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Advanced Stats Rundown, Football Edition | Week of October 10th, 2015

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A potential PAC-12 Championship preview and an SEC East clash headline 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?

Not as great as the week prior, but still solid overall. Called the Ole Miss and Notre Dame upsets, as well as the Georgia “upset”, but failed to see LSU screwing around against their middling opponent and failing to come close to covering.[1] It was looking pretty dicey going into the late games, but Texas A&M and Clemson both covered to push me over 50% against the spread for the week.

1 | You’d think after watching years of poorly coached Tigers teams do stuff like this, I’d know better.

2015, Straight Up:    38/49 (77.6%)
2015, Against the Spread: 26/49 (53.1%)

Kind of a crappy slate of games this week, both in the SEC and nationally. Lots of teams are starting to take byes as well, so we only have six games to look at this time around.

All statistics and spreads as of October 6th, 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.

SEC Game of the Week, Non-Alabama Division

Georgia Bulldogs at The Viles, Saturday October 10th
2:30 PM CDT / 3:30 PM EDT, CBS

The Matchup
THE VILES GEORGIA THE EDGE
F/+ 22.0% (28) F/+ 31.8% (15) PUSH
FPI 17.6 (15) FPI 19.6 (12) PUSH
FEI 0.093 (32) FEI 0.184 (14) GEORGIA
S&P+ 11.4 (30) S&P+ 12.2 (26) PUSH
OS&P+ 34.1 (36) DS&P+ 22.9 (37) PUSH
DS&P+ 22.7 (33) OS&P+ 35.1 (28) PUSH
Home Spread 3.0 GEORGIA

This is the only SEC game this week that has the appearance of being interesting,[2] and depending on which versions of the participants show up, it could be a good one.

2 | In the non-Alabama division, that is. The Alabama game is always the most interesting game in the world.

The Dawgs, of course, got their teeth kicked in by the Tide last Saturday, and now take their toothless snarls up north to tussle with 103,000 equally-toothless Viles at Neyland Stadium.[3] In most years that’s a formidable challenge, but the Viles are fresh off losing a third game in which they had a lead of 13 points or more, two of which have been at home. Butch Jones has accumulated the talent, but the coaching prowess may be a bit lacking, and regardless the mental fortitude has yet to take root in Knoxville. I know you’re all as disappointed by that as I am.

3 | *fist pump*

Despite the rather downtrodden nature of these teams, the advanced stats have them nearly dead-even, which is generally indicative of potentially great contests. Georgia has a solid edge in F/+ that is just short of being significant, but also in FEI where they outrank the Viles by 18 spots. The margins in FPI and S&P+ are much tighter, but in general the overall quality metrics tend to favor the Bulldogs. The basic S&P+ splits are no help, as each defense has the slightest of margins over the opposing offenses.

However, we’re fresh off seeing the blueprint to beating Georgia — simply limit one of the country’s best running back tandems in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel without stacking the box, and force Greyson Lambert[4] to beat you with his arm,[5] but without bringing too much additional pressure. Exploit the Bulldogs’ shaky secondary on the other end of the field, and you’re good to go!

4 | Or will we see Faton Bauta?

5 | Bonus points if you can luck into scheduling them during torrential downpours!

That’s easier said than done of course, and it’s unclear whether or not the Viles have the horses to do it. They rank just 91st in defensive Adjusted Sack Rate, which indicates the pass rush isn’t there. They rank 42nd in defensive Rushing S&P+, which is middling and not what you want to see against an elite, explosive rushing offense like Georgia’s. Finally, they are barely above average throwing the ball, as their offensive Passing S&P+ is just 79th overall.

If — IF — the Viles are able to stop Georgia on the ground somehow, they are set up nicely to make passing situations unpleasant for the Bulldogs, as the Viles defense is 11th and 18th overall on passing downs and against the pass, respectively. That’s a big if, though, and personally I think a pissed off Chubb goes for 200 yards and the Bulldogs win by double-digits.

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

National Game of the Week

California Golden Bears at Utah Utes, Saturday October 10th
9:00 PM CDT / 10:00 PM EDT, ESPN

The Matchup
UTAH CALIFORNIA THE EDGE
F/+ 35.2% (11) F/+ 8.7% (51) UTAH
FPI 16.1 (19) FPI 12.7 (28) PUSH
FEI 0.203 (9) FEI 0.028 (51) UTAH
S&P+ 13.6 (19) S&P+ 6.2 (48) UTAH
OS&P+ 34.8 (31) DS&P+ 28.6 (70) UTAH
DS&P+ 21.2 (30) OS&P+ 34.8 (30) PUSH
Home Spread -7.0 UTAH

Only two real marquee matchups outside the SEC this week, and I couldn’t bring myself to talk seriously about Northwestern. As a Utah resident, however, the resurgent Utes seemed like an enticing topic, so their battle with Cal is your National Game of the Week.

If you go by the polls, the spread, and the win-loss records, this pairing of unbeaten PAC-12 foes seems like required late-night viewing. In a move evocative of Mississippi State’s rise a year ago, the Utes have climbed from the realm of the unranked to #5 in the AP poll, thanks to an early home win against Michigan and an absolute detonation of Oregon two weeks ago in Eugene. The Golden Bears are 5-0 for the first time since DeSean Jackson was running around campus, albeit on the backs of tight wins over the Washington schools and Texas.

That slight difference in win quality shows up in a big way in FootballOutsiders’ various metrics, which heavily favor Utah. FPI, as it is wont to do, has this as a significantly more competitive matchup, but still with a tilt toward the Utes. Kyle Whittingham has quietly rebuilt the Utah program after the heights of 2008[6] gave way to a rough transition into the PAC-12, and the result is a well-coached, well-balanced squad with just enough talent to really do some damage. With USC and UCLA accruing early conference losses, Utah is in the driver’s seat for the PAC-12 South title, and with the North division in flux that means they are also in the (absurdly early) driver’s seat for a playoff spot.

6 | Did you know Utah is undefeated against Alabama? I did! I hear about it every day. It’s awesome.

Before I get ahead of myself, this may not be a total walk in the park. Utah has a very balanced offense, ranking 15th and 8th in rushing and passing offense respectively according to S&P+, and they have a strong rush defense pegged at #17 overall by the same. Their pass defense is their achilles heel, however, rated just 92nd overall. That’s a problem where Cal is concerned, as Sonny Dykes has a fully operational Air Raid up and running in Berkeley. Junior Jared Goff already has 1630 passing yards through five games, but as that production has come against a weak slate of opponents, the Bears’ Passing S&P+ rating is a solid-but-not-elite 26th overall.

That sounds like a potentially rough day for the Utes defense, but there’s something else to consider: Nate Orchard has moved along, but the Utes pass rush is still strong at 26th overall in Adjusted Sack Rate. Cal, on the other hand, is among the P5’s worst teams at protecting the quarterback, weighing in at 96th overall in the offensive version of that metric. That’s not good for Goff, folks. Factor in the home environs of Salt Lake City,[7] and this is an easy call for the Utes.

7 | The air’s pretty thin even at 4300 feet, yall.

THE PICK: Utah Utes, straight up and to cover.

Other SEC Games to Watch

Florida Gators at Missouri Tigers, Saturday October 10th
6:30 PM CDT / 7:30 PM EDT, SECN

The Matchup
MISSOURI FLORIDA THE EDGE
F/+ -0.8% (70) F/+ 31.4% (16) FLORIDA
FPI 7.5 (47) FPI 18.2 (14) FLORIDA
FEI 0.099 (29) FEI 0.093 (31) PUSH
S&P+ -9.3 (101) S&P+ 23.3 (5) FLORIDA
OS&P+ 14.7 (124) DS&P+ 15.4 (12) FLORIDA
DS&P+ 24.1 (43) OS&P+ 38.7 (15) FLORIDA
Home Spread 5.5 FLORIDA

This matchup is similar to the Utah-Cal one, at least with respect to metrics not lining up with the spread. At first glance this is an absolute mismatch — Florida just finished kicking Ole Miss’ teeth in, and Coach Mac has hopes riding high in Gainesville once again. Missouri, on the other hand, has looked like the two-time defending SEC East champions only in spots, and then mostly because of the defense. FEI is strangely high on them, likely because of the paucity of points they’ve allowed on the season, but the other overall quality metrics characterize this as an absolute mismatch. The Tigers sport the 124th ranked offense in the country according to S&P+,[8] which barring a magical performance from Drew Lock is going to have a rough time moving the ball on Florida. I got burned by fellow freshman QB Lorenzo Nunez last week, and I think Coach Mac may have an SEC title game participant on his hands.

8 | If there’s one thing Bill Connelly and his spreadsheets aren’t, it’s biased.

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

Cakewalks

LSU Tigers at South Carolina Gamecocks, Saturday October 10th
11:00 AM CDT / 12:00 PM EDT, ESPN

UPDATE: This game has been moved to Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, due to the flooding issues in South Carolina. The new kick time is 2:30 CDT / 3:30 CDT; television plans are yet to be determined.

The Matchup
SOUTH CAROLINA LSU THE EDGE
F/+ 3.9% (57) F/+ 47.0% (4) LSU
FPI 5.2 (56) FPI 20.7 (9) LSU
FEI 0.048 (48) FEI 0.216 (6) LSU
S&P+ 0.0 (73) S&P+ 21.3 (9) LSU
OS&P+ 29.9 (56) DS&P+ 19.3 (23) LSU
DS&P+ 29.8 (79) OS&P+ 40.5 (8) LSU
Home Spread 13.5 LSU

I’m done messing around with South Carolina. I still think Nunez is a massive upgrade over the Perry Orths of the world, but the defense is still atrocious, and that’s not a good place to be with Leonard Fournette coming to town. He’ll pick up his fourth straight 200 yard game, everyone will lose their minds, and the OBC will be one step closer to retirement.

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

New Mexico State Aggies at Ole Miss Rebels, Saturday October 10th
11:00 AM CDT / 12:00 PM EDT, SEC Network

The Matchup
OLE MISS NEW MEXICO STATE THE EDGE
F/+ 34.2% (12) F/+ -28.6% (108) OLE MISS
FPI 22.6 (5) FPI -16.8 (119) OLE MISS
FEI 0.164 (18) FEI -0.191 (118) OLE MISS
S&P+ 15.2 (14) S&P+ -7.2 (93) OLE MISS
OS&P+ 36.1 (21) DS&P+ 39.3 (116) OLE MISS
DS&P+ 20.8 (27) OS&P+ 32.1 (43) OLE MISS
Home Spread -42.0 OLE MISS

See! See! It was the turnovers! They have no depth! They only play Alabama and Mississippi State hard! They are going to totally obliterate NMSU!

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

Troy Trojans at Mississippi St. Bulldogs, Saturday October 10th
3:00 PM CDT / 4:00 PM EDT, SECN

The Matchup
MISSISSIPPI STATE TROY THE EDGE
F/+ 19.9% (35) F/+ -35.7% (116) MISSISSIPPI STATE
FPI 14.3 (24) FPI -15.0 (117) MISSISSIPPI STATE
FEI 0.146 (24) FEI -0.219 (126) MISSISSIPPI STATE
S&P+ 5.8 (50) S&P+ -10.7 (103) MISSISSIPPI STATE
OS&P+ 33.6 (38) DS&P+ 33.9 (99) MISSISSIPPI STATE
DS&P+ 27.8 (65) OS&P+ 23.2 (96) MISSISSIPPI STATE
Home Spread -30.5 MISSISSIPPI STATE

Oh wow, Troy’s even worse than NMSU.

THE PICK: Mississippi State Bulldogs straight up, but the Troy Trojans cover.

ROLL TIDE