Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

02 Dec 2009

Week 13 FEI Ratings

by Brian Fremeau

The field at Stanford Stadium Saturday night was littered with offensive firepower. Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen was 23 of 30 for 340 yards and five touchdowns, completing one of the most prolific seasons in Fighting Irish quarterback history. Golden Tate chipped in three touchdowns and 200 yards receiving, wrapping up the most electric highlight-reel season for the Irish since Rocket Ismail donned a gold helmet. And in the end, it wasn’t enough.

Heisman-hopeful Toby Gerhart pounded the Irish defense down the stretch, tossed a halfback touchdown pass, and chewed up enough time in the game-clinching drives to stave off any possible heroics for Clausen, Tate, and Co. Gerhart didn’t single-handedly usher Charlie Weis out of South Bend, but he perfectly encapsulated his demise. Notre Dame was an offensive juggernaut this year, faced no truly elite opposition, and still limped home with its second-straight 6-6 record.

The defense didn’t measure up to the offense in any way, shape, or form in 2009. But the Notre Dame offense is to blame as well -- it was incapable of killing clock at critical times. Against Stanford and Connecticut in each of the final two games, the Irish had the ball and the lead late in the fourth quarter but surrendered it due to an inability to run the ball and an unwillingness to keep slinging it around the field.

There were epic red zone failures as well. Notre Dame ranked No. 10 nationally in yards per game, but only No. 40 in points per game. The Irish only converted 56 percent of their red zone trips into touchdowns in 2009, due to vanilla play calling and costly turnovers. Five failed red zone trips against Navy doomed what likely would have been a comfortable victory into a two-point loss. According to athletic director Jack Swarbrick, that game was the tipping point game in the decision to end Weis’ tenure.

Ten games were decided by a touchdown or less, and the Irish came up victors in only four of them. Based on our raw offensive efficiency (OE) metric, which calibrates offensive scoring rates by starting field position, Notre Dame outperformed its opponent nine times this season, including in the losses to Michigan, Connecticut, and Stanford. The Wolverines and Huskies each chipped in a kick return touchdown. Gerhart was a one-man wrecking ball Saturday night, but Irish special teams gave Stanford enviable starting field position throughout the game -- six Stanford drives began on 65-yard fields or shorter. Notre Dame had to overcome field position deficits in four of its six victories this season.

Under Weis, Notre Dame made winning harder on itself than any other team in college football this year. Only two other teams -- Georgia and Buffalo -- had a combined seven games in which in which they either outperformed the opponent offensive in a loss (three) or won a game in which they had to overcome a field position deficit (four). And neither the Bulldogs nor the Bulls had a lethal combination like Clausen and Tate at their disposal all season. It wouldn't have taken much to tip a few more games in his favor, and Weis had all the arsenal he needed to keep his job. Whether those weapons remain on campus for the next to-be-named general remains to be seen.

Week 13 FEI Top 25

The principles of the Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI) can be found here. Like DVOA, FEI rewards playing well against good teams, win or lose, and punishes losing to poor teams more harshly than it rewards defeating poor teams. Unlike DVOA, it is drive-based, not play-by-play based, and it is specifically engineered to measure the college game.

FEI is the opponent-adjusted value of Game Efficiency (GE), a measurement of the success rate of a team scoring and preventing opponent scoring throughout the non-garbage-time possessions of a game. Like DVOA, it represents a team's efficiency value over average. Strength of Schedule (SOS) is calculated as the likelihood that an elite team would win every game on the given team's schedule to date. SOS listed here does not include future games scheduled.

Only games between FBS teams are considered in the FEI calculations. Preseason projections are not a factor in the current calculations. Current FEI ratings are a function of results of games played through Nov. 21st.

FEI ratings for all 120 FBS teams are now listed in the stats page section of FootballOutsiders.com. Click here for current ratings; the pull-down menu in the stats section directs you to 2007 and 2008 ratings.

Rank Team FBS
W-L
FEI Last
Wk
GE GE
Rk
SOS SOS
Rk
OE OE
Rk
Off
FEI
OFEI
Rk
DE DE
Rk
Def
FEI
DFEI
Rk
FPA FPA
Rk
1 Alabama 11-0 .302 1 .278 6 .201 34 .126 37 .340 16 -.685 1 -.684 1 .532 25
2 Florida 11-0 .292 2 .337 4 .274 54 .390 14 .358 14 -.659 3 -.634 3 .546 14
3 Texas 12-0 .242 3 .376 1 .497 98 .499 8 .418 8 -.637 6 -.442 11 .567 5
4 Virginia Tech 9-3 .239 7 .204 11 .148 23 .205 30 .319 19 -.444 13 -.422 14 .558 8
5 Oregon 9-2 .235 9 .199 12 .165 25 .368 16 .492 6 -.374 17 -.362 20 .508 50
6 Cincinnati 10-0 .234 6 .287 5 .449 88 .966 1 .534 5 -.142 38 -.195 35 .510 47
7 TCU 11-0 .221 4 .346 3 .451 89 .270 26 .218 29 -.668 2 -.405 16 .569 4
8 Ohio State 10-2 .211 10 .217 7 .296 58 -.010 58 .161 37 -.650 4 -.565 5 .558 10
9 Georgia Tech 9-2 .207 5 .110 26 .175 28 .479 10 .659 2 .202 89 -.002 61 .506 55
10 Miami 8-3 .205 12 .100 29 .150 24 .181 32 .353 15 -.158 35 -.340 21 .516 36
11 Iowa 9-2 .197 13 .118 24 .200 33 -.167 84 .045 55 -.541 8 -.599 4 .512 43
12 Oregon State 7-3 .194 15 .146 18 .222 43 .357 17 .326 18 .026 61 -.071 50 .546 13
Rank Team FBS
W-L
FEI Last
Wk
GE GE
Rk
SOS SOS
Rk
OE OE
Rk
Off
FEI
OFEI
Rk
DE DE
Rk
Def
FEI
DFEI
Rk
FPA FPA
Rk
13 Stanford 8-4 .193 18 .132 21 .141 19 .541 7 .678 1 .363 106 .236 91 .562 6
14 Boise State 11-0 .188 17 .372 2 .625 117 .492 9 .074 48 -.399 15 -.403 17 .585 2
15 Arizona 6-4 .179 19 .089 31 .143 21 .075 43 .219 28 -.188 33 -.278 24 .529 26
16 Pittsburgh 8-2 .179 14 .186 14 .516 102 .343 19 .237 26 -.139 39 -.256 27 .539 18
17 Penn State 9-2 .178 16 .215 8 .398 77 .258 28 .186 31 -.639 5 -.528 7 .512 44
18 LSU 9-3 .178 23 .134 20 .075 5 -.078 71 .112 41 -.407 14 -.442 12 .543 15
19 Clemson 7-4 .177 8 .113 25 .175 29 -.142 81 .052 53 -.316 24 -.478 9 .553 12
20 USC 8-3 .167 20 .065 39 .110 12 .101 39 .301 20 -.232 29 -.236 30 .502 60
21 Texas Tech 7-4 .161 22 .169 15 .231 44 .324 22 .376 12 -.372 18 -.211 31 .512 42
22 Oklahoma 6-5 .149 28 .130 22 .205 36 .030 51 .037 56 -.525 9 -.547 6 .507 53
23 Arkansas 6-5 .138 33 .089 32 .052 1 .416 13 .398 10 .016 59 -.143 41 .519 34
24 North Carolina 6-4 .132 11 .028 50 .134 18 -.269 95 .006 62 -.355 20 -.522 8 .481 85
25 Connecticut 5-5 .123 25 .058 42 .183 31 .097 40 .171 33 .179 86 .032 68 .558 9

Posted by: Brian Fremeau on 02 Dec 2009

22 comments, Last at 03 Dec 2009, 3:10pm by Jeff Fogle

Comments

1
by DaninPhilly (not verified) :: Wed, 12/02/2009 - 12:46pm

OK, 3 days before the biggest game of the season in college football, the biggest game in the history of the SECCG, one of the biggest games of the decade which isn't the BCS game, and you talk about a coach and team which went 6-6 with a fairly easy schedule and crappy defense?

2
by Paulo Sanchotene, RS, Brazil (not verified) :: Wed, 12/02/2009 - 1:26pm

He will talk about it next week. Just respect Brian Fremeau's hurt golden heart for now...

3
by pkyle (not verified) :: Wed, 12/02/2009 - 1:45pm

This lack of Florida/Bama coverage in the media is astounding. It's like they don't even know it exists!

5
by DaninPhilly (not verified) :: Wed, 12/02/2009 - 2:29pm

I'm less interested in what "the media" has to say than I am smart guys like Brian. I'd been looking forward to his thoughts in paticular, which is why I'm disappointed he ran with a topic which is not time sensitive over one that is. But of course it is his column, and he can talk about the #1 vs. #2 teams according to his rankings, or not, however he chooses.

8
by Brian Fremeau :: Wed, 12/02/2009 - 3:24pm

Thanks for the compliment, and sorry to disappoint. I've been using the FEI column this year mostly to look back instead of look forward, especially since our other FO college football content (SDA, ESPN Insider, and Bill's Varsity Numbers) usually focuses more on what's to come. I'll definitely focus on the Alabama/Florida outcome next week.

One thing I will say is that I can hardly remember a year in which the top teams met so infrequently. If the ACC teams in the FEI top-10 don't belong there (and perhaps they don't), then Alabama/Florida would be the first game of the season between top-10 teams.

11
by peachy (not verified) :: Wed, 12/02/2009 - 6:54pm

Yeah, the really top-end teams are spread around to what seems to be an unusual degree this year - the SEC is the only conference with two, and by a quirk of scheduling even they didn't meet in the regular season. This has always been a nightmare scenario for a "smallest possible playoff bracket" system like the BCS... the only saving grace for the men in suits is that two of the possible five unbeatens will come from the top two conferences in public perception, and the others from the bottom three (among the eight that have put teams into BCS bowls - C-USA hasn't quite made the jump into the conversation, and the MAC and Sun Belt might never do it.)

Now, if Nebraska springs the upset...

4
by strannix (not verified) :: Wed, 12/02/2009 - 2:28pm

Looks like this last weekend finally knocked the ACC down a peg in the FEI Ratings. And deservedly so, of course.

6
by loki13 (not verified) :: Wed, 12/02/2009 - 3:03pm

It's his column, so he can speak to what he wants, but I'd b curious about some explanations of the following:

1. The new FEI has knocked TCU down from #4 to #7. Why? SOS? This also puts them below Cincinnati (who still have a game against Pitt). This seems... dunno.... interesting?

2. ACC might have moved down overall, but having Va Tch at 4 is a travesty. Hell, having any ACC team in the top 10 is a travesty. Having three in your top ten? Something's wrong with your model. See GaTech/Ga, see also Clemson/SCarolina. If your conference champs can't beat the bottom feeders of the SEC, your teams have no business being in the top 10.

3. Upcoming weekend looks promising, with 1v2 (Alabama v. Fla- go gators), 5 v 12 (Oregon v. Oregon State, in the battle of horrendous mascots/unis), and 6 v. 16 (Sins City v. Mustaches). In other news, Texas will be beating up on the champs of the Our Ladies of Mercy Conference. With all this- Notre Dame? Really? To tell us that Weis did a poor coaching job? Oh well.

7
by Eddo :: Wed, 12/02/2009 - 3:08pm

Personally, I think that both the Ducks and Beavers are superb mascots/team names. The unis, not so much, but the nicknames are unique and classic.

9
by Brian Fremeau :: Wed, 12/02/2009 - 3:27pm

TCU's best win according to FEI came against Clemson. Clemson falls, so does TCU.

10
by Brian Fremeau :: Wed, 12/02/2009 - 3:47pm

ACC teams did take a hit, and I also noticed that some didn't fall as much as I expected. But your example of good conference teams vs. other conference bottom feeders benefits the ACC, too. NC State knocked off Pitt -- does the Big East have no business being in the top 10? Wake Forest knocked off Stanford -- does the Pac 10 have no business being in the top 10?

The ACC has 9 wins against other BCS conferences and Notre Dame, more than the Big 12 (4), Big Ten (5), Pac 10 (8). (The Big East has 9, the SEC has 10). Additionally, the ACC has played fewer games against the worst conferences, which helps their overall strength of schedule. The ACC played the most FCS teams (14), but those results are ignored. Still,

% of non-conf games played (including FCS) against BCS conferences or ND:
50.0% Pac 10
40.0% Big East
39.6% ACC
33.3% Big Ten
29.2% SEC
22.9% Big 12

I still think its worth examining whether FEI weights all this data appropriately or not, but the reasons for FEI's affinity for the ACC is in there.

12
by Kal :: Wed, 12/02/2009 - 7:39pm

1. The new FEI has knocked TCU down from #4 to #7. Why? SOS?

That, and they didn't dominate against a 1-win team as much as they should have.

It's really interesting to see the strength of the Pac-10 there. While there's only one team in the top10, there are 5 Pac-10 teams in the top 20. It really was a good year for Pac-10 teams.

Also interesting to see how good Oregon's offense and defense have been, and how bad their field position has been. Sigh. Short fields from turnovers on offense + bad returns on kicking this year. But that's better than the alternatives.

13
by Jeff Fogle :: Wed, 12/02/2009 - 7:52pm

A few things...

*I don't think it's the end of the world for the ACC that GT and Clemson lost in relatively meaningless games last week. Both played hard considering that virtually nothing other than rivalry pride was at stake. No reason to have a peak performance the week before you REALLY NEED a peak performance in the ACC championship game. It would have spoke well of the two teams had they won. And, using "cellar dwellers" to describe bowl caliber SEC teams is a bit much. That was a very competitive league this year, with 8 of the 12 teams finishing 4-4 or 3-5 within the league. Next to last place was 3-5. Clemson and GT weren't losing to stiffs. They lost to rivalry foes with nothing to lose, while they themselves had nothing to gain.

*I think it's dangerous not counting FCS games in the mix when a team getting rated LOSES to an FCS team. That's a huge negative. I'm all for excluding the blowouts against the patsies. I think it would give a better read to include any losses to teams like Richmond or William & Mary though.

*It's true that the ACC won 9 games vs. the BCS and ND...but they lost 11 games, which becomes 12 if you make it ND and Navy (why exclude Navy if you're looking at independents...Navy beat ND on the road for goodness sake). If you include the Mountain West, that's a 1-2 record with FSU's win at BYU but the two losses to TCU. The defenses of the ACC in these discussions tend to cherrypick the positives. That's not in the spirit of science! (wouldn't it be cool if analysts could be called football scientists?)

Wake Forest beat Stanford, but lost to Baylor and Navy. NC State upset Pittsburgh, but lost at home to SC (and, I'm all for the Big East and the Big 10 not being allowed in the top ten until they win a big game in a BCS bowl! lol).

I could see Virginia Tech ranking 4th with a 9-3 record if the three losses were to Florida, Alabama, and Texas. That would make sense. One was to Alabama, but they got annihilated in the stats. The others were to Georgia Tech (outgained, down double digits twice in the fourth quarter, 2 of 8 on third downs, two picks in just 14 passes...vs. a GT defense that's not great this year), and North Carolina (outgained, only led 9 minutes out of 60 at home as a 14-point favorite).

Mentioned last week that Tech's only non-conference games vs. BCS conference teams were the poor result vs. Alabama, and the last second home win vs. Nebraska where they were outgained and fortunate to get a win. Don't they fit the profile of a 12-20 team rather than a top 5 team?

Are you thinking about tinkering with the program Brian? Or, are you just going to live with the frustration of what's been happening with the ACC this year and last. Gotta be some way to swirl things around a little...

14
by Will :: Wed, 12/02/2009 - 8:18pm

"why exclude Navy if you're looking at independents...Navy beat ND on the road for goodness sake"

Can't read the man's mind, but I would think he's comparing records against BCS automatic qualifiers, which are the Big Six + Notre Dame.

Will

16
by Brian Fremeau :: Wed, 12/02/2009 - 10:08pm

First of all, good discussion. I appreciate the feedback, and it only helps clarify the process and ratings.

I'm not trying to cherry pick stats in blind defense of the ACC. I'm trying to identify the data that might best explain what's going on. And if the formula needs to be tweaked, tinkered with or swirled around, I'll definitely do so. But I'll need to consider not just 2008 and 2009, but every other year of data to see where the common issues might be.

One of the things you mentioned was for me to not overlook that yes, Wake beat Stanford, but lost to Baylor and Navy. Consider that 1-2 mark against Nos. 13, 41 and 88 teams. Then consider Kentucky going 3-0 out of conference against No. 86 Louisville, No. 106 Miami (OH), and No. 110 LA-Monroe. Both teams whipped an FCS opponent as well.

Is it cut and dry to say that Kentucky had a better non-conference season than Wake Forest? Not trying to put words in your mouth, but I think that would be a common default position: Kentucky's 7-5 and plays in the mighty SEC. Wake is 5-7 and plays in the weak ACC. Kentucky > Wake. Definitively true?

Developing and tweaking the formula requires careful consideration of these kinds of questions -- is 1-2 in close games against a decent schedule better or worse than 3-0 in blowouts against patsies? I'm not trying to say that FEI definitely has it right, but I'm not sure its all that far off, either.

15
by Jeff Fogle :: Wed, 12/02/2009 - 8:26pm

Thanks! I took it to mean including quality independents with the BCS. Haven't thought of ND as a BCS qualifier for a few years. Have them linked with Navy in my mind because they're independents and ND lost to Navy at home the last two times. With Wake losing to Navy...struck me as odd that would be excluded in trying to figure out where the ACC stands overall. Makes sense in that light, if it's a standard evaluation thing to look at BCS+ND. Maybe it's time to include Navy give the recent form of the programs! Thanks again...

17
by Jeff Fogle :: Wed, 12/02/2009 - 11:22pm

Enjoying the discussion too.

Not sure what you're driving at with Wake/Kentucky. FEI has Kentucky over Wake this week (44th to 45th), and FEI has Kentucky playing the tougher schedule (17th to 22nd). So...FEI gives Kentucky an edge for going 7-5 while playing conference games in the SEC, while Wake went 5-7 with conference games in the ACC.

Went to compare that to Sagarin at USA Today:
Kentucky: 37th in the nation (vs. the 36th strength of schedule)
Wake Forest: 59th in the nation (vs. the 21st strength of schedule).

So, as an outsider looking at the two systems from afar, you guys disagree about strength of schedule on one hand, but team quality on the other.

For me, I think the SEC is tougher than the ACC...and both teams went 3-5 in the league. So, I'd be a bit fonder of Kentucky. But...I watched some of the Louisville game on TV so I wouldn't be extremely fond (lol). Tough to rate the non-conference schedules. Truly apples and oranges in terms of toughness, particularly since Baylor had a healthy QB at the time and was much better then than their current rating. Can't say anyone's discovered the ideal way to determine how 3-0 vs. weaklings compares to 1-2 vs. toughlings.

For the season:
Wake Forest: 44th in total offense, 73rd in total defense
Kentucky: 91st in total offense, 60th in total defense

Wake has a better composite. If you assume tough schedules for both (and Kentucky had to play both Florida and Alabama), I think I'd see them as about even the way FEI does, and not nearly as far apart as Sagarin has them.

For now I'm at a loss as to why there's ACC inflation. I don't see when looking at the totality of their non-conference performance why they would be seen as superior to other conferences. Maybe we can start by trying to figure why Virginia Tech is 4th.

VT
Lost to #1, getting utterly squashed in all the key stats
Lost to #9, without looking good in the process
Beat #10 impressively
Lost to #24 at home
Beat #32 impressively
Beat #33 at home on the last play of the game, losing stats

How would a methodology get #4 out of that? The offense ranks 56th in the nation in total offense and has little idea how to throw downfield. The other strengths are so overwhelming they get cranked up to #4? They were light years behind #1 on a neutral field. The impressive wins over 10 and 32 would have trouble trumping losses to 9-24-33 in a way that would crank things up to #4. They go ahead of the teams playing for their own conference title? They win the Pac 10?

Maybe that's a starting point we can use. Or North Carolina, being 6th in the final rankings last year and what was it, 11th last week before the NC State game? What's driving those finishes?

Gotta go blog about the NBA for an hour...be back in a bit...

20
by Muldrake (not verified) :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 2:03pm

The problem is that you could make a list of sketchy stats and questionable wins and losses for virtually every other team outside of the big 3 (and perhaps within the big 3 too). Tech's losses have been by a combined 18 points with 10 of those to the #2 team in the country. That's certainly respectable, even with the inexplicable loss to NC. It's not great by any means, but who really deserves it more?

And that's the crux of the problem. Who would you put in there instead of VT? TCU and VT share a common opponent in Virginia and VT had a better game. The only other comparison that can be made is through Clemson and Miami and that would seem to weigh in VT's favor as well. Cincinnati doesn't lend itself to comparisons to VT but looking at what Cincinnati did against a weaker schedule doesn't make me believe that Cincinnati is unquestionably better. And that goes all the way through basically #4 to #35 or so; I can not say that VT is really better than any of those teams but it is entirely possible that they are. This year is just a giant mesh of 3 dominant but slightly suspect powers and about 30 mediocre teams with glaring issues that get them into trouble at times but that they can generally overcome.

My impression is that while the FEI might need a little tweaking I wouldn't do it based on the results of this year because this year has been completely unpredictable and, frankly, kinda crappy overall. Yeah, it seems like there is a slight ACC bias but in a year where UTEP can score nearly as many points (58) as OkSt and TxTech combined did against Houston in their upset bid a mere week after the Miners gained 53 total yards against Texas I have to just throw up my hands and defer to a computer formula because I have no idea what I think I'm seeing on the field anymore.

21
by Jeff Fogle :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 3:00pm

Yup, can't disagree much with that Muldrake. A blob of teams that's hard to differentiate beneath the top 3. Maybe I should say that VT's stat performances are inconsistent with the profile of a team that ranks that high. Tough within that blob to say anybody's absolutely, positively far and away better than the others...and somebody's got to be #4.

I guess I'd say it this way. If you took the blob at 4-35 and had a round robin schedule against each other, I'm skeptical that Virginia Tech would win the league based on their performances vs. other teams in that blob, and based on how other teams in that blob did in total yardage against Alabama. Maybe I'm putting too much weight on the monster yardage deficit. I think the final score was very misleading compared to the actual flow of the game...so I believe it's dangerous to use that score or things that DON'T talk about yardage as a positive for VT.

Also, I caught a lot of VT vs. Alabama, Nebraska, GT, and NC on TV...and didn't see much of their other action (where they had dominant performances vs. lesser teams). That may be polluting my view. They don't strike me as a team that would win that blob, and FEI says they'd win it. The FEI says they'd win the Pac 10! They weren't demonstrably superior to Nebraska/GT/NC as a collective, and were arguably a little worse since 2 of the 3 were at home.

It is a tough year to evaluate. Agree with that completely. I don't think last week's ratings that had 5 ACC teams in the top dozen was accurately reflecting the season to that point. Some ACC teams helped the cause by posting poor results just in the nick of time.

18
by Jeff Fogle :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 2:11am

Okay, let's look at this.

North Carolina last year...finishes 6th in FEI with a 7-5 record, and they didn't lose to the five teams in front of them (I always think of that poker joke...the guy was the 8th best 5-card stud player in the world, but he always sat at the same table as the top 7). That's not the case here. NC didn't go 7-5 with five losses to the teams in front of them. Yet, FEI still still had them 6th. North Carolina ranked 92nd in the nation in total offense, and 65th in total defense...but ranks 6th in FEI. Quite a conundrum.

Notable about NC in non-conference games last year

*Beat Rutgers despite getting outgained 383-278, with the help of an interception return TD (though they were very efficient otherwise too).

*Beat Connecticut despite getting outgained 378-263, with the help of a punt return TD and an interception return TD.

*Beat Notre Dame despite getting outgained 472-322, with the help of an interception return TD.

*Beat McNeese State in an unimpressive game that apparently isn't counted in FEI because that class of opponent isn't included. NC was outgained by McNeese (!) 391-384, but won with the help of a punt return TD.

Is it possible that the ACC last year, and to a lesser extent this year, had an unusually high number of non-offensive scores in non-league play? A pick six impacts both sides of the ball because the offense gets a TD without a possession (I'm guessing), and the defense forces an empty possession on an opponent.

Let's say the ACC has a knack for this against equal or lesser non-conference opponents (inspired by Beamer ball) who are more mistake-prone because it's early in the season...and it influences much of the conference out of league play. NC is getting defensive scores. Clemson is returning punts. VT is doing it all. That creates some very strong efficiencies in September, which keep multiplying themselves over when the ACC plays close games against each other during the season. They're playing close games with efficient teams, so the strength of schedules and efficiencies magnify each other in a way that makes the ACC favored (by FEI) in nine of their 10 bowl games even though they're only destined to go 4-6.

In the bowls, opponents are much sharper because they've played together all year and have had plenty of time to prepare. Those non-offensive points aren't as common (particularly against quality), so the ACC underachieves the perceptions created by September in non-conference action.

Maybe it's not about the wins and losses...it's about the impact non-offensive scores are having on how efficiency is measured in your model. I was struck that you remembered Virginia Tech having possession efficiency against Alabama, when I remembered the stat slaughter.

This year Virginia Tech is the anomoly.

*Tech had a kickoff return against Alabama

*Tech had a punt return TD vs. Marshall

*Tech only scored 16 points apiece on Nebraska and East Carolina though, so it's not like it carried through the whole way.

But, if other ACC teams had some easy points, then Tech would get boosted credit for beating them.

I don't know...just an idea. I'm thinking there may be something within possession efficiency that's the monkey wrench. Seems from a distance that ACC plays at a slower tempo than the other leagues (certainly last year) in terms of possessions per game. Is that true or a trick of my eyeball because I watched so many Big 12 shootouts? More non-offensive points in a league with fewer possessions might be one of the influences...particularly, as you pointed out, if the teams play a lot of close games against each other within the league.

So, we get:
*Beamer ball style influencing the league's approach to non-conference play
*Which exploits September opponents because they haven't had much practice in terms of efficiency even if nothing obvious jumps out in wins and losses.
*Which sets a high baseline in strength of schedule efficiency measures
*Which is followed by competitive games against each other
*But ends with kind of a bowl debacle where teams with higher FEI ratings in 9 of 10 matchups only go 4-6 straight up because late season opponents are less prone to high impact mistakes.

*Something similar happens this year, but not to the same degree

Possible? Or have I misunderstood how the pieces fit together? Not sure how else North Carolina could finish at 6th in the nation last year, or VT could register at fourth right now...

19
by Brian Fremeau :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 1:58pm

Actually, I think you're close to the mark on digging deep with the FEI process. I agree that North Carolina last season and Virginia Tech this season played strong in non-offensive possession efficiency (kick returns, blocked punts), and that that data is what jibes least with "standard" statistical results.

I've had it in my mind to run a variety of tests and isolate that part of possession efficiency to see if it is helping or harming both retrodictive and predictive FEI outputs. Its going to have to be an off-season project though.

On your premise that a 9-3 team should only be No. 4 if they played and lost to 1,2,and 3, however, I don't fully agree. A 9-3 team that played and lost to 1,2, and 3 in close games might actually have an argument for being No. 1 - it kind of depends on what each of the four teams did in their other games. Its also worth noting that Virginia Tech's rating is more valuable information than its ordinal ranking. "No. 4" might seem way too close to No. 1 for the way the Bama-VT went down. But the Hokies rating is closer to No. 19 Clemson than No. 1 Alabama, and I think that's instructive and shouldn't be overlooked.

22
by Jeff Fogle :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 3:10pm

Would be interested to see what happened if you took out non-offensive scores, or reduced their impact by half or something. That would probably end up hurting the Beamer-ball type approach and under-rating them though. Don't think Tech is as bad as 56th on total offense and 13th on total defense would suggest. But, I don't think adding in their non-offensive points would lift them to fourth best...unless they can arrange to definitely get those in all of their biggest games (yes vs. Alabama and Miami this year, no in Nebraska/GT/NC).

Hokies are closer to #19 than #1 Alabama...but they're only .003 behind Texas for #3. Texas is a 14-point neutral field favorite over Nebraska. VT was -6 at home (-3 neutral equivalent), and barely won the game on a last second play.

And, we can save "why is Alabama higher than Florida (-5)" for another day (lol). Glad there are so many good games to look forward to this week.