Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

14 Nov 2012

FEI Week 11: Close Call

by Brian Fremeau

There are now only three undefeated contenders remaining in the BCS championship race, and the polls and computers responded to the Alabama upset pretty much as expected. Slide the Crimson Tide down a few notches, move a few teams up one spot, and maintain poll anchoring logic above all else. Readers of this column over the years won’t be surprised to know that the FEI ratings responded a bit differently.

Poll anchoring is not the goal here. The season cannot be evaluated based only on the results of the previous weekend as compared to the previous week’s rankings. From my perspective, the totality of the season needs to be re-evaluated each week.

Why is Kansas State the No. 1 team in FEI this week? The answer is not tied to its position last week. The answer is that the Wildcats have the best overall profile, ranking in the top 20 in Offensive FEI (OFEI), Defensive FEI (DFEI), and Special Teams Efficiency (STE). They are No. 1 in that last category by a large margin, earning 4.5 points more than average per game on special teams play (2.6 standard deviations better than average).

Why is Alabama the No. 2 team in FEI this week? The answer is that, along with Kansas State, they are the only other team in the nation to rank among the top 20 in OFEI, DFEI, and STE. (In fact, they are in the top-15 in all three categories.) A five-point loss to No. 6 Texas A&M in a game in which they lost the turnover value margin by 12.2 points is not a crippling loss. They have a stronger Game Efficiency than the Wildcats against what is now measured as a slightly stronger schedule to date. (They do play the nation’s easiest remaining regular-season schedule, so don’t be surprised if that position doesn’t hold firm in the coming weeks.)

Why is Oregon the No. 3 team in FEI this week? The Ducks are in the top 25 in OFEI, DFEI, and STE, despite playing a much weaker schedule strength to date than the other major contenders. Their raw Game Efficiency is No. 1, and if that keeps up in their remaining games against good teams (Stanford, Oregon State, and a Pac-12 title game against USC or UCLA), I expect Oregon will vault ahead to the top of the season-ending FEI ratings.

Why is Notre Dame the No. 4 team in FEI this week? The Irish have not been as dominant as the three teams ahead of them, but they have played the toughest schedule to date among them. Their offensive strength of schedule (opposing defenses) is light years better than Oregon’s and Kansas State’s, and their opponent-adjusted OFEI ranking reflects that. Their defense has been consistently dominant all season long and ranks No. 1 in that category. Their weakness is special teams, where they have cost themselves field-position value in seven of their ten games to date. With above-average special teams, their closest calls wouldn’t have been as close.

Those four teams are the best four teams in the country. The BCS ranks them in a particular order. FEI ranks them in another order, and the difference between their overall profiles is very close. Reasonable poll voters can consider this and other data, weight teams based on who is most deserving, trump up teams for best wins, knock teams down for worst wins, etc. I still expect an upset or two may shake up the BCS standings down the stretch, and I expect we’ll be considering the merits of all four of these teams when the championship match-up is selected.

Week 11 Revisionist Box Scores

This weekly feature identifies the games played each week that were most impacted by turnovers, special teams, field position, or some combination of the three. The neutralized margin of victory is a function of the point values earned and surrendered based on field position and expected scoring rates.

Week 11 Games In Which Total Turnover Value Exceeded Non-Garbage Final Score Margin
Date Winning Team Non-Garbage
Final Score
Losing Team TTV
+
TTV
-
TTV
Net
TO Neutral
Score Margin
11/10 Buffalo 29-24 Western Michigan 20.2 3.7 16.5 -11.5
11/10 Central Florida 31-24 UTEP 15.2 4.2 11.0 -4.0
11/10 Central Michigan 34-31 Eastern Michigan 10.7 3.7 7.0 -4.0
11/10 Florida Atlantic 31-28 Western Kentucky 17.1 9.3 7.8 -4.8
11/10 Massachusetts 22-14 Akron 21.7 9.0 12.7 -4.7
11/10 Rutgers 21-7 Army 18.3 2.8 15.5 -1.5
11/10 Texas A&M 29-24 Alabama 12.2 0.0 12.2 -7.2
11/10 Virginia 41-40 Miami 4.7 2.5 2.2 -1.2

Week 11 Games In Which Special Teams Value Exceeded Non-Garbage Final Score Margin
Date Winning Team Non-Garbage
Final Score
Losing Team STV
+
STV Neutral
Score Margin
11/10 Florida Atlantic 31-28 Western Kentucky 5.2 -2.2
11/10 Missouri 51-48 Tennessee 9.3 -6.3
11/10 UCLA 44-36 Washington State 10.1 -2.1

Week 11 Games In Which Field Position Value Exceeded Non-Garbage Final Score Margin
Date Winning Team Non-Garbage
Final Score
Losing Team FPV
+
FPV
-
FPV
Net
FPV Neutral
Score Margin
11/10 Central Michigan 34-31 Eastern Michigan 23.4 19.2 4.2 -1.2
11/10 Florida 27-20 Louisiana Lafayette 29.4 20.6 8.8 -1.8
11/10 Florida Atlantic 31-28 Western Kentucky 32.6 28.2 4.4 -1.4
11/10 Massachusetts 22-14 Akron 32.2 16.9 15.3 -7.3
11/10 Missouri 51-48 Tennessee 39.7 34.5 5.2 -2.2
11/10 UCLA 44-36 Washington State 39.5 24.5 15.0 -7.0
11/10 Vanderbilt 27-26 Mississippi 24.5 22.0 2.5 -1.5

2012 totals to date:

  • Net Total Turnover Value was the difference in 88 of 567 FBS games (15.5 percent)
  • Net Special Teams Value was the difference in 42 of 567 FBS games (7.4 percent)
  • Net Field Position Value was the difference in 55 of 567 FBS games (9.7 percent)
  • Turnovers, Special Teams and/or Field Position was the difference in 123 of 567 FBS games (21.7 percent)

2012 Game Splits for all teams, including the offensive, defensive, special teams, field position, and turnover values recorded in each FBS game are provided here.

FEI Week 11 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 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.

Other definitions:

  • SOS Pvs: Strength of schedule to date, based on the likelihood of an elite team going undefeated against the given team's schedule to date.
  • SOS Fut: Strength of schedule, based on the likelihood of an elite team going undefeated against the given team's remaining schedule.
  • FBS MW: Mean Wins, the average number of games a team with the given FEI rating would be expected to win against its entire schedule.
  • FBS RMW: Remaining Mean Wins, the average number of games a team with the given FEI rating would be expected to win against its remaining schedule.
  • OFEI: Offensive FEI, the opponent-adjusted efficiency of the given team's offense.
  • DFEI: Defensive FEI, the opponent-adjusted efficiency of the given team's defense.
  • STE: Special Teams Efficiency, the scoring value earned by field goal, punt and kickoff units measured in points per average game.
  • FPA: Field Position Advantage, the share of the value of total starting field position earned by each team against its opponents.

These FEI ratings are a function of results of games played through November 3rd. The ratings for all FBS teams, including FEI splits for Offense, Defense, and Special Teams can be found here. Program FEI (five-year weighted) ratings and other supplemental drive-based data can be found here.

Rk Team FBS
Rec
FEI LW GE GE
Rk
SOS
Pvs
Rk SOS
Fut
Rk FBS
MW
FBS
RMW
OFEI Rk DFEI Rk STE Rk FPA Rk
1 Kansas State 9-0 .306 1 .306 3 .292 47 .775 41 10.0 1.8 .373 18 -.617 5 4.498 1 .589 1
2 Alabama 9-1 .283 2 .314 2 .279 45 .985 124 9.9 1.0 .381 15 -.553 11 2.411 10 .562 6
3 Oregon 9-0 .281 5 .390 1 .512 88 .484 8 9.8 1.4 .477 8 -.511 15 1.603 23 .540 18
4 Notre Dame 10-0 .279 3 .162 18 .219 30 .700 25 10.4 1.7 .525 6 -.748 1 -.955 90 .488 75
5 Oklahoma 6-2 .258 4 .227 7 .173 20 .741 35 8.9 2.6 .450 10 -.535 12 1.440 28 .510 55
6 Texas A&M 7-2 .241 9 .183 13 .193 25 .979 120 8.2 1.0 .608 4 -.300 31 -.750 85 .506 59
7 Florida 9-1 .241 6 .146 20 .216 28 .605 19 8.7 0.5 .085 49 -.730 2 3.170 2 .552 8
8 Oregon State 7-2 .223 7 .086 36 .223 32 .592 14 8.3 1.4 .403 14 -.468 17 .576 46 .507 57
9 Florida State 7-1 .213 8 .247 5 .569 98 .703 26 8.4 1.4 .127 43 -.610 6 1.830 19 .551 9
10 LSU 7-2 .207 11 .141 23 .135 8 .956 87 8.3 1.8 .162 37 -.584 7 .971 36 .550 10
11 Nebraska 7-2 .205 12 .057 44 .167 18 .877 61 8.1 1.7 .617 3 -.414 21 -2.202 114 .449 114
12 Ohio State 10-0 .204 10 .170 17 .366 62 .617 21 9.7 1.3 .523 7 -.432 20 -1.140 95 .503 62
Rk Team FBS
Rec
FEI LW GE GE
Rk
SOS
Pvs
Rk SOS
Fut
Rk FBS
MW
FBS
RMW
OFEI Rk DFEI Rk STE Rk FPA Rk
13 Stanford 8-2 .174 21 .139 24 .216 29 .324 1 8.1 0.7 .071 51 -.634 4 1.389 30 .562 5
14 South Carolina 8-2 .173 15 .181 14 .239 37 .722 31 8.1 0.5 .102 46 -.567 10 -.494 79 .506 60
15 Georgia 9-1 .172 16 .227 6 .353 57 .945 79 8.9 0.8 .366 19 -.321 26 .209 55 .527 29
16 Wisconsin 6-3 .168 29 .146 19 .246 39 .599 16 7.5 1.0 .132 42 -.511 14 .443 48 .541 16
17 Cincinnati 5-2 .158 13 .143 21 .629 103 .888 63 8.0 2.4 .266 28 -.574 8 .425 50 .526 30
18 USC 7-3 .156 19 .143 22 .225 34 .456 7 7.8 0.8 .278 26 -.244 34 2.241 13 .525 33
19 Clemson 8-1 .150 20 .193 11 .498 85 .803 44 8.6 1.3 .429 12 -.039 58 2.521 8 .541 15
20 Texas 8-2 .149 25 .113 32 .315 51 .331 2 8.3 0.9 .354 22 -.034 61 2.551 7 .564 4
21 Michigan State 5-5 .148 18 .041 47 .153 11 .861 53 7.5 1.4 -.025 63 -.712 3 -.337 71 .492 71
22 UCLA 8-2 .138 14 .119 31 .435 73 .704 27 8.5 1.0 .215 32 -.412 22 -.398 75 .558 7
23 BYU 5-4 .137 17 .127 28 .161 16 .849 50 7.3 1.6 .056 53 -.528 13 -1.014 91 .513 51
24 Boise State 8-2 .134 23 .213 9 .521 89 .948 80 9.9 1.7 .104 45 -.472 16 -.756 86 .542 14
25 Oklahoma State 5-3 .133 22 .091 35 .222 31 .432 5 6.9 1.5 .462 9 -.143 44 2.297 12 .471 95

Posted by: Brian Fremeau on 14 Nov 2012

10 comments, Last at 15 Nov 2012, 9:52pm by Brian Fremeau

Comments

1
by Lance :: Wed, 11/14/2012 - 12:48pm

I think what Fremeau does is great, but sentences like these are worthless: "I still expect an upset or two may shake up the BCS standings down the stretch, and I expect we’ll be considering the merits of all four of these teams when the championship match-up is selected."

Yes, upsets may shake up BCS standings. They may not. I may be six feet tall. I may not. Of course, not all may/may not sentences are worthless. You can say "a loss by Alabama may not drop it in the polls as much as you think" where your "may not" is contra conventional wisdom. Nevertheless, saying that upsets may shake up the BCS standings is sort of banal.

Also, it seems quite clear that we will be considering the merits of the four major teams when the championship match-up is selected. I guess the sentence is trying to say that the author expects that these specific four teams will all be in the championship conversation, and not some other teams? Or is he saying that whiles there's a good chance that he could be discussion the merits of only three teams that he still expects he'll be discussing all four? I don't know.

3
by Salur (not verified) :: Wed, 11/14/2012 - 1:21pm

It's not a ground-breaking insight, but (not so much here as other places) people can get a bit nutty by assuming that the current standings will hold till the end of the year and college football fans have been known to perceive slights that don't exist (especially this year, where all 4 teams have reasonable cases).

At least as I take it, the sentence is just a reminder along those lines, that no one's locked in or out of the championship yet (well, a lot of teams are locked out, but none of these 4).

Again, not anything revelatory, but it does have a purpose/some worth.

And since I've just spent three sentences on an offhand comment rather than the main point of the article, let me just add that those rankings seem pretty reasonable to me.

8
by Brian Fremeau :: Thu, 11/15/2012 - 9:22pm

It was a banal comment. I did mean that these are the four teams, the only four teams, that are worth discussing now and that will all be worth discussing in the end.

2
by Will :: Wed, 11/14/2012 - 1:14pm

Had McCarron's fourth and goal pass fallen incomplete rather being intercepted, is it treated differently by FEI? I don't believe the receiver had a play on it regardless - it was thrown significantly behind him.

Will

9
by Brian Fremeau :: Thu, 11/15/2012 - 9:37pm

The turnover value would have been calculated differently, but the efficiency of both teams remains the same. A&M stopped Alabama on the final non-garbage possession of the game.

4
by Subrata Sircar :: Wed, 11/14/2012 - 5:16pm

Michigan State seems to be using a great defense to overcome mediocre special teams and offense, as are BYU and Boise State. The implication is that with that performance to date, against a slate of average teams, MSU would be the 20-25th best team in the country. That seems *extremely* generous to me - watching the Michigan game, I saw a team with a solid-to-good defense battling a conservative but good offense to a draw, but a team which couldn't move the ball at all without a fake punt or unlikely-to-be-repeated defender error on long pass plays, and made several special teams errors (like the missed FG). (Admittedly, that's the only time I paid close attention.) I think that they would end up about where they are, given that their defense can't really rack enough points for a victory. Maybe the win over Boise is propping them up?

10
by Brian Fremeau :: Thu, 11/15/2012 - 9:52pm

MSU has one of the best opponent-adjusted defenses in the country, and they've played the second-toughest schedule to date of any of the teams in the top-25. They lost to Ohio State by 1 point, Michigan by 2 points, and Nebraska by 4 points. If they were 8-2 against their schedule instead of 5-5, they'd also probably be ranked in the same spot.

5
by Led :: Wed, 11/14/2012 - 7:15pm

I appreciate that strength of schedule is a big deal, but rating ND's offense as better than Oregon's is, to quote Vincent Vega, a bold statement. It's a shame ND's specials are so bad. With a number that bad, it can't just be the kicker. Maybe a sign of lack of athletic depth?

6
by EricL (not verified) :: Wed, 11/14/2012 - 8:27pm

Also, does this take into account the fact that Oregon has effectively shut off its offense in the 2nd half of many games this year?

7
by Kal :: Thu, 11/15/2012 - 1:48am

Yes. FEI does something to figure out when garbage time is and rates the game based on that. It's not always what I would call non garbage time but its pretty close. You can see those breakdowns at bcftoys.com.