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Advanced Stats Rundown, Football Edition | Week of November 14th, 2015

This week we look into LSU's chances of avoiding a letdown against Arkansas and Round 2 of the Big 12 November Melee in Waco

Matt Bush-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 my best week, for sure. TCU didn’t show up against Oklahoma State and Texas A&M’s season fully melted down against API, which were both total whiffs on my part. Ole Miss couldn’t shake Arkansas, South Carolina kept it close with the Viles, and LSU got blown off the field. Perhaps the week’s most surprising result was Vanderbilt putting Florida into a chokehold. There was a very real possibility that the Commodores walked away with a win in that one, and only a late field goal from an injured kicker allowed the Gators to prevail. 37.5% against the spread is my worst mark since the insanity of Week 2. Told yall to take last week’s picks with a grain of salt!

2015, Straight Up:    68/85 (80.0%)
2015, Against the Spread: 48/85 (56.5%)

All statistics and spreads as of November 14th, 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

Arkansas Razorbacks at LSU Tigers, Saturday November 14th
6:15 PM CST / 7:15 PM EST, ESPN

The Matchup
F/+ 44.8% (7) F/+ 18.9% (37) LSU
FPI 21.5 (8) FPI 13.3 (26) LSU
FEI 0.221 (5) FEI 0.094 (33) LSU
S&P+ 17.2 (8) S&P+ 8.0 (42) LSU
OS&P+ 39.8 (12) DS&P+ 32.8 (97) LSU
DS&P+ 22.6 (33) OS&P+ 40.7 (8) ARKANSAS
Home Spread -7.5 LSU

Talk about two completely different experiences from a week ago. Arkansas strolled into Oxford and matched the Rebels punch for punch, eventually winning the game with a completely absurd 4th and 25 conversion that featured an insane lateral that traveled about 15 yards downfield into the loving arms of Alex Collins, who weaved his way through the Ole Miss defense to pick up the first down and extend the game. It was a heads up play by Hunter Henry, but it was largely luck, and that karmic rebalancing of the universe brought a smile to the face of many a Tide fan.[1]

1 | Not a fun way to lose, is it WAOM?

Speaking of the Tide, they welcomed LSU to Bryant-Denny last Saturday, and, well, it wasn’t pretty. LSU’s Leonard Fournette was completely bottled up, and was averaging 1 or less yard per carry for most of the game until an 18-yard romp in garbage time. Simply put, the Tigers got their teeth kicked in, and are rewarded with a tough game against the Razorbacks a week ahead of their showdown with the Rebels.

The Achilles heel of this Razorbacks team is their defense, which is among the country’s very worst units at 97th overall in DS&P+. They are particularly susceptible to the pass, with the 115th-ranked unit according to Pass DS&P+. We saw last week that Brandon Harris has some real limitations as a quarterback, but a lot of that had to do with the Tide rendering the Tigers’ offense one-dimensional. Arkansas does not have the horses to deal with Fournette, and you can expect the talented sophomore to get back to the 150-200 yard range that’s characterized the majority of his season. LSU will mix in play-action passes to Travin Dural and Malachi Dupre, and with what will surely be outstanding success on the ground, those passes should be there all day. LSU will not struggle to move the ball on this defense whatsoever, and it will once again be up to Brandon Allen and the Razorbacks offense to keep them in the game.

And wow, what an offense they have. This remains the country’s best passing outfit according to OS&P+, and it is a significantly more explosive and efficient unit than the one that just hung nearly 450 yards on the Tigers. That big number was largely driven by time of possession of course, but the per play numbers were good enough, and you don’t pile up 40 minutes of possession unless you’re doing something right. Arkansas’ offensive identity is also rooted in ball control, and the best way to avoid the LSU offense is to keep the ball out of their hands. That will be more difficult to do as Arkansas’ defense is not on the level of the Tide’s, but they have the offensive firepower to make this matchup very, very interesting.

At the end of the day, however, I don’t think they have enough. LSU is going to be salty after what just happened to them in Tuscaloosa, and they have a defense built to deal with this sort of offense. Fournette might go for 250 on this defense, and the only way to deal with something like that is turnovers. Those have been infrequent for the Tigers — it was just last week that Harris threw his first interception of the season[2] — and as a result I just don’t see Arkansas taking this one.

2 | *snicker*

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

National Game of the Week, Non-SEC Division

Oklahoma Sooners at Baylor Bears, Saturday November 14th
7:00 PM CST / 8:00 PM EST, ABC

The Matchup
F/+ 41.9% (10) F/+ 45.6% (6) PUSH
FPI 25.6 (2) FPI 26.0 (1) PUSH
FEI 0.182 (15) FEI 0.199 (9) PUSH
S&P+ 18.1 (7) S&P+ 19.5 (5) PUSH
OS&P+ 48.2 (1) DS&P+ 20.4 (20) BAYLOR
DS&P+ 30.0 (79) OS&P+ 39.9 (11) OKLAHOMA
Home Spread -2.5 BAYLOR

The first domino in the mess that is the Big 12 race fell last week with TCU’s shocking demolition at the hands of Oklahoma State. The second domino is this week, as the Bears welcome Oklahoma to Waco. Last time we saw Baylor they were challenged for the first time all season, as they stepped into the Werther’s-shaped black hole in Manhattan and survived Kansas State 31-24. Oddly enough, that was the toughest Bears opponent of the season accounting for venue, and given the sorcery Bill Snyder’s been spinning in that place for the last 300 years, the outcome is not terribly surprising. This was also the first start for new quarterback Jarrett Stidham, who played well in place of the injured Seth Russell. Russell, the nation’s passing efficiency leader, sustained a fractured bone in his neck, which sounds really unpleasant. Much like Robert Griffin begat Nick Florence begat Bryce Petty begat Russell, it doesn’t seem to matter who’s at the controls of this offense; they’re piling up a ton of yards and points.

Oklahoma has an elite quarterback of their own in Baker Mayfield, who’s supplanted Trevor Knight[3] as the man in Norman. The Sooners have been working through the very dregs of the conference over the last month, and responded accordingly with an average score of 58-13 over Kansas State, Texas Tech, Kansas, and Iowa State. If you’re the type that likes to invoke the transitive property of football,[4] Oklahoma’s 55-0 drubbing of the Wildcats in Manhattan looks awfully impressive next to Baylor’s effort from last week. But we’re here to look at it from a more enlightened viewpoint, so cast those results from your mind for the time being.

3 | Who has done NOTHING outside of that Sugar Bowl that didn’t happen. Stephen Garcia, anyone?

4 | If so, please stop!

This is FPI’s national championship game if the season ended today, as these are the #1 and #2 teams in that metric. They are both well-regarded in all four quality metrics, with the overall reputation of Oklahoma being just a touch higher down the line. The margins are very close, however, and Oklahoma does not have a significant edge in any of the four. Thus it’s to the components we go to figure out how this one may shake out.

Both offenses have the edge, but the margin’s a bit closer when Baylor has the ball, so let’s start there. Despite the excellence of Russell and favorite targets Corey Coleman, Jay Lee, and KD Cannon, this is not as highly regarded a passing offense as you would have thought. Their #7 ranking is still plenty high, but I’d have figured they’d be pushing Arkansas for the #1 spot. The narrative surrounding this team, at least from my perspective, is that they’re built in the mold of the Mike Leach Texas Tech teams, in that they are a pass first, pass second, pass third kind of operation.

That’s patently false, however, as they run on nearly 60% of their plays. Looking at it from the advanced stats perspective, their run rates on standard downs are well below national averages, but they actually go to the ground 45.3% on the time on passing downs, which is the 14th-highest percentage in the nation. For all the excellence in the passing game, Shock Linwood is an underrated back who is a huge part of the Bears’ offensive success. He’s currently averaging 7.8 yards a carry, and while he splits carries with Terence Williams and the quarterbacks, he’s the guy to look out for here. His efforts have propelled the Bears to the #13 ranking in Rush OS&P+ — this is a team that can beat you in multiple ways. They are the #1 unit on standard downs, and have an outstanding offensive line that ranks 10th and 9th in Adjusted Line Yards and Adjusted Sack Rate, respectively.

Their opponent’s defense is good but not great on a play-by-play basis, but they are the #2 unit in the country according to DFEI, which suggests they are outstanding at keeping opponents out of the end zone. They are 16th in points allowed per scoring opportunity, but a look at the DFEI components paints an interesting picture. This defense is nasty. They force three-and-outs on over 40% of their drives, which is the fifth-highest rate in the country, and permit explosive drives[5] just 5.5% of the time. They do appear susceptible to the slower, efficiency-over-explosiveness teams with a #39 ranking in methodical drives,[6] but that is not really what Baylor tries to do... oh wait, they’re #1 in both IsoPPP and Success Rate. Those ranks drop to 5th and 19th respectively when you adjust for opponent strength, but there’s really nothing this offense does poorly.

5 | Drives where the yard per play average exceeds 10 yards.

6 | Drives of 10 plays or more.

The outlook for the Bears is a bit less rosy on the other side of the ball. This is not a great defense, particularly against the pass, which is what the Oklahoma offense is particularly adept at. Mayfield is averaging well over 10 yards an attempt, and leading receiver Sterling Shepard is averaging nearly 18 yards a reception. They have a significant advantage on the Bears defense in that regard and on standard downs, with Baylor having the edge in the rushing game. Samaje Perine has not quite lived up to the expectations generated by his insane 427 yard performance last year against Kansas, but he’s averaging a very good 5.8 yards a carry for the season. In fact, in the Sooners’ last three games he’s compiled 386 yards on 47 carries, good for 8.2 yards a pop, and a similar performance against Baylor would go a long way toward a successful outing for the Sooners.

One thing to keep an eye on is the pass rush, which oddly hasn’t been a strength for the Bears this season, but in the Sooners they have one of the worst pass-blocking lines in the nation ripe for the picking. A year after notching 11 sacks, Shawn Oakman has only tallied four in 2015. This might be the game he breaks out of the slump, as Oklahoma has allowed 27 sacks on the season. Oklahoma’s obviously been very successful in spite of that, but Oakman was an absolute terror at times last year, and can be extremely disruptive in the right situation.

When all is said and done, however, I think Oklahoma’s offense is going to be too much for Baylor to handle. They have elite playmakers all over the field, and yards and points will be plentiful as a result. This will be the best defense Baylor sees before the postseason, and I think it’s going to be enough for a tight Oklahoma win.

THE PICK: Oklahoma Sooners, straight up and to cover.

Other SEC Games to Watch

Georgia Bulldogs at API Warplainseagletigers, Saturday November 14th
11:00 AM CST / 12:00 PM EST, CBS

The Matchup
F/+ 7.4% (56) F/+ 15.7% (42) PUSH
FPI 12.4 (31) FPI 15.5 (20) GEORGIA
FEI 0.058 (47) FEI 0.062 (46) PUSH
S&P+ 2.2 (66) S&P+ 8.1 (39) GEORGIA
OS&P+ 30.5 (51) DS&P+ 20.6 (21) GEORGIA
DS&P+ 28.2 (61) OS&P+ 28.7 (65) PUSH
Home Spread -1.5 API

API has been playing better as of late, and the game is in their house, but I’m just not seeing it. Even with the downturn post-Alabama, Georgia is still a pretty solid team, and they have the edge on the Tigers in most respects. Look for a whole lot of Sony Michel and Keith Marshall, as API is particularly weak against the run. It will be closer than the Dawgs would prefer, but they should take the victory here.

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

Florida Gators at South Carolina Gamecocks, Saturday November 14th
11:00 AM CST / 12:00 PM EST, ESPN

The Matchup
F/+ -11.1% (83) F/+ 38.8% (11) FLORIDA
FPI 5.6 (57) FPI 18.0 (14) FLORIDA
FEI -0.043 (78) FEI 0.176 (17) FLORIDA
S&P+ -3.5 (85) S&P+ 16.2 (9) FLORIDA
OS&P+ 28.7 (68) DS&P+ 15.2 (5) FLORIDA
DS&P+ 32.2 (91) OS&P+ 31.4 (46) FLORIDA
Home Spread 7.5 FLORIDA

South Carolina has been a much edgier group since the Ol’ Ball Coach stepped down, but the only team to really stop the Gators this season was Vanderbilt and its elite defense, which is not a qualifier you could reasonably apply to the Gamecocks. They are a sieve on that side of the ball, and the stoutness of the Gators defense is not going to do their moribund offense any favors. This spread seems awfully low.

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

North Texas Mean Green at The Viles, Saturday November 14th
11:00 AM CST / 12:00 PM EST, SEC Network

The Matchup
F/+ 31.0% (20) F/+ -59.5% (127) THE VILES
FPI 19.8 (12) FPI -23.1 (128) THE VILES
FEI 0.163 (19) FEI -0.253 (125) THE VILES
S&P+ 11.6 (26) S&P+ -23.6 (128) THE VILES
OS&P+ 34.0 (34) DS&P+ 41.9 (124) THE VILES
DS&P+ 22.4 (32) OS&P+ 18.3 (118) THE VILES
Home Spread -41.0 THE VILES


THE PICK: THE VILES, straight up and to cover.

Kentucky Wildcats at Vanderbilt Commodores, Saturday November 14th
3:00 PM CST / 4:00 PM EST, SEC Network

The Matchup
F/+ -1.0% (71) F/+ -17.6% (92) VANDERBILT
FPI 1.4 (71) FPI 2.1 (68) PUSH
FEI 0.01 (66) FEI -0.056 (83) VANDERBILT
S&P+ -0.3 (76) S&P+ -7.6 (96) VANDERBILT
OS&P+ 17.9 (119) DS&P+ 32.2 (90) KENTUCKY
DS&P+ 18.2 (11) OS&P+ 24.6 (101) VANDERBILT
Home Spread -3.0 VANDERBILT

Vanderbilt will only need to manage a field goal to win this one. They got a touchdown on the Gators last week, and Kentucky’s, uh, maybe not quite as good of a defense as the orange and blue contingent. If your preferred brand of football is asphyxiation, this is the game for you!

THE PICK: Vanderbilt Commodores, straight up and to cover.

BYU Cougars vs. Missouri Tigers, Saturday 14th
6:30 PM CST / 7:30 PM EST, SEC Network

The Matchup
F/+ -5.2% (75) F/+ 21.1% (32) BYU
FPI 5.6 (58) FPI 7.6 (46) BYU
FEI 0.014 (65) FEI 0.09 (34) BYU
S&P+ -3.8 (89) S&P+ 9.9 (33) BYU
OS&P+ 14.8 (125) DS&P+ 24.5 (44) BYU
DS&P+ 18.7 (14) OS&P+ 34.4 (32) MISSOURI
Home Spread 6.5 BYU

This is technically a neutral site game at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, but that’s practically in Missouri’s backyard, so I’m treating it as a home game for the Tigers. The Cougars have feasted on mediocre competition since going 2-2 against the big boys to start the season, and when you consider both of those wins were on ridiculous hail marys, the 7-2 record loses some of its shine. There’s no question as to whether or not Missouri can score,[7] so the question is whether or not BYU can do anything against Missouri’s fantastic defense. I think they do enough to cover.

7 | Hint: they can’t.

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