looks to be full-speed, but Amari Cooper may not be. We have the injury bug this year, the last two opponents have been very physical, and as a result we're pretty banged up.

Fortunately the game is at Bryant-Denny, which is fantastic. The Tide haven’t lost at home since 2012 against this same opponent, when Nussmeier threw away the game at the end after JFF did infuriating JFF things. Speaking of Cleveland’s "quarterback of the future": that guy’s not walking in the door anytime soon, so I wouldn’t expect a repeat of those antics. The weather looks superb, with warm temperatures, light wind, light sun, and no rain. Hopefully this will help the skill players hold on to the ball, since that was kind of a problem last week as you may have heard.

Malcome Kennedy has been sitting out lately with a shoulder injury, but as far as I can tell he will be back for the Aggies on Saturday, and as far as I know that's the only major injury they are dealing with at the moment.

Swanson Giddiness Index

Ron has all the same concerns you do. But Ron listens to Coach Saban, and Ron stands by the team regardless of what’s on the scoreboard. Ron is also mildly terrified of a 2013 repeat with an injured Blake Sims in lieu of peak-of-his-powers AJ McCarron.

THE PICK: Alabama Crimson Tide, but it’s going to be close.

ROLL TIDE