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04 Nov 2009

Week 9 FEI Ratings

by Brian Fremeau

As the clock wound down in the fourth quarter in Eugene, Oregon, Saturday night, you couldn't help but be stunned by the unfamiliarity of it all. Pete Caroll appeared dumbfounded as he paced the sideline. The incessant cadences and refrains from the Trojans' band had been silenced. The USC players on the field hopelessly flailed at and chased after an Oregon attack running wild out of the backfield and through the secondary.

It was a cardinal and gold bloodletting, the first of its kind in over a decade. USC had delivered that kind of blow to opponents time and time again over the years but hadn't suffered one of its own since Matt Barkley was playing Pee Wee football. Sure, the Trojans had stumbled inexplicably against inferior opponents a handful of times under Carroll. But they hadn't ever been stomped. Before Halloween night, USC had lost only once by more than a single score, an 11-point loss to Notre Dame in 2001, Carroll's first season. The 27-point loss to Oregon concluded one of the most dominant runs in college football history.

In 1978, college football's Division 1 split into 1-A and 1-AA, now referred to as the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). In the 31.5 seasons since, no team has come close to matching USC's run of consecutive games played without ever losing by more than a single score.

Top 10 Streaks of Never Losing by More than Eight Points, 1978-2009
Team First Game Last Game Games FBS
Record
One Score
Games
Average
MOV
USC 10/27/01 10/24/09 103 92-11 20-11 21.0
Nebraska 10/13/79 11/10/84 67 59-8 8-8 26.9
Michigan 9/19/87 9/14/91 49 38-11 8-11 15.2
Florida State 10/20/90 9/24/94 48 43-5 5-5 24.6
Miami 11/20/99 10/18/03 46 44-2 0-2 26.1
Miami 8/30/86 10/14/89 42 40-2 7-2 25.5
Ohio State 10/9/82 11/16/85 42 33-9 7-9 15.4
BYU 9/10/83 9/13/86 41 37-4 11-4 20.5
Georgia 9/26/81 11/3/84 41 36-4-1 12-4-1 14.2
Ohio State 11/5/94 11/22/97 41 35-6 4-6 21.1

Big deal? Yeah, kind of. USC has held the No. 1 spot in the Program FEI ratings every year since 2003. In every single one of the past six seasons, the Trojans have finished No. 1 or No. 2 in the final FEI ratings for that year. The have out-recruited, out-coached, out-swaggered, out-Heismaned, out-camaraderied, and out-performed the rest of college football since 2002. And until Saturday night, when they hiccupped, they still gave themselves a chance at victory by keeping the game close.

One of the key insights to understanding the FEI methodology is the way poor performances as measured by Game Efficiency (GE) can have a major impact on a team's rating. Those that follow the FEI ratings week to week have recognized the way its top-down approach to strength of schedule places a premium on strong performance against strong competition, win or lose. But big losses can have a big impact, especially at the top of the ratings. Why? Because elite teams almost never get stomped. ("Elite" teams are defined roughly as "top 5"; specifically, they are defined here as having an FEI rating at least 1.66 standard deviations above average).

The FEI ratings system has been processing data since 2003, and in that span only three "Elite" teams have ever suffered a worse defeat than USC (-.33 GE) did on Saturday:

  • -.41 GE - 2005 Virginia Tech (11-2, No. 5 FEI) lost to Miami (9-3, No. 12 FEI) 27-7; 27-0 in 19 non-garbage possessions
  • -.43 GE - 2005 LSU (11-2, No. 6 FEI) lost to Georgia (10-3, No. 7 FEI) 34-14; 34-7 in 18 non-garbage possessions
  • -.52 GE - 2004 Oklahoma (12-1, No. 4 FEI) lost to USC (13-0, No. 1 FEI) 55-19; 48-10 in 21 non-garbage possessions

Plenty of non-Elite teams have suffered losses of that magnitude, which is precisely what makes that particular statistic significant for the Trojans. Unless USC can completely dominate the remainder of its schedule and Oregon can continue to ascend as an Elite opponent through its remaining slate, the -.33 Game Efficiency for the Oregon game will likely be an albatross for USC's FEI rating.

To better illustrate the relationship of Game Efficiency and opponent FEI rating, I plotted every game from 2003 to 2008 in Figure 1. Actually, every game appears twice, the GE (y-axis) against the opponent's FEI rating (x-axis) for each team in the match-up. The color of the dot represents the given team's own FEI rating (not the opponent's), broken down into general power categories. Strong performances against strong teams appear toward the upper-right portion of the graph.


Note that the vast majority of teams posting a -.33 rating or worse in any game over the last six years fall into the Average category or worse. Note also that the primary distinction between the "Elite" cloud (black dots) and "Very Good" cloud (purple dots) is the relative frequency of poor GE results. Perhaps it is common sense, but again, Elite teams almost never get stomped. Very Good teams do from time to time.

Now that USC's streak has been broken, which teams may be making a run of their own? Through last weekend, both Texas and Utah lead the way, each currently boasting a 29-FBS-game streak of never having lost by more than a single score. Florida (25), Boise State (20), Iowa (20), Ohio State (19), and TCU (15) are the only others in double digits. Pete Carroll's Trojans (0) can kick off their next streak Saturday at Arizona State (1).

Week 9 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 no longer included in the calculations. Current FEI ratings are a function of results of games played through Nov. 1.

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 8-0 .272 1 .300 5 .373 28 .151 35 .343 13 -.728 1 -.643 2 .537 22
2 Florida 7-0 .268 7 .274 6 .557 70 .187 30 .341 14 -.585 7 -.596 3 .544 17
3 Oregon 7-1 .242 11 .259 8 .399 35 .343 18 .358 12 -.539 10 -.483 11 .526 29
4 TCU 7-0 .240 3 .301 4 .743 98 .182 31 .306 19 -.669 3 -.497 8 .550 14
5 Texas 8-0 .238 12 .362 2 .454 45 .240 24 .262 25 -.640 6 -.474 13 .591 2
6 Iowa 8-0 .238 2 .170 15 .502 57 .002 58 .190 35 -.519 11 -.591 4 .522 33
7 Cincinnati 7-0 .237 9 .358 3 .783 105 1.097 1 .478 6 -.368 20 -.330 25 .505 53
8 Georgia Tech 7-1 .225 4 .111 27 .223 7 .510 7 .740 1 .266 96 -.092 47 .511 46
9 Boise State 7-0 .214 10 .393 1 .506 58 .404 15 .164 38 -.641 5 -.474 12 .579 4
10 Virginia Tech 5-3 .212 5 .145 18 .108 1 .196 28 .472 7 -.284 25 -.411 20 .552 13
11 Miami 5-2 .208 6 .050 38 .174 4 .162 33 .387 9 .003 63 -.496 9 .504 55
12 Pittsburgh 6-1 .190 18 .207 10 .662 88 .460 12 .336 15 .036 65 -.025 55 .550 15
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 Oklahoma 4-3 .189 14 .196 13 .367 26 .300 19 .242 29 -.454 16 -.431 18 .491 71
14 USC 6-2 .184 8 .120 25 .423 40 .299 20 .325 17 -.257 26 -.344 24 .502 62
15 Clemson 4-3 .174 13 .115 26 .213 6 -.270 98 .192 34 -.422 18 -.532 6 .555 10
16 Arizona 4-2 .170 15 .033 46 .421 39 .147 36 .143 40 -.004 61 -.220 31 .502 60
17 Penn State 7-1 .161 17 .270 7 .461 48 .349 16 .262 26 -.714 2 -.456 14 .513 42
18 Florida State 3-4 .161 21 .032 47 .262 11 .429 13 .628 3 .627 115 .273 98 .548 16
19 LSU 7-1 .159 16 .204 11 .385 32 -.017 63 .029 53 -.540 9 -.444 16 .557 8
20 Ohio State 7-2 .150 19 .238 9 .424 41 .053 46 .030 52 -.645 4 -.503 7 .572 5
21 Boston College 5-3 .145 29 .053 36 .303 15 .035 51 .051 51 -.412 19 -.744 1 .482 83
22 Texas Tech 5-3 .141 24 .181 14 .525 63 .491 9 .426 8 -.315 23 -.138 38 .502 58
23 Oregon State 4-3 .131 22 .046 40 .236 8 .297 21 .291 22 .325 102 .158 80 .529 25
24 Notre Dame 6-2 .127 20 .157 16 .399 36 .725 2 .662 2 -.036 51 -.023 56 .479 86
25 Stanford 5-3 .112 25 .133 21 .591 81 .502 8 .547 5 .243 92 .386 107 .554 12

Posted by: Brian Fremeau on 04 Nov 2009

6 comments, Last at 07 Nov 2009, 11:29am by Brian Fremeau

Comments

1
by ammek :: Wed, 11/04/2009 - 1:45pm

Kind of crazy that Utah State is 1-6 against the softest schedule of all, yet doesn't rank in the bottom third by FEI!

2
by Bobby (not verified) :: Wed, 11/04/2009 - 3:03pm

So how exactly do opponent adjustments work for FEI? Because it seems odd to me that Texas has a significantly higher GE and a significantly higher SOS than TCU yet ends up lower in FEI. By that same token, why does Florida get adjusted up on both offense and defense while Texas gets adjusted down with a higher SOS?

3
by OMAR :: Wed, 11/04/2009 - 5:15pm

I believe opponent adjustments are about the quality of opponent, not the SOS listed. Looks like the SOS listed is nothing more than winning % of opponents.

5
by Brian Fremeau :: Sat, 11/07/2009 - 11:26am

No, SOS is the likelihood of an "elite" team winning every game to date on the given team's schedule, based on Projected Win Expectations from FEI ratings.

6
by Brian Fremeau :: Sat, 11/07/2009 - 11:29am

Opponent adjustments are not linear, so though there is a rough relationship between GE, SOS and FEI, the actual adjustments are more complex. In calculating FEI, there is a "relevance" factor -- GE performances against a team's strongest competition is more heavily weighted than against its weakes competition (unless it loses to weak competition, in which case that result receives more weight).

4
by Clemson matt (not verified) :: Wed, 11/04/2009 - 8:41pm

So....what does this say about the ACC? Sagarin ratings have the ACC as pretty good as well. At least the version where strength of victory counts.

It seems to me that this supports the idea that the ACC has depth, but a bad reputation simply because there is no title contender.

SOS isn't the winning percentage. Toughest schedule is VT, with a SOS of .108. I expect it's somehow related to an average of the opponent GE. If it's a simple average, then the issue you mention could be that Texas has played more very good teams and very bad teams, versus all pretty good teams. Or vice versa.

All just speculation though.