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Processing the Numbers, Week 2 | Florida Atlantic

Previewing this week's game between the Tide and the FAU Schnellenbergers Owls Schnellenbergers

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.

How'd last week go?

Abysmally. I will freely admit I missed the mark on just about everything. As was discussed at great lengths on Sunday, the Tide did not win handily, nor were they effective at stopping the WVU offense. A'Shawn Robinson was a complete no-show (on the stats sheet — he still impacted the game from the NT spot). To me, this is a textbook example of why drawing conclusions from preseason projections is very difficult — we didn't know anything about these teams, really, before Saturday, and now we know a lot more. As the season moves on, you'll see these metrics will get more and more dialed in, and correspondingly a lot more usable for prognostication.

All that being said, the Tide ended up pulling out a win (one that was never really in doubt after the first half as shown by this win probability graph, courtesy of From The Rumble Seat's millsgt49), and at the end of the day that's all you can really ask for as a fan. This week FAU is coming to town, and FAU has never been particularly good at football. Without further ado:

The Goods
Overall Quality
F/+ 26.7% (2) F/+ -15.0% (112) ALABAMA
FEI 0.283 (1) FEI -0.190 (115) ALABAMA
S&P+ 250.6 (2) S&P+ 176.1 (108) ALABAMA
Spread -40 Spread +40 ALABAMA

(bold) numbers indicate national ranking.

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.
  • 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 the official college football rankings of Football Outsiders. 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!

The Disclaimer

For the first six weeks of the season, these metrics are based partially on a few projection factors, namely recent program performance, the effects of roster attrition, recruiting rankings, and sweet, sweet voodoo*.

As the season progresses, data from games played will be factored in, with a progressively lighter emphasis on the projection factors. Starting in Week 7, these metrics will be based purely on games played this season.
* This last one's not true.

Where's all that stuff you had last week, and what you promised moving forward?

Apparently, we also don't get offense/defense/special teams splits, or any of the other good stuff, until Week 7. Why we can get some of that as a preseason projection but not for the first half of the season is beyond me; I just work here.

Evidently, this has always been the case, but for some reason I managed to convince myself otherwise. The good news is we get more detailed statistics around when the schedule picks up (whatever UF may be notwithstanding, and I'll believe in Ole Miss when Bo Wallace can play effective football for more than a quarter), which will be handy.

One option would be to work with the preseason projections for the first half of the season, or use final rankings from the previous season (which is what they do in the 7th Day Adventure column over at Football Outsiders). Frankly neither approach is acceptable in my opinion, and as a result I'm going with what I've got. So, apologies for the meager table, and the less detailed analysis presented below — I know you are all as disappointed as I am.**
** Also probably not true.

So, what do we know?

Mainly, what we knew several paragraphs ago — FAU is really, really bad at football. Currently ranking in the bottom 20 of F/+ and FEI, and just outside that in S&P+, the Owls rank among the worst teams in FBS to start the year. FAU started at 95th in F/+, but after a 55-7 shellacking at the hands of Nebraska they have dropped to 112th.

Conversely, the Crimson Tide maintain a top-2 ranking in all metrics, and currently lead FBS in FEI. This matches what we saw in the game against West Virginia — the offense didn't seem to be on the same page for much of the game, but still managed to put together several methodical drives that finished with points. The defense, while allowing a lot of yardage between the 20s, was stout in the red zone, forcing several field goal attempts and only giving up one touchdown on the day. Put those two together every time out and you're going to have a pretty decent FEI.

The only real questions about this one are will the Tide cover the spread for the first time in 5 games, and will they beat FAU by more than Nebraska did?

Any intangibles to consider?

These teams have only played once before, a 40-7 beatdown in favor of the Tide back in 2012. This one's at home, which almost makes it unfair given the disparity discussed above. The forecast for Tuscaloosa is rainy, which typically favors the ground game — a shame the Tide lacks a two-headed monstrosity at tailback for such a situation.

As will be mentioned endlessly over the next couple of days, the godfather of FAU football, Howard Schnellenberger, served as the Tide's offensive coordinator under the Bear from 1961 - 1965. You might recall Alabama was somewhat successful during that time frame. This has absolutely no bearing on the game, but it's worth mentioning because Howard Schnellenberger.

Swanson Giddiness Index


Ron's rolling in an appropriately colored shirt (the Dawgness of the ensemble is a bit off-putting, but I'm giving him a pass) — probably because this is going to be a blowout, and that means we finally get to see what Jake Coker can do.

THE PICK: Alabama Crimson Tide, in a snoozer.