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Advanced Stats Rundown, Football Edition | Week of November 28th, 2015

A spate of juicy matchups in ASR this week, led by the Egg Bowl and Stanford-Notre Dame out west.

Nelson Chenault-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?

Another solid week, 8/9 straight up and 6/9 against the spread. I really thought Arkansas was going to put the Bulldogs away last week, but I watched a good bit of the fourth quarter in that game and it was clear neither defense was particularly interested in stopping anything, which is how we ended up at 51-50 in regulation. The fact the Razorbacks got a 7 TD performance out of Brandon Allen and lost is kind of unbelievable. The other two misses against the spread were the Kentucky and Missouri games; in the former, Charlotte was completely outmatched by one of the SEC’s lesser lights, and in the latter the Tigers held their opponent to just 19 points, but couldn’t quite score enough to beat the spread.

2015, Straight Up:    82/102 (80.4%)
2015, Against the Spread: 59/102 (57.8%)

All statistics and spreads as of November 23rd, 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 Games of the Week, Non-Alabama Division

Ole Miss Rebels at Mississippi St. Bulldogs, Saturday November 28th
6:15 PM CDT / 7:15 PM EDT, ESPN2

The Matchup
F/+ 32.7% (14) F/+ 38.7% (11) PUSH
FPI 15.5 (20) FPI 21.1 (7) OLE MISS
FEI 0.171 (11) FEI 0.158 (16) PUSH
S&P+ 11.8 (23) S&P+ 17.4 (8) OLE MISS
OS&P+ 36.6 (23) DS&P+ 21.6 (24) PUSH
DS&P+ 24.8 (42) OS&P+ 39.0 (12) OLE MISS
Home Spread 1.0 OLE MISS

Aside from the Iron Bowl, which will get its own article per usual, this is the only game in the SEC with implications in the divisional races. In the rather unlikely event the Tide don’t take care of business Saturday,[1] Ole Miss has an opportunity to take the division if they can dispatch their in-state rival for the third time in four years. While historically this matchup has been between two of the cellar-dwellers in the SEC, the recent influx of talent both on the field and among the coaching staff at both institutions has made this a must-see contest.

1 | Yes, “FLAGGED”, etc.

This year’s edition promises to be another tight affair, as these are the #11 and #14 teams in F/+. FPI and S&P+ don’t see it quite that closely, as they both have Ole Miss as a top-10 outfit and the Bulldogs in the 20-25 range. The reason the F/+ margin is so close is State’s advantage in FEI, which would tend to suggest the Bulldogs are a bit more adept at finishing drives and preventing their opponents from doing the same. In reality, the Rebels are the better team in that regard, but the Bulldogs have the superior special teams unit, and a much higher ranking in Field Value Efficiency.

For the second week in a row, the Bulldogs defense has the unenviable task of dealing with one of the better offenses is college football. While Ole Miss is not quite as loftily regarded as Arkansas due to a solid, but not elite, rushing offense, their passing offense is just as good — ranked 3rd overall in Pass OS&P+ to the Razorbacks’ #1 ranking. Overall the Rebels are particularly tough to deal with on standard downs, as they rank 2nd in SD OS&P+. The Bulldogs really just aren’t effective at stopping anything, and are especially bad on standard downs at 64th overall. That suggests Ole Miss will not have an issue staying on schedule, which will put the onus on the Bulldogs’ offense to keep pace. This defense does rank highly on passing downs, but Ole Miss is still a bit ahead there as well — 11th overall for the Rebels against 16th for the Bulldogs. A good bit of that success came with future NFLer Will Redmond at the corner, but as he’s done for the year with a torn ACL, the Bulldogs lack a top-flight corner to deal with Laquon Treadwell and the rest of the Rebels’ deep corps of receivers. Get ready for a whole slew of Chad Kelly highlights, folks.

On the other side we have the best player in the history of Mississippi State’s program, Dak Prescott, in his last game in front of the cowbells in Starkvegas. The straight DS&P+ vs. OS&P+ matchup is a push, but a dive into the components paints a slightly different picture. Much of Ole Miss’ defensive success is rooted in their elite run defense, which ranks 8th in the country in Rush DS&P+. Robert Nkemdiche may not be the best defensive linemen in the league,[2] but he might be the highest one drafted in the spring, and undoubtedly has the highest ceiling of any player on Ole Miss’ defense. Next to him is massive senior nose tackle Woodrow Hamilton, and between the two of them running inside on this group is ridiculously difficult. As a defense they do a marvelous job of defending the edges as well, but the only lethal running threat the Bulldogs have is Prescott, and he does most of his damage on draws and zone reads in the general vicinity of the tackle box. Those lanes will not be open to him on Saturday, and State’s hopes of avenging last year’s somewhat-shocking loss in Oxford rest solely on his arm.

2 | Gumping for A’Shawn Robinson here, but you already knew that .

Which is actually a good thing if you’re into cowbells, as the Bulldogs have a distinct advantage when they look to the air. While not quite as excellent as the group on the opposite sideline, the Bulldogs still field a top-10 outfit according to Pass OS&P+. A strong passing game is the Achilles heel of this Rebels defense, as the losses of Cody Prewitt and Senquez Golson were felt strongly this season. They rank just 42nd overall in Pass DS&P+ and 44th on passing downs, due in part to the reduced efficacy of the secondary but also a middling pass rush that rates out just 83rd in DASR. Marquis Haynes is third in the conference with 8.5 sacks on the year, but none of the other Rebels have more than 2, and as a team Ole Miss is tied for 10th in the conference in total sacks. Assuming Haynes can be kept in check by the Bulldog offensive line Prescott should have plenty of time to throw, and as De’Runnya Wilson was able to go last week after knocking himself out against Alabama, he should have his full complement of targets as well.

This seems ripe for another tight, high-scoring affair like last week’s tilt against Arkansas, but I think the Rebels have too much firepower for the Bulldogs to deal with. And while State has an edge on offense, the Rebels’ pass defense is leaps and bounds better than Arkansas’ woeful unit, and as a result you aren’t seeing Prescott go for 500+ again.

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

National Game of the Week, Non-SEC Division

Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Stanford Cardinal, Saturday November 28th
6:30 PM CDT / 7:30 PM EDT, Fox

The Matchup
F/+ 40.8% (9) F/+ 46.9% (5) PUSH
FPI 19.3 (9) FPI 19.7 (8) PUSH
FEI 0.225 (5) FEI 0.231 (3) PUSH
S&P+ 14.1 (12) S&P+ 17.4 (9) PUSH
OS&P+ 40.1 (10) DS&P+ 22.9 (32) STANFORD
DS&P+ 26.0 (52) OS&P+ 40.3 (9) NOTRE DAME
Home Spread -3.5 STANFORD

There are a few games around the country with playoff implications this week, particularly Bedlam out in the Big 12 and Penn State-Michigan State in Lansing,[3] but the closest of the bunch appears to be this one between Stanford and Notre Dame. Stanford is in the driver’s seat for the Pac-12 but likely out of playoff contention barring full chaos taking hold this week and next, but Notre Dame is very much in the thick of things, and this is their last opportunity to impress the committee before the final selections are made.

3 | A game curiously lacking in a spread as of Tuesday afternoon.

As far as the overall quality metrics are concerned — yikes. Notre Dame is slightly better regarded overall, but these are two consensus top-10 teams squaring off at the Farm on Saturday. Both are rated that highly based on the strength of top-10 offensive units that have the edge on their defensive counterparts, and the spread suggests Vegas sees this as a toss-up on a neutral field.

When Stanford has the ball, all eyes will be on Heisman contender and NFL legacy Christian McCaffrey, who leads the country in yards from scrimmage with 178.4 per game. Ed McCaffrey’s kid was more of an all-purpose player in his freshman season, accruing 300 yards on the ground and 251 on receptions, but in 2015 the vast majority of his touches have come from toting the rock. He still does work through the air as well —34 catches for 416 yards, or 12.2 yards per reception — and is the Cardinals main kick returner averaging over 31 yards a pop, but with 1546 yards on the ground he is the nation’s #2 rusher, just 36 yards shy of fellow sophomore Leonard Fournette’s mark. Simply put, this is a very effective, very athletic player who affects the game in a multitude of ways.

He’ll be called on early and often in this one, as Stanford has a significant edge on the Fighting Irish both on the ground and on standard downs. Notre Dame’s defense is just above the national average in both respects, whereas Stanford is 15th on the ground and 10th on standard downs per S&P+. Strangely, that success does not come with the typical accompaniment of a high mark in Adjusted Line Yards, where Notre Dame actually has an 18 rank edge. This suggests an efficient run game that is perhaps not very explosive, or perhaps prone to negative plays; a #9 ranking in stuff rate eliminates the latter, but sure enough Stanford ranks 100th in Rushing IsoPPP. One other thing to look out for here is the loss of fullback Daniel Marx, who’s done for the year with a lower leg injury. As has been seen with Fournette, the loss of a fullback in these run-first offenses can have a considerable impact to rushing success.

As far as throwing the ball is concerned, the situation appears similar: the Cardinal have the #13 rated passing offense per S&P+ with the #12 passing success rate, but are 44th overall in Passing IsoPPP. In that regard they run into the strength of the Notre Dame defense, which rates out 21st against the pass and a sparkling 12th on passing downs per S&P+. There’s not much of a pass rush there, which suggests those marks are based on good coverage. That’s a problem, because senior defensive back KeiVarae Russell’s career as a Golden Domer is likely done after breaking his tibia against Boston College. He’s started all 11 games, and the triumvirate replacing him — Devin Butler, Nick Coleman, and Nick Watkins — are all a bit lacking in experience. As such, one side of the field may be a bit more open to Kevin Hogan than originally anticipated, but I wouldn’t expect the game plan to change too much. McCaffrey’s the guy to watch, plain and simple.

On the other side the stats tilt heavily in Notre Dame’s favor, as they have a significant edge — like, 30 ranks or more — in every offensive statistic I track. They even have an edge in ASR, their weak point with only the 53rd-ranked line in the country, because Stanford’s defense has one of the country’s least-effective pass rushes at #115 in DASR. At first glance, this seems like an enormous mismatch.

Russell was not the only injury from the Boston College game, however, as running back C.J. Prosise suffered a high ankle sprain and is doubtful for this weekend, and #2 receiver Chris Brown is questionable with a shoulder injury. Prosise was the starter for most of the season, but since his 1.8 YPC performance against Temple, he’s largely been supplanted by freshman Josh Adams, who ran well against Pittsburgh and Wake Forest, but was mediocre against the elite run defense of Boston College. Prosise was getting better results in that contest before he got hurt, but given the decidedly non-elite nature of Stanford’s run defense, they will probably be fine running Adams.

The impact of Brown’s injury is a bit harder to pin down, as he’s been solid over the course of the year but was absolutely lethal against Boston College. Looking at the numbers the next two wide receivers on the list, Amir Carlisle and Torii Hunter Jr., honestly seem like better options than Brown, as both have better catch rates and higher yards per target averages. None of the three are deep threats — leading receiver Will Fuller and his 20.2 yards per catch average have that covered — but with both Brown and Prosise out those short to intermediate targets have to go somewhere, and it’s a steep dropoff after Carlise and Hunter.

Those injuries have to be what’s pushing Vegas to favor the Cardinal, because otherwise I’m just not seeing it. Kizer has been outstanding in place of Malik Zaire, and with the work Adams has done over the last few weeks I suspect it’s going to be a long evening for the Stanford defense.

THE PICK: Notre Dame Fighting Irish, straight up and to cover.

Other SEC Games to Watch

Missouri Tigers at Arkansas Razorbacks, Saturday November 27th
1:30 PM CDT / 2:30 PM EDT, CBS

The Matchup
F/+ 31.1% (18) F/+ 0.1% (71) ARKANSAS
FPI 15.3 (22) FPI 5.9 (57) ARKANSAS
FEI 0.154 (19) FEI 0.038 (57) ARKANSAS
S&P+ 11.9 (20) S&P+ -1.7 (82) ARKANSAS
OS&P+ 43.3 (3) DS&P+ 18.4 (10) PUSH
DS&P+ 31.4 (88) OS&P+ 16.7 (121) ARKANSAS
Home Spread -13.5 ARKANSAS

Arkansas won’t be putting up 50+ on this defense, but they won’t have to with how awful Missouri’s offense is. I think they do enough in Allen’s last home game to cover the spread.

THE PICK: Arkansas Razorbacks, straight up and to cover.

Georgia Bulldogs at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Saturday November 28th
11:00 AM CDT / 12:00 PM EDT, ESPN2

The Matchup
F/+ 0.5% (70) F/+ 22.8% (30) GEORGIA
FPI 10.9 (32) FPI 15.2 (23) PUSH
FEI 0.013 (66) FEI 0.094 (36) GEORGIA
S&P+ 0.6 (74) S&P+ 10.5 (27) GEORGIA
OS&P+ 29.6 (61) DS&P+ 18.1 (9) GEORGIA
DS&P+ 28.9 (73) OS&P+ 28.7 (69) PUSH
Home Spread 5 GEORGIA

Last season’s edition of Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate was an exciting one, including a tying 53 yard field goal at the end of regulation that was kicked about as close to 53 yards as is possible to do and still make the kick. The Yellow Jackets piled up 399 rushing yards on what proved to be a pretty average Bulldogs rush defense, and Georgia Tech prevailed in overtime for only their second win in this series since 2001.

The issue is all the heavy hitters from that team are gone with the exception of Justin Thomas, who has taken on an even greater portion of the offensive load as a result. After notching 1086 yards on 190 carries a season ago, Thomas is still carrying the ball as much as he did a year ago but isn’t nearly as effective, as he’s averaged less than four yards a carry this season. He’s also questionable with a head injury, and even if he plays, this version of Georgia is significantly better against the run than last year’s group. Georgia Tech doesn’t tend to beat Mark Richt, and I’m not seeing it happen this year.

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

Louisville Cardinals at Kentucky Wildcats, Saturday November 28th
11:00 AM CDT / 12:00 PM EDT, SEC Network

The Matchup
F/+ -11.9% (87) F/+ 13.3% (47) LOUISVILLE
FPI 2.6 (71) FPI 8.7 (42) LOUISVILLE
FEI -0.033 (77) FEI 0.033 (59) LOUISVILLE
S&P+ -5.0 (91) S&P+ 8.7 (35) LOUISVILLE
OS&P+ 24.2 (101) DS&P+ 21.6 (23) LOUISVILLE
DS&P+ 29.2 (74) OS&P+ 30.2 (57) LOUISVILLE
Home Spread 4 LOUISVILLE

Yeah, no.

THE PICK: Louisville Cardinals, straight up and to cover.

Clemson Tigers at South Carolina Gamecocks, Saturday November 28th
11:00 AM CDT / 12:00 PM EDT, ESPN

The Matchup
F/+ -13.2% (88) F/+ 59.8% (2) CLEMSON
FPI 3.5 (66) FPI 21.2 (6) CLEMSON
FEI -0.043 (81) FEI 0.256 (2) CLEMSON
S&P+ -5.1 (93) S&P+ 25.2 (1) CLEMSON
OS&P+ 27.7 (76) DS&P+ 14.3 (4) CLEMSON
DS&P+ 32.7 (97) OS&P+ 39.4 (11) CLEMSON
Home Spread 17.5 CLEMSON

Definitely no.

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

Vanderbilt Commodores at The Viles, Saturday November 28th
3:00 PM CDT / 4:00 PM EDT, SEC Network

The Matchup
F/+ 32.1% (16) F/+ -6.8% (79) THE VILES
FPI 18.5 (11) FPI 2.2 (73) THE VILES
FEI 0.166 (13) FEI -0.013 (72) THE VILES
S&P+ 11.7 (24) S&P+ -2.8 (85) THE VILES
OS&P+ 32.0 (43) DS&P+ 18.8 (12) VANDERBILT
DS&P+ 20.2 (18) OS&P+ 16.0 (122) THE VILES
Home Spread -16.5 THE VILES

If this was in Nashville, maybe, but the Commodores showed last week that they can be scored upon, and the defense they’re about to face is significantly better than Texas A&M’s. Vanderbilt’s rush defense isn’t all that great, and in Joshua Dobbs and Jalen Hurd they will have quite a challenge. Both S&P+ and FPI say The Viles get it done.

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

Florida State Seminoles at Florida Gators, Saturday November 28th
6:30 PM CDT / 7:30 PM EDT, ESPN

The Matchup
F/+ 37.2% (12) F/+ 34.7% (13) PUSH
FPI 16.3 (19) FPI 18.1 (13) PUSH
FEI 0.164 (14) FEI 0.127 (25) FLORIDA
S&P+ 15.5 (10) S&P+ 17.5 (7) PUSH
OS&P+ 30.2 (56) DS&P+ 20.0 (17) FLORIDA STATE
DS&P+ 14.7 (5) OS&P+ 37.6 (20) FLORIDA
Home Spread 2.0 FLORIDA STATE

This is another game with potential playoff implications, as Florida’s still in play for a spot if they can get through Alabama.[4] It looks like a defensive struggle as well, with Florida’s anemic offense little match for the talented Seminole defense, and the Gators tailor-made for holding back Dalvin Cook. Although “holding back” may still be 150 yards or more, as the similarly-excellent Clemson defense was gashed to the tune of 194 yards by the country’s most explosive running back. Sean Maguire was held completely in check in that game, however, and I think the Gators are capable of doing the same. It might be an ugly score, but the Gators should be able to get it done at home.

4 | That’s a big, big if, with how these two teams are playing to finish the year.

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

Texas A&M Aggies at LSU Tigers, Saturday November 28th
6:30 PM CDT / 7:30 PM EDT, SEC Network

The Matchup
F/+ 32.5% (15) F/+ 21.0% (31) LSU
FPI 18.3 (12) FPI 14.8 (25) LSU
FEI 0.144 (23) FEI 0.124 (26) PUSH
S&P+ 13.5 (13) S&P+ 7.1 (44) LSU
OS&P+ 38.7 (13) DS&P+ 24.2 (39) LSU
DS&P+ 25.2 (47) OS&P+ 31.3 (50) PUSH
Home Spread -5.0 LSU

LSU’s had a tough couple of weeks, with three good-to-great rush defenses holding Leonard Fournette in check. Texas A&M’s run defense is horrid, however — recall what Derrick Henry did to them back in October. Kyle Allen might make this interesting — Kelly sure did last week — but I think LSU sends Les Miles out with win.

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