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24 Oct 2012

FEI Week 8: Manhattan Project

by Brian Fremeau

The BCS title race appears destined to be as competitive as ever. Florida, Kansas State, Oregon, and Notre Dame will all be jockeying (and lobbying) for position as long as they keep winning, and each may have a compelling argument that they are indeed the second-best team in the country behind Alabama. Personally, I’m wondering if Kansas State hasn’t already distinguished itself as the nation’s best team.

Kansas State thrashed West Virginia in Morgantown this past weekend. The 55-14 victory (45-7 in 14 non-garbage time possessions) ranks as the second-most efficient game of the year and the clear No. 1 game in terms of opponent-adjusted efficiency. Kansas State also owns the fourth-best game in terms of opponent-adjusted game efficiency, a victory on the road against Oklahoma back on September 22nd.

Kansas State can certainly still lose, but the Wildcats have already passed their biggest tests of the year. And unless Oklahoma and West Virginia tank the rest of the season, those two victories are likely to remain two of the best of the year. We’ve had a change in the No. 1 FEI ranking almost on a weekly basis this year, but Kansas State is a good bet to stay on top.

FEI Mailbag

I generally try to respond directly to questions sent via email, but from time to time the question prompts a more in-depth response suitable for the weekly column. If you have a question about possession efficiency data, let me know.

From David Hudson (@okc_dave) who also writes for the Oklahoma State Cowboys blog Pistols Firing:

"I noticed that OSU is 112th in kickoff efficiency. I didn’t expect OSU to be highly ranked because they allowed a KO return for a touchdown against Texas, but considering that 41 out of 49 OSU kickoffs have gone for touchbacks, it seems like they should be more middle-of-the-pack. But then I wondered if touchbacks are now “bad” compared to kicking it a couple yards deep and having a team return it shy of the 25. What has been the average starting position this year?"

I wrote a little bit about the new kickoff rules earlier this year, but I think it is time to revisit the data. Dave raises a few interesting questions, and his inquiry got me thinking about a few other questions as well.

Are touchbacks bad (for the kicking team)? No, they certainly are not. The average starting field position following a kickoff this season is the 26-yard line. A touchback is placed one yard shy of that average at the 25-yard line, so it is a positive play for the kicking team, albeit barely. And if a team can effectively boot the ball through the end zone, it removes the possibility of a touchdown return entirely.

That said, though touchbacks aren't bad, they were a more effective play in terms of net value a year ago. The average starting field position following a kickoff in 2011 was the 28-yard line and touchbacks were placed at the 20-yard line, eight yards better than average for the kicking team.

The frequency of touchbacks has nearly doubled from 2011 to 2012, as illustrated in the chart. The distribution of starting field position is a bit more narrow this year as well. The spikes at the 40-yard line in the 2011 data and the 35-yard line in the 2012 data are due to where the ball has been placed following a kickoff out of bounds in each season. Touchdown returns have been consistent from 2011 to 2012, occurring on 0.8 percent of kickoffs in each season.

Let's get back to Dave's question about Oklahoma State. The Cowboys have recorded touchbacks on 41-of-49 kickoffs this season (83.7 percent), the second-best rate nationally. I don't consider FCS game data in my special teams measures, but that only takes Oklahoma State's touchback rate down to 30-of-36 (83.3 percent). So why are they ranking so low in kickoff efficiency?

According to my data, 33 Oklahoma State kickoffs occurred in non-garbage situations, and the Cowboys kept their opponent short of average starting field position on 30 of those 33 kickoffs. The total scoring value added due to field position on those 30 kicks was only 6.1 points, or about 0.2 points per kick. The total value lost on the other three kicks was 7.1 points. Those three kicks included a touchdown return by Texas (5.6 points), a failed onside kick attempt against Arizona that resulted in a Wildcats possession on the Oklahoma State 44-yard line (1.3 points), and a Kansas kickoff return to their own 35-yard line (0.2 points).

The damage of one kickoff return surrendered is huge compared with the incremental value of consistently good kickoff coverage and touchbacks. Oklahoma State is nearly net-neutral on the season, but there are still 94 other FBS teams that have not given up a kickoff return touchdown. Almost all of them will be very difficult for the Cowboys to surpass due to that one miscue.

Week 8 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 8 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
10/18 SMU 66-42 Houston 45.6 13.5 32.1 -8.1
10/20 Clemson 31-17 Virginia Tech 17.0 2.9 14.1 -0.1
10/20 Kent State 41-24 Western Michigan 25.6 6.7 18.9 -1.9
10/20 Louisiana Monroe 43-42 Western Kentucky 7.9 6.5 1.4 -0.4
10/20 Louisville 27-25 South Florida 5.9 3.4 2.5 -0.5
10/20 LSU 24-19 Texas A&M 13.9 0.0 13.9 -8.9
10/20 Navy 31-30 Indiana 8.7 0.0 8.7 -7.7
10/20 North Carolina State 20-18 Maryland 7.8 0.0 7.8 -5.8
10/20 Oregon State 21-7 Utah 15.9 0.0 15.9 -1.9
10/20 Texas Tech 56-53 TCU 4.2 0.0 4.2 -1.2
10/20 Toledo 29-23 Cincinnati 13.4 3.4 10.0 -4.0
10/20 Tulsa 28-24 Rice 7.5 2.6 4.9 -0.9
10/20 Wake Forest 16-10 Vanderbilt 9.2 0.0 9.2 -3.2

Week 8 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
10/20 Michigan 12-10 Michigan State 5.2 -3.2
10/20 North Carolina State 20-18 Maryland 3.0 -1.0
10/20 San Diego State 39-38 Nevada 6.4 -5.4
10/20 South Alabama 37-34 Florida Atlantic 6.6 -3.6
10/20 Toledo 29-23 Cincinnati 7.5 -1.5
10/20 Wake Forest 16-10 Virginia 10.1 -6.1

Week 8 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
10/18 SMU 66-42 Houston 56.3 25.9 30.4 -6.4
10/20 Clemson 31-17 Virginia Tech 34.1 18.2 15.9 -1.9
10/20 Navy 31-30 Indiana 18.6 15.7 2.9 -1.9
10/20 San Diego State 39-38 Nevada 21.4 18.8 2.6 -1.6
10/20 Toledo 29-23 Cincinnati 27.9 21.1 6.8 -0.8
10/20 Wake Forest 16-10 Virginia 27.9 18.3 9.6 -3.6

2012 totals to date:

  • Net Total Turnover Value was the difference in 65 of 397 FBS games (16.4 percent)
  • Net Special Teams Value was the difference in 32 of 397 FBS games (8.1 percent)
  • Net Field Position Value was the difference in 40 of 397 FBS games (10.1 percent)
  • Turnovers, Special Teams and/or Field Position was the difference in 91 of 397 FBS games (22.9 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 8 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 October 20. 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 6-0 .288 3 .338 3 .286 15 .375 22 9.2 4.1 .550 7 -.622 8 3.026 9 .563 7
2 Oklahoma 4-1 .281 4 .332 4 .284 14 .298 15 8.8 4.9 .669 3 -.662 6 1.998 17 .513 45
3 Alabama 7-0 .271 1 .399 1 .695 100 .471 28 9.9 3.3 .227 30 -.727 2 2.362 14 .568 6
4 Oregon 6-0 .266 8 .372 2 .701 102 .265 7 9.3 3.8 .243 27 -.694 4 1.327 25 .531 31
5 Florida 7-0 .259 2 .205 8 .404 37 .523 35 9.4 3.4 .282 25 -.558 11 4.300 1 .572 4
6 Notre Dame 7-0 .247 6 .182 14 .509 59 .285 12 10.0 3.9 .649 4 -.567 10 -1.135 90 .486 78
7 Oregon State 6-0 .236 5 .111 32 .443 44 .372 20 8.7 3.8 .462 10 -.511 15 -.462 75 .528 32
8 Florida State 5-1 .228 7 .247 5 .595 79 .531 37 8.3 3.1 .095 45 -.669 5 1.192 30 .562 8
9 Stanford 5-2 .206 14 .097 39 .318 21 .298 14 8.7 3.5 -.016 60 -.748 1 1.581 20 .562 9
10 Texas Tech 5-1 .201 10 .186 12 .323 23 .241 6 7.8 3.3 .444 12 -.278 32 -.335 72 .496 69
11 LSU 6-1 .189 18 .164 18 .271 12 .532 38 8.1 2.9 .092 46 -.530 14 1.105 33 .556 13
12 Texas A&M 4-2 .189 9 .127 28 .457 47 .357 17 7.1 2.7 .328 20 -.376 23 -.025 61 .507 52
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 USC 6-1 .167 11 .231 6 .514 60 .281 10 8.3 2.7 .113 44 -.374 24 1.550 21 .550 14
14 Rutgers 6-0 .167 20 .155 19 .734 104 .580 46 8.8 3.8 .017 58 -.602 9 .542 50 .558 12
15 Cincinnati 3-1 .156 12 .174 16 .752 106 .593 50 7.6 4.3 .287 24 -.637 7 -.124 66 .528 33
16 Arizona 3-3 .146 37 .021 58 .172 4 .666 63 6.7 3.7 .685 2 .008 64 .152 57 .540 23
17 Texas 5-2 .146 23 .092 40 .320 22 .196 4 7.4 2.5 .202 34 -.114 50 3.141 7 .573 3
18 Oklahoma State 3-2 .145 44 .103 36 .538 65 .102 2 6.2 2.8 .580 5 -.102 52 .286 55 .470 90
19 Ohio State 8-0 .144 15 .137 24 .619 82 .510 34 9.1 2.6 .328 19 -.388 20 -.825 87 .502 60
20 Penn State 5-2 .142 35 .185 13 .758 109 .610 54 9.3 3.4 .409 13 -.391 19 -3.260 117 .546 16
21 Iowa State 3-3 .141 17 -.011 66 .217 5 .402 25 6.2 3.1 .023 56 -.309 30 1.276 27 .516 44
22 Wisconsin 5-2 .134 25 .133 26 .392 34 .533 40 7.3 2.3 .242 28 -.332 26 -.054 63 .539 24
23 Clemson 5-1 .134 26 .101 37 .508 58 .777 81 8.0 3.7 .400 14 .043 67 3.325 5 .531 30
24 TCU 4-2 .131 16 .084 42 .549 68 .174 3 6.1 1.9 -.083 76 -.383 21 3.489 4 .548 15
25 South Carolina 6-2 .122 13 .179 15 .295 18 .717 68 7.8 2.0 -.173 89 -.547 13 -1.393 95 .502 59

Posted by: Brian Fremeau on 24 Oct 2012

9 comments, Last at 25 Oct 2012, 1:44pm by Brian Fremeau

Comments

1
by djhosu :: Wed, 10/24/2012 - 12:21pm

Thanks for answering that question Brian. Why would the KO return by Texas only have a value of 5.6 points? Shouldn't it be 6 or 7 if you assume the PAT is good?

3
by mattmills49 :: Wed, 10/24/2012 - 12:45pm

I am pretty sure that there is a negative value in giving the ball back to the offense. So Texas earns 6.96 points for a touchdown, then loses some points for giving the ball back to KSU. At least thats how I understand it.

5
by Anonymous Reader (not verified) :: Wed, 10/24/2012 - 1:43pm

Presumably because the expected value of a kickoff is nonzero - if the average field position you expect to yield is at the 25 yard line, at which point opposing offenses will average 2 points per drive, then a kickoff TD is 5 points more than average.

6
by Brian Fremeau :: Wed, 10/24/2012 - 8:16pm

This is correct. The total touchdown value is mostly earned by the kickoff return team (and lost by the kicking team), but part of that value is "unearned" simply due to possessing the ball.

2
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Wed, 10/24/2012 - 12:26pm

Thanks for the hard work

Good to see I am not seeing things. Wisconsin isn't a great team, but they are becoming a very solid team especially on defense.

4
by Joseph :: Wed, 10/24/2012 - 1:15pm

Hey Brian, as a LSU fan (and SEC fan in general), I was wondering what the ST & turnover margin was in that Florida-South Carolina game.

7
by Brian Fremeau :: Wed, 10/24/2012 - 8:22pm

The Offense, Defense, Special Teams, Field Position, and Turnover results of all games are posted on my site: http://www.bcftoys.com/results

Against South Carolina, Florida was
+13.4 on special teams value
+18.3 on field position value
+14.8 on turnover value

8
by Enjoy Life (not verified) :: Thu, 10/25/2012 - 10:21am

In the U-M / MSU game, MSU had a fake punt that they ran for a first down. Does this get included in the Special Teams analysis, the TO analysis, or just as another play?

9
by Brian Fremeau :: Thu, 10/25/2012 - 1:44pm

I actually count fake punts as offensive plays, so they are not counted in the ST or TO analysis.