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Advanced Stats Rundown, Football Edition | Week of November 5th

The SEC is quiet this week outside of a grudge match in Tuscaloosa, but the season's about to heat up in the Big-12.

Kevin Jairaj-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?

Six for six against the spread is how it went; as a result, the law of averages dictates you should regard the ensuing content with a healthy amount of suspicion and trepidation.

2015, Straight Up:    63/77 (81.8%)
2015, Against the Spread: 45/77 (58.5%)

All statistics and spreads as of November 3rd, 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

API Warplainseagletigers at Texas A&M Aggies, Saturday November 7th
6:30 PM CST / 7:30 PM EST, SECN

The Matchup
F/+ 25.6% (26) F/+ -1.6% (69) TEXAS A&M
FPI 16.3 (17) FPI 10.5 (35) TEXAS A&M
FEI 0.151 (20) FEI 0.001 (66) TEXAS A&M
S&P+ 9.1 (37) S&P+ 0.0 (71) TEXAS A&M
OS&P+ 34.3 (34) DS&P+ 29.6 (76) TEXAS A&M
DS&P+ 25.1 (43) OS&P+ 29.6 (60) TEXAS A&M
Home Spread -7.0 TEXAS A&M

The real game of the week is occurring in Tuscaloosa, of course, but we’ll be talking about that one in significantly greater detail tomorrow. The somewhat mercurial nature of Texas A&M’s play this season elevates the interest level of this one over the other contender from a pretty weak slate in Ole Miss – Arkansas, despite the dumpster fire occurring over at the cow college.

Ever since the Alabama game at the beginning of October, the conversational topic of choice in College Station is the quarterback position; specifically, whether Kyle Allen is the answer or if it’s time to let Kyler Murray do his thing. Last week Kevin Sumlin and company opted for the diminutive true freshman, and the Texas high school legend responded with efficient day through the air, going 20/28 for 223 yards, no picks, and a touchdown. More notably, he carried the ball 20 times for 156 yards and another touchdown, and the end result was a 35-28 victory over a suddenly-feisty South Carolina.

Little brother has quarterback issues of its own, as presumed golden boy Jeremy Johnson will not be winning any Heismans, let alone all of them, and has been supplanted by a mediocre Sean White as the nominal starter. White was visibly gimpy in last week’s contest against Ole Miss, however, which led to some sort of dual quarterback nonsense in the fourth quarter.[1] They kept it closer with the Rebels than they had any right to, but the superior team pulled away at the end for a 27-19 victory.

1 | Switching QBs twice in four plays isn’t a winning strategy Gus, so… keep it up!

All that being said… this ain’t looking too good for the orange and navy contingent. F/+ has API as slightly below average, while they’ve notched goose eggs in FEI and S&P+. This is as close as you can get to an average team in the national sense, which is unfortunate for a team that has to play in the SEC West. FPI, as it is wont to do, is much higher on little brother, but in all four cases the Aggies have a significant, overwhelming edge over their opponent.

In fact, they have a pretty significant advantage on both sides of the ball as well. API isn’t too great against the run, which is problematic[2] given the Aggies’ 12th overall ranking in Rush OS&P+. All indications are that Murray will get the start again — how could he not, given last week’s performance? – and that should stretch the moribund API defense even more than usual. If they are able to contain Murray and force Texas A&M into passing situations they may have a chance, given Murray’s less-than-polished game and the somewhat adequate nature of the API pass defense. That’s a slim chance, however, and in all likelihood this is going to be a long, long afternoon for the Muschamps.

2 | Or not, depending on what color apparel you tend to don on fall Saturdays.

The outlook’s a bit rosier on the other side, as API may have the panacea for their ho-hum run game in the thoroughly abysmal Aggies rush defense, currently ranked 74th in Rush DS&P+. One of the bright spots in the Ole Miss game was the emergence of Jovon Robinson, who struggled with injuries early in the season and had become a largely forgotten man behind Peyton Barber since. Barber was limited last week with nagging injuries, and Robinson stepped up to provide 91 yards on just 18 carries — a healthy 5.1 yards per tote. Barber’s status going forward is up in the air, so it may again fall to Robinson or the more-heralded Roc Thomas to carry the API offense on Saturday. The production is unlikely to come from the combination of White and Johnson, both because of their general level of ineffectiveness, but also because the Texas A&M defense is ranked #3 against the pass according to S&P+.

At the end of the day, I just don’t see where the production is going to come from. If API can get a Derrick Henry-like performance out of whatever running back gets the carries that’s great, but they aren’t going to be able to bring the elite defensive play to keep the Aggies contained on the other side of the ball. I see Texas A&M covering, and easily.

THE PICK: Texas A&M Aggies, straight up and to cover.

National Game of the Week, Non-SEC Division

TCU Horned Frogs at Oklahoma State Cowboys, Saturday November 7th
2:30 PM CST / 3:30 PM EST, FOX

The Matchup
F/+ 28.1% (22) F/+ 43.0% (10) TCU
FPI 17.0 (14) FPI 25.5 (2) TCU
FEI 0.16 (19) FEI 0.199 (12) PUSH
S&P+ 10.4 (35) S&P+ 18.3 (7) TCU
OS&P+ 35.5 (26) DS&P+ 26.9 (56) OKLAHOMA STATE
DS&P+ 25.2 (44) OS&P+ 45.2 (3) TCU
Home Spread 5.0 TCU

The only other contender here is FSU-Clemson, and while I suspect the stats may underrate that matchup a bit, the better contest is found westward. I don’t believe we’ve had a Big-12 matchup in this spot yet either, so it’s about time. Currently TCU, Oklahoma State, and Baylor all sport undefeated records, and all three will play each other and one-loss Oklahoma in the season’s final month. The Big-12 did a magnificent job backloading their conference schedule for maximum insanity in the homestretch, and the first domino falls Saturday in Stillwater.

TCU was the media darling coming into 2015, off a legitimate gripe at being left out of the playoff picture and the corresponding destruction of a beaten down Ole Miss team in the Peach Bowl. They’ve more or less lived up to the hype against a weak schedule, alternating the occasional close call with gluttonous blowouts of the lesser lights in the conference. Last week’s performance came from the latter category in a 40-10 pantsing of West Virginia that was an interesting contest for all of about four minutes in the second quarter.

Their opponent is the surprise entrant in this three-way glut atop the conference, as last year’s Cowboys ran to 5-1 before TCU destroyed them in Fort Worth, starting a spiral to 5-6 that was saved with an overtime victory against Oklahoma and a bowl win over Washington. And yet, eight games into the season, here they are at #12 in the country, fresh off a shootout win over Texas Tech in Lubbock. Aren’t crap schedules wonderful?[3]

3 | This is so backfiring on the Big-12 if nobody goes undefeated. Still better to lose early, even under the playoff system.

Oklahoma State is solidly a top-20 or so team per the advanced metrics, with S&P+ taking a somewhat cooler view at 35th overall. Their opponent is considered one of the country’s very best teams, however, ranked just a touch behind Baylor atop the Big-12 happy FPI. The overall edge seems to tilt significantly in the Horned Frogs’ favor, but the offensive and defensive splits paint a more alluring picture.

The Cowboys are an interesting case, as they have one of the more one-sided offensive profiles I’ve come across this season. Sporting the 26th ranked offense per S&P+, almost all of their success comes through the air, as they average just four yards a carry vs. over nine per pass attempt. That translates to a good-but-not-great #41 ranking in Pass OS&P+, but that’s significantly better than their 115th-ranked rushing offense. Their offensive line is among the lowest-rated in the country in Adjusted Line Yards, which probably has a lot to do with the rushing woes. This is an offense devoid of names that you’ve probably heard of, as unlike years past[4] there’s no clear stud among the skill players. Perhaps the most recognizable name is red-zone specialist J.W. Walsh, whose long and twisting career in orange began with starting nods as a redshirt freshman and sophomore, before injuries and more talented teammates relegated him to his current role. Mason Rudolph is the starter at quarterback now, although Walsh provided some fourth quarter fireworks to help put away pesky Texas Tech a week ago.

4 | Remember, Justin Blackmon, Branden Weeden, and Joseph Randle all starred here before flaming out in the NFL.

Their opponent, in a far cry from the BCS Buster days of Gary Patterson’s tenure, doesn’t bring much of a defense to the table anymore, and while they have the advantage in rushing situations over the Cowboys’ offense, that’s a product of achieving mediocrity versus the putridity[5] on the other side of the field. While the overall passing matchup is a wash, Oklahoma State has a healthy advantage on passing downs, and they are not facing an opponent equipped to exploit an offensive line that’s done just ok at protecting Rudolph in the pocket. If TCU can limit the Cowboys through the air this one will get ugly in a hurry, but chances are we’re headed for a shootout.

5 | Very pleased and happy when I discovered this was, in fact, a word.

As noted, the Horned Frogs are no longer the defensive stalwarts they were in the late aughts, instead relying on the Air Raid-inspired stylings of former Mike Leach quarterback Sonny Cumbie, now in his second year as offensive coordinator in Fort Worth. He’s been blessed with an exceptional triggerman in near-certain Heisman finalist Trevone Boykin, who was a part-time starter with Casey Pachall as a redshirt freshman and sophomore before going supernova last season. He’s continued his extraordinarily productive play in 2015, currently 5th in the nation in passing yards and 3rd overall in passer rating. If that wasn’t enough, he’s also averaging six yards a carry on the ground, and has multiple runs in excess of 20 yards to his credit this season.

The aerial stuff is where the Horned Frogs get it done, however, as Boykin has tremendous chemistry with the ultra-productive Josh Doctson and big play threat Kolby Listenbee. That collection of talent has produced the nation’s #2 passing offense according to S&P+, and while the Cowboys have a solid defense that’s a sight better than you think it is, TCU has a significant edge in this regard. They are also significantly more effective on standard downs, which suggests passing downs — a strength for the Cowboys at #9 overall in PD DS&P+ — will be infrequent. Per usual, TCU will pile up a lot of yards and points, placing the onus squarely on the Cowboys offense to make this an interesting contest.

This is the closest matchup to the spread I’ve previewed this season, at least according to the S&P+ and FPI differentials and my home field adjustment. This is a tight matchup, and there is enough leeway on paper to go either way with the pick. No disrespect to the Cowboys, but I think they’re the pretender here.

THE PICK: TCU Horned Frogs, straight up and to cover.

Other SEC Games to Watch

”To Watch” is used in the very loosest sense of the term here, as this is probably the weakest intraconference slate of the season outside of the Alabama-LSU game. But, gotta have something on before the big one, right?

Mississippi St. Bulldogs at Missouri Tigers, Thursday November 5th
8:00 PM CST / 9:00 PM EST, ESPN

The Matchup
F/+ -4.8% (74) F/+ 33.1% (16) MISSISSIPPI STATE
FPI 6.1 (54) FPI 16.3 (16) MISSISSIPPI STATE
FEI 0.012 (62) FEI 0.183 (16) MISSISSIPPI STATE
S&P+ -3.4 (85) S&P+ 12.4 (21) MISSISSIPPI STATE
OS&P+ 14.8 (125) DS&P+ 25.1 (42) MISSISSIPPI STATE
DS&P+ 18.1 (14) OS&P+ 37.5 (18) PUSH

Missouri is terrible.

THE PICK: Mississippi State Bulldogs, straight up and to cover.

Vanderbilt Commodores at Florida Gators, Saturday November 7th
11:00 AM CST / 12:00 PM EST, ESPN

The Matchup
F/+ 42.3% (11) F/+ -3.9% (73) FLORIDA
FPI 19.5 (12) FPI 0.8 (73) FLORIDA
FEI 0.207 (11) FEI -0.016 (71) FLORIDA
S&P+ 17.2 (10) S&P+ -0.4 (73) FLORIDA
OS&P+ 33.4 (37) DS&P+ 19.1 (18) VANDERBILT
DS&P+ 16.2 (8) OS&P+ 18.7 (118) FLORIDA
Home Spread -20.5 FLORIDA

SEC EAST DIVISION CHAMPIONSHIP GAME YALL. Vanderbilt, as you’ve probably heard at some point this week, is all that stands in the way of a divisional title for Coach Mac in his inaugural season in Gainesville. This is another game where Vegas has outdone themselves with the spread. It’ll be interesting to see how Vanderbilt rebounds from last week’s shutout at Houston, but however that shakes out they won’t be winning.

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

Kentucky Wildcats at Georgia Bulldogs, Saturday November 7th
11:00 AM CST / 12:00 PM EST, SECN

The Matchup
F/+ 14.1% (45) F/+ -14.5% (89) GEORGIA
FPI 15.0 (21) FPI 2.8 (64) GEORGIA
FEI 0.063 (45) FEI -0.045 (79) GEORGIA
S&P+ 7.2 (44) S&P+ -6.4 (94) GEORGIA
OS&P+ 29.2 (63) DS&P+ 33.0 (95) GEORGIA
DS&P+ 22.0 (30) OS&P+ 26.6 (84) GEORGIA
Home Spread -14.0 GEORGIA

I hesitate to pick the Bulldogs to cover in the midst of their death spiral, but Kentucky may just be that bad. The home field advantage pushes it just over the edge for Georgia.

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

Arkansas Razorbacks at Ole Miss Rebels, Saturday November 7th
2:30 PM CST / 3:30 PM EST, CBS

The Matchup
F/+ 33.2% (15) F/+ 16.0% (42) OLE MISS
FPI 20.9 (10) FPI 13.7 (26) OLE MISS
FEI 0.137 (22) FEI 0.068 (42) OLE MISS
S&P+ 16.2 (12) S&P+ 8.3 (42) OLE MISS
OS&P+ 35.9 (24) DS&P+ 31.1 (82) OLE MISS
DS&P+ 19.7 (19) OS&P+ 39.4 (13) PUSH
Home Spread -10.5 OLE MISS

Apparently Ole Miss still hasn’t had a bye, and the results of the last three weeks indicate this group is on its last legs. The best bet for a third Rebels loss is in two weeks against LSU, but this game is a possibility as well. The scoring production has gone way, way down for the Rebels since a rebound win in the first week of October against New Mexico State, and with one notable exception this team has struggled against decent defenses. That moniker doesn’t apply to the Razorbacks, however, so Ole Miss should win, but I don’t think they cover.

THE PICK: Ole Miss Rebels straight up, but the Arkansas Razorbacks cover.

South Carolina Gamecocks at The Viles, Saturday November 7th
3:00 PM CST / 4:00 PM EST, SECN

The Matchup
F/+ 32.8% (17) F/+ -13.3% (86) THE VILES
FPI 20.6 (11) FPI 4.6 (59) THE VILES
FEI 0.184 (15) FEI -0.07 (88) THE VILES
S&P+ 12.1 (22) S&P+ -3.2 (83) THE VILES
OS&P+ 34.6 (30) DS&P+ 32.7 (91) THE VILES
DS&P+ 22.5 (33) OS&P+ 29.5 (61) THE VILES
Home Spread -16.5 THE VILES

Did you see what the Viles did to Kentucky last week? South Carolina’s not much better.

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