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Advanced Stats Rundown, Football Edition | Week of October 24th, 2015

We look into whether Texas A&M can rebound against Ole Miss and if this is the end of Utah's undefeated run in this week's ASR.

Justin Ford-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?

Another solid week, with Memphis’ shocking upset of Ole Miss the only miss straight up, and misses against the spread coming via Mississippi State’s stronger-than-anticipated play and Georgia failing to put together much of anything in their game against Missouri. It’s amazing how much one bad week costs you — aside from my woeful 3/11 performance in Week 2, I’d be better than 60% against the spread right now.

2015, Straight Up:    51/64 (79.7%)
2015, Against the Spread: 35/64 (54.7%)

All statistics and spreads as of October 20th, 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

Texas A&M Aggies at Ole Miss Rebels, Saturday October 24th
6:00 PM CDT / 7:00 PM EDT, ESPN

The Matchup
F/+ 28.0% (22) F/+ 31.1% (18) PUSH
FPI 20.8 (9) FPI 18.5 (14) PUSH
FEI 0.107 (33) FEI 0.202 (15) TEXAS A&M
S&P+ 15.6 (16) S&P+ 10.8 (28) OLE MISS
OS&P+ 36.2 (22) DS&P+ 25.5 (47) OLE MISS
DS&P+ 22.6 (29) OS&P+ 36.2 (21) PUSH
Home Spread -6.0 OLE MISS

The conference’s only real marquee matchup this week[1] pairs two SEC West teams fresh off appearances in this week’s Meltdown. Ole Miss, as mentioned, traveled up to Memphis and simply got beat. They played well, and avoided a turnover/penalty/special teams meltdown[2] like those that have characterized Alabama’s performances in their last two games against the Rebels, but otherwise Memphis’ steady, consistent offensive performance kept the Rebels offense on the sidelines. Robert Nkemdiche suffered a concussion in the second quarter, which surely affected Memphis’ offensive performance down the stretch. At any rate, in a rerun of last season, there is now zero margin for error for the two loss Rebels as they enter the meat of their SEC schedule.

1 | And the nation’s, for that matter.

2 | Relatively speaking — Ole Miss had one more turnover and 10 more penalty yards than the Tigers; kicking performance was roughly equivalent.

Texas A&M, of course, got blown off the field in the first 25 minutes of their game against Alabama, and despite significantly stronger play over the remaining 35 minutes, they were too deep in the hole and too turnover-prone to make up the difference. As an award, they now get to travel to Oxford for what promises to be a salty affair in Vaught-Hemingway.

One significant issue that plagued the Rebels against Memphis was creating and capitalizing on scoring opportunities; that lack of scoring efficiency (paired with a pillow-soft schedule) is likely why FEI is a little low on the Rebels. Texas A&M’s significant edge in this metric gives them only a slight edge in F/+, as S&P+ is firmly in favor of the Rebels; FPI has it as a toss-up with a slight nod to Ole Miss.

The big question coming into this game is the health of Nkemdiche the younger. When he’s in the lineup, the already-fierce Ole Miss front-seven goes to another level entirely, and we all saw the issues the Aggies have along the offensive line last week. Ole Miss is stout against the run, so once again success will be on the shoulders of Kyle Allen. Fortunately for Allen, he won’t be facing the same ballhawking secondary he faced last week, and he’ll benefit from the same nightmare matchups posed by his receiving corps that were an issue at times for the Tide last week. Ole Miss is not particularly effective against the pass or on passing downs; they are considered essentially average in the latter per S&P+. All of this suggests that, particularly if Nkemdiche is a no-go, A&M will have opportunities to move the ball on Saturday.

The other side of the ball is where Ole Miss is going to win this game. They will finally be with the services of Laremy Tunsil, which is convenient for them as the nation’s best pass rush is coming to town. Tunsil is perhaps the country’s finest tackle,[3] and his battle against Myles Garrett will be one of the matchups to watch in this game. Ole Miss’ pass protection is solidly in ok-but-not-great territory coming in, but Tunsil’s return will certainly pay dividends in that respect. Provided Chad Kelly gets time to throw, we could be in for an afternoon of explosive offense, as the Rebels are currently the #2 team in the country according to Passing S&P+. They really find themselves in a similar situation to their opponent — not a strong running team, but possessive of a gifted passer and a fleet of nigh-uncoverable receivers to target. The difference is that Ole Miss’ talent level is considerably higher, and despite the warts uncovered in their loss against Memphis, they should win this handily — with or without Nkemdiche.

3 | There’s a nameless fat guy in the Midwest somewhere that has an argument, I’m sure, but I don’t know him yet.

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

National Game of the Week, Non-SEC Division

Utah Utes at USC Trojans, Saturday October 24th
6:30 PM CDT / 7:30 PM EDT, FOX

The Matchup
F/+ 35.8% (15) F/+ 43.9% (7) PUSH
FPI 21.9 (6) FPI 17.2 (17) USC
FEI 0.158 (22) FEI 0.301 (2) UTAH
S&P+ 17.3 (11) S&P+ 15.2 (18) PUSH
OS&P+ 42.3 (4) DS&P+ 19.2 (17) USC
DS&P+ 26.3 (53) OS&P+ 33.7 (35) PUSH
Home Spread -3.5 USC

Another ho-hum week nationally, with the only matchup of ranked teams covered in the paragraphs above. Instead we’re on Utah watch again this week, as the PAC-12’s lone unbeaten is currently projected to lose on the road to USC by Vegas. A lot of that probably stems from the Utes’ uninspiring performance at home last week, which saw them losing to start the fourth quarter against a good-but-not-great Arizona State squad, only to get bailed out by special teams gaffes and a fumble deep in Sun Devil territory.

USC had a somber week leading up to their annual rivalry tilt against the Golden Domers, as former Coach Steve Sarkisian was dismissed the Monday prior to the game as a result of his well-publicized issues related to substance abuse.[4] Interim coach Clay Helton had the Trojans ahead going into the fourth, but defensive breakdowns and two late interceptions by Cody Kessler provided opportunities for the Notre Dame offense to score 17 points in the final frame for a 10 point victory.

4 | An unfortunate and sad situation, but hopefully he can get the help he needs as a result of all this.

The overall quality metrics are split on these two teams, with Utah possessing a significant edge in FEI and FPI favoring the Trojans. S&P+ leans toward USC, but the Utes’ huge edge in FEI gives them a slight edge in F/+. This looks to be a classic strength-on-strength matchup, with the powerful offense of USC taking on Utah’s excellent defense. Kessler is the engine that makes the nation’s #10 passing offense per S&P+ go, as the senior is continuing the high-level play he started last year. He has a fleet of talented receivers to throw to, including big play threats JuJu Smith-Schuster (averaging 19.4 yards per catch) and Adoree’ Jackson (averaging a whopping 25.4 yards per catch) and possession men Steven Mitchell Jr. and Darreus Rogers. The rush offense is efficient if unspectacular, with Tre Madden, Ronald Jones II and Justin Davis splitting carries but combining to produce the #6 ranked rushing offense in the country according to S&P+. They do most of their damage on standard downs, but are effective on passing downs as well — there’s no easy answer on how to stop this offense. Utah brings an equally-balanced defense to the table, with top-25 units against both the rush and the pass, but one that lags significantly behind their opponent in overall quality. The one potential chink in USC’s armor is their poor pass protection, but Utah is not really equipped to exploit that with the 87th-ranked pass rush according to Adjusted Sack Rate.

As such, the Utes’ offense will need to score quite a bit to outpace the Trojans. Their offense is just ok, but is overly reliant on a single player — the outstanding Devontae Booker. A big reason the Utes struggled last week is Booker was largely held in check — he ended up with 118 yards on 21 carries, but 62 of those came on a single run. Travis Wilson has made tremendous strides in his four years in Salt Lake City, but that’s been a transition to average, not excellent. USC is not great against the run, so I would expect to see Booker early and often — probably a gameplan reminiscent of Utah’s effort against Cal, where the senior tailback received 38 touches and produced 267 yards from scrimmage. They probably can’t expect a repeat of the six turnovers they received from the Golden Bears, however, as USC has only coughed it up seven times in 2015. The Utes are not the paper tiger they are made out to be in the, shall we say… easterly? football circles, but their undefeated season ends this week, as they just don’t have the firepower to outscore the Trojans.

THE PICK: USC Trojans, straight up and to cover.

Other SEC Games to Watch

API Warplainseagletigers at Arkansas Razorbacks, Saturday October 24th
11:00 AM CDT / 12:00 PM EDT, SEC Network

The Matchup
F/+ 17.7% (42) F/+ -3.1% (71) ARKANSAS
FPI 13.8 (27) FPI 10.6 (35) PUSH
FEI 0.067 (42) FEI 0.003 (69) ARKANSAS
S&P+ 10.1 (34) S&P+ -1.4 (80) ARKANSAS
OS&P+ 39.6 (10) DS&P+ 31.7 (85) ARKANSAS
DS&P+ 28.3 (65) OS&P+ 27.6 (77) ARKANSAS
Home Spread -5.5 ARKANSAS

Now that the results from 2014 are fully removed from this year’s advanced stats, it’s pretty clear what API is — not a very good football team.[5] Arkansas’ dealt with some tough luck and an even tougher schedule, but they are not a pushover by any stretch. Relative to little brother, they are a juggernaut. This will not be pretty.

5 | There’s never a bad time for throwing shade at the cow college.

THE PICK: Arkansas Razorbacks, straight up and to cover.

Missouri Tigers at Vanderbilt Commodores, Saturday October 24th
3:00 PM CDT / 4:00 PM EDT, SEC Network

The Matchup
F/+ 1.0% (64) F/+ 0.4% (66) PUSH
FPI -0.7 (76) FPI 7.2 (51) MISSOURI
FEI 0.021 (62) FEI 0.024 (60) PUSH
S&P+ 0.5 (71) S&P+ -0.3 (75) PUSH
OS&P+ 20.8 (111) DS&P+ 12.9 (6) MISSOURI
DS&P+ 22.9 (32) OS&P+ 17.3 (123) VANDERBILT
Home Spread 3.0 MISSOURI

This is definitely a battle of defenses, as it features two of the worst offenses in college football. Missouri is favored by a field goal, and I’m thinking we see a repeat of last week’s derpfest with Georgia, albeit with a more favorable result for the Tigers

THE PICK: Missouri Tigers, straight up and to cover.

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers at LSU Tigers, Saturday October 24th
6:00 PM CDT / 7:00 PM EDT, ESPNU

The Matchup
F/+ 43.7% (8) F/+ 26.8% (25) LSU
FPI 21.2 (7) FPI 9.6 (38) LSU
FEI 0.235 (4) FEI 0.121 (29) LSU
S&P+ 17.4 (10) S&P+ 12.9 (21) LSU
OS&P+ 40.0 (9) DS&P+ 31.5 (84) LSU
DS&P+ 23.6 (36) OS&P+ 41.4 (5) WESTERN KENTUCKY
Home Spread -16.5 LSU

At first glance this seems like a mismatch, at least based off name recognition. LSU is LSU, whereas their opponent’s status as a Directional school suggests a team of low quality. Looking at the numbers, you can see that’s far from accurate. The Hilltoppers don’t have much of a defense, but they feature one of the finest offenses in all of FBS, and actually have an edge on LSU there. Kevin Steele is not John Chavis, and the impact of the latter’s departure from Baton Rouge, in conjunction with LSU’s yearly talent drain on that side of the ball, has been apparent. The problem Western Kentucky faces is their thoroughly average rush defense against a player you may have heard of by the name of Leonard Fournette, who is probably looking at another 200+ yard game. LSU will win, but Western Kentucky will keep it interesting.

THE PICK: LSU Tigers straight up, but the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers cover.

Kentucky Wildcats at Mississippi St. Bulldogs, Saturday October 24th
6:30 PM CDT / 7:30 PM EDT, SEC Network

The Matchup
F/+ 25.1% (28) F/+ -1.7% (68) MISSISSIPPI STATE
FPI 14.7 (21) FPI 5.7 (57) MISSISSIPPI STATE
FEI 0.153 (24) FEI 0.022 (61) MISSISSIPPI STATE
S&P+ 9.3 (37) S&P+ -1.8 (82) MISSISSIPPI STATE
OS&P+ 33.6 (36) DS&P+ 31.2 (81) MISSISSIPPI STATE
DS&P+ 27.3 (59) OS&P+ 27.0 (79) MISSISSIPPI STATE

It’s a rivalry game, folks! Oh, you didn’t know this was a rivalry? The Bulldogs’ primary rival will always be Ole Miss, and they sure do like getting whooped by the Tide, but Kentucky presently fills their permanent cross-division rival slot. This version of Kentucky has hit what appears to always be the ceiling for this program — a team that plays tough, but never seems to have the horses to keep up with the rest of the conference. State is not the titan they were a year ago, but they still considerably outstrip the Wildcats in the talent department, and should handle Kentucky without too much trouble.

THE PICK: Mississippi State Bulldogs, straight up and to cover.