Stomping the Jags leaves Washington No. 2 behind only Denver. But what can we really learn from one big win early in the season, before we are applying opponent adjustments?
22 Sep 2010
by Brian Fremeau
After a few tumultuous weeks to start the season, last weekend played out mostly as expected. Of course, there was plenty of drama on the way. There were thrilling overtime victories from Michigan State and Auburn and another dozen games decided by a single score. Texas A&M and Michigan survived what would have been shocking upset bids from lowly Florida International and Massachusetts. And the head-to-head matchups between FEI top 30 foes (Georgia-Arkansas, Iowa-Arizona, Georgia Tech-North Carolina, Texas-Texas Tech) were all decided on the final possessions.
There is a new No. 1 team in FEI and a few shake-ups throughout the ratings. But the shift for most teams had less to do with specific results from last weekend and more to do with the continued devaluation of projected data. Many of the changes are subtle -- the ACC teams that are clearly overrated are starting to drift down the rankings -- but there have been a few major FEI moves.
The teams that have outperformed their initial projections most notably are South Carolina, Stanford, Nevada, and Michigan. That group is currently ranked an average of 25 spots better than initially projected, and their current FEI ratings are an average of .62 standard deviations above their projected value. (In the case of the Wolverines, remember that FEI disregards FCS results, and Michigan's dominant win over Connecticut and road victory at Notre Dame were both unexpectedly efficient performances). On the flip side, BYU, Connecticut, and Wake Forest are the biggest underachievers to date relative to their projected value.
And at the top, Alabama takes over the No. 1 position following a crushing win over Duke. The Crimson Tide have impressed each week and appear to have overcome personnel losses from last season's championship squad without missing a beat. That said, Alabama's schedule isn't getting any easier -- according to FEI, they're about to embark on a difficult stretch. The Crimson Tide will face five current FEI top 20 teams in their final nine games, starting with a trip to Arkansas this weekend. Based on projected win expectations, Alabama is only expected to go 6-2 against FBS opponents down the stretch (7-2 with the inclusion of their game against FCS Georgia State). As described in last week's ESPN Insider piece, a multiple-loss national championship game participant is a very real possibility in 2010.
I've received several requests to provide a bit more insight into the raw drive efficiency data that goes into the formula for FEI. Since we're still a few weeks away from debuting this year's Offensive and Defensive FEI data, I thought it might be interesting to take different slices each week of the raw numbers themselves. I'm calling this section "Three and Out," a set of three tables each week ranking the top teams, offensively and defensively, according to various drive splits.
This will certainly be a recurring series in this space, if not a weekly one. The idea isn't necessarily to unearth new groundbreaking drive metrics (though it might). And due to sample size, especially early in the season, we may only be able to draw general conclusions. But I'm openly soliciting feedback here on drive splits that may be of interest to you. The most popular splits may become permanent weekly data tables, or I may simply use this space to dig up quirks and peculiarities in team performances.
Let's get to it. All data provided in these tables includes only FBS vs. FBS non-garbage possessions. None of these numbers are adjusted for the strength of the opposition faced.
|Three and Out Percentage|
|Offensive Leaders||Defensive Leaders|
|Boise State||1||21||.048||South Carolina||9||16||.563|
|South Carolina||2||18||.111||Boise State||9||21||.429|
What better way to start the "Three and Out" series than with three-and-outs? Officially, these are possessions that lasted three plays or fewer that did not result in a touchdown and concluded fewer than 10 yards from starting field position. Generally speaking, teams that limit three-and-outs also have strong offensive efficiency, but there is not a direct relationship between the two metrics.
In 2009, the Florida Gators led the nation offensively, only going three-and-out on 13.7 percent of their possessions. TCU led the nation defensively, forcing three and outs on 49.3 percent of its opponent's possessions.
|Percentage of Available Yards|
|Offensive Leaders||Defensive Leaders|
Available yards* are calculated based on total starting field position over the course of every non-garbage possession. A sequence of three drives begun at a team's own 10-yard line, its own 30-yard line, and the opponent's 45-yard line would have a total of 205 available yards (90+70+45=205). The table above represents the total field position gained, not necessarily the box score yardage recorded (i.e. a team's penalties count against its yardage).
In 2009, Houston's offense led the nation, accumulating 65 percent of its available yards on the season. Defensively, TCU led the nation, allowing only 24.1 percent of available yards.
*The available yards metric was first tracked and introduced to me by my friend Jay Barry of the now defunct Blue-Gray Sky Notre Dame blog. Other variations on the same theme have appeared on other college team blogs since.
|Percentage of Explosive Drives|
|Offensive Leaders||Defensive Leaders|
|Central Michigan||6||21||.286||Middle Tennessee||1||24||.042|
|Michigan State||10||37||.270||Fresno State||1||24||.042|
Explosive drives here represent any drive in which the average gained per play was greater than 10 yards. So a drive that covered 70 yards in 6 plays would be considered "explosive" (70/6 = 11.7 yards per play), and one that covered 70 yards in 9 plays would not (70/9 = 7.8 yards per play).
Arkansas ranked first offensively in 2009 by this metric, producing an explosive drive on 23.3 percent of its possessions. Defensively, Nebraska led the nation allowing an explosive drive on only 2.5 percent of its opponents' possessions.
Interested in seeing more "Three and Out" tables in future FEI columns? Please suggest any other drive splits that might interest you by adding a comment below or sending me an e-mail or a tweet, and I'll try to include as many suggestions as possible.
The principles of the Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI) can be found here. FEI rewards playing well against good teams, win or lose, and punishes losing to poor teams more harshly than it rewards defeating poor teams. FEI 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. FEI represents a team's efficiency value over average. Strength of Schedule (SOS) is calculated as the likelihood that an "elite team" (two standard deviations above average) would win every game on the given team's schedule to date. SOS listed here includes future games scheduled.
Mean Wins (FBS MW) represent the average total games a team with the given FEI rating should expect to win against its complete schedule of FBS opponents. Remaining Mean Wins (FBS RMW) represent the average expected team wins for games scheduled but not yet played.
Only games between FBS teams are considered in the FEI calculations. Since limited data is available in the early part of the season, preseason projections are factored into the current ratings. The weight given to projected data will be reduced each week until Week 7, when it will be eliminated entirely. Offensive and defensive FEI ratings will also debut in Week 7. The FEI ratings published here are a function of the results of games played through September 18.
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 through 2009 ratings.
15 comments, Last at 23 Sep 2010, 8:42pm by TN