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09 Nov 2011

FEI: Eye Test

by Brian Fremeau

Last weekend’s Alabama-LSU game answered some questions and raised a few others. As predicted, a close contest resulted in little impact on the FEI ratings. Alabama remains No. 2 and may very well have a solid argument at season’s end that they are the second-best team in the nation. We can’t jump to any conclusions yet, of course. The gap between the Crimson Tide and other contenders is slim, and there will be opportunities ahead for Stanford, Oklahoma State, and others to make impressive statements as well. Of course, if there are upsets -– and there are always upsets –- Alabama might very well have an argument that they are the nation’s best team. I’m looking forward to watching it all unfold.

As for my impressions of the game, I’m not one to lament the lack of offensive fireworks. As others have stated, incredible athleticism on the defensive side of the ball can be extraordinarily enjoyable to watch too. These two teams are among the top defenses in the country, without a doubt. LSU is No. 1 in DFEI this week, Alabama ranks No. 6.

There is great sentiment in the college football world to get to see a truly elite offense square off against one of these defenses. According to my ratings, LSU (No. 23 OFEI) was the best offense Alabama has faced this year, and Alabama (No. 13 OFEI) was the second-best offense LSU has faced this year, behind only West Virginia (No. 6 OFEI). As things stand right now, LSU won’t face a tougher offense even if Stanford (No. 28 OFEI), Oklahoma State (No. 31 OFEI), or Boise State (No. 37 OFEI) snag the championship bid.

This is where I furrow my brow. The Offensive and Defensive FEI ratings have always been part validation and part bewilderment for me. Most of the top OFEI teams make sense, but then there’s the Miami Hurricanes sitting there at No. 1. Most of the top DFEI teams make sense, but then there’s the Oklahoma State Cowboys sitting there at No. 2. What’s going on there?

Let’s talk about Miami first. The Hurricanes are averaging a pedestrian 385 yards per game (67th in the nation), but unlike some of the teams at the top of those stat sheets, they play at a very deliberate pace. They are maximizing value on the plays they do run (6.5 yards per play, 15th nationally) and possessions. Last weekend against lowly Duke (No. 91 DFEI), Miami scored touchdowns on each of its first five offensive possessions, the fifth of which concluded with less than 10 minutes left in the third quarter. Garbage time hadn’t officially kicked in at that point, but they were ruthlessly efficient against a weak opposing defense, as elite offenses must be. Against a similarly ranked Louisiana-Lafayette defense (No. 94 DFEI) in Week 1, Oklahoma State’s explosive offense scored its fifth touchdown late in the third quarter, too. But it was the Cowboys’ 13th possession of the day –- two field goals, three punts, two interceptions, and a turnover on downs preceded that drive. Oklahoma State’s 666 yards in the game impressed a lot of people. Miami’s efficiency impressed FEI.

That’s on one end of the spectrum. Against the second-best defense Miami has faced to date, Virginia Tech (No. 16 DFEI), the Hurricanes had only nine non-clock kill possessions and scored five touchdowns. Two of those other four possessions were thwarted on downs in the red zone, so they had little trouble moving the ball. That game ranks as the No. 1 opponent-adjusted OFEI game of the year, and it’s the biggest reason why Miami sits at the top of the overall OFEI ratings. More on that in a moment.

On defense, Oklahoma State is surrendering 460 yards per game (only 10 teams are worse), and they just had Kansas State run up 45 points and 507 yards in a shootout this past weekend. So why are the Cowboys rating as an elite defense according to FEI? The Wildcats game was their worst opponent-adjusted effort of the year, so I’m not going to defend it. But, due to their own high-octane offense, the Cowboys defense is facing many more possessions than an average defense.

Against Missouri (No. 18 OFEI) Oklahoma State gave up 463 yards and 24 points, but the Tigers had the ball 16 times in that game. Against Baylor (No. 2 OFEI), Oklahoma State held the Bears to only three points in nine non-garbage possessions. Baylor has averaged better than 3.5 points per non-garbage possession in all other games. Like the Miami offensive game against Virginia Tech, that effort against the Bears gives Oklahoma State’s defense the best opponent-adjusted DFEI game of the year.

You may be wondering, as I am, whether those outlier performances are getting a little too much weight in the formula. Both Miami and Oklahoma State have had fairly high variance in their opponent-adjusted stats this season, and the numbers shouldn’t suggest that those extreme performances are going to happen again. But those units certainly are better than raw metrics give them credit for. There’s more data to collect this year though, and I don’t want to jump to conclusions based only a couple of examples. Last season, Auburn’s defense appeared to be severely overrated according to FEI and then they managed to hold Oregon’s offense down in the BCS championship game. Time will tell again this year -- if not in the BCS title game, then in other marquee matchups in the coming weeks.

FEI Week 10 Top 25

The Fremeau Efficiency Index (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. "SOS Pvs" represents only games played to date. "SOS Fut" represents only remaining scheduled games.

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.

Offensive FEI (OFEI), Defensive FEI (DFEI), Special Teams Efficiency (STE) are also provided, along with Field Position Advantage (FPA), the share of the value of total starting field position earned by each team against its opponents.

Only games between FBS teams are considered in the FEI calculations. These FEI ratings are a function of results of games played through November 5. The ratings for all FBS teams can be found here. You can also find OFEI, DFEI, and STE on their own pages.

Rk Team FBS
W-L
FEI Last
Wk
GE GE
Rk
SOS
Pvs
Rk SOS
Fut
Rk FBS
MW
FBS
RW
OFEI Rk DFEI Rk STE Rk FPA Rk
1 LSU 8-0 .336 1 .273 5 .209 11 .801 71 10.0 2.9 .350 23 -.811 1 4.367 1 .603 2
2 Alabama 8-1 .268 2 .342 3 .221 15 .802 72 9.4 1.7 .440 13 -.639 6 .383 53 .545 12
3 Oklahoma State 9-0 .266 3 .255 9 .342 41 .716 58 10.5 2.6 .286 31 -.742 2 1.681 19 .551 8
4 Stanford 9-0 .229 4 .360 2 .574 96 .667 45 10.7 2.4 .306 28 -.565 10 1.021 31 .519 32
5 Oklahoma 8-1 .225 5 .267 6 .324 34 .445 9 9.6 2.1 .445 12 -.633 7 .354 54 .572 3
6 Wisconsin 6-2 .223 8 .365 1 .390 64 .698 54 9.3 2.5 .571 5 -.349 28 -.064 62 .525 28
7 Boise State 8-0 .215 6 .319 4 .541 90 .904 89 10.9 3.8 .196 37 -.539 12 2.964 9 .616 1
8 Clemson 7-1 .209 7 .157 17 .370 51 .697 52 8.8 2.4 .572 4 -.257 34 1.558 23 .534 18
9 Oregon 7-1 .195 10 .259 7 .257 25 .457 10 8.4 1.9 .362 20 -.570 9 1.814 17 .504 53
10 USC 7-2 .185 12 .104 26 .331 38 .614 33 9.3 2.2 .478 10 -.088 51 .921 35 .535 17
11 Arkansas 7-1 .174 18 .106 24 .306 30 .258 1 7.9 1.8 .331 26 -.116 48 1.689 18 .512 43
12 Georgia Tech 6-2 .170 17 .164 13 .353 44 .761 66 8.2 2.2 .352 22 -.389 20 -1.942 101 .504 56
Rk Team FBS
W-L
FEI Last
Wk
GE GE
Rk
SOS
Pvs
Rk SOS
Fut
Rk FBS
MW
FBS
RW
OFEI Rk DFEI Rk STE Rk FPA Rk
13 Ohio State 6-3 .159 13 .103 27 .231 17 .609 31 8.1 2.0 -.064 67 -.603 8 2.735 11 .562 4
14 Michigan State 6-2 .158 9 .090 31 .219 14 .657 41 7.4 2.1 .062 50 -.524 13 2.132 13 .532 20
15 Michigan 7-2 .157 15 .216 10 .373 54 .588 23 8.7 1.7 .377 17 -.414 17 -1.559 90 .494 68
16 Nebraska 6-2 .156 11 .135 20 .378 58 .467 11 7.5 1.6 .289 30 -.115 49 3.066 8 .542 13
17 Florida State 5-3 .155 25 .164 12 .380 62 .705 56 7.8 2.0 .108 45 -.411 18 2.946 10 .541 14
18 Southern Mississippi 7-1 .155 21 .153 18 .675 106 .956 109 9.6 2.9 -.023 58 -.455 14 .611 45 .525 29
19 Notre Dame 6-3 .154 20 .163 15 .328 37 .553 17 8.4 2.1 .357 21 -.447 15 .535 49 .487 75
20 Miami 4-4 .154 23 .062 40 .315 32 .580 20 7.1 1.9 .854 1 .342 93 3.420 4 .523 30
21 Texas A&M 5-4 .153 16 .101 28 .237 19 .656 39 8.2 2.1 .477 11 -.120 47 .478 50 .502 60
22 Arizona State 5-3 .151 14 .111 21 .334 39 .950 103 8.3 2.8 .394 15 -.357 25 -.160 64 .511 44
23 Kansas State 6-2 .150 19 .093 30 .215 12 .682 48 7.3 2.1 .155 42 -.348 29 2.041 15 .557 6
24 Cincinnati 6-1 .145 33 .164 14 .549 92 .614 32 8.0 2.7 .523 7 -.150 43 .816 40 .547 11
25 Penn State 7-1 .143 32 .079 38 .370 52 .353 4 6.8 1.1 -.135 81 -.683 3 .175 58 .532 21

Posted by: Brian Fremeau on 09 Nov 2011

14 comments, Last at 22 Mar 2013, 1:57am by Leah Bathurst

Comments

1
by Hang50 :: Wed, 11/09/2011 - 5:13pm

Brian,

Oregon is ranked above Stanford in OFEI, DFEI, and STE -- and it has a tougher SOS -- yet it's ranked several places behind Stanford in FEI. I'm not particularly skilled at getting a sense of things mathematical, so perhaps you can quickly tell me what I'm missing.

2
by Kal :: Wed, 11/09/2011 - 6:04pm

The only difference, though it's fairly big, is on FPA. Which makes sense. Basically it means that the Ducks have been giving their opponents a lot better field position than they've been getting. If you think about the LSU game and the scoring 'drives' there, that's a good indicator.

But it is still a bit...odd.

4
by Brian Fremeau :: Wed, 11/09/2011 - 6:49pm

Let's take each team's Washington game as an example. It was Stanford's best overall game according to GFEI (No. 17 GFEI nationally) and Oregon's fifth-best overall game (No. 109 GFEI). Stanford was strong on both sides of the ball (No. 8 OFEI, No. 102 DFEI), while Oregon was much stronger defensively (No. 700 OFEI, No. 18 DFEI) due to great field position generated by the defense but not capitalized upon by the offense.

The overall FEI, OFEI, DFEI are all calculated independently. Stanford's overall FEI gets a little bit of a boost on this game due to having a stronger overall game. Oregon's defensive effort is given a big boost and its offensive effort suffers. But Oregon countered that with three other top-100 OFEI performances (vs. LSU, Nevada, and Cal). So the individual units shined more frequently for Oregon, but Stanford combined solid offense and defense in the same game more frequently.

6
by Kal :: Wed, 11/09/2011 - 8:57pm

That still doesn't explain why Oregon ranks higher than Stanford in most of the categories but is still below them overall. Can you get into that at all?

7
by Brian Fremeau :: Wed, 11/09/2011 - 10:14pm

The special teams number is a factor. One thing that isn't counted in STE is opponent field goal efficiency. Stanford opponents have been the nation's worst field goal kickers, Oregon's opponents have been pretty good. Those numbers would show up in overall Game Efficiency, as evidenced by a comparison of the two teams' unit value splits: http://www.bcftoys.com/results/ Stanford is +28.3 points on the season in special teams, Oregon is only +16.7.

Also, though STE isn't opponent-adjusted like OFEI and DFEI, it does get incorporated into the opponent-adjusted GFEI. So without running actual opponent-adjusted STE to prove this, I believe that's where Stanford FEI edge comes from. It is also manifested in part in their field position advantage as you mentioned.

3
by Hang50 :: Wed, 11/09/2011 - 6:39pm

Ugh. The LSU game was a nightmare for us Oregonians. Those turnovers...

A few weeks after that game, I read an interview with an LSU defender who said that all the hurry-up preparation they did for the Oregon game got them in incredible shape for the rest of the season.

5
by Kal :: Wed, 11/09/2011 - 8:56pm

I think that's going to become the rule rather than the exception. With the practice rules, with the conditioning advantages, with the raw speed that you get - you'll definitely get big benefits. The Ducks have seen massive improvements in every reasonable category - including and possibly especially defense - since Kelly's been doing practices. It only seems logical that other teams would start adopting it.

8
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 11/10/2011 - 12:28am

That and LSU's non-existent academic standards. =)

9
by Christopher (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2011 - 3:56am

The LSU-Alabama game was an absolute stinker, because it wasn't the (obviously competent) defenses that kept the score down. Alabama, clearly the better team during the game, badly missed four field goals they should have made; it has been quite a while since I've seen such a bad display of field goal kicking. The quarterback play for both teams was mediocre. None of the receivers made the great catches. The only player on either offense who passed the sight test was Trent Richardson. Alabama gave the game away, and LSU was just barely good enough to take advantage of it. If that was 1 v. 2, the state of college football is abysmal. Hopefully that was just a randomly terrible game.

I've seen all of the highly ranked teams in your system a bit this year, and most of the positions of teams make a fair bit of sense. Stanford is an extremely talented team, though I'm not sold on their coach. Oklahoma State is probably not really that good, but they've certainly been successful. Wisconsin has a stellar O-line; it is a bit surprising they managed to lose two games. Boisie State is probably the best coached team in FBS football. I haven't really seen much of Clemson. It is hard to hold their loss to the top ranked team against Oregon,but they're probably not as good as advertised.

Oklahoma seems a bit out of place to me. Landry Jones is a good, but not great QB. Oklahoma does not have a great RB. Broyles is a standout at receiver, but unfortunately is now gone. They probably do not have an offense that is top 20 at this point. The defense is far from dominant (shouldn't number 7 be dominant?), though obviously good. Top 10 team? Yeah. Top 5? No.

USC comes in at ten, and, as a fan, I wish I could say they deserve it, but they don't. The defense is ranked 58, and I'm not sure that is bad enough. The coverage is atrocious. The holes in the zone scheme are trivial to exploit. In pursuit, everyone takes the wrong angle. Tackling seems actively discouraged. The d-line is ok, but not that powerful, and not that good at getting pressure either. Special teams is a distinct weakness as well. The offense is excellent, but relies on a few special players to be that way. The offensive line is not as good as advertised. Tyler is a good running back, but has issues. Mcneal is only a decent runningback, and cost USC several times. Robert Woods is an excellent receiver, but would be much better if he stopped dropping easy catches that would be good gains; he has several in most of the games. Marquise Lee is an excellent freshman, and a very good number two receiver, though he needs to cut down on the drops too. Matt Barkley is phenomenal; if he was just "pretty good", USC would be a team struggling to be bowl eligible rather than being 7-2; he's probably worth 3 or 4 wins for the Trojans above a "pretty good" quarterback.

10
by Christopher (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2011 - 4:10am

To be clear, I know USC cannot be bowl eligible, I was just using it as short hand for six wins.

11
by Hang50 :: Thu, 11/10/2011 - 12:04pm

I've only seen two USC games this year -- Notre Dame and Stanford -- and I'm tempted to agree with your assessment about the Trojan defense, but I think it's more subtle than that. Monte Kiffin has consistently held a defensive philosophy that gives up field position while waiting for the offense to make mistakes. I'd say that pretty well sums up the USC defensive performances I've seen. (Of course, they may be outliers; I wouldn't know.)

I completely agree with your opinion that USC's record would be much worse were Barkley good-but-not-great. He's a phenomenal college QB. I really hope he gets a good chance to succeed on Sundays.

12
by TomTom (not verified) :: Thu, 11/10/2011 - 6:31pm

Most obvious teams missing from FEI top 25 are South Carolina, Georgia, and Auburn. Also, FEI rates every single Big 10 team higher than BCS, which is extremely interesting. South Carolina, Kansas State, Georgia, and Texas are the top 4 2-loss teams in BCS, while in FEI it's Wisconsin, (USC), Georgia Tech, and then three more Big 10 schools.

Oh, and Houston and Virginia Tech. Those are both easily explainable voting on record instead of how well the team does.

13
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14
by Leah Bathurst (not verified) :: Fri, 03/22/2013 - 1:57am

They should get their eyes checked to prevent this from happening again. A good eyesight is what they need to able to judge the game carefully.