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Advanced Stats Rundown, Football Edition | Week of October 3rd, 2015

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Two of the country's finest meet in Clemson, and the Dak Prescott show continues in College Station

Joshua S. Kelly-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 BetOnline.ag via ESPN, because they’re first on the list and I’m lazy.

Seriously, we have to read stats on Wednesdays now too!?[1]

Benevolent stats overlord Bill C. and FEI creator Brian Fremeau have been getting their stats out earlier in the week this season, meaning they are available in time to do a piece for Wednesday. So instead of Saturday morning, when you are all preparing your barbecues and tailgates and whatnot, ASR will be appearing mid-week from now on.

Advanced stats four days in a row! What a time to be alive.

1 | I suppose you don’t HAVE to, but seeing as you’re already here…

So, how’d last week go?

It’s a shame every week can’t go this well. Aside from Ole Miss not quite being able to shake Vandy and LSU offsetting another special Leonard Fournette performance with 120 penalty yards, I nailed every pick last time around. Which probably means I’m going to miss a lot this week, so proceed with caution!

2015, Straight Up: 32/40 (80.0%)
2015, Against the Spread: 21/40 (52.5%)

All statistics and spreads as of September 29th , 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

Mississippi St. Bulldogs at Texas A&M Aggies, Saturday October 3rd
6:30 PM CDT / 7:30 PM EDT, SEC Network

Overall Quality
TEXAS A&M MISSISSIPPI STATE THE EDGE
F/+ 33.2% (17) F/+ 23.2% (25) PUSH
FPI 20.6 (10) FPI 14.8 (22) TEXAS A&M
FEI 0.197 (13) FEI 0.147 (20) PUSH
S&P+ 12.8 (25) S&P+ 8.2 (37) TEXAS A&M
OS&P+ 40.1 (13) DS&P+ 27.0 (52) TEXAS A&M
DS&P+ 27.4 (59) OS&P+ 35.2 (34) MISSISSIPPI STATE
Home Spread -7.0 TEXAS A&M

Tough call this week, as both the Florida – Ole Miss game and, surprisingly, the Vandy – MTSU game look like quality contests. But I’m headed back to the West after spending the last two ASRs featuring Florida.

Texas A&M, of course, is fresh off shattering Arkansas’ hopes and dreams in a wild finish last week. The Aggies tied it up with just under 3 minutes to go in the fourth, strip-sacked Razorback QB Brandon Allen on the ensuing drive, just missed a chip-shot field goal to win in regulation, and shut down Arkansas in overtime to walk out of Fayetteville 4-0. I don’t need to tell anyone what CLANGA did; you know.[2]

2 | If you don’t, they beat API. Hehe.

The overall metrics all tilt in favor of the Aggies, with the edges in FPI and S&P+[3] being significant. Both defenses are kicking around the 50s according to DS&P+, and lag behind the opponent offenses. However, Texas A&M once again sports one of the nation’s best attacks, currently ranked 13th overall in S&P+. Oddly enough, they are not great on passing downs, which happens to be the specialty of the Bulldog defense. In both cases it’s strongly related to adjusted sack rate, where Texas A&M’s offensive line is among the country’s very worst, while the State defensive line is among the very best. If Texas A&M can stay on schedule and continue their strong play on standard downs, they should be just fine. If it becomes a game of third and longs, look out.

3 | Now based solely on this season’s results!

Mississippi State is pretty much all Dak Prescott at this point, and the lack of a strong running game has seriously hurt their performance on standard downs. Dak is still Dak though, and he still works the same magic on third downs that he did last year. The Bulldogs are the #6 overall team on passing downs and 20th overall through the air, but the John Chavis’d Aggies defense is much improved on both those counts from last year’s group. The continued emergence of Myles Garrett has pushed A&M’s defensive sack rate to the top spot in the country, and while the Bulldogs offensive line has been solid in that regard (29th overall), they will be seriously challenged with containing the sophomore phenom.

At the end of the day this is at Kyle Field, now regularly filled with over 100K rowdy Texans, and I suspect that’s the difference in the game. Mississippi State will be competitive but A&M just has too much going right for them this year.

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

National Game of the Week, Non-SEC Division

Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Clemson Tigers, Saturday October 3rd
7 PM CDT / 8 PM EDT, ABC

Overall Quality
CLEMSON NOTRE DAME THE EDGE
F/+ 51.5% (4) F/+ 43.6% (9) PUSH
FPI 17.7 (15) FPI 20.9 (9) PUSH
FEI 0.22 (5) FEI 0.204 (8) PUSH
S&P+ 25.2 (6) S&P+ 19.9 (12) PUSH
OS&P+ 35.7 (30) DS&P+ 24.2 (40) PUSH
DS&P+ 10.4 (5) OS&P+ 44.1 (6) PUSH
Home Spread 1.0 NOTRE DAME

I don’t recall ever previewing a game this evenly matched in the advanced metrics. I’m tempted to say “Clemson will Clemson” and be done with it, but the last time I did that it, uh, didn’t work out too well.[4]

4 | Clemson ended up winning their bowl game 40-6. They didn’t exactly Clemson, in other words.

But, seriously, wow these appear to be two really good teams. Neither one has played anybody yet, of course — Notre Dame’s thrashing of Georgia Tech was impressive for all of a week, as the latter continued to fall apart last Saturday. But in general they’ve played very well against lesser competition, which is all you can ask for at this stage of the season. With the now-typical exception of FPI, the overall quality metrics favor the Tigers, and this game will be played in their house.

One of the bigger stories the first two weeks of the season was the excellence of Malik Zaire, who beat out Everett Golson for the starting QB job at Notre Dame in the offseason. He promptly got injured against Virginia, giving way to DeShone Kizer, who has played capably in his stead if not at quite the same level. The inverse situation is occurring at Clemson, where last year’s freshman sensation Deshaun Watson is back and fully operational for the Tigers after an injury cut short his debut year. Unbeaten records and playoff positioning are on the line in this one, but I think we all realize this game is really combat by proxy to determine whether Deshaun or DeShone is the superior spelling of the name.

Joking aside, when Notre Dame has the ball this is going to be a hell of a matchup pitting a top-5 defense against effectively a top-5 offense.[5] Notre Dame can forget running on yet another strong Clemson front seven, so their hopes rest on the arm of Kizer. Passing downs are the one edge Notre Dame has on that side of the ball, which is good because they will be in third and medium-to-long quite often. Clemson’s pass defense is plenty stout as well, and they are relatively effective rushing the passer, so don’t expect a repeat of last week’s 62 point tally for the Irish.

5 | Only 0.2 points separate the Irish from Arkansas in the OS&P+ rankings.

The other side of the ball is where this game will be decided, and I think it will be in favor of Clemson. There’s a “push” on that line of the chart above, but just barely, as Notre Dame’s defense is nothing to write home about. Clemson has a significant edge on the ground, and as their line protects well it will be up to the Notre Dame secondary to limit Watson through the air. They’re up to the task, as they are currently ranked 17th overall in Pass OS&P+, but I suspect Clemson has just a little too much this time around. The truth is Clemson didn’t Clemson much after last year’s debacle at FSU, and in general they’ve Clemsoned much less frequently under Dabo Swinney. They won’t on Saturday.

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

Other SEC Games to Watch

South Carolina Gamecocks at Missouri Tigers, Saturday October 3rd
11 AM CDT / 12 PM EDT, SEC Network

Overall Quality
MISSOURI SOUTH CAROLINA THE EDGE
F/+ 5.4% (55) F/+ 15.3% (41) PUSH
FPI 6.2 (51) FPI 6.9 (47) PUSH
FEI 0.09 (33) FEI 0.074 (36) PUSH
S&P+ -2.5 (79) S&P+ 7.6 (41) SOUTH CAROLINA
OS&P+ 17.9 (120) DS&P+ 28.3 (66) SOUTH CAROLINA
DS&P+ 20.4 (27) OS&P+ 35.9 (27) PUSH
Home Spread -4.0 MISSOURI

It’s the East’s battle of mediocrity this week, featuring my two least favorite teams to prognosticate this year in South Carolina and Missouri. Maty Mauk is absolutely the new Dr. Bo, and his efforts have relegated Missouri to the #120 ranking in the country according to OS&P+. That’s not very good, and when your offense is that bad it makes mediocre defenses like South Carolina’s look outstanding. On the other side of the ball, freshman Lorenzo Nunez opened a lot of eyes in Columbia last week, as he appears to be a tremendous upgrade over the ineffective and frustrating Perry Orth. The huge, huge differential in S&P+ is telling, and I think Nunez is going to do wonders for the Gamecocks offense.

THE PICK: South Carolina Gamecocks, straight up and to cover.

San Jose State Spartans at API WarPlainsEagleTigers, Saturday October 3rd
3 PM CDT / 4 PM EDT, SEC Network

Overall Quality
AUBURN SAN JOSE STATE THE EDGE
F/+ 13.0% (43) F/+ -17.4% (89) AUBURN
FPI 10.8 (34) FPI -4.4 (87) AUBURN
FEI 0.085 (34) FEI -0.113 (100) AUBURN
S&P+ 4.5 (58) S&P+ -3.3 (81) AUBURN
OS&P+ 31.6 (54) DS&P+ 32.9 (90) AUBURN
DS&P+ 27.1 (54) OS&P+ 29.6 (66) AUBURN
Home Spread -20.0 AUBURN

Any other year this would have gone into the “Cakewalks” section, as SJSU is not exactly a powerhouse. However, little brother is in full on tire-fire mode, as it looks like Duke Williams has checked out,[6] Sweater Vest doesn’t have a quarterback, and the only effective players on the team keep getting injured. I think they get it together for a win, but I don’t think they cover.

6 | Why did you even come back?

THE PICK: API straight up, but the San Jose State Spartans cover.

Ole Miss Rebels at Florida Gators, Saturday October 3rd
6 PM CDT / 7 PM EDT, ESPN

Overall Quality
FLORIDA OLE MISS THE EDGE
F/+ 16.7% (36) F/+ 51.6% (3) OLE MISS
FPI 14.4 (23) FPI 26.4 (1) OLE MISS
FEI 0.034 (52) FEI 0.22 (4) OLE MISS
S&P+ 13.8 (21) S&P+ 25.3 (5) OLE MISS
OS&P+ 34.5 (38) DS&P+ 16.7 (15) OLE MISS
DS&P+ 20.7 (28) OS&P+ 42.0 (8) OLE MISS
Home Spread 7.0 OLE MISS

Were you aware Jim McElwain’s Gators were undefeated? New Mexico State was a gimme, but the other three wins were a bit more impressive, and last week’s come-from-behind emasculation of Tennessee almost moved one to tears of joy. Ole Miss barely survived Vanderbilt last week, as Chad Kelly — and stop me if you’ve heard this one before — looked thoroughly pedestrian after a starmaking performance against the Tide.[7] The stats are firmly in favor of Ole Miss all the way down the line, but I’m starting to wonder about this team. The Rebels won’t be gifted five turnovers every week, and the Gators are a heck of a lot better than Vanderbilt, and playing at home to boot. I’m sure I’ll regret this come Sunday, but I’m taking Coach Mac’s team in the upset.[8]

7 | Sure, 321 yards is nice, but when you get a 100 yard rusher and you’re throwing to Treadwell and company, that’s to be expected.

8 | Remember the speech something something 2008 something something Tebow!

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

Arkansas Razorbacks at The Viles, Saturday October 3rd
6 PM CDT / 7 PM EDT, ESPN2

Overall Quality
TENNESSEE ARKANSAS THE EDGE
F/+ 24.0% (24) F/+ 19.7% (29) PUSH
FPI 18.5 (14) FPI 12.7 (29) TENNESSEE
FEI 0.095 (30) FEI 0.07 (38) PUSH
S&P+ 13.3 (23) S&P+ 12.1 (27) PUSH
OS&P+ 35.0 (36) DS&P+ 32.2 (88) TENNESSEE
DS&P+ 21.7 (32) OS&P+ 44.3 (5) ARKANSAS
Home Spread -6.0 TENNESSEE

If it weren’t for the ongoing collapse in West Georgia, we’d be talking a lot more about these two teams, who have absolutely crapped the bed for the last three weeks.[9] Here’s the big difference though — the Viles have problems holding the lead, whereas Arkansas has a hard time even getting one. Somehow they have the fifth-best offense in the country, so even against a solid Viles defense they should put up some points. The opposing offense is better than their ranking indicates, however, and I think that’s enough for them to win at home.

9 | The Viles’ dispatching of Western Carolina notwithstanding.

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

Vanderbilt Commodores at Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders, Saturday October 3rd
6 PM CDT / 7 PM EDT, CBS Sports Network

Overall Quality
MIDDLE TENNESSEE VANDERBILT THE EDGE
F/+ -2.4% (69) F/+ 2.9% (60) PUSH
FPI 5.6 (55) FPI -1.7 (77) MIDDLE TENNESSEE
FEI -0.029 (73) FEI -0.013 (65) PUSH
S&P+ 2.1 (64) S&P+ 5.4 (53) VANDERBILT
OS&P+ 30.3 (60) DS&P+ 19.9 (23) VANDERBILT
DS&P+ 28.2 (65) OS&P+ 25.2 (93) MIDDLE TENNESSEE
Home Spread EVEN PUSH

Bet you weren’t expecting this, eh? Vanderbilt’s only calling card is the defense, which showed how excellent it is last week against the Rebels. We all saw what MTSU can do in their game against the Tide, so that will be a fun matchup to watch. I think the Commodores played a bit above their heads last week, and the stats actually favor the Blue Raiders.

THE PICK: Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders, straight up and to cover.

Cakewalks

Eastern Michigan Eagles at LSU Tigers, Saturday October 3rd
6 PM CDT / 7 PM EDT, ESPNU

Overall Quality
LSU EASTERN MICHIGAN THE EDGE
F/+ 50.7% (5) F/+ -42.3% (119) LSU
FPI 23.4 (6) FPI -18.1 (122) LSU
FEI 0.21 (7) FEI -0.245 (128) LSU
S&P+ 25.7 (4) S&P+ -14.3 (115) LSU
OS&P+ 43.4 (7) DS&P+ 44.1 (121) LSU
DS&P+ 17.7 (16) OS&P+ 29.8 (65) LSU
Home Spread -44.5 LSU

Directional Michigan, meet Leonard Fournette!

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

ROLL TIDE