Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

07 Oct 2015

FEI Week 5: All Three Phases

by Brian Fremeau

Another college football weekend featured a handful of big victories and head-scratching results, shaking up the polls, our rating systems, and the teams best positioned to contend for the national championship. Alabama's crushing defeat of Georgia underscored the preseason (and unwavering, according to our numbers) title aspirations of the Crimson Tide. However, Arizona State's victory over UCLA and Florida's win over Ole Miss were results that ran counter to our expectations, and each of those teams made moves up and down the FEI ratings as a result.

The victories by the Sun Devils and Gators can both be categorized as wins that featured success in all three phases of the game. As discussed in depth previously, my game splits data are the single-game components of margin of victory or defeat. In each game, I break down the scoring margin of each game into the contributions of the offense, defense, and special teams units that contribute to that margin. Those contributions are measured against national baselines for efficiency and rooted in the value of field position. Teams that generate positive value from their offense, defense, and special teams units -- even only marginally positive value -- can claim to have won all three phases of a given game.

Arizona State outscored UCLA by a final margin of 15 points, and the game splits analysis distributes 5.7 points of that value to the Sun Devils' offense, 7.3 points to their defense, and 2.0 points to their special teams units. Florida whipped Ole Miss by a final score of 38-10, but I strip away garbage possessions and only analyze the game splits over the first 20 possessions of the game for a non-garbage final of 28-3. That 25-point margin breaks down to 12.3 points on offense for the Gators, 11.8 points for their defense, and 0.9 for their special teams.

For both Arizona State and Florida, their victories on Saturday were the second time this year that they had recorded a victory in all three phases of the game. Arizona State's win over New Mexico and Florida's win over New Mexico State also qualify. Nationally, 77 of the 252 games played to date (30.6 percent) have been won by a team in all three phases of the game. A total of 54 teams have recorded at least one such victory, 19 teams have recorded at least two such victories, and four teams have recorded three victories in all three phases of the game so far.

Those four teams are all ranked higher today in the FEI ratings than they were at the start of the year, and all four may figure prominently into the national championship race. No. 6 LSU (4-0), No. 9 Utah (4-0), No. 11 USC (3-1), and No. 22 Michigan (4-1) haven't necessarily been the most dominant or most flawless teams this year, but they have each played three games so far in which their offensive, defensive, and special teams units contributed positive value to a victory. Last year, the team with the most victories in all three phases of the game was the national champion Ohio State Buckeyes (seven total, six of which came in the regular season).

Victories in all three phases of the game are by no means a requirement for playoff contention -- Oregon had five such victories last year, Alabama had only two, and Florida State had only one. But teams that can consistently generate that kind of scoring value from all three units will often be well positioned to win. Teams that recorded at least three such victories in 2014 won an average of 10.3 FBS games overall.

Degree of Difficulty through Week 5

The DOD rankings are based on current 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?

My hypothesis is that the College Football Playoff selection committee is likely to value and reward something akin to DOD through their process and deliberations. Last year, the top four teams in DOD before the bowls were also the four teams selected for the playoff, and TCU and Baylor ranked fifth and sixth, respectively.

As of this week, the following teams have the most impressive records and have accomplished the most to date.

Degree of Difficulty through Week 5
Rank Team W-L DOD
1 Northwestern 4-0 .557
2 Texas A&M 5-0 .587
3 Clemson 3-0 .640
4 LSU 4-0 .668
5 Utah 4-0 .702
6 Florida 5-0 .744
7 Iowa 4-0 .768
8 Ohio State 5-0 .776
9 Oklahoma 4-0 .780
10 Oklahoma State 4-0 .821

FEI Week 5 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.

Preseason projections are a function of program strength and trajectory as well as transition factors including returning starters and recruiting success. The weight given to preseason projections is reduced in the FEI formula over the first half of the season until it is eliminated entirely following the results of Week 7. Preseason projection data receives 29 percent of the weight in this week's ratings. Ratings for all FBS teams can be found here.

Rank Team FBS
W-L
FEI LW GE GE
Rk
SOS SOS
Rk
FBS
MW
FBS
RMW
1 Alabama 4-1 .280 1 .232 10 .123 14 9.4 4.9
2 Clemson 3-0 .234 5 .141 30 .391 69 9.7 7.2
3 Baylor 3-0 .229 3 .424 1 .187 34 9.3 6.4
4 Stanford 4-1 .223 9 .215 12 .201 39 10.1 6.1
5 Texas A&M 5-0 .218 13 .240 7 .100 7 8.3 4.1
6 LSU 4-0 .216 7 .216 11 .084 3 8.4 4.9
7 Ohio State 5-0 .214 2 .203 14 .409 73 10.6 6.0
8 Notre Dame 4-1 .210 8 .178 20 .141 19 9.4 5.4
9 Utah 4-0 .203 15 .299 3 .282 53 9.9 6.5
10 TCU 4-0 .200 12 .184 18 .177 30 8.6 4.9
11 USC 3-1 .195 16 .338 2 .155 21 9.0 6.0
12 Michigan State 5-0 .194 11 .165 21 .326 61 10.1 5.4
13 Northwestern 4-0 .185 25 .141 29 .278 52 8.5 5.5
14 Georgia 3-1 .184 6 .112 34 .230 42 8.5 5.5
15 Oklahoma 4-0 .177 14 .186 17 .155 20 9.0 5.5
Rank Team FBS
W-L
FEI LW GE GE
Rk
SOS SOS
Rk
FBS
MW
FBS
RMW
16 UCLA 4-1 .172 10 .163 22 .139 18 8.9 4.7
17 Arizona State 2-2 .169 22 -.026 71 .156 22 7.9 5.7
18 Mississippi 3-1 .164 4 .084 40 .094 5 7.3 4.6
19 Florida State 4-0 .156 17 .246 6 .248 44 8.5 4.8
20 Oklahoma State 4-0 .154 24 .163 23 .284 56 8.0 4.6
21 Kansas State 2-1 .154 19 .091 37 .254 47 7.9 5.7
22 Michigan 4-1 .150 26 .270 5 .226 41 8.6 4.7
23 Georgia Tech 1-3 .149 18 .024 59 .107 10 6.8 4.4
24 Mississippi State 2-2 .146 20 .033 54 .125 15 6.9 4.7
25 North Carolina 2-1 .142 45 .143 28 .399 72 7.4 5.4
26 Boise State 3-1 .136 23 .213 13 .713 114 9.7 6.4
27 Duke 3-1 .119 29 .075 43 .413 76 7.5 4.9
28 Iowa 4-0 .117 50 .161 24 .395 71 8.2 5.1
29 Missouri 3-1 .099 33 .051 47 .358 66 6.9 3.6
30 Oregon 2-2 .098 21 -.006 66 .121 12 6.4 4.0

Posted by: Brian Fremeau on 07 Oct 2015

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