Of all the national playoff contenders, Michigan State might be the most dangerous in the postseason.
03 Oct 2013
by Brian Fremeau
College football has been dominated by the SEC over the last seven seasons, and most recently, the SEC West has claimed the unofficial title of "best division" in the country. Since 2007, five of the six BCS national championships were claimed by SEC West programs. Alabama and LSU are perennially in the national championship conversation, and Texas A&M has proven it can go toe to toe with those powerhouse programs as well.
So far in 2013, however, the Pac 12 North is making a strong play for that unofficial 'best division" crown. We projected Oregon and Stanford to be among the top three teams this year and early results haven’t changed that perspective. The big surprise is the Washington Huskies, surging to No. 4 overall in our rankings after a 31-13 victory over Arizona on Saturday.
The Huskies have wins over Boise State, Illinois, and Arizona so far this season -– not exactly a murderer’s row, but all solid wins over teams we originally thought might give the Huskies trouble. In our preseason FEI projections, Washington was given only a 17.6 percent chance of winning those three games. All three were double-digit victories led by a Huskies offense that has been one of the most efficient in the country through the first five weeks.
The Huskies rank second nationally behind only Baylor in first-down rate, earning at least one first down on 93.8 percent of their offensive non-garbage possessions. Washington has been grinding out methodical drives on 28.1 percent of its possessions, the fourth-highest rate nationally.
Washington’s strong start has made them a legitimate contender in the Pac-12 North, and their opportunity to win the division comes in the next two weeks. A trip to Stanford on Saturday night and a visit from Oregon the following weekend are the toughest back-to-back games of any team in the country this season. FEI gives the Huskies a 12 percent chance of winning both and a 42 percent chance of losing both.
If they play well against Stanford and Oregon, win or lose, I expect Washington will remain highly ranked in the FEI ratings for the remainder of the season. Opponent adjustments will keep Washington ranked highly due to the No. 6 overall strength of schedule (No. 47 to date, No. 5 remaining).
That’s a big leap from the our early projections, and an unprecedented one at that. The Huskies started the year at No. 43 in our FEI projections. Since 2004, no team projected outside the FEI top 40 finished the year among the top 5. In fact, only two teams in that span started the year outside the FEI projected top 30 and finished among the FEI top 5. Those two teams happen to also be Pac 12 North programs –- 2010 Stanford (projected No. 31, finished No. 2) and 2007 Oregon (projected No. 39, finished No. 4).
We ran 1000 simulations of the remainder of the Pac-12 conference season based on the most recent FEI ratings. Stanford was the Pac-12 North division champion in 431 of those simulations and Oregon was the conference champ in 411 of those simulations. Washington picked up the rest winning 158 of the simulations. The overall win likelihoods for all three teams projected after each week of the season to date are provided in the tables below.
|No. 2 Oregon Season Win Likelihood By Week|
|No. 3 Stanford Season Win Likelihood By Week|
|No. 4 Washington Season Win Likelihood By Week|
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 28th. 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.
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