Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

11 Nov 2015

FEI Week 10: Sparty No

by Brian Fremeau

Michigan State battled Nebraska on Saturday in a game that may have a significant impact on the college football postseason and will be most remembered for its controversial finish. With only 17 seconds left in the fourth quarter, the Cornhuskers scored a go-ahead touchdown on a 30-yard reception caught by a receiver who had made several steps out of bounds before stepping back in to catch the pass. The referees ruled that the receiver was forced out and therefore the catch was good. Michigan State couldn't counter with a score on its final drive, and the previously undefeated Spartans were saddled with their first loss of the year, 39-38.

Three possessions prior to that game-winning drive, Michigan State seemed to have a victory all but sealed up. The Spartans drove 75 yards in 16 plays and chewed up 8:50 of fourth-quarter game clock to take a 38-26 lead with just over four minutes left. Michigan State had played a few tight games already before pulling away late, and this game appeared to be following a similar script.

Instead, Nebraska scored on a 53-yard touchdown drive in two and a half minutes, forced a three-and-out, and then followed that up with a 91-yard drive in 38 seconds that culminated in the controversial touchdown. I was surprised, less by the circumstances of a controversial no-call in another game's waning moments, but by the fact that Michigan State had given up a 12-point lead in four minutes. The Spartans rarely give up double-digit leads at all, and hadn't given up a 12-point lead in a game in at least five seasons.

There have been 4,192 FBS games played since the start of the 2010 season, and the team that went on to win the game trailed by at least 10 points at some point in only 557 of those games (13.2 percent). That's the frequency of double-digit comebacks on a national level. Heading into last weekend, Michigan State had played in a total of 71 FBS games in that span and a double-digit comeback was recorded in 11 of those games (15.5 percent). The Spartans delivered nine of those wins in double-digit comebacks of their own. Their opponents had only recorded two double-digit comebacks against Michigan State in the last five and a half seasons.

Those two games both took place in 2012. In Week 7 that year, Michigan State took a 10-0 first-half lead against Iowa before ultimately falling to the Hawkeyes by a final score of 19-16. Three weeks later, Michigan State held a 24-14 lead over Nebraska with nine minutes left in the game before the Cornhuskers ultimately prevailed 28-24.

The Spartans didn't have a lead of more than 10 points at any point in either of those two games. Nationally, the team that went on to win trailed by at least 12 points in only 324 of the 4,192 FBS games played since the start of the 2010 season (7.7 percent). Prior to last weekend, such comebacks had occurred in 9.9 percent of the games Michigan State had played in that span. The Spartans were the comeback victors in all seven of those instances.

In the last five and a half years, no team has more 12-or-more-point comeback victories than Michigan State, and the other four teams tied with the Spartans on that list combined to be on the wrong end of a 12-point comeback 13 times.

  • Michigan State: 7-1 (seven 12-plus-point comeback wins, one opponent 12-plus-point comeback win)
  • Florida State: 7-2
  • Oklahoma State: 7-3
  • Fresno State: 7-3
  • Nebraska: 7-5

There's Nebraska, of course, now the winner of seven games since 2010 in which the Huskers trailed by at least 12 points and the loser of five such games. Heading into the game, Michigan State had had the best run in the nation of pulling off big comebacks without surrendering one of its own. It is perhaps fitting that the streak would fall to the team most familiar with such circumstances.

FEI Degree of Difficulty through Week 10

FEI Degree of Difficulty (DOD) ratings are based on FEI ratings, but instead of measuring efficiency against schedule, DOD measures record against schedule. How difficult would it be for an elite team (two standard deviations better than average) to play a given team's schedule to date and achieve that team's record? This question is closely aligned with the post-season selection priorities for the College Football Playoff committee.

The table below includes ratings for each team's schedule strength to date (PSOS), the average number of wins an elite team would have against the given team's schedule to date (EMW), and the given team's record against FEI top 15 (v15) and FEI top 30 (v30) opponents. Remaining schedule strength (RSOS) and overall schedule strength (SOS) are also provided. Only the top 30 DOD ratings to date are ranked. All other FBS teams are listed alphabetically. DOD ratings for all teams can be found here.

FEI Degree of Difficulty through Week 10
Rk Team W-L DOD PSOS Rk EMW v15 v30 RSOS Rk SOS Rk
1 Clemson 8-0 .356 .356 52 7.1 1-0 2-0 .952 106 .339 75
2 Notre Dame 8-1 .501 .115 2 7.5 2-1 3-1 .471 16 .054 1
3 Oklahoma State 8-0 .556 .556 93 7.5 0-0 1-0 .614 27 .341 76
4 LSU 7-1 .564 .159 8 6.7 1-1 3-1 .672 42 .107 11
5 Iowa 8-0 .623 .623 102 7.6 0-0 0-0 .812 59 .506 99
6 Utah 8-1 .683 .266 30 7.9 1-1 2-1 .903 89 .240 49
7 Alabama 8-1 .717 .327 45 8.0 1-0 3-1 .566 23 .185 28
8 Ohio State 9-0 .733 .733 110 8.7 0-0 0-0 .461 13 .338 74
9 Florida 8-1 .793 .324 44 8.1 0-1 2-1 .880 81 .285 64
10 Houston 8-0 .795 .795 123 7.8 0-0 0-0 .661 38 .525 104

FEI Week 10 Ratings

The Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI) is a college football rating system based on opponent-adjusted drive efficiency. Approximately 20,000 possessions are contested annually in FBS vs. FBS games. First-half clock-kills and end-of-game garbage drives and scores are filtered out. Unadjusted game efficiency (GE) is a measure of net success on non-garbage possessions, and opponent adjustments are calculated with special emphasis placed on quality performances against good teams, win or lose. Other definitions:

  • SOS: Strength of Schedule, measured as the likelihood of an elite team going undefeated against the given team's regular season schedule. Schedule strength data based on FEI ratings and calculated across other dimensions can be explored in this interactive visualization.
  • FBS MW: Mean Wins, the average number of games a team with the given FEI rating would be expected to win against its regular season schedule of FBS opponents.
  • FBS RMW: Remaining Mean Wins, the average number of games a team with the given FEI rating would be expected to win against the remainder of its regular season schedule of FBS opponents.
  • OFEI: Opponent-adjusted Offensive Efficiency value generated per possession.
  • DFEI: Opponent-adjusted Defensive Efficiency value generated per opponent possession.
  • STE: Special Teams Efficiency value generated per game possession.
  • FVE: Field Value Efficiency value generated per game possession.

Preseason projection data receives no weight in this week's ratings. Ratings for all FBS teams can be found here.

Rk Team FBS
Rec
FEI LW GE Rk SOS Rk FBS
MW
FBS
RMW
OFEI Rk DFEI Rk STE Rk FVE Rk
1 Clemson 8-0 .307 1 .234 7 .339 75 10.4 3.0 .69 18 .95 6 -.01 79 -.07 98
2 Alabama 8-1 .276 3 .211 10 .185 28 9.7 1.6 .40 30 1.21 1 -.03 92 .13 15
3 Notre Dame 8-1 .276 2 .184 13 .054 1 10.1 2.5 1.18 4 .42 30 .07 19 .09 28
4 Stanford 8-1 .240 5 .256 4 .173 25 10.2 2.3 1.11 5 .20 51 .13 3 .13 14
5 LSU 7-1 .221 4 .157 21 .107 11 8.6 2.4 .96 9 .43 28 -.02 86 -.04 82
6 USC 6-3 .212 6 .174 16 .104 9 9.4 2.6 1.03 6 .51 25 -.04 93 .08 32
7 Michigan State 8-1 .205 7 .131 31 .245 51 10.0 2.3 .82 13 .29 42 -.11 120 .02 50
8 Ohio State 9-0 .200 8 .253 5 .338 74 10.2 1.9 .46 28 .74 12 .05 32 .25 2
9 Oklahoma 8-1 .199 9 .268 3 .206 36 9.7 1.6 .70 17 1.06 2 -.04 98 .06 36
10 Navy 6-1 .196 24 .180 14 .187 29 9.0 3.5 .99 8 .21 49 .00 72 -.06 96
11 Utah 8-1 .193 14 .141 26 .240 49 9.7 2.8 .13 47 .78 10 .11 9 .14 11
12 Michigan 7-2 .193 10 .243 6 .245 50 9.6 2.2 .20 41 1.04 5 .12 5 .09 30
13 Mississippi State 6-2 .192 16 .151 22 .194 32 8.3 1.8 .57 26 .60 19 .06 23 .09 27
14 Oklahoma State 8-0 .186 19 .172 17 .341 76 8.9 2.1 .26 39 .61 18 .10 12 .15 8
15 Baylor 7-0 .182 13 .338 1 .275 59 8.8 2.3 1.37 3 .12 59 -.03 87 .00 63
Rk Team FBS
Rec
FEI LW GE Rk SOS Rk FBS
MW
FBS
RMW
OFEI Rk DFEI Rk STE Rk FVE Rk
16 TCU 7-1 .180 12 .150 23 .250 53 8.6 1.9 .96 10 -.08 75 .01 60 .04 43
17 Florida 8-1 .176 11 .139 29 .285 64 9.6 2.7 .10 48 .76 11 .03 46 .26 1
18 Iowa 8-0 .168 17 .162 20 .506 99 9.3 2.5 .28 37 .52 24 .03 48 .07 35
19 Tennessee 4-4 .163 15 .072 43 .131 13 7.8 2.7 .58 25 .37 36 .11 10 .14 12
20 North Carolina 6-1 .159 23 .229 8 .605 110 8.4 2.3 .92 12 -.07 73 .04 38 .01 56
21 Houston 8-0 .140 25 .273 2 .525 104 9.0 1.9 .58 24 .53 23 .03 47 .23 3
22 Memphis 7-1 .134 18 .109 35 .305 68 7.7 1.9 .71 16 -.04 70 .10 13 .04 40
23 Washington 3-5 .127 21 .013 58 .135 19 6.8 2.4 -.43 98 1.04 4 .10 11 -.01 69
24 Mississippi 6-3 .126 22 .099 38 .064 4 6.1 .5 .59 23 .16 55 .00 66 -.02 72
25 Florida State 7-2 .112 27 .163 19 .144 22 7.6 1.0 .79 14 .29 41 .00 68 .01 55
26 Western Kentucky 8-2 .106 35 .216 9 .413 86 9.7 1.7 1.48 2 -.47 101 .06 24 .06 38
27 Temple 8-1 .104 28 .143 25 .348 77 8.9 2.0 -.10 68 .42 32 .08 18 .14 10
28 Bowling Green 7-2 .104 31 .197 11 .545 107 9.4 2.3 1.74 1 -.70 113 -.08 113 -.01 66
29 Texas A&M 6-3 .103 20 .069 44 .135 18 6.3 .8 -.17 76 .70 15 .12 7 .08 33
30 Nebraska 4-6 .103 38 .045 48 .431 89 8.5 1.3 .61 22 -.22 83 .03 49 -.05 86

Posted by: Brian Fremeau on 11 Nov 2015

4 comments, Last at 12 Nov 2015, 12:13pm by 3cardmonty

Comments

1
by techvet :: Wed, 11/11/2015 - 5:09pm

Notre Dame vs. Sparty in 2006 - another comeback for the ages against Sparty under the auspices of John L. Smith. With 8:28 left in the game, ND trailed by 16 points and was facing a 4th-and-5 at Sparty's 43 yard line. The rest is history (http://espn.go.com/college-football/recap?gameId=262660127).

2
by tsmonk :: Thu, 11/12/2015 - 10:57am

USNA at #10. This blows my mind.

3
by Chappy :: Thu, 11/12/2015 - 11:07am

I don't understand how the rankings are calculated. (I understand the components as described by the definitions). MSU and Michigan seem like perfect examples of this. Michigan has higher GE, while the MSU and Michigan SOS's are identical. Additionally, it seems like the component OFEI/DFEIs are mirror images (i.e. Michigan's defense is about as strong as MSU's offense and vice-versa) but Michigans STE is much stronger and their FVE is mildly better. Maybe a teams offensive possessions are more strongly correlated with winning or total FEI? I guess I'm at a loss as to why their rankings are much different. Maybe MSU played better against higher quality opponents so the aggregate SOS is masking individual differences?(I suppose they aren't really all that far apart in terms of FEI so maybe I'm reading too much into small differences).

4
by 3cardmonty :: Thu, 11/12/2015 - 12:13pm

Is the title a bizarre reference to relatively obscure rapper Shawty Lo?