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Advanced Stats Rundown, Football Edition | Week of October 17th, 2015

How will Florida play with Treon Harris at the helm? Does Iowa make it to 6-0? That and more in this week's ASR.

Kim Klement-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.
All betting lines courtesy of via ESPN, because they’re first on the list and I’m lazy.

So, how’d last week go?

Not as well as I was expecting early Saturday afternoon, but solid overall. Completely whiffed on the Georgia-Tennessee game, but as we have no idea what sort of impact Nick Chubb might have had on that contest, I can’t feel too bad about it. A late unicorn TD for Arkansas and Utah’s inability to shake Cal despite being gifted with six turnovers produced the other two misses against the spread.

2015, Straight Up:    44/56 (78.6%)
2015, Against the Spread: 30/56 (53.6%)

All statistics and spreads as of October 13th, 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).

SEC Game of the Week, Non-Alabama Division

Florida Gators at LSU Tigers, Saturday October 17th
6:00 PM CDT / 7:00 PM EDT, ESPN

The Matchup
F/+ 41.1% (6) F/+ 39.9% (8) PUSH
FPI 20.7 (7) FPI 19.2 (13) PUSH
FEI 0.238 (3) FEI 0.163 (18) LSU
S&P+ 15.9 (11) S&P+ 20.8 (5) PUSH
OS&P+ 39.6 (12) DS&P+ 14.8 (9) PUSH
DS&P+ 23.7 (40) OS&P+ 35.6 (24) FLORIDA
Home Spread -9.5 LSU

This looked like an instant classic waiting to happen Saturday evening, after Coach Mac’s ascendant Gators squad smothered Missouri in Columbia, and LSU dispatched South Carolina in an “away” game played in Baton Rouge.[1] You can see right off the bat that F/+ considered those two teams as top-10 outfits, which means this was shaping up to be required viewing on Saturday.

1 | One that, incidentally, sent the Ol’ Ball Coach into retirement with a loss in his final game.

I use “looked” and “those” and “was” for a very good reason — that was Florida with Will Grier playing quarterback, which will not be the Florida showing up in Baton Rouge on Saturday. You see, young Mr. Grier apparently took an over-the-counter supplement in the offseason, purportedly without the knowledge of the coaching or training staffs, and that supplement happened to contain a banned performance-enhancing substance. The NCAA frowns upon that sort of thing, and as a result Grier has been suspended for the next year.

So instead it will be Treon Harris leading the Gators on Saturday, and… well… actually that might be ok. Harris was an average quarterback last year after Jeff Driskel (more on him later!) completed his full implosion in Gainesville, and was more or less indistinguishable from Grier after the first game of the season against New Mexico State. He definitely brings a mobility to the position that Grier, while certainly a capable runner in his own right, can’t match, which is now something Kevin Steele will have to think about while drawing up the Tigers’ defensive game plan this week.

As far as the stats are concerned, F/+ and FPI give an insignificant edge to the Tigers, whereas S&P+ has a similarly slight edge for the Gators. FEI, on the other hand, is firmly in favor of LSU, probably as a result of its lofty regard for the Tigers’ schedule.

LSU, star tailback Leonard Fournette in particular, has been crushing people on the ground, but in the Gators they meet an equally-strong rush defense according to S&P+. LSU’s issues throwing the ball are well-documented, however, and this may be the game where that finally causes problems for Les Miles and company. Florida’s defense is excellent regardless of which aspect you choose to look at, and they are especially adept at rushing the passer, as evidenced by their #13 ranking in defensive adjusted sack rate. LSU is among the worst teams in the country at protecting the passer, and that’s not an exciting prospect when you’re trotting the fairly underwhelming Brandon Harris out there to run the offense. If Florida is able to keep Fournette in check to any degree, this could get ugly.

Turns out losing John Chavis and the latest round of defensive talent to the NFL is having a significant effect on the Tigers’ defense, as they currently rate out 40th overall in DS&P — a big drop from last year’s 9th-ranked unit. The Gators have climbed from the dark depths of Muschampball all the way to the OS&P+ top-25 — it’s amazing what a competent offensive coaching staff will do for you. A large part of that lofty ranking was the product of a vastly improved passing offense, which now is up in the air with Grier’s suspension. LSU is also the nation’s #2 defense on passing downs, which is further cause for concern. It will be on Harris to generate points as well, because Florida’s #45 rushing offense is probably not getting anywhere against the #8 rushing defense.

Grier was starting for a reason, of course, but I don’t think the drop-off to Harris is as enormous as everyone fears. The problem is that Florida probably wasn’t winning with Grier anyway, as LSU is notoriously difficult to play on the road.[2] I’m also not convinced anybody is stopping Fournette either, as he’s absolutely as-advertised at this point. It’s not going to be easy for the Tigers, but they are taking this one.


THE PICK: LSU Tigers straight up, but the Florida Gators cover.

National Game of the Week, Non-SEC Division

Iowa Hawkeyes at Northwestern Wildcats, Saturday October 17th
11:00 AM CDT / 12:00 PM EDT, ESPN

The Matchup
F/+ 32.4% (18) F/+ 26.5% (24) PUSH
FPI 7.9 (45) FPI 9.4 (41) PUSH
FEI 0.143 (24) FEI 0.117 (30) PUSH
S&P+ 15.8 (12) S&P+ 13.1 (25) NORTHWESTERN
OS&P+ 25.1 (93) DS&P+ 19.4 (21) IOWA
DS&P+ 9.3 (4) OS&P+ 32.5 (44) NORTHWESTERN
Home Spread 2.5 IOWA

Yeah, I know, B1G. This is really the only decent national game I’m seeing, with the PAC-12 power structure in shambles and underwhelming slates this week in the ACC and Big 12. I’ll admit I don’t spend much time following this conference,[3] but what a weird year so far. Everyone had Ohio State justifiably pegged to return to the playoffs, and despite all those returning starters[4] and an undefeated record, the Buckeyes’ performance this year leaves one thoroughly uninspired. Instead it’s Michigan, who were supposed to be at least a year or two away from being true contenders after the scorched wasteland left behind by Dave Brandon and Ol’ Pizzafarts.[5] And, uh, Iowa is undefeated.

3 | Ok, ok, I don’t spend any time at all on them.

4 | But not Tom Herman! Hmm…

5 | That would be Brady Hoke, for those of you who are not fluent in Spencer Hall.

Yeah. Iowa is undefeated.

I thought I would have to go back pretty far to find the last time the Hawkeyes started 6-0, but it turns out they did that back in 2009, when they were just 10 points shy of going for-real undefeated. F/+ even liked them, so it wasn’t just a function of a crap schedule.

It’s been tough going since then in Iowa City, but Kirk Ferentz has his team positioned for a B1G Championship berth if they can get past Northwestern, who is the last hurdle on honestly a pretty weak schedule. Much like that 2009 squad, these Hawkeyes are getting it done on the defensive side of the ball, and have an offense that’s just good enough to win ballgames. Their three wins over decent competition came by less than 10 points, including last week’s 29-20 victory over Illinois — but as the saying goes, a win’s a win, right?

Northwestern is a more extreme version of Iowa, currently sporting the #4 defense in the country per S&P+ but a putrid offense at 93rd overall. After choking the life out of their first five opponents, the Wildcats got their teeth kicked in by Michigan in a 38-0 drubbing. You might think that was the first decent team they’ve played this year, but recall they beat Stanford Week 1. The same Stanford who is ranked 5th overall per F/+. Hmm.

S&P+ gives the edge to the Wildcats, but otherwise your overall quality metrics have it as a toss-up. Both defenses have significant edges, though it seems more likely that Iowa puts up points on Northwestern than vice-versa. The stats actually favor Northwestern when you account for the home field advantage, but personally I think the Wildcats were exposed last week.

THE PICK: Iowa Hawkeyes, straight up and to cover.

Other SEC Games to Watch

API Warplainseagletigers at Kentucky Wildcats, Thursday October 15th
6:00 PM CDT / 7:00 PM EDT, ESPN

The Matchup
F/+ -6.2% (75) F/+ 7.7% (53) API
FPI 5.7 (55) FPI 10.3 (35) API
FEI -0.033 (75) FEI 0.05 (49) API
S&P+ -1.1 (77) S&P+ 3.2 (57) API
OS&P+ 27.9 (75) DS&P+ 27.5 (58) API
DS&P+ 29.0 (72) OS&P+ 30.7 (54) API
Home Spread 2.0 API

Kentucky’s decent record is largely the result of feasting on the dregs of the SEC East and creampuffs, although that 5 point loss to Florida looks awfully good this week. The last time we saw API they were matching wits with a Mountain West squad they ought to have blown off the field. They still don’t have a quarterback, Will Muschamp is not the savior they thought he’d be (not yet, anyway), and it probably still won’t matter because Kentucky can’t defend worth a damn. Just hand it to Peyton Barber 40 times, Gus. Or don’t, because we always need content for the Meltdown.

THE PICK: API, straight up and to cover.

Ole Miss Rebels at Memphis Tigers, Saturday October 17th
11:00 AM CDT / 12:00 PM EDT, ABC/ESPN2

The Matchup
F/+ 5.7% (56) F/+ 33.3% (17) OLE MISS
FPI 6.0 (54) FPI 22.9 (4) OLE MISS
FEI 0.038 (51) FEI 0.161 (19) OLE MISS
S&P+ 2.5 (59) S&P+ 14.8 (16) OLE MISS
OS&P+ 37.5 (16) DS&P+ 21.4 (28) MEMPHIS
DS&P+ 34.9 (105) OS&P+ 36.2 (20) OLE MISS
Home Spread 10.5 OLE MISS

Chad Kelly and Laquon Treadwell are piling up a lot of yards, yall. So is Memphis, surprisingly, but I think all of that five star talent in Oxford is going to be the difference.

THE PICK: Ole Miss Rebels, straight up and to cover.

Louisiana Tech Bulldogs at Mississippi St. Bulldogs, Saturday October 17th
11:00 AM CDT / 12:00 PM EDT, SEC Network

The Matchup
F/+ 17.8% (39) F/+ 14.8% (45) PUSH
FPI 13.5 (26) FPI 6.8 (52) MISSISSIPPI STATE
FEI 0.15 (22) FEI 0.054 (47) MISSISSIPPI STATE
S&P+ 4.1 (53) S&P+ 8.9 (42) LOUISIANA TECH
OS&P+ 31.3 (51) DS&P+ 25.9 (52) PUSH
DS&P+ 27.2 (56) OS&P+ 34.7 (31) LOUISIANA TECH

Listen, there are WAY too many Bulldogs and Tigers in FBS. Yall need to come up with some different mascots, this is getting ridiculous. I can’t use Bulldogs here because you wouldn’t know which team I was referring to.

Remember how I said we were coming back to Jeff Driskel? Yeah, so now he’s the mediocre starting quarterback for Louisiana Tech, after a few years as the mediocre starting quarterback in Gainesville. He’s apparently good enough, however, as Tech’s offense is on the cusp of very good at 31st overall per S&P+. They actually have the edge on State in that regard… hey, actually they have the edge in a lot of regards. You’d think Dak Prescott would be the difference maker here, but the Tech defense even has the edge on passing downs. FPI and FEI are really low on Tech, though, which suggests maybe they have an issue finishing drives. I suspect they end up giving State a hard time, but I’d be stunned if they end up winning.

THE PICK: Mississippi State Bulldogs straight up, but the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs cover.

Vanderbilt Commodores at South Carolina Gamecocks, Saturday October 17th
3:00 PM CDT / 4:00 PM EDT, SEC Network

The Matchup
F/+ -5.9% (72) F/+ 0.8% (64) PUSH
FPI 4.1 (59) FPI -0.7 (74) SOUTH CAROLINA
FEI -0.035 (77) FEI -0.02 (71) PUSH
S&P+ -0.6 (73) S&P+ 3.8 (54) VANDERBILT
OS&P+ 31.0 (53) DS&P+ 20.0 (23) VANDERBILT
DS&P+ 31.6 (85) OS&P+ 23.8 (99) SOUTH CAROLINA
Home Spread -3.0 SOUTH CAROLINA

Blech. Sorry, I used up all my “pontificate on a game no one cares about” talent for Iowa-Northwestern.

THE PICK: South Carolina Gamecocks, straight up and to cover.

Missouri Tigers at Georgia Bulldogs, Saturday October 17th
6:30 PM CDT / 7:30 PM EDT, SEC Network

The Matchup
F/+ 21.6% (34) F/+ 0.5% (65) GEORGIA
FPI 19.2 (12) FPI 6.5 (53) GEORGIA
FEI 0.114 (32) FEI 0.027 (56) GEORGIA
S&P+ 9.2 (41) S&P+ -0.9 (76) GEORGIA
OS&P+ 34.6 (32) DS&P+ 19.3 (20) MISSOURI
DS&P+ 25.5 (51) OS&P+ 18.3 (115) GEORGIA
Home Spread -16.0 GEORGIA

That’s a, uh, generous spread you gave there, Vegas. I guess this is in Athens, but we’re not really sure what Georgia is without Chubb. Sony Michel is no slouch, but he’s also not the guy you can give it to 30 times and bludgeon the opponent into submission. One thing Missouri does really, really well is defend against the run, so there’s at least a small possibility this turns into the sort of suffocation that Alabama applied to the Bulldogs two Saturdays ago. The difference is Missouri will be lucky to score at all.

THE PICK: Georgia Bulldogs, straight up and to cover (barely).