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23 Nov 2011

FEI: Get Your Kicks

by Brian Fremeau

BCS Crisis 2011 is upon us. The SEC West has a stranglehold on the top of the standings and the national championship debate is frustrating voters and fans alike. Are we facing an inevitable rematch? Is it better to vote for the two best teams or the two best teams that haven't already played? Are the quality of losses more important than the quality of wins?

I'm not sure there are any easy answers to these questions. And I'm not sure I have easy answers to the inevitable questions about how the FEI ratings adjusted to the wild weekend of upsets. Oklahoma State managed to remain No. 2 in FEI despite losing to FEI No. 62 Iowa State. That's because Baylor's victory over Oklahoma and Kansas State's victory over Texas actually improved the Cowboys resume more than the loss to the Cyclones damaged it. It's peculiar, but it has been a peculiar season, especially of late.

I expect more shuffling in the last few weeks. There will be multiple matchups ahead in the SEC, Big Ten, and Big 12 between FEI top-15 teams, and this weekend features games between the ACC and SEC that might result in major rating shifts for entire conferences.

Field Goal Woes

Oklahoma State's field goal kicker Quinn Sharp is 17-for-20 on the season, the eighth-best success rate in the nation. He was named a semi-finalist for the Lou Groza Award, given annually the nation's best placekicker. Florida State's Dustin Hopkins is 20-for-24 on field goals for the year, 15th best in the nation. He is a Lou Groza award finalist.

Sharp and Hopkins missed game-winning field goal attempts last weekend at the end of regulation. Oregon's Alejandro Moldanado shanked a kick that would have sent the Ducks to overtime against USC. A week earlier, Boise State's Dan Goodale missed a potential game-winner against TCU. Alabama's Jeremy Shelley and Cade Foster combined to make only 2-of-6 attempts in a three point loss to LSU back on November 5th.

Missed field goals have been the story of the 2011 season. Pressure kicks have been unusually bad. There have been a total of 20 field goals attempted this season on the final play of an FBS game, excluding overtime, and the kickers have only made seven of those 20 attempts. Only two of those makes were with the game actually on the line -- if the five other made attempts had missed, their games would have only gone to overtime. Last season, kickers were 14-for-18 in end of game, non-overtime attempts.

Field goal kicking overall is down slightly this season, but we'll remember the crucial kicks above all others. It has already dramatically impacted the BCS championship race -- and with a few weeks still to go, the kickers of the top teams will be sure to be called upon again.

Brad Wing vs. Joe Adams

I wrote a piece for ESPN Insider this week about the special teams matchups to watch for in this weekend's LSU-Arkansas game. LSU ranks fifth in STE this week on the strength of its strong field goal unit and punting. Arkansas ranks 10th in STE this week on the strength of its punt returns and kickoff returns. The showdown on fourth down may be the most important of the game. Will punter Brad Wing be able to consistently pin Arkansas deep, or will Razorbacks' return man Joe Adams be able to spring a return or two and flip field position in favor of Arkansas?

The STE ratings are new this year, and one thing I've observed is that they are much more volatile from week-to-week than the offensive and defensive ratings. That's due in part to the fact that single spectacular special teams play, positive or negative, can be worth so much. A fumbled punt or kickoff loses expected drive value and grants the opponent valuable field position. A punt or kickoff return for a touchdown is rare enough to be significantly more valuable than an average expected value on a return.

Which means that while LSU and Arkansas are expected to be strong on special teams, a single unexpected event can make all the difference. Good field goal kickers can miss field goals. Great punt returners can fumble. Great punters can be blocked.

The matchup between Wing and Adams will have as much to do with the other 20 players on the field as it will the two of them. Wing can blast a punt from deep in his own territory, but unless his punt coverage team makes the play, a returner can find some room to roam. And as the following chart shows, drive ending field position is critical too.

Arkansas has had success fielding punts inside its own 20-yard line and bringing them out for a five-to-ten yard gain. Wing's ability to drop a punt inside the opponent's 10-yard line is contingent on LSU not having to punt very often from inside its own 30-yard line. Wing gets plenty of credit when his opposition is forced to march 90 yards or more, but the key to LSU's success has been in keeping virtually every punt from being returned at all. Forcing Joe Adams to call for a fair catch with high, hanging punts is all Wing and LSU need to do to keep him from making an impact on special teams. Pinning the Razorbacks deep would be gravy.

FEI Week 12 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 19. 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 10-0 .301 1 .321 2 .221 30 .753 20 9.7 0.8 .363 21 -.675 2 3.169 5 .598 2
2 Oklahoma State 10-1 .267 2 .252 7 .272 45 .781 25 10.4 0.7 .314 27 -.670 3 2.212 15 .550 7
3 Alabama 9-1 .254 3 .317 3 .229 35 .985 93 9.4 1.0 .374 18 -.651 4 -.107 67 .533 15
4 Wisconsin 8-2 .226 6 .351 1 .359 73 .867 40 9.4 0.8 .570 3 -.331 27 .109 60 .526 23
5 Oregon 8-2 .225 4 .223 9 .167 17 .985 90 8.9 1.0 .406 15 -.527 8 1.496 20 .523 29
6 Arkansas 9-1 .220 7 .153 14 .324 61 .361 1 8.7 0.2 .401 16 -.169 42 2.353 10 .526 22
7 USC 9-2 .215 11 .123 22 .194 25 .985 117 9.8 1.0 .489 9 -.259 30 1.265 24 .526 24
8 Michigan 9-2 .213 15 .223 10 .268 43 .909 45 9.8 0.8 .411 14 -.489 10 -.215 71 .530 17
9 Oklahoma 8-2 .203 5 .230 8 .227 33 .482 2 9.0 0.3 .501 7 -.475 11 .277 51 .571 3
10 Stanford 10-1 .202 10 .257 6 .374 80 .825 33 10.0 0.7 .412 13 -.437 17 .716 39 .503 59
11 Boise State 9-1 .200 8 .278 5 .520 98 .970 67 10.7 2.0 .328 24 -.253 31 3.586 2 .624 1
12 Kansas State 8-2 .183 18 .078 33 .156 12 .983 78 7.9 0.9 .264 34 -.427 20 2.244 12 .541 12
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 Virginia Tech 9-1 .182 16 .105 25 .373 79 .767 22 8.5 0.6 .315 26 -.407 22 -.462 79 .519 34
14 Michigan State 8-2 .182 12 .149 15 .167 16 .887 41 7.8 0.7 .058 53 -.572 7 2.727 7 .549 8
15 Florida State 6-4 .181 14 .136 16 .319 60 .916 50 8.3 0.8 .086 44 -.454 16 3.830 1 .558 4
16 Notre Dame 8-3 .175 17 .162 13 .210 27 .626 9 8.3 0.3 .414 12 -.416 21 1.147 28 .489 79
17 Clemson 8-2 .162 9 .094 28 .270 44 .807 27 7.7 0.6 .373 19 -.343 26 .419 48 .506 50
18 Texas A&M 6-5 .161 21 .132 18 .136 8 .929 52 8.1 0.8 .424 11 -.205 38 .507 47 .513 41
19 Rutgers 7-3 .156 28 .076 34 .364 75 .944 57 8.1 0.8 -.031 61 -.709 1 3.558 3 .543 10
20 Penn State 8-2 .146 25 .068 39 .300 53 .580 3 7.3 0.2 -.034 62 -.618 5 .049 62 .528 19
21 Georgia Tech 7-3 .146 24 .127 20 .280 48 .911 47 7.6 0.7 .513 5 -.156 46 -1.465 91 .491 76
22 Missouri 5-5 .139 27 .033 49 .110 3 .985 86 6.7 1.0 .379 17 -.124 49 .009 63 .505 55
23 Nebraska 7-3 .135 13 .073 37 .172 19 .903 42 7.1 0.6 .282 31 -.093 53 2.219 14 .527 20
24 Miami 5-5 .134 26 .046 44 .145 10 .983 75 6.3 0.9 .723 2 .078 69 1.257 25 .495 70
25 North Carolina 5-5 .133 37 .004 62 .172 20 .983 77 6.5 0.9 .269 33 -.436 18 -2.278 101 .467 103

Posted by: Brian Fremeau on 23 Nov 2011

3 comments, Last at 08 Dec 2012, 3:39am by john123456

Comments

1
by sundown (not verified) :: Wed, 11/23/2011 - 12:37pm

You could feel that Oklahoma State FG miss coming. They'd let Iowa State hang around the whole game, squandering tons of opportunities to put them away, then they get an absolute gift turnover seemingly setting them up to get the win. But, instead of running their normal offense and going for more yards and/or the TD, they thought they had the FG in the bag. Even good college kickers are less accurate than the pros, yet so many college coaches act as if FGs are a sure thing. It's also baffling how many top programs depend on walk-ons and non-scholarship players to perform such a crucial job.

2
by Salvi's Headband (not verified) :: Sat, 11/26/2011 - 8:47am

So Rutgers has the best defense in CFB?

3
by john123456 (not verified) :: Sat, 12/08/2012 - 3:39am

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