After three NFL seasons of kicking off from the 35-yard line, what has been the impact on touchbacks, returns, field position, scoring and injuries? Also, is this rule responsible for a record number of big comebacks?
31 Oct 2012
by Brian Fremeau
What do we know and what do we think we know? This question is on my mind every year entering the final month of the season. By this point in the year, the best teams in the nation have typically played one or more games in which they demonstrated their case for the championship. We want to have arguments settled on the field, and though the number of games played between contenders will never be enough, the games that are played provide valuable, measurable data.
At the moment, there are four clear contenders for the national championship game: Alabama, Oregon, Kansas State, and Notre Dame. It is certainly possible that all four will still lose before the end of the season, but it is also possible that all four will win out. Either way, it is likely that the debate over the BCS championship game participants will be as intense as ever.
How do the contenders match up? It’s a really interesting question at this point because of the differences in schedule strength to date. According to FEI data, Notre Dame and Kansas State have distinguished themselves from Alabama and Oregon by having already played the toughest stretches of their respective schedules. It would be easier for an elite team to have gone undefeated against the Crimson Tide or Ducks schedule to date three times than to go undefeated against the Notre Dame or Kansas State schedule once.
For many, the eyeball test trumps the resume test every time. I don’t fault anyone for thinking that Alabama and Oregon are the two best teams in the country. They very well may be. We might assume that the Ducks would have dominated Notre Dame’s schedule to date more impressively than the Irish did. We might assume that Alabama would crush everyone more efficiently than Kansas State. But we don’t have much data on hand yet to know for sure.
The table below ranks every FBS game played to date by the four contenders according to opponent-adjusted Game Efficiency (GFEI). The overall FEI ratings of each team are a function of these single-game measures and the relevance factor of each game.
|Opponent Adjusted Game Efficiency (GFEI)|
|Kansas State||55-14||West Virginia||.793||1|
|Kansas State||55-24||Texas Tech||.634||9|
|Notre Dame||20-3||Michigan State||.588||12|
|Kansas State||27-21||Iowa State||.418||45|
|Kansas State||35-21||North Texas||-.070||326|
For as strongly as I believe in the FEI ratings, I know that they are just one tool to evaluate college football teams and games. I wrote yesterday about how Kansas State has distinguished themselves as the No. 1 team in the land. By the data above, the Wildcats' best three games compare well to the combination of the best single games played by Notre Dame, Oregon and Alabama.
But you can carve this data up in many ways. Combined, these four teams have recorded 10 of the best 25 games performances of the year and 15 of the best 50. Alabama claims five of those 15, Kansas State has four, Oregon and Notre Dame have three apiece. Among top-100 games played, Alabama has six, Notre Dame and Kansas State have five, and Oregon has four.
If you're curious about how the FEI ratings shake out over the final month of the season, this table is a great indicator that all four teams are in the mix. Oregon has three solid opponents down the stretch in USC, Oregon State, and Stanford and has an opportunity to make the same kind of statement in each that Kansas State has already made. Alabama likewise has marquee matchups against LSU and Texas A&M in the next two weeks. There is always chaos, but more importantly, there are always opportunities for the top teams to rise above the chaos and distinguish themselves.
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 9 Games In Which Total Turnover Value Exceeded Non-Garbage Final Score Margin|
|10/27||Western Kentucky||14-6||Florida International||17.5||4.5||13.0||-5.0|
|Week 9 Games In Which Special Teams Value Exceeded Non-Garbage Final Score Margin|
|10/27||North Carolina||43-35||North Carolina State||10.4||-2.4|
|Week 9 Games In Which Field Position Value Exceeded Non-Garbage Final Score Margin|
2012 totals to date:
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.
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.
These FEI ratings are a function of results of games played through October 27th. 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.
11 comments, Last at 05 Nov 2012, 1:12pm by Richard Norwood