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10 Dec 2013

FEI Week 15

by Brian Fremeau

The last BCS championship game debate was settled as cleanly as the two-game playoff system could manage. College football often creates more arguments than it settles, but Saturday’s conference championship gave the poll voters a relatively easy choice for the title game selection process.

Florida State, the only undefeated team in the country and the team that had been the most consistently dominant over the course of the year capped their regular season with a smothering victory over Duke in the ACC championship game. Auburn, the hottest team in the country, ran down Missouri in the SEC championship game and staked their claim to the second spot. Previously unbeaten Ohio State fell behind early against Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game, rallied to take a lead, but ran out of gas in a 34-24 loss that eliminated the Buckeyes from the conversation.

A year from now, a playoff selection committee will be faced with selecting and seeding a four-team field to determine the national championship. The champions of the five major conferences -– Florida State, Auburn, Michigan State, Baylor, and Stanford –- plus a short list of other worthy candidates would have spurred a fierce debate if the system were in place this season. And especially since the criteria that the committee members will favor in that process is not yet known, several plausible four-team playoff brackets have been considered and debated by columnists and fans over the past week.

I’ve got a few ideas in mind myself, and of course I lean on my FEI ratings and the data and principles that produce those ratings to frame that perspective. I would not, however, advocate that any single computer system be used to select a championship field. We believe in our systems here at Football Outsiders, but these are merely tools to help understand complex data sets.

I introduced Game Factors this season, the guts of the FEI ratings, opponent-adjusted single game efficiency measures and the relative weight each game receives in the FEI formula for each team. I believe that a conversation about the relative merits of national championship playoff contenders needs to consider the variable distribution of individual game performances, and Game Factors can help do that. The chart below represents the GFEI distribution for each team in the FEI top 25. For me, this is what the national championship debate looks like.

What I like best about this chart is that it potentially be used to support different perspectives and priorities in evaluating each team. The chart is organized according to the FEI rankings, but it helps illuminate key characteristics of each team’s set of game performances. Which teams had the best collection of elite performances? Which teams were most consistently strong? Which teams had the best and worst losses?

It also illuminates the problem of leaning on data alone to determine which teams are the best. The FEI ratings at the end of the regular season place Stanford (11-2) ahead of Florida State (13-0) ahead of Alabama (11-1) ahead of Auburn (12-1). Those four teams may be popular picks for the best four teams in the country, but few would rank them in this order. Game Factors explain why FEI ranks the teams in this order and the chart illustrates the influence of those factors.

Stanford has two losses, but the Cardinal also have two of the four best single game performances of the year according to FEI. Both of those wins actually came against No. 5 Arizona State (one in September, one last weekend). ASU is the team with the least variability in performance and the team with the highest floor. The Sun Devils’ worst game rates better than the worst performances of all other teams, though every other top-20 FEI team has at least one GFEI performance ranked higher than Arizona State’s best game.

Florida State has the best collection of good wins by far. The Seminoles have eight top-100 wins according to GFEI. (Alabama has seven games ranked that highly, though one was a loss. Stanford and Arizona State have five GFEI top-100 wins each. Michigan State has four. FEI doesn't think Florida State is the clear-cut best team in the country because the Seminoles haven't faced elite competition frequently enough, but if the Seminoles dominate their bowl game that would do the trick.

Auburn has a head-to-head win over Alabama, but Alabama’s best game (38-17 over LSU) is better in the eyes of FEI than any of Auburn’s wins, and Alabama’s worst game (31-6 over Colorado State) is rated better than four Auburn single game performances. Alabama’s loss is better than Auburn’s loss too. It is perfectly understandable that Auburn (SEC champion, head-to-head winner over Alabama) would be selected and seeded ahead of the Crimson Tide by a playoff selection committee, but it is helpful to understand the other data that can help inform that selection process.

A year ago, I wrote about how the top four FEI teams heading into the bowls were a re-ordered version of the top four in the final BCS standings, and we are in the same situation this year. I expect that the winner of the BCS championship game will vault to the top of the FEI ratings in the end, but results across all bowls will impact the system in subtle and significant ways.

FEI Week 15 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 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 composite efficiency of the given team's special teams units - field goals, punt returns, kickoff returns, punts, and kickoffs.
  • 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 December 7th. 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.

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 Stanford 11-2 .313 3 .198 9 .059 12 .647 9 11.7 .7 .433 16 -.792 2 3.535 2 .566 4
2 Florida State 12-0 .309 1 .510 1 .421 90 .579 4 12.0 .6 .510 10 -.635 5 .558 51 .574 2
3 Alabama 10-1 .299 2 .319 2 .164 35 .767 20 10.4 .8 .510 11 -.595 7 4.094 1 .578 1
4 Auburn 11-1 .263 8 .135 23 .101 21 .422 2 10.2 .4 .550 9 -.466 13 2.763 5 .514 45
5 Arizona State 9-3 .250 4 .117 30 .024 1 .961 56 9.4 .9 .654 2 -.479 11 -.026 67 .539 15
6 Oklahoma State 9-2 .240 6 .176 15 .340 78 .648 10 9.9 .5 .358 24 -.659 4 -.107 70 .542 11
7 Baylor 10-1 .238 10 .292 3 .267 68 .783 23 10.1 .7 .493 12 -.395 19 -.610 90 .538 16
8 Ohio State 11-1 .236 7 .260 7 .289 69 .806 26 11.1 .7 .619 4 -.217 36 2.722 6 .558 7
9 Michigan State 11-1 .235 13 .194 11 .230 58 .409 1 10.4 .3 .198 38 -.727 3 1.325 26 .563 5
10 Missouri 10-2 .235 5 .170 16 .144 30 .637 6 10.1 .5 .356 25 -.481 10 -.260 79 .534 20
11 Oregon 9-2 .232 9 .277 4 .102 22 .895 37 9.5 .8 .612 7 -.364 21 1.430 24 .540 14
12 South Carolina 9-2 .221 11 .114 31 .179 38 .699 13 9.3 .5 .605 8 -.396 18 -1.603 103 .483 88
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 Wisconsin 8-3 .208 12 .194 10 .156 33 .675 12 8.9 .5 .326 26 -.571 8 -.150 71 .510 50
14 UCLA 9-3 .204 14 .134 24 .036 3 .794 24 8.7 .6 .406 18 -.411 15 2.475 8 .530 26
15 Georgia 7-4 .199 15 .062 44 .102 23 .946 49 8.3 .8 .617 5 -.109 52 .065 63 .476 94
16 LSU 8-3 .197 16 .142 20 .080 16 .848 30 8.5 .7 .615 6 -.126 49 1.360 25 .509 54
17 Washington 7-4 .181 17 .131 26 .055 8 .780 21 7.7 .6 .480 13 -.335 23 .701 44 .509 52
18 USC 9-4 .175 18 .094 35 .085 17 .940 47 9.8 .8 .315 28 -.609 6 .896 39 .529 30
19 Notre Dame 8-4 .174 19 .048 49 .056 11 .985 69 8.8 1.0 .446 15 -.306 28 .314 54 .488 79
20 Oklahoma 10-2 .170 28 .102 33 .127 27 .451 3 8.9 .2 .302 29 -.351 22 .969 36 .524 35
21 BYU 7-4 .162 21 .070 40 .203 51 .748 17 8.1 .4 .146 43 -.477 12 -.543 89 .514 44
22 Louisville 10-1 .161 23 .277 5 .604 114 .867 33 10.2 .7 .387 22 -.284 30 1.215 29 .534 21
23 Central Florida 11-1 .160 22 .202 8 .404 89 .641 7 10.1 .3 .392 21 -.166 42 1.597 18 .530 27
24 Virginia Tech 7-4 .154 20 .041 52 .188 42 .706 14 8.0 .4 -.080 72 -.828 1 -.625 91 .495 70
25 Texas A&M 7-4 .149 26 .121 29 .087 18 .875 34 7.5 .6 .655 1 .212 91 2.072 11 .556 9

Posted by: Brian Fremeau on 10 Dec 2013

10 comments, Last at 22 Jan 2014, 6:36am by Pandora Bracelets Sale

Comments

1
by CBPodge :: Wed, 12/11/2013 - 2:47pm

I really love that table. Would love to see one for game DVOA for NFL teams too. A really simply but illustrative way of looking at the teams.

2
by skunkfunk (not verified) :: Wed, 12/11/2013 - 3:56pm

When selecting teams for a four-team playoff, why is it necessary to select the four best teams? Should not the four teams that had the best season be selected?

Why try to eliminate the effects of random bad luck, for instance? In the NFL, if you win 12 games but your pythagorean wins expectation is only 8.5 wins, or DVOA says you aren't any good, you still get to win your division. If you play poorly and somehow win a few games in a row in the playoffs, you still win the superbowl. Don't have to be the best team. Just the one that had the best season.

Likewise, it should be based on results and strength of schedule in college.

5
by Adam H (not verified) :: Thu, 12/12/2013 - 12:25pm

I agree with this. But almost all objective "reward-based" rankings put Stanford in the Top 4 anyways (along with FSU, Aub, and Alabama). They played by far the toughest schedule of any elite team.

If the selection committee left Stanford out of the playoff, I would be upset. They're way ahead of MSU and Baylor unless you severely over-emphasize number of losses and games against east coast teams.

3
by csjoholm (not verified) :: Wed, 12/11/2013 - 5:29pm

Why is Washington 7-4 and Washington State 5-6? As near as I can tell, the Idaho games are excluded, but Idaho is FBS.

4
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 12/11/2013 - 7:40pm

WSU played Southern Utah; U-W played Southern Idaho.

It is, however, ridiculous to not penalize Oregon State for losing to Eastern Washington.

6
by Brian Fremeau :: Thu, 12/12/2013 - 9:46pm

You used the word 'penalize'. Is it ridiculous that the 46th ranked FBS team lost 49-46 to an 11-2 FCS opponent? I'm not sure it is reasonable to conclude which direction Oregon State would move in the rankings if I included FCS games.

7
by Adam H (not verified) :: Fri, 12/13/2013 - 12:19pm

Eastern Washington is almost certainly worse than the 46th best team in the FBS by a considerable margin. Most predictive computer rankings put them in the Virginia/Middle Tennessee St/San Diego St range. They are not an elite FCS team this year like North Dakota St and Eastern Illinois (watch EWU win the FCS playoffs now and make me look silly for saying that).

Even accounting for the first EWU loss, Oregon St would be favored in a rematch at home by about 20. So yeah, it was a big upset that isn't accounted for in your rankings.

Ridiculous is a strong word though. Cheers! :)

8
by Brian Fremeau :: Fri, 12/13/2013 - 12:24pm

How much would Stanford be favored over Utah if they played again? My system is accounting for that upset and the Cardinal are still ranked #1. At the end of the day, the EWU loss was certainly an upset, but I really don't think I can conclude anything about what it would do to Oregon State's rating if I included it.

9
by Tpowers (not verified) :: Thu, 01/02/2014 - 12:37pm

I find all this fascinating, and provocative. I have a question that I can't seem to answer, so maybe you can help.

FSU has the 90th ranked SOS according to the table above. Yet, you state that they had "the best collection of good wins by far." I am having a hard time keeping those two seemingly contradictory pieces of evidence in my head at the same time.

The best I can come up with is this: FSU's opponents were garbage all year, but they way they beat them was so convincing that they become good wins.

Thanks!

10
by Pandora Bracelets Sale (not verified) :: Wed, 01/22/2014 - 6:36am

Hello there! This publish couldn