Possibly the closest Super Bowl matchup in history also poses the question: how much does it mean when certain aspects of an NFL team improve dramatically in the second half of the season?
04 Sep 2013
by Brian Fremeau
The first weekend of the college football season didn’t feature too many major surprises among top-25 teams, but a few key games did prompt some shifting in the FEI top 25. As a reminder, the preseason FEI ratings remain a factor through the first six weeks of the season. I reduce the influence of the preseason FEI ratings each week as new data is added, and beginning with week seven, the FEI ratings are exclusively produced from current-season data.
It was a good weekend for the ACC frontrunners. Florida State leaped into the top five after an impressive debut from quarterback Jameis Winston. Clemson jumped up as well, from No. 21 last week to No. 15 this week, though the Tigers are still ranked behind the Georgia team they just beat over the weekend. That’s due in part to the fact that preseason data is influencing the ratings, but it is also due in part to Clemson’s homefield advantage in that head-to-head matchup.
Boise State took the weekend’s biggest tumble, from No. 23 overall in the preseason FEI ratings to No. 43 overall this week. Washington benefitted from its big win over the Broncos by jumping up 15 spots to No. 28. In terms of overall mean wins improvement, two sets of Huskies, Washington and Northern Illinois were among the weekend’s biggest winners.
The most surprising news of the weekend didn’t register at all in the FEI ratings. Eight FCS teams took down FBS opponents this weekend, all of which were upsets of varying degrees. FBS opponents have built-in advantages over other divisions in terms of scholarships and resources, and for the most part, these matchups are counted as near-automatic wins for the FBS teams before kickoff.
But this weekend was different. There were 31 FBS vs. FCS matchups and eight of them were won by the FCS opponent. Oregon State and Kansas State were the biggest surprises, both ranked among the FEI top 30 in the preseason rankings released last week. Both are still ranked in the FEI top 30 this week along with their respective 0-0 records against FBS teams.
It is a near-annual tradition that I get the opportunity to write about discarding FCS games from the FEI formula. As I have discussed previously, this isn’t because the data is worthless. It’s because the data is unreliable. Kansas State lost to FCS North Dakota State on Friday night, and that means something. But do we know what that means in the context of Kansas State’s FBS data this year? Is North Dakota State an equivalent of the FEI No. 100 team or the FEI No. 60 team? Maybe they're even better than that. I don’t have the data to know for sure.
What I do know is that the FBS vs. FBS data that will accumulate over the course of this season is reliable enough to do something with it. And I’ve found that for the most part, FEI will learn enough from Kansas State’s (and Oregon State’s, and San Diego State’s, etc) other 11 games to reliably rank these teams over the course of the season.
So as it stands today, Oregon State ranks No. 18 in FEI and Kansas State ranks No. 26. If the preseason projections for those two teams and their opponents are right, both teams should still win around seven or eight games. If the preseason projections were wrong, and I’ll admit that their FCS losses certainly suggest FEI is off the mark, their performances the rest of the season will certainly shift both teams accordingly.
The Varsity Numbers column will not appear this week, but all of Bill Connelly's stats pages are updated through the first games, such as S&P+. Seventh Day Adventure will appear this week on Friday rather than Thursday.
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 September 2. The ratings for all FBS teams can be found here. Program FEI (five-year weighted) ratings and other supplemental drive-based data can be found here.
4 comments, Last at 08 Jan 2014, 11:51am by jordan espa