VN: What S&P+ Sees
by Bill Connelly
Last week I listed the Top 10 performances of the season according to single-game S&P+. Predictably, the scores in nine of the 10 games were lopsided. One stood out, however: No. 4 on the list was Georgia's 44-31 victory over Kentucky on October 23. It scored a 403.7 on the single-game S&P+ scale; Georgia's offensive performance was just a hair above average, their defensive performance was, according to S&P+, outstanding.
How does a 13-point victory over an average team rank as one of the season's best performances (and help to vault Georgia into last week's Weighted S&P+ Top 10)?
I figured this offered an interesting opportunity for us to look at how S&P+ sees a game. Brian Fremeau has been doing a neat job outlining what FEI sees in a given game; now's the time for us to do the same with S&P+.
What S&P+ Sees: Kentucky vs Georgia
A glance at the box score gives you the reasonably accurate impression that Georgia's win was dictated by special teams and turnovers. Georgia used a kickoff return touchdown to build their early lead, and a plus-four turnover margin for the Bulldogs assured that Kentucky could not come back. For the game, the Wildcats outgained Georgia 423 to 290. Again ... How does this go down as an amazing, defense-powered performance?
You can follow along with the game's play-by-play here. The greatness of Georgia's performance was, in part, dictated by the S&P+ definitions of a "close" game (within 28 points in the first quarter, 24 in the second, 21 in the third, and 16 in the fourth). But we'll get to that in a bit.
|1||0-0||Kentucky||Yes||K21||3||2||-0.99||33.3%||0.000||Fumble (5.46 T/O Pts)|
|1||G, 7-0||Kentucky||Yes||K20||15||56||2.60||26.7%||0.440||FIELD GOAL|
|1||G, 7-3||Georgia||Yes||N/A||0||0||0.00||N/A||N/A||KICK RETURN TD|
|1||G, 14-3||Kentucky||Yes||K25||1||31||0.00||0.0%||0.000||Fumble (5.53 T/O Pts)|
|1||G, 14-3||Georgia||Yes||K33||3||4||0.26||0.0%||0.087||Missed Field Goal|
|1||G, 14-3||Kentucky||Yes||K29||4||9||0.24||25.0%||0.310||Turnover on Downs|
In the first quarter, Georgia's offense basically just stayed out of the way, as their special teams scored a touchdown and their defense forced 10.8 points' worth of turnovers. Aaron Murray and the offense compiled just 7.72 EqPts of offense in the first quarter and initial plays of the second, but Georgia scored 21 actual points. Meanwhile, Kentucky ran 23 plays and managed just 1.85 EqPts.
|2||G, 21-3||Kentucky||Yes||K02||2||-1||-0.03||0.0%||-0.013||Fumble (6.22 T/O Pts)|
|2||G, 28-10||Kentucky||Yes||K08||1||0||N/A||N/A||N/A||Downed / End of Half|
The timing of Kentucky's scoring drives in this game were humorous. Another killer fumble set Georgia up for a five-yard scoring drive and took the game out of "close" status, and Kentucky immediately responded with a long touchdown drive. So at the half, Georgia's offense had racked up 10.48 EqPts to Kentucky's 8.57, but they led by 18 and had completely shut Kentucky down when the game was "close."
|3||G, 34-10||Kentucky||No||K38||7||34||0.68||42.9%||0.526||Interception (4.68 T/O Pts)|
* The first play of the drive took place in the third quarter and was therefore under "close" circumstances. Once the fourth quarter began, however, the 17-point margin was no longer "close."
A 34-yard pass from Aaron Murray to A.J. Green helped set up a short Washaun Ealey touchdown run on the first drive of the third quarter. From that point on, the game was not "close" for the rest of the quarter. Kentucky lost almost another five points to turnovers -- for the game, they would lose the turnover points battle by 21.92.
|4||G, 41-25||Georgia||No||G20||12||67||3.59||58.3%||0.882||FIELD GOAL|
|4||G, 44-31||Georgia||Yes||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||UK Onside Kick
|4||G, 44-31||Kentucky||Yes||K34||4||3||0.06||0.0%||0.015||Turnover on Downs|
|4||G, 44-31||Georgia||Yes||K37||1||0||N/A||N/A||N/A||Downed / End of Game|
Kentucky rack up 138 yards on 14 plays in the fourth quarter while down big. The Wildcats did well enough to get the game back into "close" status after 24 minutes of what S&P+ sees as garbage time. And as soon as they got the game "close" again, they went four-and-out and the game ended. Therefore, the S&P+ formulas only see a single scoring drive (the first-quarter field goal drive) and a large mess of turnovers and punts.
Under the "close" definition, this game was a statistical blowout. But to anybody who watched the game, this was not necessarily the case. Does that mean the S&P+ definitions need to be changed? I looked into the issue this week. First things first: The current definitions of "close" lead to correlations of 0.80 between S&P+ and win percentage. Getting rid of the "close" designation and counting all plays bumps that correlation down to 0.73. Clearly some garbage time designation is needed. If we expand the definitions to games within 28 points in the first three quarters and 21 in the fourth, the correlation falls to 0.76. When it comes to correlations between S&P+ and success, cutting things off as early as possible leads to better results. I expanded the definitions this season, and it resulted in little change to the correlations. I like where the definitions fall, even if it resulted in the oddest, least impressive "amazing" performance you've ever seen in Athens on October 23.
Full rankings here.
|F/+ Top 25 (After 12 Weeks)|
|F/+ Top 25 (After 12 Weeks)|
|F/+ Top 25 (After 12 Weeks)|
Considering many of the top teams had byes last week, it should be no surprise that there were almost no changes among the F/+ Top 6. With an incredibly dominant performance over Troy, South Carolina jumped back into the Top 10. (Remember: "Championship teams are generally defined by their ability to dominate inferior opponents, not their ability to win close games.") Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, and West Virginia all surged ahead in the rankings as well. Nobody near the top fell significantly. The biggest tumble among Top 25 teams was Oklahoma State, which apparently did not earn nearly enough style points in its blowout win over Kansas. USC also fell from 21st to 29th following its forgettable loss to Oregon State.
"What The ...?" Team of the Week
West Virginia is receiving enough votes in the AP Poll to place them 27th (they are 30th in the USA Today coaches poll), so the fact that they are 24th in F/+ should not come as much of a surprise. But the degree to which we have forgotten about the Mountaineers is impressive. As one of approximately 26 early-season victims of a tight loss to LSU, the Mountaineers moved to 5-1 and 25th with a 20-6 win over South Florida. But then they were upset at home against Syracuse and lost in overtime on a Friday night at Connecticut. They have since won two in a row against Cincinnati and Louisville. If they can knock off Pittsburgh (also surprisingly highly rated in F/+ thanks to competitive losses and a tough strength of schedule) and beat Rutgers, they'll have a decent chance at sneaking into a Big East title as long as Connecticut (which, amazingly, would control their own destiny in that scenario) loses to either Cincinnati or South Florida.
To the extent that the Mountaineers have been "powered" by anything -- they're still only 3-2 in the putrid Big East -- it has been defense. Noel Devine is still Noel Devine (despite his 4.5 yards per carry), and Geno Smith is completing 64 percent of his passes, but West Virginia ranks just 81st in Off. F/+. They have not faced too many defensive heavy hitters, and they have still scored more than 31 points just twice (and once was against UNLV). The defense, meanwhile, ranks third in Defensive F/+ and has not allowed more than 21 points in a game all season. Even in the Big East, that is damn impressive.
AP + F/+ = BCS?
Here's your weekly look at what the BCS standings would say if made up of 60 percent AP poll, 40 percent F/+ rankings:
1. Auburn (11-0)
2. Boise State (10-0)
3. TCU (11-0)
4. Ohio State (10-1)
5. Oregon (10-0)
6. Stanford (10-1)
7. Alabama (9-2)
8. Wisconsin (10-1)
9. LSU (10-1)
10. Arkansas (9-2)
Kentucky over Tennessee. Spread: Kentucky +2.5 | F/+ Projection: Kentucky by 6.2. There is not yet any weight for recent games in the S&P+ or F/+ formulas, so Tennessee's three-game winning streak is tempered by its poor early play. Kentucky sewed up bowl eligibility last week and has put together enough respectable performances to rank 36th in overall F/+ despite the five losses. If Tennessee is going to knock off the Wildcats for the 26th consecutive season and get to six wins and bowl eligibility, they're going to have to earn it.
Washington over California. Spread: California -7 | F/+ Projection: California by 0.7. Yeah, good luck predicting what these two teams are going to do.
Auburn over Alabama. Spread: Alabama -4 | F/+ Projection: Alabama by 1.3. It's odd saying that the undefeated, second-ranked team in the country could pull off an upset win, but such is life for Auburn heading to Tuscaloosa this weekend. The line was at 4.5 for a while, but it is holding steady at four now.
Maryland over N.C. State. Spread: N.C. State -2.5 | F/+ Projection: N.C. State -2.8. Maryland lost a turnover-aided heartbreaker to Florida State last week, and now a Maryland win would help Florida State clinch the ACC Atlantic title. I still honestly have no idea how the Terrapins are as good as they are -- they do not rank in the Top 25 in any of FO's major categories other than Field Position Advantage -- but they will be a tough out for the Wolfpack in College Park.
In honor of yesterday's big dinner ...
"America Eats Its Young," by Funkadelic
"Bird Food," by Ornette Coleman
"Eat The Rich," by Aerosmith
"Eat to Live," by Talib Kweli
"Eat Your Hear Up," by The Blow
"The Food," by Common
"Gotta Eat," by Lupe Fiasco
"Jive Turkey," by the Ohio Players
"Please Don't Talk About Murder While I'm Eating," by Ben Harper
"Zombie Eaters," by Faith No More
Seriously, how is Black Friday still a thing? Sale shopping is why the Internet was created.
OK, sale shopping and football statistics are why the Internet was created.