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Processing the Numbers, Repugnant Edition | That Orange Team

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Normally there's a picture of the opponent here but... no.

Troy Taormina-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.

A Brief Programming Note

For the three or four of you wondering where Advanced Stats Rundown was yesterday, it will be along this afternoon. I have no excuse; it just didn’t get done. My bad.

So how’d last week go?

Take three of these, add in some quality hoss running from Derrick Henry and Jake Coker (!), plus some absolutely stifling run defense, and that’s pretty much all you need to know. Texas A&M had a chance in this game for about five minutes in the third quarter, and then Kyler Murray threw an interception, and that was that.

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

Right! Next up, the Alabama Crimson Tide return to the warm and loving embrace of Bryant-Denny Stadium to face the most reprehensible sporting entity in North America[1] and quite possibly the world: The Viles. The 97th edition of the Third Saturday in October[2] takes place on Saturday, October 24th, at 2:30 PM CDT / 3:30 PM EDT, and will be televised on CBS. Oh joy, more Verne and Gary.

1 | Yeah, even worse than the Copales Charros.

2 | Now brought to you on the fourth Saturday in October. Thanks, SEC.

Obligatory Hate Week Throwing of Shade

The Goods

Overall Quality
ALABAMA IT’S NOT THE EDGE
F/+ 53.1% (2) F/+ 27.9% (23) ALABAMA
FPI 23.2 (3) FPI 18.7 (13) PUSH
FEI 0.252 (3) FEI 0.168 (20) ALABAMA
S&P+ 23.3 (3) S&P+ 10.4 (32) ALABAMA
Home Spread -15.5 ALABAMA

The Matchup on Offense
ALABAMA THAT ORANGE THE EDGE
OFEI 0.46 (26) DFEI 0.37 (34) PUSH
OS&P+ 33.3 (38) DS&P+ 22.9 (33) PUSH
Rush OS&P+ 123.6 (22) Rush DS&P+ 109.4 (43) ALABAMA
Pass OS&P+ 119.1 (26) Pass DS&P+ 123.2 (21) PUSH
SD OS&P+ 120.5 (18) SD DS&P+ 112.4 (31) ALABAMA
PD OS&P+ 115.9 (42) PD DS&P+ 134.3 (16) THE VILES
OALY 112.4 (34) DALY 116.7 (21) THE VILES
OASR 155.4 (27) DASR 70.0 (102) ALABAMA

The Matchup on Defense
ALABAMA YOU CAN THE EDGE
DFEI 1.37 (1) OFEI 0.44 (29) ALABAMA
DS&P+ 10.8 (4) OS&P+ 36.1 (23) ALABAMA
Rush DS&P+ 168.2 (3) Rush OS&P+ 115.6 (37) ALABAMA
Pass DS&P+ 168.1 (1) Pass OS&P+ 110.3 (48) ALABAMA
SD DS&P+ 173.5 (1) SD OS&P+ 107.6 (55) ALABAMA
PD DS&P+ 142.5 (10) PD OS&P+ 121.4 (30) ALABAMA
DALY 131.4 (6) OALY 116.4 (27) ALABAMA
DASR 156.6 (15) OASR 101.6 (61) ALABAMA

The Matchup on Special Teams
ALABAMA SIT WITH THE EDGE
FVE 0.130 (25) FVE 0.150 (15) PUSH
STE -0.03 (81) STE 0.11 (12) THE VILES
FGE -0.52 (115) FGE -0.4 (109) PUSH
KE -0.22 (12) KRE 0.35 (3) PUSH
PE 0.42 (111) PRE 0.23 (57) THE VILES
PRE 0.43 (15) PE 0.26 (77) ALABAMA
KRE -0.42 (127) KE -0.3 (3) THE VILES

(Bold) numbers indicate national ranking.
Statistics current as of October 21st, 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

FVE: FEI Field Value Efficiency, a measure of the value generated by starting field position, non-offensive turnovers and scores per possession.

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.

So, what do we know?

Overall Quality

First and foremost, you may have noted a lack of disclaimer above, and that’s because Brian Fremeau’s removed the training wheels from FEI for 2015 — we now have the full spectrum of advanced metrics to discuss. Feels like Christmas in October!

Another mostly-dominating performance for the Tide barely moved the needle in the overall quality metrics, as they are the consensus #3 team again this week. F/+ actually has them #2 overall, a full 8% behind the very well-regarded Clemson Tigers. Don’t expect that to change, as Dabo Swinney’s team has a home date with Florida State remaining and not much else.

The opponent rates out all over the map depending on what your metric of choice is, with FPI having them pegged at #13 overall and S&P+ considerably less enthusiastic with a #32 ranking. The reality is probably somewhere inbetween.[3] Aside from what barely qualifies as a push in FPI, the Tide have a significant edge in the overall metrics, with Vegas giving 15.5 points to Alabama.

3 | Like, I don’t know, maybe 23rd? Oddly enough, that’s where F/+ has them!

When Alabama Has the Ball

So now FEI has an opinion on offenses and defenses, and you can see here it’s split with S&P+ on who has the edge. The opponent has a decent defense overall, not what Tide fans are accustomed to by any stretch, but decent. They are a bit soft against the run with #43 ranking in Rush DS&P+, and a corresponding #31 ranking on standard downs suggests we’re in for another prolific Derrick Henry performance. This is not a very productive defense in terms of tackles for loss, currently 12th in the conference with just under five a game, and you can see their pass rush is not well-regarded. Hopefully that translates to less negative plays for the Tide, which really put the handcuffs on the offense after the first quarter a week ago against Texas A&M.

That lack of pass rush may open the passing game up a bit, which is a push overall according to S&P+. The constant threat of Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall didn’t give much time for plays to develop, removing the intermediate-to-deep throws that Coker excels at from the playbook in favor of the short stuff that is not really his forte.[4] As a result, this may be another big game for Calvin Ridley, who was frequently targeted a week ago but with a modest level of production.

4 | High completion percentages of course, but he doesn’t tend to place these very well.

Third downs will likely be an issue again, both because of the Tide’s propensity for flubbing that down and the opponent’s general excellence on passing downs, where they are ranked 16th in the nation according to S&P+. That’s the one area they have the significant edge on the Tide in this one — the Tide will need to stay ahead of the chains and avoid the mental error penalties and other negative plays that were such an issue against Texas A&M. Perhaps the most important factor there is the health of Ryan Kelly, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

When They Have the Ball

There’s a whole lot of crimson on this chart, and that’s because the Tide possess what has to be considered the country’s finest defense at this point. You can see FEI has them pegged #1 overall, with S&P+ putting them at 4th. I mean, this is just ridiculous. #1 against the pass, #3 against the run, #1 on standard downs, #6 in line yards, #10 on passing downs, and the #15 pass rush in the country. What are you supposed to do against this? The narrative on the Tide the past few years was an absence of a pass rush and a weak secondary; a few years of good recruiting and the addition of Mel Tucker to the coaching staff has fixed that completely.

Ah, but there’s that whole mobile quarterback thing, which is a problem for everyone, but most notably the Tide because the media keeps telling you that it is, including every single time they are on CBS.[5] Joshua Dobbs definitely fits that bill, and is a decent passer to boot. He’s averaging over 7 yards a carry, and is the second-leading rusher on the team with 453 yards. Jalen Hurd[6] and former Tide player Alvin Kamara will likely struggle against this front, so rushing production will likely come mostly from Dobbs.

5 | Seriously, CBS, you need some new material. It’s the same crap every week.

6 | Who is apparently just as big as Derrick Henry at 6’4” and 240 pounds. Had no idea.

There’s no one receiver to key in on, as Dobbs has targeted 10 receivers 10 or more times, but none of them more than 30. He’s also up against, again, the #1 pass defense in the country,[7] and we all saw what Minkah Fitzpatrick, Eddie Jackson, and Marlon Humphrey can do last week — and that was all because no one wants any part of Cyrus Jones. Perhaps this is my inner gump bleeding through, but I’m really at a loss as to where the offense is going to come from for the opponent in this game. There’s just nothing this defense is bad at, period. Some of the early projections on the Tide likened this team to the 2011 version, and that comparison seems more and more appropriate with each passing week.

7 | How amazing is this? I don’t even know what to do with myself.

Special Teams

With the unshackling of FEI comes the full range of special teams efficiencies, which is just great because this has been a huge issue for the Tide this year. Last week featured a blocked punt, a fumble on a punt return, and a punt returned for a touchdown — not really a great look.

FVE is Field Value Efficiency, which is an adjusted version of the FPA metric that was used here last season. FootballOutsiders describes it as “is the scoring value generated by a team's starting field position and non-offensive turnovers and scores per possession.” You can see the Tide’s rating in it is loftier than you expected at 25th overall, and if I’m interpreting the definition correctly, I think you can credit the numerous interceptions and pick-sixes for that.

That’s unfortunately where the positive news ends, as these metrics are not very high on the Tide. Overall special teams efficiency is at 81st overall, a huge edge for the opponent, who has a pretty solid unit overall. Adam Griffith has been better on his field goals lately, but those short ones he shanked early in the season show up as a #115 ranking in the country in field goal efficiency, which is not great. J.K. Scott has been kicking the ball much better the last few weeks, but the punt return touchdown a week ago and the generally uneven play in that facet of the game over the first five or six week results in a #111 ranking in punt efficiency.

The opponent is not great at field goals either, and just ok at returning punts, but they are one of the best kick return teams in the country. That's mostly due to the efforts of Evan Berry,[8] who’s averaged 39.3 yards per return, which is, you know, crazy. Kickoffs are a strength for the Tide, but like last week with Christian Kirk, watch out if Berry gets his hands on one with green in front of him.

8 | Yes, he’s one of those Berrys.

They are similar outstanding on kickoffs, where the Tide is the second-worst team in the country, ahead of… heh, Georgia. The early fumbled returns probably have a lot to do with this, along with Chris Black’s decision to kneel it inside the 10 against Wisconsin and whatever Damien Harris did last week. In general Harris has done well returning kicks over the last few weeks, so I expect this to improve by the end of the season.[9] Finally, despite all the griping about fair catches and last week’s unfortunate fumble, Jones has done a fine job returning punts this year, and punting is definitely not a strength of the opponent. Provided some good decision making from Harris and continued good work from Scott and Griffith, and field position shouldn’t be a huge issue in this one.

9 | How could it not, really? 127th overall!

Any intangibles to consider?

The weather should be fine on Saturday, a bit on the warm side perhaps but with decent cloud cover and currently no chance of rain. Hopefully the heat is not as big of an issue as it was last week in College Station, which saw multiple Tide plays struggle with cramps. This is in Bryant-Denny, of course, which despite the Tide’s uneven play there this season is always a plus.

The Tide’s mostly been injury-free this season, with the unfortunate loss of Robert Foster a notable exception, but that’s not the case this week. Cam Robinson has been dealing with a recurring ankle issue, but will continue to play in hopes of getting everything straightened out during the upcoming bye. Kenyan Drake suffered a thigh injury of some sort last week, but is also probable. Of greatest concern is apparently the most important player on this offense, Kelly, who is currently listed as questionable for Saturday as he goes through concussion protocols. The entire offense, most especially the run game, nosedived after he left late in the second quarter, and while J.C. Hassenauer did a decent job as his replacement, the dropoff was significant.

Hurd has evidently been dealing with the flu, but should be ready to go for Saturday. That’s the only big name I see, but the opponent appears to be without a number of rotational players, with Quart’e Sapp, Kyle Phillips, and Darrell Miller all questionable for Saturday. There are numerous out-for-the-season types as well, but in general I think the main guy to look for is Hurd.

Of course, this is the Third Saturday in October, so expect all of the saltiness that comes with the rivalry game. The Tide lead the series 51-38 according to the NCAA, with 7 ties getting you to the 96 overall contests in the series.

Swanson Giddiness Index

It is every American’s patriotic duty to ensure the opponent loses this game. That’s how Ron feels about it, anyhow. You should listen to Ron, he’s a smart guy.

The Picks

The offensive performance will likely be puzzling and/or infuriating once again, but I just don’t see their offense doing much of anything in this one. Sure, run Dobbs all you want, I just don’t think it’s going to matter. If Evan Berry gets loose on a bunch of kick returns or Interception Machine Coker shows back up it could get interesting, but I prefer to take the optimistic view on such things.

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