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 too bad, actually. Completely whiffed on the Arkansas-LSU and BYU-Mizzou games; the former was probably a pick I could have made, but as for the other I completely underestimated the impact of recent events in Columbia on the football team. As CB pointed out in his Random Thoughts piece yesterday, Missouri hasn’t looked this together since the South Carolina game. Aside from those two games, the Viles managed not to blow out North Texas somehow, which was my third miss against the spread for the week.
2015, Straight Up: 74/93 (79.6%)
2015, Against the Spread: 53/93 (57.0%)
All statistics and spreads as of November 17th, 2015.
Wondering what all these terms are?
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.
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.
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):
FGE — Field Goal Efficiency, the scoring value per field goal attempt earned by the field goal unit as measured against national success rates.
PRE — Punt Return Efficiency, the scoring value per opponent punt earned by the receiving team as measured against national return rates.
KRE — Kickoff Return Efficiency, the scoring value per opponent kickoff earned by the receiving team as measured against national return rates.
PE — Punt Efficiency, the scoring value per punt earned by the opponent's receiving team as measured against national return rates.
KE — Kickoff Efficiency, the scoring value per kickoff earned by the opponent's receiving team as measured against national return rates.
ASR — Adjusted 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).
ALY — Adjusted 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 Games of the Week, Non-Alabama Division
LSU Tigers at Ole Miss Rebels, Saturday November 21st
2:30 PM CDT / 3:30 PM EDT, CBS
|OLE MISS||LSU||THE EDGE|
|F/+||34.2% (13)||F/+||35.2% (12)||PUSH|
|FPI||20.4 (9)||FPI||19.4 (10)||PUSH|
|FEI||0.131 (24)||FEI||0.163 (15)||PUSH|
|S&P+||16.4 (9)||S&P+||14.1 (13)||PUSH|
|OS&P+||38.0 (18)||DS&P+||24.6 (41)||OLE MISS|
|DS&P+||21.6 (28)||OS&P+||38.6 (14)||LSU|
|Home Spread||-4.0||OLE MISS|
Two weeks ago this looked like a game that would decide the SEC West, as both squads would be tied with Alabama atop the division with one conference loss apiece. LSU wins, and the Tide’s in the driver’s seat for Atlanta. Ole Miss wins, and the Rebels limp into Starkville with a chance at an SEC championship berth.
Then, Arkansas happened.
Two consecutive weeks and two Arkansas victories later, and it looks like these two are jockeying for second place in the West. Things could get interesting in a hurry if the Tide doesn’t take care of business in the Iron Bowl, but for now this game no longer decides the division.
1 | Yes, yes, “FLAGGED,” etc.
Looking at the chart isn’t terribly helpful. LSU is just shy of having a significant edge in FEI, but in the other three overall quality metrics it’s too close to call. Each offense has the edge according to S&P+, with Ole Miss having a slightly edgier edge than LSU. Thus, per usual, we must go to the components to get a read on how this game shakes out.
2 | It’s elegant language like that keeps you coming around, folks!
Ole Miss is no great mystery at this point — much like their counterparts to the south, they look to pass early and often. They possess the country’s second-best passing offense according to S&P+, and are particularly lethal on standard downs, where they have the #4 ranking in SD OS&P+. Chad Kelly is a pretty talented guy, and he has a fleet of matchup nightmares in wide receivers Laquon Treadwell, Cody Core, Quincy Adeboyejo, and Damore’ea Stringfellow. And Markell Pack. And Evan Engram. Suffice it to say that Ole Miss has a lot of talent in that phase of the game.
The question is whether or not LSU’s elite secondary can handle all those athletes. That was the question going into the Arkansas game as well, and while they mostly bottled up Brandon Allen, they gave up over 300 yards on the ground — not a recipe for success. The problem with Ole Miss is they are every bit as efficient as Arkansas is throwing the ball, but with a much, much higher level of talent. Kelly’s not dropping 300 yards on these guys, but he won’t be bottled up as effectively as Allen was either.
3 | 9/16, 141 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT; practically Cokerian.
4 | When you adjust for sacks, that is; the box score will tell you 299.
The rushing side of the coin is equally muddy, as that is not the specialty of either of these teams. Ole Miss is currently 57th in Rush OS&P+; LSU is 44th in the defensive equivalent. LSU is currently 32nd in defensive Adjusted Line Yards; Ole Miss is 41st in the offensive equivalent. These are not terrible numbers, but they aren’t great either, and there’s certainly an opportunity to exploit inefficiencies here. Ole Miss does not have a back on the level of Alex Collins or Derrick Henry, but they do have a quarterback who scrambles well, and their offensive identity tends to dissuade stacking the box against the run. I suspect Ole Miss has an effort reminiscent of that against Texas A&M or Arkansas — tough yards, but somewhere around 200 of them.
The other side of the ball used to be the strengths of these two teams, but injuries and general malaise has really sapped these units of their effectiveness as of late. Some of the shine’s come off of Leonard Fournette the last two weeks, but he’s still the most talented back in the country, and LSU’s rushing attack is still something to fear. That being said, it’s no coincidence that Fournette’s struggles coincided with the loss of John David Moore to injury, as the former starting fullback is officially done for the year. Fournette’s YPC average dropped considerably when that injury happened, and while three of those games featured tough defenses, Western Kentucky’s not exactly known for clamping down on the run. Ole Miss, despite all of the talented backs they’ve faced and injuries they’ve dealt with over the course of the season, is still #13 against the run according to S&P+, so expect another Arkansas-like effort out of Fournette this week.
The problem for the Tigers is their entire offense is predicated on Fournette keeping the defense honest, and when he’s unable to do that, Brandon Harris struggles mightily. Travin Dural and Malachi Dupre are a dangerous pair of receivers, but that’s irrelevant if the quarterback can’t get them the ball. The once-vaunted LSU line is having all sorts of issues as of late as well, as the lightly-regarded Arkansas pass rush got to Harris five times last Saturday, and that’s on top of the larger blocking issues affecting the run game.
There’s a distinct whiff of death spiral coming out of Baton Rouge, as the fanbase appears to even be turning on Les Miles at this point. While the Alabama loss was nothing to be ashamed of, this was once a better team than Arkansas, and the effort in that game was less than stellar. That’s not a good sign when you’re hitting the road against yet another elite team in Ole Miss. Even if the LSU from the Florida game shows up I’m not sure they beat this team in Oxford, but if the one from last week shows up? Forget it.
THE PICK: Ole Miss Rebels, straight up and to cover.
Mississippi St. Bulldogs at Arkansas Razorbacks, Saturday November 21st
6:00 PM CDT / 7:00 PM EDT, ESPN
|ARKANSAS||MISSISSIPPI STATE||THE EDGE|
|F/+||29.5% (22)||F/+||30.0% (20)||PUSH|
|FPI||15.3 (21)||FPI||15.4 (20)||PUSH|
|FEI||0.146 (22)||FEI||0.155 (18)||PUSH|
|S&P+||11.3 (23)||S&P+||11.1 (24)||PUSH|
|OS&P+||42.3 (5)||DS&P+||23.8 (38)||ARKANSAS|
|DS&P+||30.9 (85)||OS&P+||34.8 (30)||MISSISSIPPI STATE|
That’s right, you get a twofer this week, as this game is just as important and just as tight on paper as the last. Arkansas and Alabama are equally hot right now, and that win over the Razorbacks in October just keeps looking better and better for the Tide. The real quandary is how this team managed to lose three home games in a row to Toledo, Texas Tech, and Texas A&M, but was then capable of doing that to Ole Miss and LSU on the road. The A&M loss is particularly damning, as Arkansas would be the team sitting pretty if Alabama stumbles in two weeks.
State was on a bit of a hot streak of their own before running into the Death Star last week, and while they are definitely out of the divisional race at this point, there’s a lot left to play for at the end of the season. This is a very dangerous team against the right opponent, and while they were unable to get past the Tide, they are far from a pushover for the Razorbacks.
Much like the previous game, the matchup chart isn’t much use here, as these two are essentially the same team according to the overall quality metrics. Just like the previous game, both offenses have a big edge over the opposing defenses, and just like the previous game it’s to the components we go.
Mississippi State is absolutely screwed when Arkansas has the ball. This Razorbacks offense is the best in the SEC, and if it were not for the Alabama defense they’d be the best unit in the SEC, period. They have the best passing offense in the country per S&P+, and with the #9 ranked rushing offense they are one of three teams in the country to put up top-10 marks in both Pass OS&P+ and Rush OS&P+. In fact, the only offensive metric they aren’t in the top-10 for is Adjusted Sack Rate, and their #26 mark there is still a strong showing. That’s the one area where State is comparably ranked at 30th overall in DASR. They were able to get Jake Coker on the run a few times last week, but the Razorbacks have a superior line to the Tide’s, and I would not expect Collins to have the same struggles on a play-by-play basis that Henry did for most of Saturday’s contest. Allen’s a pretty heady guy on the run as well, so expect Arkansas to become the third team to put 30 on the Bulldogs this season.
5 | Bowling Green and Notre Dame are the other two.
Interestingly enough, the other side of the ball is the same story, as defense is not the strength of this Arkansas team. Passing teams have really taken it to the Razorbacks this year, as Texas Tech, Ole Miss, and Texas A&M all put up over 300 yards at greater than 10 yards per attempt. Now, the best quarterback in the conference is coming to town with the nation’s #13 pass offense according to S&P+. Arkansas is a putrid 112th against the pass, which is nearly a 100 rank edge for Mississippi State! That’s crazy!
The problem, of course, is De’Runnya Wilson was a big part of that success, and he’s done for the year with an unspecified but serious neck injury. A fifth of State’s receiving production went out the window with that injury, particularly in the red zone. At 6’5” with a background in basketball, Wilson was Prescott’s go-to guy close to the goal line, and he led the team with 8 receiving touchdowns as a result— nobody else has more than 2. This is a huge loss that cannot be understated, and while Fred Ross and Donald Gray will capably step up to cover Wilson’s role, they cannot replicate the size and physicality that make Wilson such a dangerous target.
Running the ball appears to be a push, but as was ever so politely pointed out to me last week, Arkansas’ run defense is better than their reputation would lead you to believe. They’re just the second group to hold Fournette under 100 yards this season, and while that was largely a product of LSU abandoning the run in the fourth quarter in an effort to come back, it’s still an impressive accomplishment. They do not give up big plays on the ground as evidenced by their #11 ranking in defensive rushing IsoPPP, and while their rushing success rate numbers are putrid, nobody’s really run on this defense. They’ve had some issues with mobile quarterbacks — haven’t we all? —and Prescott certainly fits that bill, but I’m not thinking he replicates Kelly’s 110 yard performance against this group.
This feels like another shootout reminiscent of the Razorbacks’ tilt against the Rebels a few weeks ago, and while I don’t think this one heads into overtime, I think the result’s the same. Mississippi State is a fine team but I think Arkansas’ just better at this point in the season.
THE PICK: Arkansas Razorbacks, straight up and to cover.
National Game of the Week, Non-SEC Division
Baylor Bears at Oklahoma State Cowboys, Saturday November 21st
6:30 PM CDT / 7:30 PM EDT, Fox
|OKLAHOMA STATE||BAYLOR||THE EDGE|
|F/+||32.2% (16)||F/+||39.4% (7)||PUSH|
|FPI||18.2 (13)||FPI||24.8 (2)||BAYLOR|
|FEI||0.169 (14)||FEI||0.162 (16)||PUSH|
|S&P+||11.7 (20)||S&P+||17.5 (7)||BAYLOR|
|OS&P+||37.7 (20)||DS&P+||29.6 (74)||OKLAHOMA STATE|
|DS&P+||26.0 (51)||OS&P+||47.1 (1)||BAYLOR|
The Big Whatever conferences have the spotlight this week, as both Michigan schools have interesting contests on tap against Ohio State and Penn State, and the four-way dance with TCU, Baylor, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State continues to unfold out west. Of those four this appears to be the best game of the bunch, so we’ll go with that one.
6 | I also have a thing about our dear friends to the north, which you may or may not have noticed this season.
Baylor got a heavy dose of reality last week in the form of the Sooners, who managed to hold the vaunted Bears offense under 40 points and 500 yards, which doesn’t sound like much of an accomplishment until you realize they were averaging over 57 points and 650 yards a game coming in. Oklahoma State flirted with disaster in Ames, as Iowa State led by 17 at one point, and was still up on the Cowboys until 3 minutes left in the game. Oklahoma State is the lone undefeated left in the conference, but this race is far from over.
As far as the overall quality metrics are concerned, FPI and S&P+ both give a significant edge to the Bears, whereas the Cowboys’ slight edge in FEI pushes the F/+ margin under the level of significance. That suggests Baylor is the better team, but not by much. Both offenses have significant edges over the opposing defenses, which is becoming a theme in this piece. Thus, once again, it’s to the components we go.
Much like the Arkansas offense, Baylor doesn’t do anything poorly on that side of the ball, and they will get theirs against the Cowboys. You don’t average 50+ points and 600+ yards on even crap competition without an elite offense, and that’s exactly what Baylor has. The loss of Seth Russell to injury was felt last week as Jarrett Stidham faltered a bit in his second start against an elite Sooners defense, but Oklahoma State is not on their rivals’ level in that regard. They have a strong pass rush which has pushed success on passing downs, where they are ranked 11th in the country, and that is the one area they have on the Bears. The Bears offensive line is one of the best in the country at protecting the passer, however, so don’t expect Baylor to get bottled up on third downs in this one.
Baylor’s dangerous on the ground and through the air, but Oklahoma State is a one-dimensional offense, and that’s before you account for Baylor’s solid work against the run. The Cowboys are ranked 118th in Rush OS&P+, so don’t expect too many ground yards out of them in this one. They’re also 105th on standard downs, where Baylor possesses the 14th-ranked defense according to SD DS&P+. Thus, you’d expect plenty of third-and-long type situations for the Cowboys offense, and fortunately for them they are among the country’s finest teams in such situations, with the #8 ranking in PD OS&P+. Baylor’s 99th in the defensive equivalent, mainly because of a moribund pass rush rated just 94th in DASR. They’re also pretty weak against the pass overall with a #65 ranking in Pass DS&P+.
This has shootout written all over it, and it’s so close that Vegas punted on giving out a point spread. I feel like Baylor is the better team, even without Seth Russell, but this will be played in Stillwater. At the end of the day I’m rooting for the chaos scenario in the Big 12, so I’m going with Baylor to knock the last undefeated from their ranks.
THE PICK: Baylor Bears, straight up and to cover.
Other SEC Games to Watch
Florida Atlantic Owls at Florida Gators, Saturday November 21st
11:00 AM CDT / 12:00 PM EDT, SEC Network
|FLORIDA||FLORIDA ATLANTIC||THE EDGE|
|F/+||38.1% (11)||F/+||-20.3% (95)||FLORIDA|
|FPI||18.0 (14)||FPI||-11.3 (104)||FLORIDA|
|FEI||0.17 (13)||FEI||-0.104 (97)||FLORIDA|
|S&P+||15.7 (10)||S&P+||-5.2 (91)||FLORIDA|
|OS&P+||31.4 (48)||DS&P+||30.3 (80)||FLORIDA|
|DS&P+||15.7 (5)||OS&P+||25.0 (95)||FLORIDA|
The only question here is whether or not the Gators can score enough to cover the spread. FAU won’t be putting too many points on the board, so they won’t have far to go. FPI says they will, S&P+ says they won’t. I’m thinking they don’t.
THE PICK: Florida Gators straight up, but the Florida Atlantic Owls cover.
Idaho Vandals at API Warplainseagletigers, Saturday November 21st
3:00 PM CDT / 4:00 PM EDT, SEC Network
|F/+||6.4% (61)||F/+||-39.4% (113)||API|
|FPI||11.8 (31)||FPI||-17.8 (120)||API|
|FEI||0.042 (57)||FEI||-0.19 (117)||API|
|S&P+||2.6 (68)||S&P+||-12.4 (110)||API|
|OS&P+||29.4 (59)||DS&P+||41.0 (123)||API|
|DS&P+||26.8 (56)||OS&P+||28.6 (68)||API|
Same exact scenario here. As much as I’d like to call for the upset to prevent API from becoming bowl eligible, I’m not an idiot.
THE PICK: API Warplainseagletigers straight up, but the Idaho Vandals cover.
Georgia Southern Eagles at Georgia Bulldogs, Saturday November 21st
6:00 PM CDT / 7:00 PM EDT, ESPNU
|GEORGIA||GEORGIA SOUTHERN||THE EDGE|
|F/+||18.0% (35)||F/+||10.9% (53)||PUSH|
|FPI||16.1 (18)||FPI||4.2 (63)||GEORGIA|
|FEI||0.078 (38)||FEI||0.023 (62)||GEORGIA|
|S&P+||8.2 (39)||S&P+||7.7 (40)||PUSH|
|OS&P+||28.0 (76)||DS&P+||25.6 (48)||GEORGIA SOUTHERN|
|DS&P+||19.8 (15)||OS&P+||33.3 (36)||GEORGIA|
S&P+ is really, really high on the Eagles, and has them back-to-back with the Bulldogs in that metric. Georgia Southern actually has a very solid defense, including the nation’s #9 unit against the run, which will serve them well against a depleted Bulldogs running game. They won’t win, but this is going to be a lot closer than you think it is.
THE PICK: Georgia Bulldogs straight up, but the Georgia Southern Eagles cover.
The Viles at Missouri Tigers, Saturday November 21st
6:15 PM CDT / 7:15 PM EDT, ESPN2
|MISSOURI||THE VILES||THE EDGE|
|F/+||-0.9% (72)||F/+||31.3% (17)||THE VILES|
|FPI||6.1 (56)||FPI||18.9 (12)||THE VILES|
|FEI||0.037 (59)||FEI||0.161 (17)||THE VILES|
|S&P+||-2.4 (83)||S&P+||11.5 (21)||THE VILES|
|OS&P+||16.4 (124)||DS&P+||21.2 (22)||THE VILES|
|DS&P+||18.8 (12)||OS&P+||32.7 (40)||MISSOURI|
|Home Spread||8.5||THE VILES|
Hard to say which Missouri squad shows up, as they showed signs of life last week for the first time a month. The stats say the Viles should cover, but I think a good Tigers defense corrals the Viles offense and keeps the score manageable. I’d love to call for the upset, but I’ve been burned by these guys too many times this year.
THE PICK: The Viles straight up, but the Missouri Tigers cover.
Texas A&M Aggies at Vanderbilt Commodores, Saturday November 21st
6:30 PM CDT / 7:30 PM EDT, SEC Network
|VANDERBILT||TEXAS A&M||THE EDGE|
|F/+||-2.9% (75)||F/+||14.3% (46)||TEXAS A&M|
|FPI||1.6 (73)||FPI||13.7 (26)||TEXAS A&M|
|FEI||0.004 (67)||FEI||0.104 (31)||TEXAS A&M|
|S&P+||-1.2 (80)||S&P+||3.8 (62)||TEXAS A&M|
|OS&P+||17.2 (118)||DS&P+||27.4 (58)||TEXAS A&M|
|DS&P+||18.4 (10)||OS&P+||31.2 (49)||VANDERBILT|
|Home Spread||7.0||TEXAS A&M|
Vanderbilt is the better version of Missouri, more or less, whereas there’s no telling which Texas A&M is going to show up in Nashville. The Aggies should win, but Vanderbilt’s certainly capable of pulling the upset — just look at what they did to Florida. They tend to play better on the road, however, and I think the Aggies get everything together this week.
THE PICK: Texas A&M Aggies, straight up and to cover.
Charlotte 49ers at Kentucky Wildcats, Saturday November 21st
6:30 PM CDT / 7:30 PM EDT, SEC Network
|F/+||-15.6% (91)||F/+||-45.1% (118)||KENTUCKY|
|FPI||1.8 (72)||FPI||-19.8 (125)||KENTUCKY|
|FEI||-0.044 (83)||FEI||-0.184 (114)||KENTUCKY|
|S&P+||-6.9 (96)||S&P+||-17.5 (124)||KENTUCKY|
|OS&P+||23.7 (102)||DS&P+||31.1 (86)||CHARLOTTE|
|DS&P+||30.6 (83)||OS&P+||13.6 (127)||KENTUCKY|
And lastly we have the Wildcats, who filled their cupcake slot with FBS’ newest member in the 49ers. As you might expect, they are one of the worst teams in the country, particularly on offense, where they rank as one of the eight worst teams in every offensive metric I track. They do have some ability on defense, however, and match up well on that side of the ball. Kentucky will definitely win, but will they cover? FPI says just barely, S&P+ says it’s not even close, and I tend to agree with the latter.
THE PICK: Kentucky Wildcats straight up, but the Charlotte 49ers cover.