Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

31 Oct 2014

VN: Moving Up, Moving Down, Staying The Same

by Bill Connelly

In 2010, I came up with an idea to communicate a team's in-season progress (or regression) in what I felt was a pretty easy-to-understand way. What if I took a team's single-game S&P+ score and translated it to something a lot more intuitive: the actual scoring curve?

That was the idea behind what I've simply come to call Adjusted Points. If your offense produces a 100.0 S&P+ in a specific game, you might not intuitively know what that means. But if you're told that it means they would be expected to score about 28.6 points (the current national average) against an average college defense, that starts to make a lot more sense. And if you look at each season's result as how a team would have performed against a perfectly average team with a perfectly average number of breaks, you can find who has played consistently well and who hasn't.

S&P+ itself is determined on a per-play and per-drive basis, so per-game averages are not taken directly into account for that. But Adj. Score has become a lovely way to figure out who is improving, who is regressing, who plays particularly well against good or bad teams, etc.

I tend to revisit the Adj. Score concept once or twice each season (here's last year's piece on the topic), then use it pretty heavily in the offseason. (It's at its best when each team has played as many games as humanly possible.) Because the averages for given teams and their opponents change each week, the Adjusted Scores do, too, so it's only so useful during the season. But as we start to figure out the national pecking order when it comes to the College Football Playoff, I thought it might be interesting to see who has played particularly well (or poorly) and who might be improving or regressing as the season hits its home stretch.

Below is a table that contains the following data: a team's adjusted points per game scored and allowed, its adjusted scoring margin, its adjusted record (its "record" against this perfectly average team), its actual record, its weighted scoring margin (which values each progressive game 10 percent more than the last one), and its momentum score (weighted scoring margin minus adjusted scoring margin).

Team Adj. PPG
(Off.)
Rk Adj. PPG
(Def.)
Rk Adj.
Scoring
Margin
Rk Adj. W/L Actual W/L Wtd.
Scoring
Margin
Rk Momentum Rk
Alabama 42.1 5 16.2 4 25.9 1 8-0 7-1 25.6 1 -0.3 83
Auburn 43.0 3 18.6 8 24.4 2 7-0 6-1 23.8 2 -0.6 97
Mississippi State 43.8 1 21.2 18 22.6 3 7-0 7-0 22.4 3 -0.2 76
Ole Miss 35.5 30 14.8 3 20.7 4 7-1 7-1 19.1 8 -1.7 123
Michigan State 39.5 11 19.3 13 20.2 5 8-0 7-1 21.6 4 1.4 12
TCU 38.4 14 18.9 10 19.5 6 7-0 6-1 19.7 5 0.2 55
LSU 35.9 26 16.6 5 19.4 7 8-1 7-2 19.6 6 0.2 53
Ohio State 39.8 8 20.9 17 19.0 8 6-1 6-1 19.6 7 0.6 36
Georgia 42.3 4 23.8 32 18.5 9 6-1 6-1 18.1 10 -0.4 88
Miami 38.2 16 20.3 15 17.9 10 7-1 5-3 18.7 9 0.8 26
Baylor 36.4 24 18.8 9 17.6 11 6-1 6-1 16.5 14 -1.1 117
Oklahoma 41.1 7 23.8 31 17.3 12 6-1 5-2 16.9 13 -0.4 87
Stanford 28.9 62 12.1 1 16.9 13 8-0 5-3 15.9 16 -0.9 110
Wisconsin 38.3 15 21.5 20 16.8 14 7-0 5-2 17.5 11 0.7 31
Nebraska 38.4 13 21.7 21 16.7 15 7-1 7-1 17.0 12 0.2 50
Arkansas 38.5 12 22.8 28 15.7 16 7-1 4-4 16.2 15 0.4 43
West Virginia 34.9 36 19.2 12 15.7 17 7-1 6-2 15.1 19 -0.6 96
Marshall 39.8 9 24.2 38 15.6 18 8-0 8-0 15.8 17 0.2 52
Oregon 42.0 6 26.5 59 15.5 19 8-0 7-1 15.2 18 -0.4 85
Clemson 27.4 75 14.2 2 13.3 20 6-2 6-2 13.2 20 -0.1 73
Pittsburgh 37.0 20 24.6 43 12.5 21 6-2 4-4 10.1 26 -2.4 128
Boise State 35.0 33 22.8 27 12.2 22 8-0 6-2 12.5 21 0.3 49
Notre Dame 35.5 29 24.3 39 11.2 23 6-1 6-1 10.3 24 -0.9 108
Florida State 39.6 10 28.4 73 11.2 24 7-0 7-0 12.0 22 0.8 27
Texas A&M 37.1 19 26.5 58 10.6 25 7-1 5-3 8.4 33 -2.2 127
Team Adj. PPG
(Off.)
Rk Adj. PPG
(Def.)
Rk Adj.
Scoring
Margin
Rk Adj. W/L Actual W/L Wtd.
Scoring
Margin
Rk Momentum Rk
UCLA 35.8 27 25.5 49 10.3 26 7-1 6-2 9.4 31 -0.8 105
USC 34.9 35 24.7 45 10.2 27 7-1 5-3 10.3 25 0.1 60
Louisville 27.8 71 17.7 6 10.1 28 7-1 6-2 10.1 27 0.0 69
Kansas State 34.1 38 24.0 35 10.1 29 5-2 6-1 10.5 23 0.5 41
Georgia Southern 38.1 17 28.1 72 10.0 30 6-2 6-2 9.9 28 -0.1 72
Boston College 32.6 44 22.7 25 9.9 31 6-2 5-3 9.0 32 -0.9 111
Florida 28.9 63 19.0 11 9.9 32 5-1 3-3 9.5 30 -0.4 92
Georgia Tech 43.2 2 34.7 109 8.5 33 6-2 6-2 9.9 29 1.4 13
N.C. State 35.5 31 27.3 67 8.2 34 6-2 4-4 6.8 34 -1.4 121
Virginia Tech 26.0 93 18.1 7 7.8 35 6-2 4-4 6.6 36 -1.2 119
Michigan 27.3 78 20.4 16 6.9 36 4-4 3-5 4.8 40 -2.1 126
Penn State 26.9 80 20.2 14 6.7 37 5-2 4-3 5.0 39 -1.7 124
BYU 36.6 22 30.3 85 6.3 38 6-2 4-4 4.3 44 -1.9 125
Arizona State 33.1 43 27.1 64 6.0 39 4-3 6-1 6.2 37 0.2 51
Colorado State 36.2 25 30.3 86 6.0 40 7-1 7-1 6.7 35 0.7 29
Navy 37.0 21 31.3 93 5.7 41 5-3 4-4 4.6 42 -1.1 116
Tennessee 27.4 77 21.9 23 5.5 42 5-3 3-5 4.7 41 -0.8 104
Minnesota 29.3 60 24.4 40 4.9 43 4-4 6-2 4.4 43 -0.5 93
Memphis 28.4 64 23.8 33 4.6 44 4-3 4-3 3.8 48 -0.7 100
Kentucky 30.6 52 26.3 55 4.4 45 6-2 5-3 4.1 47 -0.3 78
South Carolina 37.5 18 33.1 102 4.3 46 5-3 4-4 3.3 57 -1.1 115
Texas 25.4 98 21.2 19 4.1 47 6-2 3-5 3.7 49 -0.4 90
Missouri 26.6 84 22.6 24 4.0 48 4-4 6-2 3.0 58 -1.1 114
Virginia 28.0 70 24.1 36 3.8 49 6-2 4-4 4.2 45 0.4 47
Arizona 32.3 46 28.7 75 3.7 50 4-3 6-1 3.7 50 0.1 65
Team Adj. PPG
(Off.)
Rk Adj. PPG
(Def.)
Rk Adj.
Scoring
Margin
Rk Adj. W/L Actual W/L Wtd.
Scoring
Margin
Rk Momentum Rk
East Carolina 35.2 32 31.6 95 3.5 51 4-3 6-1 2.3 61 -1.2 118
Central Florida 28.1 66 24.6 44 3.5 52 5-2 5-2 5.2 38 1.7 7
Duke 29.7 58 26.3 56 3.5 53 4-3 6-1 3.5 53 0.0 67
Louisiana Tech 28.0 69 24.5 42 3.5 54 3-5 5-3 3.6 51 0.1 61
Washington State 33.3 41 30.1 82 3.2 55 5-3 2-6 3.3 54 0.1 62
Northwestern 24.8 103 21.7 22 3.1 56 3-4 3-4 3.5 52 0.4 42
Maryland 29.2 61 26.2 54 3.1 57 6-2 5-3 2.1 63 -0.9 112
Illinois 30.5 53 27.8 69 2.7 58 5-3 4-4 2.6 60 -0.1 71
Utah 25.4 96 22.9 30 2.5 59 5-2 6-1 2.1 64 -0.4 89
Central Michigan 27.7 72 25.4 48 2.3 60 6-3 5-4 4.1 46 1.8 4
Indiana 32.5 45 30.2 84 2.3 61 5-2 3-4 1.0 73 -1.2 120
North Carolina 35.7 28 33.5 104 2.1 62 5-3 4-4 2.2 62 0.1 63
California 34.5 37 32.5 99 2.0 63 4-4 4-4 1.7 68 -0.3 84
UL-Lafayette 31.9 47 30.0 81 1.9 64 4-3 4-3 3.3 55 1.4 15
Arkansas State 30.4 54 28.6 74 1.8 65 4-3 4-3 1.5 69 -0.4 86
Western Michigan 29.6 59 28.0 70 1.6 66 5-3 5-3 1.7 67 0.1 58
Rutgers 33.3 42 31.7 96 1.6 67 4-4 5-3 1.4 70 -0.2 75
Iowa 25.4 95 23.9 34 1.5 68 4-3 5-2 1.9 66 0.4 45
Houston 26.4 87 24.9 46 1.5 69 4-3 4-3 3.3 56 1.8 5
Cincinnati 34.0 39 32.7 100 1.4 70 4-3 4-3 0.7 75 -0.7 98
South Alabama 24.2 105 22.9 29 1.3 71 3-4 5-2 2.0 65 0.7 30
Toledo 36.5 23 35.5 116 1.0 72 4-4 5-3 0.9 74 -0.1 70
Utah State 23.6 108 22.8 26 0.9 73 5-3 5-3 2.7 59 1.8 3
Middle Tennessee 31.3 49 30.5 89 0.7 74 5-3 5-3 1.4 71 0.6 35
Purdue 31.2 50 30.5 88 0.7 75 6-2 3-5 1.3 72 0.6 38
Team Adj. PPG
(Off.)
Rk Adj. PPG
(Def.)
Rk Adj.
Scoring
Margin
Rk Adj. W/L Actual W/L Wtd.
Scoring
Margin
Rk Momentum Rk
Temple 26.3 88 25.7 50 0.6 76 3-4 4-3 -0.2 79 -0.8 101
Oklahoma State 26.6 85 26.4 57 0.3 77 4-4 5-3 -0.3 80 -0.6 95
Oregon State 26.9 81 26.7 62 0.2 78 4-3 4-3 -0.2 78 -0.4 91
Texas Tech 35.0 34 35.0 112 0.0 79 3-5 3-5 0.4 76 0.4 46
Akron 25.2 100 25.4 47 -0.2 80 4-4 4-4 -1.0 81 -0.8 102
UAB 26.5 86 26.9 63 -0.5 81 4-4 4-4 -1.4 83 -0.9 107
Syracuse 26.9 82 28.0 71 -1.1 82 3-5 3-5 -2.0 85 -0.8 103
Air Force 25.4 99 27.2 65 -1.8 83 2-5 5-2 -1.6 84 0.2 54
Rice 28.0 68 29.9 80 -1.8 84 3-4 4-3 0.3 77 2.2 2
Northern Illinois 31.8 48 34.0 108 -2.2 85 2-5 5-2 -2.1 86 0.1 64
Colorado 29.9 57 32.3 98 -2.4 86 4-4 2-6 -2.9 90 -0.5 94
Washington 23.6 109 26.0 52 -2.4 87 4-4 5-3 -1.3 82 1.1 18
Western Kentucky 34.0 40 36.7 122 -2.7 88 4-3 3-4 -3.0 91 -0.3 82
Texas State 27.4 76 30.2 83 -2.8 89 2-5 4-3 -3.7 92 -0.9 109
San Diego State 26.1 90 29.4 78 -3.3 90 2-5 4-3 -2.2 87 1.1 19
San Jose State 24.4 104 27.8 68 -3.4 91 3-4 3-4 -2.8 88 0.6 34
Nevada 28.2 65 32.0 97 -3.8 92 3-5 5-3 -2.8 89 1.0 21
Fresno State 26.2 89 31.0 91 -4.9 93 3-5 3-5 -3.9 93 1.0 22
Iowa State 30.2 55 35.1 113 -5.0 94 3-4 2-5 -4.1 94 0.9 25
Florida International 18.9 119 24.4 41 -5.5 95 2-6 3-5 -4.9 96 0.6 37
Miami (Ohio) 25.4 97 31.2 92 -5.8 96 3-6 2-7 -5.9 98 -0.2 74
Ohio 23.7 107 29.7 79 -6.0 97 2-7 4-5 -6.3 99 -0.3 80
UTEP 25.2 101 31.4 94 -6.2 98 2-5 4-3 -4.6 95 1.6 8
Old Dominion 31.1 51 37.3 124 -6.2 99 1-7 3-5 -5.7 97 0.5 39
Buffalo 27.5 74 33.9 107 -6.4 100 3-5 3-5 -6.4 101 0.0 68
Team Adj. PPG
(Off.)
Rk Adj. PPG
(Def.)
Rk Adj.
Scoring
Margin
Rk Adj. W/L Actual W/L Wtd.
Scoring
Margin
Rk Momentum Rk
UTSA 17.7 125 24.2 37 -6.4 101 3-5 2-6 -7.9 106 -1.5 122
Connecticut 18.2 122 26.0 51 -7.8 102 1-6 1-6 -6.4 102 1.4 14
Appalachian State 26.8 83 34.7 110 -7.9 103 3-4 2-5 -6.6 103 1.3 16
Bowling Green 25.8 94 33.8 106 -7.9 104 2-6 5-3 -6.4 100 1.6 9
Kansas 18.2 121 26.6 61 -8.4 105 2-5 2-5 -7.8 105 0.7 33
Tulane 20.2 118 28.7 76 -8.5 106 0-7 2-5 -8.2 108 0.3 48
UL-Monroe 17.8 123 26.5 60 -8.6 107 2-5 3-4 -8.9 113 -0.3 79
Idaho 27.0 79 35.8 119 -8.8 108 2-5 1-6 -7.4 104 1.5 11
Vanderbilt 20.4 117 29.3 77 -8.9 109 1-7 2-6 -9.2 114 -0.3 81
Hawaii 18.2 120 27.3 66 -9.0 110 1-7 2-6 -8.9 112 0.1 59
Massachusetts 26.1 91 35.3 115 -9.2 111 1-8 2-7 -8.2 109 1.0 23
South Florida 21.1 116 30.3 87 -9.2 112 1-7 3-5 -8.2 107 1.0 20
New Mexico 28.1 67 37.3 123 -9.2 113 0-7 2-5 -8.7 111 0.5 40
Florida Atlantic 26.0 92 35.6 117 -9.6 114 2-6 3-5 -8.3 110 1.3 17
Wyoming 23.9 106 33.7 105 -9.7 115 1-7 3-5 -10.6 118 -0.9 106
North Texas 23.2 111 33.1 103 -9.9 116 1-7 2-6 -9.7 116 0.2 56
Ball State 22.5 114 32.9 101 -10.3 117 1-7 3-5 -9.6 115 0.8 28
Georgia State 27.5 73 39.5 127 -12.0 118 1-7 1-7 -11.5 120 0.4 44
Southern Miss 22.9 113 35.0 111 -12.1 119 1-7 3-5 -10.3 117 1.8 6
Tulsa 24.8 102 37.7 125 -12.9 120 1-6 1-6 -13.1 123 -0.3 77
UNLV 23.1 112 36.0 120 -12.9 121 0-8 2-6 -12.2 121 0.7 32
Kent State 17.8 124 30.7 90 -12.9 122 1-7 1-7 -11.4 119 1.5 10
Wake Forest 12.1 128 26.1 53 -14.0 123 0-7 1-6 -13.1 122 1.0 24
Troy 21.4 115 36.4 121 -15.0 124 1-7 1-7 -15.0 124 0.0 66
New Mexico State 23.4 110 38.7 126 -15.3 125 1-7 2-6 -16.0 125 -0.7 99
Army 29.9 56 47.4 128 -17.5 126 1-6 2-5 -18.5 127 -1.0 113
Eastern Michigan 16.8 126 35.7 118 -18.9 127 1-7 2-6 -16.3 126 2.6 1
SMU 14.1 127 35.2 114 -21.1 128 0-7 0-7 -20.9 128 0.1 57

Again, this is not a perfect reflection of the per-play and per-drive S&P+ ratings, nor is it supposed to be. Here are some of the more interesting tidbits I see here:

Miami Is Good

The Hurricanes trounced Virginia Tech last Thursday night, but that result shouldn't have been too surprising. They suffered a couple of relatively unlucky losses this season (on the road to a good Nebraska team and on the road against a solid Georgia Tech), but they have otherwise handled their business. At some point, Al Golden needs to break through in the win column, but he's putting a better product on the field this year. That's a start.

Better Watch Out, Ole Miss

Ole Miss is still No. 1 in the F/+ rankings and No. 4 in the adjusted scoring margin shown above. But the Rebels' weighted scoring average tells us they've begun to slip a bit in recent weeks. Only five FBS teams have a larger (bad) difference between adjusted and weighted margin. They have sprung some leaks, though a couple of those leaks should get plugged if players like defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche and safety Cody Prewitt are healthy. They both missed a good portion of the second half in last week's loss to LSU.

Good Every Week

Here are the teams that have an undefeated adjusted record, meaning they've been better than average each week so far: Alabama, Auburn, Boise State, Florida State, Marshall, Michigan State, Mississippi State, Oregon, Stanford, TCU, Wisconsin. That list encompasses each of the top eight teams in the College Football Playoff rankings. Consistency is a good thing, huh?

One interesting team on this list: Marshall. My S&P+ ratings don't apply extra weight to games against better opponents. My idea has always been that it's not who you play, it's how you play. In that regard, you can see how Marshall ranks so highly in my overall S&P+ ratings (11th overall). They have played the softest schedule known to man, but they're dominating weak opponents like a top-15 team is supposed to dominate them. That obviously doesn't matter to the committee, which didn't even rank the Herd in their inaugural top 25, but maybe it should. If we go too far down the "punishing bad schedules" road, we might end up ignoring a team that is actually pretty good (and is being punished for its athletic director's scheduling techniques).

Victims of the Schedule (Or Bad Luck)

Then there's the opposite of Marshall. Here are some teams who have performed well enough to beat average teams ... but not some combination of the teams on their schedule and Lady Luck.

Adjusted record three games better than actual record: Arkansas, Indiana, Purdue, Stanford, Texas, Washington State.

Adjusted record two games better than actual record: BYU, Colorado, Florida, Miami, N.C. State, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Texas A&M, USC, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wisconsin.

And on the other side...

Adjusted record three games worse than actual record: Air Force, Bowling Green, Northern Illinois.

Adjusted record two games worse than actual record: Arizona, Arizona State, Ball State, Duke, East Carolina, Louisiana Tech, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Old Dominion, San Diego State, South Alabama, Southern Miss, Texas State, Tulane, UNLV, UTEP, Wyoming.

Hey There, Sparty

Here are some teams that A) were already pretty good and B) seem to be getting better: Michigan State (fifth in adjusted scoring margin, 12th in momentum), Ohio State (eighth, 36th), Miami (10th, 26th), Wisconsin (14th, 31st), Florida State (24th, 27th). I had certainly caught on about Ohio State, but it's good to see Florida State picking up steam. The Seminoles are pulling a 2012 Notre Dame, winning each game by just enough, but if they're going to end up in the playoff, they might as well be peaking when they get there.

Bottom Dropping Out

Other teams are regressing rather quickly. Here are the teams bringing up the rear in terms of momentum: Pittsburgh (fresh off of a seven-fumble performance), Texas A&M (fresh off of a 59-0 loss to Alabama and a quarterback change), Michigan (guh), BYU (which lost starting quarterback Taysom Hill to injury), and Penn State (which has seen an offensive collapse). Ole Miss and Baylor are wavering a bit.

This Week at SB Nation

Monday
5 lessons from Ole Miss' loss to LSU in Baton Rouge

Tuesday
The Numerical, Week 9: Road wins and defense? WVU is unrecognizable
2014 Advanced box scores
Missouri 24, Vanderbilt 14: Beyond the box score

Wednesday
Projecting the College Football Playoff race using advanced stats
Updated SEC football projections after 9 weeks
Updated ACC football projections after 9 weeks
Updated Big 12 football projections after 9 weeks
Updated Big Ten football projections after 9 weeks
Updated Pac-12 football projections through 9 weeks

Thursday
3 key matchups for Auburn-Ole Miss, potential Playoff elimination game
College football projections: Week 10 F/+ picks

Friday
Florida State and the art of only looking good when you have to
Kentucky at Missouri preview: Tigers must run well and prevent the big play to move to 7-2

Posted by: Bill Connelly on 31 Oct 2014

1 comment, Last at 21 Jan 2016, 10:57am by Keshavz1

Comments

1
by Keshavz1 :: Thu, 01/21/2016 - 10:57am

Please make this into a poster – it is one of my favorite quotes by Rachel Carson.. I am an environmental educator and my role is to be the excitement that spurs that sense of wonder.
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