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Processing the Numbers, Cupcake Edition | Charleston Southern Buccaneers

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So adorable, with your luscious frosting and decorative liner

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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.

So how’d last week go?

Last week was a weird, weird game. On the one hand, the defense put together perhaps their most impressive effort of the year, but allowed nearly 400 yards of offense in the process. The offensive effort was was full of explosive plays, and yet they were just 5/14 on third down and were outgained by the Bulldogs.

Those big plays were the difference in the Tide’s 31-6 victory, as the defense produced two turnovers, nine sacks, and an early goal-line stand, while Cyrus Jones returned a punt for a touchdown. Derrick Henry had his second straight 200 yard game, and broke Mississippi State’s back with touchdown runs of 56 and 74 yards. Calvin Ridley made one man miss on a short route and 60 yards later was in the end zone. The Tide sustained some injuries as we’ll discuss in a moment, but all in all this was an impressive beatdown of a quality opponent.

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

Right! Next up, the Alabama Crimson Tide close out the home schedule with a visit from an FCS foe in the Charleston Southern Buccaneers. The game is on Saturday, November 21st, at 3:00 PM CST / 4:00 PM EST, and will be televised on SEC Network.

The Goods

OVERALL QUALITY
F/+ 64.8% (1)
FPI 24.2 (3)
FEI 0.292 (1)
S&P+ 25.4 (2)
OFFENSIVE METRICS
OFEI 0.47 (30)
OS&P+ 35.0 (29)
Rush OS&P+ 117.9 (18)
Pass OS&P+ 113.2 (36)
SD OS&P+ 113.0 (24)
PD OS&P+ 116.4 (33)
OALY 110.7 (31)
OASR 112.2 (52)
DEFENSIVE METRICS
DFEI 1.19 (1)
DS&P+ 9.6 (1)
Rush DS&P+ 158.5 (1)
Pass DS&P+ 158.1 (1)
SD DS&P+ 156.9 (1)
PD DS&P+ 153.0 (2)
DALY 128.5 (5)
DASR 192.2 (2)
SPECIAL TEAMS
FVE 0.14 (11)
STE -0.02 (83)
FGE -0.21 (103)
KE -0.16 (6)
PE 0.13 (103)
PRE 0.22 (7)
KRE -0.24 (127)

(Bold) numbers indicate national ranking.
Statistics current as of November 19th, 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.

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?

Charleston Southern is unrated in all of these metrics because they play in the FCS, and neither FootballOutsiders nor ESPN offer advanced metrics for those schools. Instead, we’ll break down how the Tide stack up against the rest of the country at this point in the season.

You’ll note the Tide are now the top team according to F/+, as Clemson’s unimpressive effort against Syracuse dropped them to #2 overall. The Tide and the Tigers are the consensus top two teams according to the FO metrics, while FPI is still in love with the Big 12, putting Baylor and Oklahoma in the top two spots ahead of the Tide. The CFP rankings, at least at the very top, line up well with the advanced metrics, as the top 4 teams all carry top-10 marks in the overall quality metrics.

The offense is definitely not the reason the Tide rank this highly, as they haven’t performed at an elite level in any of the metrics that I track. The very best rating is for Rush OS&P+ at #18 overall, which isn’t terribly surprising given who they have in the backfield. As Gary Danielson has been fond of informing you at numerous points during the season, all of the negative plays are really holding that unit back, as the Tide rank a dismal 73rd in Offensive Stuff Rate. The passing metrics aren’t terrible — this is really a pretty good offense at the end of the day — but they are a bit lower than you’d like to see given some of the talent the Tide has in that phase of the game. The loss of Robert Foster to injury earlier in the year was truly unfortunate, as the former five star recruit looked to be the top option this year. Calvin Ridley has done amazing work stepping up into the #1 role, but the idea of that version of Ridley across from Foster is somewhat mesmerizing in its potential. That will be the look next season, and hopefully whatever quarterback takes the reins from Jake Coker[1] is able to get the ball to those two from behind a retooled offensive line.

1 | Hint: It’s Blake Barnett.

My goodness, this defense. The lowest ranking in these metrics is 5th in the country. If Boston College was slightly less excellent on passing downs, you’d see a clean sweep of the S&P+ components; as it stands, I don’t recall a defense topping the charts like this at this stage of the season — well, at least not since the 2011 and 2012 units. The most impressive of these to me is the #2 ranking in DASR — who would have thought this defense, so maligned for a lack of pass rush over the last couple of years, would rank this highly in that metric at this point in the year? It’s unbelievable, and a true joy to watch.

Special teams continue to be underwhelming. Jones does a great job returning punts, and Adam Griffith does a great job on kickoffs, but that’s where the good news ends. Griffith’s been nearly automatic on placements since the third game of the season or so, but that ugly stretch to start the year just won’t go away in this metric. That’s bound to be what’s holding the kick return efficiency back, as the Tide’s done pretty good work since those fumbles at the beginning of the year. Your guess is as good as mine on J.K. Scott, who looked returned to his old self for several weeks before regressing a bit against Mississippi State.

As far as the Charleston Southern game is concerned, a Tide win is a near certainty, it’s just a matter of whether or not it’s a 2011 Georgia Southern kind of win or a 2012 Western Carolina kind of win. The only numbers I know of that can help us out there are the Sagarin Ratings, which helpfully include FCS teams. The Tide are #1 overall, whereas the Buccaneers check in at 121st, just ahead of 4-5 Louisiana-Lafayette. They run an option-style offense, which is always a great joy to defend against, but as BT pointed out in his offensive preview, the real worrisome trait of such teams is their tendency toward “creative” blocking and avoiding injuries against the same. The Tide may be without the services of Kenyan Drake until the bowl game, and can ill-afford to lose another key contributor with API and Florida looming in the next few weeks.

Any intangibles to consider?

This will be played in the loving embrace of Bryant-Denny Stadium, which is yet another benefit to the Tide they hardly need against this opponent. The weather appears lovely, with temperatures in the mid-60s at kickoff with a light wind and no chance of rain. Football is just better all-around in crisp conditions like these, and personally I’m a bit jealous of the folks who get to take in Senior Day live.

Injuries are a bit of a concern at this stage; as noted, Drake is on the shelf for a few weeks, and it’s dicey whether or not he’d be available for a potential SEC title game berth. Minkah Fitzpatrick is questionable with a sprained knee; given the opponent, don’t expect to see him on Saturday. The nagging injuries that have plagued Cam Robinson and Dominick Jackson for weeks appear to be healed, so expect some dominant run blocking this week.

Swanson Giddiness Index

Ron giggles, because he finds cupcake opponents amusing. There’s a tinge of worry to Ron’s eyes you can’t see, though, as he ponders potential injuries from a paycheck game. Ron doesn’t like it when people get injured.

The Pick

Easiest call of the season. This is not 2007, and Alabama damn sure ain’t Michigan.

STRAIGHT UP: Alabama Crimson Tide

ROLL TIDE