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, what’s next?
Our fourth preview for the New Year’s Six takes us to Pasadena for the 102nd edition of the Rose Bowl Game. This year sees a classic PAC-12 / Big Ten matchup when the Iowa Hawkeyes host the Stanford Cardinal, the 2015 PAC-12 Champions. The game is on Friday, January 1st at 4:00 PM CST / 5:00 PM EST, and will be televised on ESPN and WatchESPN.com.
The Résumé — Iowa
|#5 - Iowa Hawkeyes|
|MICHIGAN STATE||44.8% (6)||17.7 (9)||0.234 (5)||18.0 (14)||36.5 (26)||18.8 (13)|
|WISCONSIN||20.0% (33)||11.1 (28)||0.074 (40)||13.4 (26)||26.2 (86)||15.1 (7)|
|NEBRASKA||17.9% (38)||7.4 (43)||0.096 (33)||8.7 (45)||33.7 (36)||26.3 (55)|
|PITTSBURGH||17.0% (39)||8.6 (40)||0.074 (41)||9.8 (37)||33.4 (38)||24.8 (44)|
|NORTHWESTERN||15.4% (42)||7.1 (45)||0.076 (39)||6.3 (54)||21.9 (109)||14.8 (4)|
|MINNESOTA||8.4% (57)||9.9 (35)||-0.012 (73)||3.3 (66)||30.3 (55)||20.4 (21)|
|INDIANA||6.1% (62)||3.7 (62)||0.029 (58)||1.8 (74)||38.5 (20)||34.8 (106)|
|ILLINOIS||1.9% (67)||4.8 (58)||-0.021 (75)||3.3 (67)||24.6 (92)||19.7 (17)|
|IOWA STATE||-3.6% (73)||2.0 (68)||-0.041 (82)||1.2 (79)||29.5 (60)||27.5 (64)|
|MARYLAND||-3.6% (74)||2.8 (65)||-0.050 (85)||-1.2 (84)||27.6 (78)||24.8 (43)|
|PURDUE||-14.2% (89)||-2.9 (85)||-0.083 (93)||-3.9 (87)||26.6 (84)||29.5 (76)|
|NORTH TEXAS||-57.5% (127)||-23.3 (127)||-0.252 (125)||-21.4 (128)||16.0 (124)||39.3 (120)|
(Bold) numbers indicate national ranking.Observations
- Average F/+ Opponent: Louisiana Tech (F/+ #64)
- Average S&P+ Opponent: Louisiana Tech (S&P+ #60)
- Average FEI Opponent: Air Force (FEI #64)
- Average FPI Opponent: Minnesota (FPI #66)
- Average Offense: Texas (OS&P+ #67)
- Average Defense: Northern Illinois (DS&P+ #42)
- Best Win: Wisconsin (F/+ #33)
- Wins Against F/+ Top-25: 0
An interesting schedule here, filled primarily with average teams without too many from the top or bottom of the F/+ rankings. North Texas was a gimme, but aside from them we’re looking at 11 teams inside the F/+ top-90. A win over Michigan State would have made the season, but the Hawkeyes fell just short of knocking off the Spartans in the Big Ten championship game, and were thus robbed of their only opportunity to claim a win over an F/+ top-25 squad. 12-1 is still the best record in Iowa City in a long, long time, and they certainly would have been the #1 or #2 seed in the playoff if they’d been successful against the Spartans.
1 | As was Illinois State, an FCS school not represented here.
This is certainly not the worst schedule among the New Year’s Six participants, however, with an average opponent carrying an F/+ rating of 4.4%, roughly equivalent to F/+ #64 Louisiana Tech; the average opponent ranking in the other overall quality metrics is similar. The offensive slate was average at best, rated closest to OS&P+ #67 Texas, but the defensive slate was considerably stronger, much like Northern Illinois’ #42 DS&P+ ranking. That helps explain Iowa’s better-than-expected offensive metrics, considering their mediocre showing in the traditional stats.
Similarity — Stanford
- Rushing Offense: Pittsburgh (Rush OS&P+ #16)
- Passing Offense: Indiana (Pass OS&P+ #11)
- Rushing Defense: Illinois (Rush DS&P+ #62)
- Passing Defense: Iowa State (Pass DS&P+ #69, but not really)
For the most part we have good comparisons to work with for Stanford among Iowa’s schedule, with the exception of pass defense, where the Cardinal outrank the Cyclones by 12 ranks. C.J. Beathard turned in a solid, efficient performance against Iowa State, going 15 of 25 for 215 yards and three touchdowns — good for a completion percentage of 60%, a per-attempt average of 8.6 yards, and a 172 passer rating. The next closest team to Stanford in this regard is considerably stingier Minnesota at Pass DS&P+ #24; Beathard had a similar game against the Golden Gophers, going 18 of 26 for 213 yards, a 69.2% completion percentage and 8.2 yards per attempt average. Those two games are fairly representative of Iowa’s average passing output on the year, so expect something similar on Friday.
Illinois’ rush defense is much closer to the Cardinal’s, which isn’t great news for Stanford. The Hawkeyes bowled all over the Illini, piling up 278 yards on 51 carries, a stout 5.5 yards per carry average. Iowa’s fairly predictable as to when they’re going to run — they finished 18th in the country in standard downs run rate with 68.9%, but 97th on passing downs run rate with 27.4%. If they’re on schedule, they run. If they’re behind schedule, they pass. Very simple.
More bad news for the Cardinal on the offensive side, as their closest passing comp, Indiana, was completely shut down by the Hawkeyes. Nate Sudfeld managed just 16 of 37 for 180 yards, a 4.9 yard per attempt average, and turned in an abysmal passer rating of 88. They’re even better against the run, however, as they limited Pittsburgh’s powerful attack to 55 total yards on 27 carries, a putrid average of just 2 yards a carry. Even adding back yardage lost from sacks, we’re looking at 65 yards on 25 carries — not a substantial improvement. Heisman runner-up Christian McCaffrey is the best rusher they’ve faced all year, of course, but the similarity analysis suggests the going will be tough on the ground for the Cardinal.
The Résumé — Stanford
|#6 - Stanford Cardinal|
|NOTRE DAME||46.8% (5)||19.4 (8)||0.229 (6)||19.8 (9)||42.7 (6)||23.3 (33)|
|USC||32.6% (17)||14.2 (19)||0.154 (17)||19.1 (12)||39.6 (12)||25.4 (49)|
|USC||32.6% (17)||14.2 (19)||0.154 (17)||19.1 (12)||39.6 (12)||25.4 (49)|
|WASHINGTON||29.7% (22)||14.2 (20)||0.128 (27)||12.5 (30)||31.8 (46)||17.6 (10)|
|OREGON||25.8% (26)||10.5 (31)||0.135 (24)||14.4 (25)||41.9 (8)||31.4 (88)|
|UCLA||24.3% (30)||12.9 (22)||0.094 (34)||15.4 (20)||37.9 (23)||25.0 (46)|
|NORTHWESTERN||15.4% (42)||7.1 (45)||0.076 (39)||6.3 (54)||21.9 (109)||14.8 (4)|
|CALIFORNIA||15.1% (44)||7.6 (41)||0.068 (44)||13.3 (28)||38.9 (17)||31.3 (87)|
|WASHINGTON STATE||9.1% (56)||2.4 (67)||0.072 (42)||6.3 (53)||32.5 (45)||30.1 (81)|
|ARIZONA||-9.8% (85)||-2.6 (84)||-0.046 (84)||5.7 (56)||33.5 (37)||36.1 (109)|
|COLORADO||-19.4% (95)||-9.1 (98)||-0.064 (89)||-0.8 (83)||23.5 (100)||32.6 (94)|
|OREGON STATE||-38.5% (110)||-12.9 (105)||-0.195 (113)||-8.3 (96)||23.2 (103)||36.2 (111)|
2 | USC appears twice as Stanford played them both during the regular season and in the PAC-12 title game.
(Bold) numbers indicate national ranking.Observations
- Average F/+ Opponent: Penn State (F/+ #46)
- Average S&P+ Opponent: South Florida (S&P+ #49)
- Average FEI Opponent: California (FEI #44)
- Average FPI Opponent: Texas Tech (FPI #35)
- Average Offense: Cincinnati (OS&P+ #33)
- Average Defense: Wake Forest (DS&P+ #61)
- Best Win: Notre Dame (F/+ #5)
- Wins Against F/+ Top-25: 4 (Notre Dame, USC [twice], Washington)
Oh, Northwestern. Stanford almost certainly gets into the playoff without that loss, as their schedule strength and overall résumé rivals Michigan State’s and is a bit stronger than Oklahoma’s. They took down three opponents in the top-25 of the F/+ rankings, including two wins over Southern Cal, and own one of the better wins among the New Year’s Six field — an amazing last-minute comeback to beat Notre Dame in the final game of the regular season. The Oregon win is understandable, even accounting for the home environs — they played well, but just not as well as Oregon did that day.
A Rose Bowl bid is certainly a fine consolation prize, of course, particularly for members of these two conferences who perhaps hold the game in a bit higher regard than the rest of the country. They enter with a much better schedule than the Hawkeyes, with their average opponent ranking in the mid-to-high 40s per F/+, FEI, and S&P+. FPI’s a bit higher on them, however, with the average Cardinal opponent carrying a rating closest to FPI #35 Texas Tech. In classic PAC-12 fashion, the defensive slate was pretty average, approximate to Wake Forest’s #61 DS&P+ rating; conversely, the offensive slate was ranked nearly 30 spots higher, roughly equivalent to Cincinnati’s #33 ranking.Similarity — Iowa
- Rushing Offense: Arizona (Rush OS&P+ #48)
- Passing Offense: UCLA (Pass OS&P+ #47)
- Rushing Defense: Washington (Rush DS&P+ #20)
- Passing Defense: USC (Pass DS&P+ #41)
Really good comps here, all within five ranks or so of Iowa’s actual ratings, and USC’s pass defense offers the rare opportunity for two games of comparison. The first time around in September, the Sarkisian-led Trojans were absolutely skewered by the Cardinal to the tune of 18 of 23 for 279 yards and two touchdowns — good for a passer rating in excess of 200, a completion percentage of 75%, and a whopping 12.1 yards per attempt average. The next time around, the Cardinal were less prolific but similarly efficient against the Helton-led Trojans, as Hogan went 9 for 12 for a modest 155 yards and two touchdowns, but a gaudy 12.0 yards per attempt average. Unsurprisingly the rushing outlook is a bit less rosy — the Cardinal piled up 188 yards on the Huskies, but took 48 carries to get there, a pedestrian 3.9 yards a carry.
Better news on the defensive side, as the Hawkeyes’ closest rushing comp, Arizona, managed just 118 yards on 34 carries in their game against Stanford, a middling 3.5 yards a carry. UCLA’s Josh Rosen certainly had a productive day, piling up 326 yards and three touchdowns, but it took 42 attempts — 7.8 yards per attempt, which is average — and came with two interceptions. This looks like a potential defensive struggle in the making.
|F/+||26.1% (25)||F/+||43.0% (8)||STANFORD|
|FPI||13.3 (27)||FPI||20.3 (8)||STANFORD|
|FEI||0.147 (19)||FEI||0.247 (4)||STANFORD|
|S&P+||9.9 (34)||S&P+||16.0 (12)||STANFORD|
|The Matchup on Offense|
|OFEI||0.39 (31)||DFEI||0.08 (60)||IOWA|
|OS&P+||31.3 (48)||DS&P+||26.1 (54)||PUSH|
|Rush OS&P+||108.0 (44)||Rush DS&P+||101.7 (65)||IOWA|
|Pass OS&P+||108.2 (43)||Pass DS&P+||102.5 (57)||IOWA|
|SD OS&P+||100.6 (69)||SD DS&P+||101.3 (59)||PUSH|
|PD OS&P+||122.4 (19)||PD DS&P+||109.2 (40)||IOWA|
|OALY||105.6 (47)||DALY||95.3 (84)||IOWA|
|OASR||97.1 (65)||DASR||68.5 (114)||IOWA|
|The Matchup on Defense|
|DFEI||0.51 (24)||OFEI||1.33 (4)||STANFORD|
|DS&P+||21.4 (26)||OS&P+||42.1 (7)||STANFORD|
|Rush DS&P+||116.1 (22)||Rush OS&P+||114.5 (21)||PUSH|
|Pass DS&P+||105.9 (46)||Pass OS&P+||132.0 (7)||STANFORD|
|SD DS&P+||112.0 (28)||SD OS&P+||117.8 (16)||STANFORD|
|PD DS&P+||107.5 (49)||PD OS&P+||123.2 (17)||STANFORD|
|DALY||99.3 (66)||OALY||107.7 (38)||STANFORD|
|DASR||116.8 (37)||OASR||98.5 (63)||IOWA|
|The Matchup on Special Teams|
|FVE||0.06 (36)||FVE||0.17 (7)||STANFORD|
|STE||0.04 (37)||STE||0.12 (5)||STANFORD|
|FGE||0.36 (25)||FGE||0.56 (4)||STANFORD|
|KE||0.02 (71)||KRE||0.31 (4)||STANFORD|
|PE||0.06 (84)||PRE||0.01 (60)||STANFORD|
|PRE||-0.03 (80)||PE||-0.05 (42)||STANFORD|
|KRE||0.12 (20)||KE||0.05 (84)||IOWA|
(Bold) numbers indicate national ranking.
Statistics current as of December 29th, 2015.
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
FVE: FEI Field Value Efficiency, 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).
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!
So, what do we know?
Stanford’s tougher schedule is the difference here, as they slot in as the fourth best team in the FEI rankings, paired with #8 finishes in F/+ and FPI. S&P+ is a bit cooler on the Cardinal, but regardless they have significant edges all down the line on Iowa, who seem to be regarded more in a mid-20s type range. The near 20% edge in F/+ is a bit large, but Vegas only has the Cardinal winning by 6.
When Iowa Has the Ball
Iowa’s offense is a hard one to peg, because at least per the advanced stats they don’t seem to do anything particularly well — ranks in the 40s for overall, passing, and rushing offense; more or less average on standard downs, pretty good on passing downs, and solid-but-not-great numbers in the line metrics. That’s enough to hold significant edges over the Cardinal defense in just about every area, however, with Stanford just barely ahead on standard downs. The similarity analysis highlighted the rushing matchup as a potentially favorable one for the Hawkeyes, and that would seem to be supported here, as the biggest edges appear in Rush S&P+ and Adjusted Line Yards.
The Hawkeyes have started three different backs this year, but the one with the most carries is senior Jordan Canzeri. Canzeri was the main driver behind the evisceration of Illinois, with a 43 carry, 256 yard performance that was just a shade under 6 yards a carry. He started that game in place of LeShun Daniels Jr., who is the listed starter for the Rose Bowl. Daniels was the starter in the first game of the season, but quickly saw his carries drop in favor of Canzeri before missing the Illinois and Northwestern games entirely. After receiving the bulk of the carries against Indiana and Minnesota, the return of Canzeri relegated Daniels back to a second option. Sophomore Akrum Wadley only has 74 carries on the year, but has the best average at 6.3 yards a carry, and started against Michigan State in the Big Ten title game.
The real concerning news for Hawkeyes fans is the status of Beathard, who was initially questionable with a hip injury but is now listed as out for the game. That’s a huge loss, as not only has Beathard started every game this season, his backup, freshman Tyler Wiegers, has only attempted four passes on the year. As noted passing is not a huge part of Iowa’s offense, but they have to do it enough to keep the defense honest. Beathard’s been questionable for a while, so presumably the extra reps Wiegers has received in bowl prep will be helpful, but it’s likely he’ll be a step back from the steady, reliable Beathard. Expect Stanford’s game plan to involve stacking the box and making Wiegers beat them.
When Stanford Has the Ball
The other side of the ball will be the product of two mediocre units facing off, but when Stanford has the ball it’ll be strength on strength. They have edges in almost every regard over the Hawkeyes, however, with two notable exceptions. One is in Adjusted Sack Rate, where the Hawkeyes’ solid pass rush has a juicy matchup with a Stanford line that’s slightly below average at protecting the passer. The other, more interesting one is in Rush S&P+, where these two have nearly identical ratings.
The big name there, of course, is McCaffrey, who you may have heard broke a record previously belonging to Barry Sanders, and finished second in the country in rushing yards with 1847. The last time we saw him he was dropping 312 yards from scrimmage on the Trojans, a solid 75% of their offensive output for the game. He managed to lead the Cardinal in both rushing and receiving this season, the latter on the strength of 41 receptions on just 49 targets, good for a catch rate of 83.7%, which is high. You can expect to see him touch the ball about 30-35 times on offense in this one — roughly half of Stanford’s plays — and that those touches will come from a variety of different looks.
3 | Whose kid, oddly enough, is McCaffrey’s backup.
The receptions will come courtesy of Kevin Hogan, who will be suiting up for the last time in a Stanford uniform. After an up-and-down four years as Andrew Luck’s successor Hogan turned in his finest season yet, putting up a passer rating of 170 and averaging a potent 9.3 yards an attempt to go with a solid 68.6% completion percentage. Stanford passed quite a bit less this season as more of the offensive focus shifted to McCaffrey, but Hogan still got almost as much yardage in as many games as he did a year ago — this time on 70 fewer attempts. The defensive gameplan for the Hawkeyes will center on trying to stop McCaffrey, so don’t sleep on Hogan’s potential impact in this game.
4 | There was that one year with Josh Nunes, I guess.
One thing to look out for there is the Hawkeyes pass rush, which has a tremendous advantage over the Stanford offensive line. Despite being stocked with seniors this group has allowed 18 sacks on the season, which given Hogan’s moderate number of attempts is a fairly high rate. Despite what McCaffrey did to USC in the PAC-12 title game, Stanford will need some sort of impact from Hogan to win this game, and his staying upright is a necessity.
Here we have another tremendous advantage for the Cardinal, who were one of the ten best teams in the country both on special teams and in the field position game. Once again a big part of that is McCaffrey, who in addition to his various exploits on offense is the primary kick returner for Stanford, and a really good one at that. The Cardinal finished 4th in FEI’s Kick Return Efficiency metric, which gives them an astonishing 67 rank advantage over the Hawkeyes’ kick coverage unit.
The one area the Hawkeyes do come out ahead is, oddly enough, on kick returns, where Thorpe Award winner Desmond King has had a fine year himself. While not nearly as prolific as McCaffrey, King’s been almost as effective on a return-by-return basis, averaging just 3.3 yards less per return than the Heisman runner-up. Stanford’s kick coverage is even worse than Iowa’s, so there’s some opportunity for fireworks in that area of the game. Aside from that, Stanford wins everything else, including a solid advantage on field goal kicking they’ve already benefited from once or twice this season.
Any intangibles to consider?
We’ve reached our first outdoor game, as sunny southern California provides the ideal environment for college football this time of the year. Unsurprisingly, there’s zero rain in the forecast, with a light wind and temperatures in the mid-60s by kickoff. This will be the first-ever meeting between Iowa and Stanford; despite the long and storied history of the Rose Bowl, these two are rarely good at the same time, and thus have not previously had an opportunity to meet in the postseason game most closely tied to those two conferences.
Both teams are relatively healthy, but the key injury coming into this game was already discussed above. Iowa will be running a redshirt freshman out there at quarterback, one with just four career attempts, in place of the guy that’s started every game for them this season in Beathard. They also lost starting defensive linemen Drew Ott back in October, but have had the last seven games to work in his backup. The only notable injury for Stanford is fullback Daniel Marx, who was lost for the season with a leg injury at the end of November. This obviously did not affect Stanford’s output against USC, who has a similarly-rated passing defense to the Hawkeyes and a rushing defense that’s relatively comparable.
May be underestimating Iowa here, but you don’t just replace a quarterback with a guy who’s never really played at this level right before a bowl game like this. Stanford’s defense is just OK, but they’ll sell out to stop the run and take their chances with Wiegers. Iowa has a tough assignment on the other side of the ball with McCaffrey as well, and added up that feels like Stanford by about a touchdown.
STRAIGHT UP: Stanford Cardinal
AGAINST SPREAD: Stanford Cardinal