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Processing the Numbers, Football Edition | Georgia Bulldogs

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If there was ever a game that warranted analysis from every possible angle, it's this one.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Football Power Index (FPI) Ratings are courtesy of ESPN
All other 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?

More or less as expected. The best remedy for heartbreaking losses to schools in Mississippi is a slow, methodical smothering of a Sun Belt school, and the Tide accomplished that by allowing just 92 yards to the Louisiana-Monroe offense. As discussed in this week’s Defensive Charting the Tide, this was the finest defensive performance for the Tide since that one game against LSU where they only crossed the 50 yard line once.[1]

1 | You remember the one. Also, damn OTS was good at this!

The offense looked… less good, particularly the ongoing issues in the passing game. Jake Coker was a little more on point, but that was offset by a poor outing from the receivers, who dropped numerous catchable balls on the afternoon. The Pistol was working again, however, and the Tide backs were able to work the edges a bit better than they did against Ole Miss. At the end of the day, ULM was overmatched and the Tide cruised to an easy 34-0 victory.

Oh! And Adam Griffith nailed both of his field goals! Roll Adam Roll!

Aren’t you supposed to be previewing something, nerd?

Right! Next up, for the first time since 2008 the Alabama Crimson Tide travel to quaint Sanford Stadium in Athens, Georgia, for a game-of-the-year candidate against the Georgia Bulldogs. The game is on Saturday, October 3rd, and will be televised on CBS — the Tide’s first appearance of the year on the SEC’s main station.

The Goods

Overall Quality
GEORGIA ALABAMA THE EDGE
F/+ 47.2% (7) F/+ 70.8% (1) ALABAMA
FPI 23.7 (5) FPI 23.7 (4) PUSH
FEI 0.213 (6) FEI 0.286 (1) PUSH
S&P+ 22.0 (11) S&P+ 37.4 (1) PUSH
Home Spread -2.5 GEORGIA

The Matchup on Offense
GEORGIA ALABAMA THE EDGE
OS&P+ 41.5 (10) DS&P+ 3.5 (1) PUSH
Rush OS&P+ 122.7 (28) Rush DS&P+ 178.4 (3) ALABAMA
Pass OS&P+ 168.6 (1) Pass DS&P+ 147.6 (10) PUSH
SD OS&P+ 137.5 (4) SD DS&P+ 162.0 (4) PUSH
PD OS&P+ 143.1 (12) PD DS&P+ 132.1 (28) GEORGIA
OALY 116.0 (31) DALY 136.1 (13) ALABAMA
OASR 146.2 (37) DASR 116.6 (42) PUSH

The Matchup on Defense
GEORGIA ALABAMA THE EDGE
DS&P+ 19.5 (21) OS&P+ 40.9 (12) PUSH
Rush DS&P+ 120.2 (31) Rush OS&P+ 138.4 (9) ALABAMA
Pass DS&P+ 133.6 (15) Pass OS&P+ 132.0 (14) PUSH
SD DS&P+ 138.5 (9) SD OS&P+ 136.6 (5) PUSH
PD DS&P+ 110.4 (56) PD OS&P+ 131.5 (26) ALABAMA
DALY 96.1 (82) OALY 119.5 (23) ALABAMA
DASR 109.4 (53) OASR 134.2 (44) PUSH

(Bold) numbers indicate national ranking.
Statistics and spread current as of September 30th, 2015.

Wondering what all these terms are?

Overall Quality

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 this section of the PTN Football Primer.

FPI: The Football Power Index, an overall team quality metric produced by ESPN. Presented as a scoring margin, FPI weights factors such as offensive, defensive, and special teams efficiencies, as well as turnovers and big plays, and also includes opponent adjustments.

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 this section of the PTN Football Primer.

S&P+: Another overall quality metric constructed primarily from a play-by-play perspective, the S&P+ rating underwent big changes prior to the 2015 season. Check out the primer article for more details.

Offensive Metrics

Off. F/+: The offensive component of F/+.

OFEI: The offensive component of FEI.

OS&P+: The offensive 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.

Pass OS&P+: S&P+ calculated on passing plays for the offense — a good measure of a team's effectiveness at throwing the ball.

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.

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.

Defensive Metrics

Def. F/+: The defensive component of F/+.

DFEI: The defensive component of FEI.

DS&P+: The defensive component of S&P+.

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 DS&P+: S&P+ calculated on passing plays for the defense — a good measure of a team's effectiveness at defending the pass.

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 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.

Special Teams Metrics

FPA: FEI Field Position Advantage, a measure of how much field position value a team earned against its opponents.

Fremeau Special Teams Efficiency Components - The special teams component of F/+ is based on Brian Fremeau’s Special Teams Efficiency, which is made up of the following five components of special teams play (per FootballOutsiders):
FGEField Goal Efficiency, the scoring value per field goal attempt earned by the field goal unit as measured against national success rates.
PREPunt Return Efficiency, the scoring value per opponent punt earned by the receiving team as measured against national return rates.
KREKickoff Return Efficiency, the scoring value per opponent kickoff earned by the receiving team as measured against national return rates.
PEPunt Efficiency, the scoring value per punt earned by the opponent's receiving team as measured against national return rates.
KEKickoff Efficiency, the scoring value per kickoff earned by the opponent's receiving team as measured against national return rates.

Line-Specific Metrics

ASRAdjusted Sack Rate, which is a version of sack rate (defined as sacks / [sacks + passing attempts] ) that has been opponent-adjusted. The metric is scaled based on an average rate of 100; the higher the rate the better. ASR is calculated for both the offense (OASR) and defense (DASR).

ALYAdjusted Line Yards, which is a measure of success in the running game specific to the line. This is accomplished by taking each carry by running backs only and weighting the yardage as follows:

  • Runs for a loss are weighted 120%.
  • Runs for 0-4 yards are unweighted.
  • Runs for 5-10 yards are weighted 50%.
  • Runs for 11 or more yards are not included.

After the weighting process, the runs are further adjusted for game situation and opponent, and then averaged out per carry, resulting in adjusted line yards — a more detailed explanation of the entire process is available here. ALY is calculated for both the offensive line (OASR) and the defensive front seven (DASR).

The 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!

For even more advanced statistics goodness, check out the Advanced Stats Profile Index and the Alabama Profile.

The Disclaimer

For the first seven weeks or so 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.[2]

As the season progresses, data from games played will be factored in, with a progressively lighter emphasis on the projection factors. Starting about midseason, these metrics will be based purely on games played this season. At that time, we’ll also get splits for offense, defense, and special teams, as well as insights on how teams handle passing and short-yardage situations and how they manage field position.

2 | This last one’s not true.

So, what do we know?

Overall Quality

Repeat after me: advanced metrics early in the season are wonky. Advanced metrics early in the season are wonky. Advanced metrics early in the season are wonky.

Not only does F/+ have the Tide ranked first overall, but by a not-so-insignificant margin of 18.2% over #2 Ohio State. That’s mainly based on their S&P+ rating, which contrary to what I stated in yesterday’s Advanced Stats Rundown is still including preseason projections at about 10%, per this week’s Numerical. That’s not much, which suggests to me this ranking is legit. It’s mostly the defense of course, but as we saw last week we may have a special group on our hands.

That’s heartwarming to the crimson-clad faithful, as this week’s opponent may be the toughest offensive test for the Tide this season, with all due respect to Ole Miss, Texas A&M and LSU.[3] All of the overall quality metrics are in favor of the Tide, but only F/+ has the margin pegged as significant. FPI is saying these two teams are dead-even, and Vegas agrees with a mere 2.5 points in favor of the home team.

3 | But not you, API! Never you.

When Georgia Has The Ball

As stated, the Tide defense is special this year, and currently holds the #1 rating in the country per DS&P+.[4] Also as stated, Georgia sports yet another great offense, currently pegged 10th in the country per OS&P+. Oddly enough, it’s not the rushing offense that’s producing that excellence, as Pass S&P+ has the Bulldogs #1 overall. Why is that? Well, both NCAA record holder Greyson Lambert[5] and Brice Ramsey have been stupid-efficient, throwing a combined 8 TDs to 0 interceptions with completion percentages in the 70s and YPAs in excess of 10 yards a pass. It’s tempting to highlight that success, point to the oft-criticized Tide secondary, and call it a day.

4 | #2 is Boston College, with a rating double that of the Tide’s. This defense is filthy.

5 | The guy couldn’t shake Phillip Sims, and now this. There are no words.

Ah, but part of the reason the Tide defense has been so nasty is the secondary is closer to the heyday of 2011-12 than the doldrums of 2013-2014, with freshmen Marlon Humphrey and Minkah Fitzpatrick proving to be capable running mates to Cyrus Jones on the outside and Eddie Jackson thriving in his new role as a safety. The Tide pass defense is ranked 10th, no doubt helped by a greatly improved pass rush. 42nd overall in adjusted sack rate is still not great, but it’s a heck of a lot better than the 92nd overall rating they put up last year. Georgia’s got a fine offensive line, bookended by senior tackles John Theus and Kolton Houston,[5] but they will be tested by this pass rush. Georgia does have a significant edge on passing downs, as the Tide defense at times still seems to struggle on third downs.

5 | Glad to see he finally got to play after all the idiocy with the NCAA.

The narrative coming in, of course, will be the simply outstanding Nick Chubb and Sony Michel versus one of the nation’s finest rush defenses.[6] The former has elicited comparisons to some guy named Herschel since he took over for the previous Next Great Georgia Back, Todd Gurley, and comes into this game with 12 straight 100+ yard rushing performances, one shy of tying Walker’s school record. This piece suggests there’s more to the comparison than you might think, which is scary.

6 | Clemson’s at 244.6 in Rush S&P+, by the way. That’s, uh, a lot.

However, the current Rush DS&P+ ranks of Georgia’s four opponents thusfar: 70, 55, 111, and LOLFCS, and that’s why they’re ranked just 28th in Rush OS&P+. The aforementioned line, Chubb, and Michel will face a rush defense better than any they’ve seen since… well, let’s see… hmm… nope, not 2013 either…

Oh! Probably the 2012 Alabama Crimson Tide — imagine that! Gurley got his in that one, and I fully expect Chubb to tie Walker’s record by the end of the afternoon. But a Georgia win will require another unbelievable effort from Lambert and leading receiver Malcolm Mitchell, who will become well-acquainted with Mr. Jones once this is all said and done.

When Alabama Has The Ball

That side of the ball will be strength vs. strength, but the other side is a little more interesting to me. The question is which Tide offense is going to show up? Not just in terms of execution, but overall philosophy as well. Is this the power running outfit that took Wisconsin behind the woodshed? Is this is the flashy jet sweep-and-deep bombs attack that absolutely flopped against Ole Miss? It will be no-huddle regardless, but will it be hurry-up like last week against ULM? Nobody outside the program has any idea, which is hopefully some form of gamesmanship and not truly a lack of identity.[7]

7 | It’s the latter; I just wanted to use the word "gamesmanship".

We know for sure that this is Coker’s team now, so don’t expect the deep balls to disappear entirely. Do expect them to be set up by the run game, however, as Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake have the edge in that regard against a good but not great Bulldogs rush defense. This will not be a repeat of "Eddie Lacy with NO REGARD for the Georgia defense" though, as the Tide offensive line is still jelling and not near the caliber of the 2012 group. Georgia’s performance on standard downs is among the best in the country to boot, which suggests many a third down for the Tide offense. However, that same offensive line has a sizable advantage per adjusted line yards, which suggests the opportunities will be there for Henry and Drake. A Henry performance akin to the one against Wisconsin would be just fine, thanks, and would go a long way toward a successful Tide outing on Saturday.

However, it’s apparent that this team will go as its passing game goes, and that likely means it will go as Coker goes. It seems like we have a different story every week with regards to Coker’s performance, with the solid-but-just-ok outing against Wisconsin chalked up to opening day jitters and years between starts; the faceplant against Ole Miss attributed to interesting playcall decisions and possible illness; and the uneven results of a week ago pinned on an off day for the receivers. Beneath all of that is an undercurrent of doubt regarding whether or not Coker has the "it" that similarly-embattled predecessor Blake Sims discovered about this time last season. Oddly enough, Sims’ opponent that day possessed the same Pass DS&P+ ranking by the end of the year that the Bulldogs possess now, not that a similar performance should be expected out of Coker on Saturday. He’s not as good a fit as Sims was for this offense, for one, and there’s also the small matter of Amari Cooper plying his trade in Oakland instead of Tuscaloosa.

The latter is a current point of concern, as heir apparent ArDarius Stewart just looks lost, Robert Foster is done for the year, and the most consistent receiver is Kevin Norwood clone Richard Mullaney. Foster’s replacement appears to be true freshman Calvin Ridley, whose recent play suggests a breakout game any day now. Sure would be nice if that day was Saturday.

Special Teams

Everyone’s favorite topic of conversation! We don’t have stats for this yet, but it can certainly be discussed the old-fashioned way. Arguably the second-best player on the 2014 Tide was punter J.K. Scott, but the lanky sophomore hasn’t found that same form yet this season, and badly shanked his first attempt last week against ULM. He then proceeded to pin the Warhawks at their own 20 or worse on the next five punts, so maybe all’s well there after all. Kickoff coverage hasn’t been great, as Griffith’s year has included a lot of line-drive kickoffs that provide ample opportunity for return yardage. That’s not Georgia’s forte, as they rank last in the conference in average kick return yards, but as this is a game that could be decided by field position, every bit counts.

Often times such games come down to field goals, and personally I need to see a couple more weeks of Griffith drilling his attempts before that prospect is not terrifying. Georgia’s Marshall Morgan, who somehow still has eligibility despite seemingly kicking between the hedges for about 10 years now, is more consistent than spectacular. Consistent is what you want in a game like this, though, so you have to give the edge to Georgia there.

Any intangibles to consider?

The big news mid-week is some sort of incident[8] that occurred at a Chili’s in Athens[9] involving the words "terroristic threat". I’m not sure if there’s a level on the Stipe-Ping Pyramid of Georgianity to describe this, mainly because no arrests have been made at this time. If any ever are, you can expect electric returner and receiver Isaiah McKenzie to be suspended from the game, which would be a huge loss for the Bulldogs.

8 | A note to Dawg Sports: The appropriate reference to "a Bama plot" is "THE REC PAID ‘EM OFF, PAAAAAAWL!" or some form thereof.

9 | Tip your server when the service is good, people. Sheesh.

Lots of injury news for the Tide this week. Foster is out for the year as noted, but Jonathan Allen should be ready to play after tweaking a recurring shoulder injury against ULM. Jabriel Washington may also be available, and the near-mythical back Bo Scarbrough should make his Crimson Tide debut on Saturday, as he’s somehow fully recovered from torn knee ligaments in the spring and off NCAA suspension as of this week.

Aside from McKenzie’s questionable status, rotational Bulldogs linebacker Davin Bellamy is probable with an undisclosed injury that has kept him out of the last two games. Backup fullback Christian Payne and receiver Justin Scott-Wesley are out indefinitely with leg injuries, and have not played at all this season.

Weather will more than likely be a factor here, as the meteorological types are projecting an 80% chance of rain on Saturday, likely related to the hurricane currently tormenting the Caribbean. I think a mudfest probably favors the Tide, but that’s difficult to say for sure.

The Tide lead the all-time series 37-25-4, and are currently on a two-game win streak. Those two games provide an interesting subplot to this one, as the first game of that streak was 2008, the last visit to Athens for the Tide and the coming out party for the future three-time champs. The second game was 2012’s instant-classic SEC Championship that came down to the final play and saw the Tide escape with a win. You better believe both of those games were emphasized by Mark Richt and Co. this week in practice.

Swanson Giddiness Index

Ron advises the staging of beta blockers and Maalox for this one, because the best-case scenario is a repeat of 2012. Ron had some of the finest pork of his life that day, but almost died after the game.

The Picks

This is tough to pick based on metrics, given how early it is in the season. By the end of the year the stats could describe two completely different teams from what they are describing now, but in Bill C. We Trust, right? Either team could win, but neither necessarily should win, though the best chance to win seems to rest with the Tide. I’m going to be optimistic and assume this isn’t a turnover fest and the Tide from the season opener show up and eke out a close one.

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