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Advanced Stats Rundown, Football Edition | Week of September 19th, 2015

Can Kentucky scratch out another win at home against the Gators? How big a loss is Malik Zaire to the Irish?

Kim Klement-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.

So, how’d last week go?

Yes, I took the time to crudely insert an Alabama hat on this meme of which you are undoubtedly familiar, because I have a feeling I’ll be using it a lot this season.[1]

1 | Also, the man in this drawing looks suspiciously like my father from about 20 or so years ago, so it’s remarkably appropriate.

I did… adequately straight up, particularly considering whatever you want to call Arkansas’ performance last week, but Georgia, Missouri, and LSU fell just short of covering, and Bateman’s late pick against MTSU ensured the Tide did not cover either. The Viles forgot to, you know, finish the game, and Oregon’s comeback bid fell just a touch short, although they still covered. This kind of nonsense is why Vegas is rich.

2015, Straight Up: 17/23 (73.9%)
2015, Against the Spread: 9/23 (39.1%)

A quick note: last week there was a comment about making sure I post the spreads if I’m going to pick against the spread. They’ve always been there at the bottom of each table, but I reformatted things a bit to make them clearer. Just the home spread is posted now, and it’s straight off the betting lines page at your sports outlet of choice, so negative numbers favor the home team (which is always on the left of the table) and vice versa.

All statistics and spreads as of September 17th , 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.

SEC Game of the Week, Non-Alabama Division

Florida Gators at Kentucky Wildcats, Saturday September 19th
6:30 PM CDT / 7:30 EDT, SEC Network

The Matchup
F/+ -8.3% (73) F/+ 12.6% (43) FLORIDA
FEI -0.055 (81) FEI 0.033 (49) FLORIDA
S&P+ -0.2 (67) S&P+ 8.0 (38) FLORIDA
FPI 7.8 (42) FPI 13.5 (24) FLORIDA
OS&P+ 34.3 (33) DS&P+ 25.2 (52) KENTUCKY
DS&P+ 34.5 (94) OS&P+ 33.2 (38) FLORIDA
Home Spread 3.5 FLORIDA

I fully anticipated the LSU/API game claiming this slot, as those were two highly-rated teams with a history of chippy matchups. And then the whole Jacksonville State thing happened, so we’re going with the low spread instead. Kentucky has successfully scrapped their way to one possession victories two weeks in a row now, including on the road last week in Columbia. This week they welcome Coach Mac’s new team, fresh off an ugly rematch against their bowl opponent from a year ago, ECU. Neither of these teams have looked particularly great through two weeks, but they are both 2-0, and sometimes games between two seemingly-mediocre teams can be worth watching.[2]

2 | This is exactly why bowl season is so much fun.

FEI is way, way down on Kentucky right now, which is depressing their F/+ rating accordingly. When adjusting for home field, S&P+ and FPI have this is a very, very tight matchup in line with the low spread. Florida’s considered the superior team, however, and those edges tilt the odds in their favor despite being on the road.

Kentucky’s offense has the edge over the Gator defense according to S&P+, as their balanced attack over the first two weeks is deemed worthy of the #33 ranking in OS&P+. Sophomore Stanley Williams is averaging over 10 yards a carry and has gone over 100 in both games, and while quarterback Patrick Towles hasn’t been great he’s been good enough. They’ll need him to get it done Saturday, as Florida has ceded very little on the ground, albeit against weak competition in that regard.

The other side of the ball is where this will go off the rails for the Wildcats, as their defense has gone from mediocre to horrid this season.[3] Florida is not going to light anyone up this year, particularly not with the quarterback situation still up in the air, but there’s enough here to do some damage against bad defenses. Avoid turnovers and shut down the run game and the Gators will take home the first road win in Coach Mac’s brief tenure.

3 | They finished 51st in DS&P+ last season

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

National Game of the Week

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Saturday September 19th
2:30 PM CDT / 3:30 PM EDT, NBC

The Matchup
F/+ 42.7% (14) F/+ 45.0% (11) PUSH
FEI 0.181 (11) FEI 0.184 (10) PUSH
S&P+ 17.6 (14) S&P+ 19.1 (11) PUSH
FPI 21.7 (10) FPI 18.7 (14) PUSH
OS&P+ 40.5 (9) DS&P+ 20.6 (26) NOTRE DAME
DS&P+ 22.9 (38) OS&P+ 39.7 (14) GEORGIA TECH
Home Spread 2.5 GEORGIA TECH

This game had a whole lot of shine to it before last week, as Notre Dame looked like a real player on the national stage again and Georgia Tech was handling business as well. Unfortunately, Irish QB Malik Zaire is done for the year after snapping an ankle against Virginia, and Notre Dame now turns to sophomore DeShone Kizer to wake up the echoes.[4] He threw the game-winning TD last week, but otherwise looked pretty pedestrian in an admittedly tough spot.

4 | This is Domer for “play football”.

His first start comes against the seemingly always underrated Yellow Jackets, who have been some sort of bizarre Ole Miss through two weeks, putting up 134 points and allowing only 16 against weak competition. Remember, the important thing about cupcake games is that good teams win them convincingly,[5] and Tech has done just that. True to form, they are averaging over 450 rushing yards a game, as quarterback Justin Thomas has picked up where he left off last season as the ideal triggerman for Paul Johnson’s flexbone attack.

5 | Right, API?

The metrics don’t know what to do here, as these two are within three ranks of each other in all four overall quality stats. The offensive and defensive components are split as well, with the edge going to the offense in both cases. Georgia Tech has the better defense, however, and unless Kizer pulls a Cardale Jones the loss of Zaire is going to severely limit the Irish on offense. Have to wonder if that grass will be extra-long in South Bend this weekend.

THE PICK: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, straight up and to cover.

Other SEC Games To Watch

API at LSU Tigers , Saturday September 19th
2:30 PM CDT / 3:30 PM EDT, CBS

The Matchup
F/+ 45.9% (10) F/+ 37.0% (18) PUSH
FEI 0.193 (9) FEI 0.145 (22) LSU
S&P+ 18.9 (12) S&P+ 16.5 (18) PUSH
FPI 23.5 (6) FPI 11.8 (27) LSU
OS&P+ 40.0 (11) DS&P+ 19.9 (24) LSU
DS&P+ 21.0 (28) OS&P+ 36.4 (25) PUSH
Home Spread -7.0 LSU

As noted, this looked like a much better game a week ago, before API almost became the biggest upset in recent memory.[6] The Gus Bus has looked old and busted through two weeks, and it says right here[7] that the departed Nick Marshall was more important to that offense than the fambly realized. Those pushes up there are the influence of last year’s results; this is not last year’s API. They lucked out[8] by avoiding Death Valley at night, but Leonard Fournette is still going to run all over them.

6 | Remember, Appalachian State was the two-time FCS champs when they beat Michigan, not just decent like Jacksonville State.

7 | And here and here

8 | Of course they did.

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

South Carolina Gamecocks at Georgia Bulldogs, Saturday September 19 th

The Matchup
F/+ 52.6% (5) F/+ 28.2% (28) GEORGIA
FEI 0.208 (5) FEI 0.119 (28) GEORGIA
S&P+ 22.9 (4) S&P+ 12.1 (28) GEORGIA
FPI 24.0 (5) FPI 8.4 (37) GEORGIA
OS&P+ 38.7 (15) DS&P+ 24.8 (50) GEORGIA
DS&P+ 15.8 (14) OS&P+ 36.8 (21) PUSH
Home Spread -16.5 GEORGIA

So, here’s the thing about South Carolina vs. Georgia — Steve Spurrier HATES Georgia. HATES them. The series between these two schools with Spurrier at the helm is currently tied at five apiece, but four of those wins for the Gamecocks have come in the last five years. If you go back to when he coached at Florida, Spurrier has lost to Georgia all of six times, with the vast majority of those coming at the beginning of his tenure in Columbia when he was rebuilding the program. There is major, major history on the side of the Gamecocks here.

Unfortunately,[9] Georgia appears to be a significantly better team this year. The Gamecocks have given up over 200 yards a game on the ground, and now they have to travel to Athens and face a Bulldog offense that’s been dominant running the ball for approximately forever. The quarterback situation there still reeks, but the wheels haven’t fallen off of Nick Chubb yet, and that’s all Georgia needs to get this one done.

9 | Or fortunately, depending on your affiliation/perspective/undying hatred of that smug little jerk.

THE PICK: Georgia Bulldogs straight up, but the South Carolina Gamecocks cover.

Texas Tech Red Raiders at Arkansas Razorbacks, Saturday September 19th

The Matchup
F/+ 34.0% (23) F/+ 4.0% (56) ARKANSAS
FEI 0.121 (26) FEI 0.001 (64) ARKANSAS
S&P+ 16.7 (16) S&P+ 4.2 (49) ARKANSAS
FPI 15.3 (19) FPI 11.2 (28) PUSH
OS&P+ 40.7 (7) DS&P+ 41.1 (117) ARKANSAS
DS&P+ 24.0 (44) OS&P+ 45.3 (4) TEXAS TECH
Home Spread -11.5 ARKANSAS

You had one job, Arkansas. Toledo is not looked upon kindly around these parts, and losing to them, even in that stadium you hate, was disgraceful.

Bert better turn this around in a hurry, because the natives are getting a bit restless. The Razorbacks are still saddled with Brandon Allen, but with the Air Raid coming to town I think we’re going to see a whole lot of Alex Collins running the ball up the gut. Fortunately, the Red Raiders have one of the worst defenses in the country, so this is an ideal opportunity for the Razorbacks to get back on track.

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


Connecticut Huskies at Missouri Tigers, Saturday September 19th

The Matchup
F/+ 34.8% (22) F/+ -29.6% (103) MISSOURI
FEI 0.152 (21) FEI -0.118 (104) MISSOURI
S&P+ 14.2 (22) S&P+ -11.0 (107) MISSOURI
FPI 9.9 (34) FPI -12.9 (110) MISSOURI
OS&P+ 24.8 (92) DS&P+ 35.4 (101) PUSH
DS&P+ 10.7 (4) OS&P+ 24.4 (93) MISSOURI
Home Spread -21.5 MISSOURI

Maty Mauk has been an experience through two weeks, but this week the Tigers get an offensive panacea in the form of UConn’s woeful defense. I’m not thinking they cover, but they should win easily.

THE PICK: Missouri Tigers straight up, but the UConn Huskies cover.

Nevada Wolf Pack at Texas A&M Aggies, Saturday September 19th
11 AM CDT / 12 PM EDT, SEC Network

The Matchup
F/+ 36.9% (19) F/+ -12.2% (79) TEXAS A&M
FEI 0.17 (17) FEI -0.043 (78) TEXAS A&M
S&P+ 14.3 (20) S&P+ -4.4 (84) TEXAS A&M
FPI 22.7 (8) FPI -11.9 (109) TEXAS A&M
OS&P+ 38.7 (16) DS&P+ 32.6 (86) TEXAS A&M
DS&P+ 24.4 (47) OS&P+ 28.2 (71) TEXAS A&M
Home Spread -34.0 TEXAS A&M

The Aggies have blown out their two opponents so far this season, but that defense is still giving up more points than it should. Ball State gashed them on the ground as well, and now they get the original Pistol team coming to town. I’ll admit I’m not sure Nevada still runs that, although the current OC coached under Chris Ault, so I’m guessing they do. They won’t win, but they’ll keep pace just enough to prevent A&M from covering.

THE PICK: Texas A&M Aggies straight up, but the Nevada Wolfpack covers.