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?
The Tide faced its most common opponent historically, Bye. As with all previous contests between these teams, Bye was soundly defeated by Alabama.
The only prediction from last week's PTN that applies here was the Ole Miss-Barn catastrophe. While the Barn’s win gave control of their destiny back to the Tide, the ending to the game was absolutely revolting for a number of reasons. Hopefully some good comes out of the injuries to Kenyan Drake and Laquon Treadwell, in that Ole Miss decides to put grass back in Vaught-Hemingway, as is right and proper for a football field. I wonder how many more broken legs and torn ACLs have to occur before people will wake up and realize artificial surfaces are no good. Here’s hoping Treadwell has a speedy recovery and is back on the field in 2015. I wont even get into the classless front page of the sports section for the local Barn rag — that’s been covered elsewhere. Round of applause for Lee County, folks1.
1 | End rant.
|ALABAMA||LOUISIANA STATE||The Edge|
|F/+||33.4% (5)||F/+||27.8% (9)||ALABAMA|
|FEI||0.253 (5)||FEI||0.184 (20)||ALABAMA|
|S&P+||267.2 (1)||S&P+||248.7 (8)||ALABAMA|
|The Matchup on Offense|
|ALABAMA||LOUISIANA STATE||The Edge|
|OF/+||18.1% (7)||DF/+||14% (14)||ALABAMA|
|OFEI||0.576 (12)||DFEI||-0.420 (21)||ALABAMA|
|OS&P+||132.1 (4)||DS&P+||127.6 (7)||ALABAMA|
|Rush OS&P+||126 (20)||Rush DS&P+||123.9 (19)||PUSH|
|Pass OS&P+||161.9 (2)||Pass DS&P+||146.4 (5)||ALABAMA|
|SD OS&P+||139.1 (1)||SD DS&P+||134.9 (6)||ALABAMA|
|PD OS&P+||138.3 (13)||PD DS&P+||125.2 (26)||ALABAMA|
|The Matchup on Defense|
|ALABAMA||LOUISIANA STATE||The Edge|
|DF/+||16.8% (6)||OF/+||10.7% (19)||ALABAMA|
|DFEI||-0.470 (17)||OFEI||0.320 (28)||ALABAMA|
|DS&P+||135.1 (1)||OS&P+||121.1 (11)||ALABAMA|
|Rush DS&P+||167.3 (1)||Rush OS&P+||121.9 (27)||ALABAMA|
|Pass DS&P+||126.5 (18)||Pass OS&P+||139.4 (11)||LOUISIANA STATE|
|SD DS&P+||143.4 (2)||SD OS&P+||124.5 (15)||ALABAMA|
|PD DS&P+||129.8 (20)||PD OS&P+||126.2 (26)||ALABAMA|
|Special Teams and Field Position|
|ALABAMA||LOUISIANA STATE||The Edge|
|ST F/+||-1.5% (96)||ST F/+||3.1% (10)||LOUISIANA STATE|
|FPA||0.474 (99)||FPA||0.538 (21)||LOUISIANA STATE|
(Bold) numbers indicate national ranking.
”The Matchup on Offense” refers to the Alabama offense against the opponent defense, and vice versa.
- 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!
So, what do we know?
That, as is typical for November, a previously hapless LSU has rounded into a top 10 team, and is going to give the Tide all they can handle. Don’t be fooled by all of the crimson up there; a closer look at the numbers reveals several of those matchups are just barely outside the margin2 of being a push. That being said, the Tide’s ahead in all three metrics of overall quality, and still pace the country in S&P+. In another entry for the “FEI is smoking the good stuff” file, the events of the bye week dropped the Tide’s marks in F/+ and S&P+, but then boosted their FEI up to fifth in the country. Good ol’ FEI.
2 | Completely arbitrary margin.
The offensive chart seems to indicate the Tide will make their hay through the air on Saturday. The Tide now lead the country in standard downs S&P+, but a somewhat middling run game does not match up favorably with LSU’s equally decent run defense. Despite the LSU secondary’s reputation, Alabama’s got a pretty healthy edge in passing S&P+ and passing downs S&P+. If Blake Sims and Amari Cooper are truly healthy, the patchwork offensive line holds, and the passing game gets going, look out.
The defensive matchup’s a little clearer in the Tide’s favor, although the LSU offensive numbers seem flipped around given their reputation. All we saw two Saturdays ago was Leonard Fournette3, Terrence Magee, Kenny Hilliard, and a veteran Tiger offensive line ram it down Ole Miss’ throat for four quarters, and all I’ve heard this year is how awful LSU’s passing offense is. Yet, there they are, #11 in the country in passing S&P+, but a middling 27th in rushing S&P+. It’s clear at this point Tennessee’s success on the ground had a lot to do with a QB the Tide didn’t prepare for, and even with that game on the books the Tide still lead the country in defensive rushing S&P+. Thanks to Ole Miss’s stumbles last week, the Tide now boasts the best defense in the country according to S&P+. I suspect LSU will have a tough time running the ball on Saturday, and that wont be Zach Mettenberger back there flinging the ball around on third down4.
3 | The real deal. He’s not the next Adrian Peterson or anything, but yeah. A big, strong, fast problem.
4 | Anthony Jennings doesn’t complete passes very often, (50% clip), but good things happen when he does (16.5 yards per completion; Sims is at 15.5.)
Aaaand of course, our dear friend special teams. Given how close the other matchups are with LSU, this could be the deciding factor in the game. LSU has a pretty stout margin over the Tide, mostly due to those return woes from earlier in the season still plaguing the Tide. One possible bright spot? The Tide’s sixth in the country in punting efficiency, which balances nicely with LSU’s strongest component, punt return efficiency. J.K. Scott has been a veritable weapon this year, and shutting down half of LSU’s return game would be very useful. The kick return coverage appears to be improving, but three games is a pretty small sample from which to be drawing conclusions. Of course, this is all outside of Adam Griffith's issues with field goals, which, as you may recall, has been an issue against this opponent before. Limiting mistakes will be key against this team, as it always is.
I have a similar feeling about this game that I did about Ole Miss. LSU has ranged from embarrassment (41-7 shellacking in West Georgia, including 0-13 on third downs) to puzzling (barely outlasting an inconsistent Florida team that’s tended toward abysmally bad) to nasty (almost knocking off CLANGA, actually knocking off Ole Miss). The good’s come at home, and as always they will be up for this game. The numbers slant pretty favorably toward Alabama overall, but I’m really not sure. The Tide should beat LSU, but that’s been the case in every contest against Alabama’s newest rival since 2008. And it’s always a fight anyway, regardless of venue5. The numbers say the Tide’s two strongest opponents are yet to come, but I suspect the toughest game of the season is on Saturday.
5 | Except for New Orleans, where the Tide are undefeated against LSU. Heh.
How do the Tide stack up with the rest of the country?
So FEI’s on board with the Tide as noted, as they’re now fifth behind Oregon (and their terrible offensive line), the Barn (and their neverending luck), FSU (and their terrible schedule), and poor Ole Miss (and their shattered dreams). The Tide sits atop the S&P+ standings, just ahead of both Mississippi schools, Michigan State, and MC Malzahn and company6. This equates to a #5 ranking in F/+, behind the Barn, Oregon, and the Mississippi schools.
The playoff rankings have been out for a bit now, and the Tide ranked sixth in the initial rankings. The way forward appears clear — if the Tide wins out, they will take the West. The East seems pretty hapless this year7, so barring pandemonium the West winner probably has a playoff spot locked up.
6 | This. Man the 90s were great.
7 | If you beat the Barn we’ll let you stay in the SEC, Georgia — promise.
Any intangibles to consider?
Well, there’s one pretty sizeable one that comes to mind: Baton Rouge. At night. 102,0008 cajuns in Death Valley, with all day to get liquored up and rowdy. LSU has long enjoyed one of the SEC’s more renowned home field advantages, although for most of the history of this series it didn’t matter. Since Nick Saban rolled into town in 2000, however, the Tigers are 9-6 overall against the Tide and 4-3 in Baton Rouge.
8 | As of this year — Tiger Stadium now outstrips Bryant-Denny in capacity, but still lags behind in awe-inspiring majesty.
Weather does not appear to be a factor. The forecast says cold and slightly cloudly, with no chance of rain on Saturday. There's some rain in the area in the preceding days, but it appears minimal, not of the variety that turned Fayetteville into a mud pit for the Arkansas game. In short: good, clean football weather.
There are some rumblings that Cam Robinson may be able to play against LSU, but I will be very surprised if that happens. Apparently T.J. Yeldon is back to full-strength and will not be limited at practice this week. Add to that the evident return of Tyren Jones from suspension, and the Tide’s once-vaunted RB depth is starting to reassemble itself. Whatever previous ailment was afflicting Austin Shepherd appears to have resolved itself, as I haven’t heard a peep about it since before the Tennessee game. Denzell Devall has been back practicing, so the defense should have its full complement of players available.
Haven’t been able to determine if there are any key injuries for LSU — I’m leaning toward no. I seem to recall what that feels like.
Swanson Giddiness Index
The last time these two teams tussled in Baton Rouge, Ron lost a full year off his life. Ron’s generally a bit terrified of ol’ Grasseater. Ron’s really ready for the mid-90s LSU to come back. Michigan, will you please hire Les Miles and put a stop to this madness? Ron hears Houston Nutt is still available and would be a GREAT HIRE for LSU.
THE PICK: Last time we were here, I picked Alabama over Ole Miss, and you know how that turned out. I’m going to stick to my guns, but I have a bad feeling about this one. Alabama Crimson Tide, but as far as I’m concerned it’s a toss-up — here’s hoping it doesn’t come down to a field goal. Again.