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Advanced Stats Rundown, Football Edition | Week of October 31st

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An interesting slate of games in the SEC on Halloween led by Florida vs. Georgia; plus, a key matchup in the ACC Coastal race in this week's ASR.

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

So, how’d last week go?

Early on was a bit nerve wracking from the spread side of the equation, as it looked like API was going to pull off a victory over Arkansas and Vanderbilt was going to out-strangle Missouri. Arkansas ended up ekeing out a 4 OT victory over little brother, but Missouri ended up losing, and of course Alabama didn’t quite cover the spread. USC’s demolition of Utah and Ole Miss’ complete shutdown of Texas A&M were nice pickups, and if Western Kentucky had put up a few more points on LSU it would have been a pretty special week. 6/7 straight up and 4/7 against the spread ain’t bad, though..

2015, Straight Up:    57/71 (80.3%)
2015, Against the Spread: 39/71 (54.9%)

All statistics and spreads as of October 28th, 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

Georgia Bulldogs vs. Florida Gators, Saturday October 31st
2:30 PM CDT / 3:30 PM EDT, CBS

The Matchup
FLORIDA GEORGIA THE EDGE
F/+ 37.6% (12) F/+ 20.7% (36) FLORIDA
FPI 18.5 (13) FPI 17.3 (14) PUSH
FEI 0.207 (10) FEI 0.084 (41) FLORIDA
S&P+ 14.4 (18) S&P+ 10.9 (29) FLORIDA
OS&P+ 33.4 (37) DS&P+ 21.6 (30) PUSH
DS&P+ 19.0 (13) OS&P+ 32.5 (43) FLORIDA
Home Spread -3.0 FLORIDA

World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party time, everyone! In standard SEC fashion, both squads scheduled a bye the week before the big rivalry game, so both should be well-rested heading into this one. Last time we saw Georgia, they debuted a novel method for ending a two-game losing streak by time traveling back to the 1960s, as a hard-fought 9-6 win over Missouri brought them to 5-2 on the season. Florida suffered their first loss of the year in a battle of the SEC’s remaining unbeaten teams with LSU, who as you would surmise from the previous statement is the SEC’s lone remaining undefeated team.[1]

1 | For another week, anyway. SHOTS FIRED.

FPI has these two teams back-to-back at #13 and #14 in the country, but the remaining overall quality metrics are solidly on the Florida side of the ledger. That’s largely a response to the precipitous drop suffered by the Bulldogs since the Alabama game, where they were ranked as high as 5th in the country in one metric. Oddly enough, however, Vegas has the “home”[2] team installed as a three point favorite, which suggests they see this as a pretty even battle.

2 | This game is played on a neutral field in Jacksonville.

The Gators offense is now firmly into competent territory, which is about as big a turnaround from the Will Muschamp era as you could ask for in a single offseason. However, S&P+ actually favors the Bulldogs slightly on that side of the ball, but not quite to a level of significance. The big news last time we talked about Florida was the suspension of Will Grier and subsequent starting of Treon Harris at QB, which actually turned out ok. The sophomore part-time starter from last season played solidly average football, compiling 271 yards on 32 attempts with 2 TD and no turnovers. If his completion percentage had been a bit higher than 53.8% you’d probably have heard more buzz about his performance, but keep in mind that was against the country’s #6 pass defense according to S&P+.

Given all of that, it’s safe to assume Florida’s well-regarded pass offense, #20 in the country according to S&P+, is probably good to go with Harris at the helm. That’s bad, bad news for the Bulldogs, as they are among the country’s worst against the pass and on passing downs. They have a slight edge on the Gators in the run game, but it’s very slight, and personally I expect the Gators offensive line and Kelvin Taylor to bully them all afternoon. One potential source of disruption for the Bulldogs is in the pass rush department — the Gators are among the country’s very worst lines at protecting the passer according to Adjusted Sack Rate. The Tigers got to the fairly mobile Harris five times in that game, so it’s not a situation that was confined to Will Grier.

On the other side… ugh. Georgia’s offensive rating has plummeted down to the 40s, in part because of the loss of Nick Chubb for the season, but also due to the continued regression of Greyson Lambert. After throwing his first pick of the year against the Tide, Lambert threw another last week, and had several other potential picks dropped by the Missouri secondary, according to a well-placed source ensconced deep within the Georgia fanbase. At least according to passer rating, the hilarious efficiency he showed over the first four weeks of the season is gone, and the last few weeks he’s played a lot more like the player he was for Virginia.[3] The Gators defense isn’t quite as good across the board as the Tide’s, but they don’t really do anything poorly. Their front seven will thoroughly test a Bulldogs offensive line that’s actually held up quite well this year.

3 | Imagine that…

Oh right, Chubb. Yeah, losing that guy is kind of a big deal. After being put through the wringer against the Tide, the Bulldogs had an average performance against The Viles before being totally shut down against Missouri, to the tune of 120 yards on just 2.7 yards a carry. That’s a far cry from the 240+ yards and nearly 7 yards a carry they were averaging over the season’s first four weeks, and the biggest reason for that is the loss of Chubb. Nobody really stopped him — even Alabama surrendered an 80+ yard run to him — and this offense is a lot more dangerous when the opponent has to gameplan for both him and Sony Michel.

This is a rivalry game, and I think that’s a major reason the spread is at close as it is. Florida’s owned this series since Steve Spurrier first started patrolling the sidelines in Gainesville, but it’s usually closely-contested, and Georgia has won three of the last four matchups. I’m just not seeing it this time around though.

THE PICK: Florida Gators, straight up and to cover.

National Game of the Week, Non-SEC Division

North Carolina Tar Heels at Pittsburgh Panthers, Thursday October 29th
6:00 PM CDT / 7:00 PM EDT, ESPN

The Matchup
PITTSBURGH NORTH CAROLINA THE EDGE
F/+ 20.6% (38) F/+ 22.8% (30) PUSH
FPI 8.8 (41) FPI 14.4 (24) NORTH CAROLINA
FEI 0.133 (23) FEI 0.134 (22) PUSH
S&P+ 7.1 (46) S&P+ 8.6 (39) PUSH
OS&P+ 31.2 (52) DS&P+ 27.7 (61) PUSH
DS&P+ 24.2 (39) OS&P+ 36.2 (23) NORTH CAROLINA
Home Spread 3.0 NORTH CAROLINA

Aside from a couple of Notre Dame games that are kind of ACC contests, we haven’t really had an opportunity to discuss our neighbors to the immediate northeast this season. Fortunately, one of the better games on paper this week is this matchup from the top half of the ACC Coastal between the Panthers and Tar Heels.

Aside from FPI favoring the Tar Heels, this one is a push in the overall quality metrics, which explains why Vegas has this as a toss-up on a neutral field. FEI, in particular, has this about as close as you can get, with just 0.001 separating the two teams’ ratings. After slipping up in the season opener against South Carolina, the Tar Heels have proceeded to blitz through their schedule, with a touchdown win over Georgia Tech in Atlanta the closest anyone’s come to beating them since. The schedule’s exactly as soft as you think it is, of course, but some of these games were anything but close. Pittsburgh’s a field goal short of being undefeated themselves, only falling on the road to whatever sorcery Kirk Ferentz is spinning in Iowa City.[4]

4 | Again, we’re living in a world in which Iowa is probably going 12-0 this season.

Much like Georgia, their season took on a different character after the reigning ACC Player of the Year, James Conner, suffered a season-ending knee injury after just eight carries on the year. Whenever this happens you start to wonder if prior workload has anything to do with these kinds of injuries — Conner ran 298 times last year, and more notably had four outings in excess of 30 carries. That’s certainly not unprecedented in the NCAA, as every year there’s a guy who gets the rock more than 350 times in a season. More than likely this is just a case of bad luck, but I’m wondering if we’ll ever see the equivalent of pitch counts on young running backs.

At any rate, it’s going to be… interesting when Pittsburgh has the ball. Redshirt freshman Qadree Ollison has actually done a fine job filling in for Conner, averaging 5.6 yards per carry on the season, and the Panthers have upgraded a bit from Chad Voytik at QB by bringing in Viles castoff Nathan Peterman.[5] The end result of those player changes, along with the prolific but not terribly productive year of leading receiver Tyler Boyd, is the #52 offense in the land according to S&P+. Aside from a woeful #106 ranking in PD OS&P+, this offense is pretty ho-hum across the board, barely eclipsing the national average in the other S&P+ components. They don’t do a great job protecting the passer, but their opponent is even worse at generating pressure according to Adjusted Sack Rate, so that’s probably not an issue on Thursday.

5 | Which is kind of sad if you know what the QB situation’s been like over there the last couple of years…

Speaking of that opponent, boy is their defense bad. The overall DS&P+ rating of 27.7 is not terrible, but getting into the S&P+ components suggests this group is full of holes. Also among the nation’s worst against the run and on standard downs, the Tar Heels are a little closer to the overall rating when it comes to defending the pass, but that’s still not very good. Success Rate+, an opponent-adjusted success rate Bill C.’s offering over at FootballOutsiders this season, has the Tar Heels as the country’s very worst defense, which suggests they have an issue stopping anything regardless of down. That, in turn, suggests even a mediocre offense like Pittsburgh’s will pile up the yards.

Fortunately for the Tar Heels, they have a high-powered offense that is extremely difficult to stop, which is why they’ve averaged nearly 43 points a game since that season-opening loss to the Gamecocks. Most of the production comes from senior quarterback Marquise Williams, who throws the ball well when not throwing it to the other team, and is averaging 7 yards a carry running the ball. Sophomore Eljiah Hood provides most of the rushing yards, as he’s eclipsed T.J. Logan as the primary back in Chapel Hill. They do not protect the passer very well, which is likely the reason they rank 84th on passing downs according to S&P+, but otherwise this offense does everything well. Pittsburgh, on the other hand, is outstanding against the pass as evidenced by their #7 ranking in Pass DS&P+, but is just 98th against the run, which suggests how this one is going to go. Get ready for a whole lot of Hood and Williams.

THE PICK: North Carolina Tar Heels, straight up and to cover.

Other SEC Games to Watch

Ole Miss Rebels at API Warplainseagletigers, Saturday October 31st
11:00 AM CDT / 12:00 PM EDT, ESPN

The Matchup
API OLE MISS THE EDGE
F/+ -2.9% (70) F/+ 34.0% (15) OLE MISS
FPI 10.7 (31) FPI 20.7 (10) OLE MISS
FEI 0.009 (63) FEI 0.143 (21) OLE MISS
S&P+ -1.8 (79) S&P+ 16.8 (13) OLE MISS
OS&P+ 28.6 (68) DS&P+ 19.0 (16) OLE MISS
DS&P+ 30.4 (80) OS&P+ 35.8 (24) OLE MISS
Home Spread 7.5 OLE MISS

A touchdown dog, despite the presence of the world’s largest video board in the most fambly-friendly environment in the SEC? I honestly cannot wait until Thanksgiving.

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

South Carolina Gamecocks at Texas A&M Aggies, Saturday October 31st
11:00 AM CDT / 12:00 PM EDT, SEC Network

The Matchup
TEXAS A&M SOUTH CAROLINA THE EDGE
F/+ 24.7% (26) F/+ -10.6% (82) TEXAS A&M
FPI 17.0 (16) FPI 4.5 (60) TEXAS A&M
FEI 0.175 (17) FEI -0.071 (87) TEXAS A&M
S&P+ 7.7 (44) S&P+ -1.3 (77) TEXAS A&M
OS&P+ 32.3 (44) DS&P+ 30.5 (83) TEXAS A&M
DS&P+ 24.7 (43) OS&P+ 29.2 (61) TEXAS A&M
Home Spread -16.0 TEXAS A&M

Texas A&M has lost two in a row, which oddly enough coincided with games against the two toughest opponents they’ve played this year. South Carolina is flirting with bowl ineligibility at 3-4 with two sure losses left on the schedule in Florida and Clemson. They showed some signs of life post-Spurrier with a win at home against Vanderbilt, but their reward was a bye week and a trip to the conference’s largest crowd in College Station. The advanced stats all lean pretty strongly for Texas A&M and they should win, but I don’t think they cover.

THE PICK: Texas A&M Aggies straight up, but the South Carolina Gamecockscover.

Vanderbilt Commodores at Houston Cougars, Saturday October 31st
6:00 PM CDT / 7:00 PM EDT, ESPN2

The Matchup
HOUSTON VANDERBILT THE EDGE
F/+ 24.7% (27) F/+ 2.2% (64) HOUSTON
FPI 9.7 (38) FPI -0.3 (75) HOUSTON
FEI 0.122 (27) FEI 0.022 (57) HOUSTON
S&P+ 10.8 (30) S&P+ 1.3 (64) HOUSTON
OS&P+ 38.9 (15) DS&P+ 19.6 (18) PUSH
DS&P+ 28.1 (65) OS&P+ 20.9 (114) HOUSTON
Home Spread -12.0 HOUSTON

It’s only been seven games, but you have to consider Tom Herman to be a home run hire for the Cougars,[6] as he has them undefeated heading into Saturday’s game against the Commodores. As you might expect, that’s largely on the strength of the #15 offense in the country according to S&P+. Vanderbilt has the defense to match up with the Cougars, but with one of the country’s worst offenses at 114th overall, you have to imagine they will struggle to score even against Houston’s middling defense. Houston will win, and just barely cover the spread in the process.

6 | Until one of the big boys snaps him up, anyway. USC, perhaps?

THE PICK: Houston Cougars, straight up and to cover.

The Viles at Kentucky Wildcats, Saturday October 31st
6:30 PM CDT / 7:30 PM EDT, SEC Network

The Matchup
KENTUCKY THE VILES THE EDGE
F/+ -7.2% (77) F/+ 27.8% (24) THE VILES
FPI 4.6 (59) FPI 19.7 (12) THE VILES
FEI 0. (67) FEI 0.174 (18) THE VILES
S&P+ -4.6 (87) S&P+ 9.7 (36) THE VILES
OS&P+ 27.8 (74) DS&P+ 23.7 (36) THE VILES
DS&P+ 32.4 (92) OS&P+ 33.5 (36) THE VILES
Home Spread 9.0 THE VILES

Even when you break it down to components, the Viles have the edge pretty much everywhere. They’re just a much, much better team than Kentucky.

THE PICK: The Viles, straight up and to cover.

ROLL TIDE