FEI Week 11: Turnovers
by Brian Fremeau
Critical turnovers and the way teams have responded to them have defined the last few weeks of the college football season. Mississippi's campaign was crushed by a goal-line fumble in the fourth quarter against Auburn on November 1, a play that not only negated a go-ahead score but also took out Rebels wide receiver Laquon Treadwell with a season-ending leg injury. Mississippi is most likely out of the playoff picture, though the Rebels do still have an opportunity to wreck rival Mississippi State's hopes in two weeks.
In one of last weekend's featured games, the Alabama Crimson Tide took possession against LSU with the ball at their own 1-yard line and the score knotted at 10 points apiece with under two minutes to play. On second down, Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon coughed up a fumble and LSU took possession with first-and-goal with only 73 seconds left on the clock. Alabama burned through its timeouts, forced an LSU field goal, and rallied with a last-second drive and field goal of its own to take the game to overtime and go on to win 20-13. The Crimson Tide remain very much alive in the playoff picture by recovering from what could have been a crippling turnover.
Late Saturday night, one of the most stunning turnover sequences in recent memory played out in the Oregon-Utah game. Up seven points at the start of the second quarter, Utah's Kaelin Clay hauled in a deep pass against the Ducks secondary and galloped to the end zone for what would have been a 78-yard touchdown -- only Clay dropped the ball before crossing the goal line, and after a scramble for possession, Oregon's Joe Walker grabbed the ball and ran the fumble back 100 yards for a game-tying score. That play alone didn't define the outcome, but it jump-started Oregon to a second quarter lead it would not relinquish the rest of the way.
No team had a more costly collection of turnovers this weekend than Notre Dame had against Arizona State. The Irish were tied with Arizona State 3-3 late in the first quarter when the onslaught began. An Everett Golson fumble set up ASU's first touchdown with the ball at the Irish 13-yard line. Notre Dame's next offensive play was a Golson pass tipped at the line and intercepted to set up another short-field score. Another tipped pass on the ensuing drive was picked off, this one run back for a defensive touchdown. Arizona State forced a three-and-out and drove in to take the commanding 28-point lead with just over 11 minutes left in the second quarter. The Irish mounted a second half comeback but even that rally was disrupted by an interception on second-and-goal from the 7-yard line early in the third quarter. Arizona State ultimately allowed ND to claw back to within three points, but sealed the game with another pick-six with just under four minutes left in the game.
Those five Irish turnovers were worth a total of 28.4 points of field position scoring value for Arizona State according to game splits data. Notre Dame's defense collected one interception of their own worth 3.8 points of field position scoring value. The net turnover margin in non-garbage time for the Sun Devils was 24.6 points. The non-garbage time final margin of the game was only 17 points.
One of the alternate FEI rating sets I produce is turnover-neutral FEI. The formula is the same as regular FEI, but instead of calculating game efficiency based on the actual non-garbage possession value generated, I remove the possession value generated on turnovers and then run the formula. I don't do this as some kind of revisionist history, but rather as a way to isolate precisely how well each team played the game outside of the turnovers themselves.
In Notre Dame's case, instead of a 17-point non-garbage deficit, the Irish had a turnover-neutral "victory" of 7.6 points. Oregon's 44-27 non-garbage victory over Utah included 20.0 points in turnover value, so the Ducks had a turnover-neutral "loss" of 3.0 points. (That 78-yard-TD-turned-100-yard-fumble-return-TD was worth 12.0 points alone).
Many teams have played at least one game that would have flipped from victory to defeat or vice versa based on turnovers. The turnover margin has exceeded the non-garbage scoring margin in 12.7 percent of FBS games played to date. The turnover-neutral FEI ratings don't dramatically differ from the FEI ratings overall, but the differences in value generated on turnovers for several top teams is significant.
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Oregon has a cumulative non-garbage scoring margin of 149 points this year, 62.1 of which (41.7 percent) is attributed to turnover value. Alabama has a cumulative non-garbage scoring margin of 156 points this year, and the Crimson Tide have actually lost 17.4 points in turnover value to date. (That fumble on their own 6-yard line was worth 4.4 points in turnover value). The Crimson Tide have the No. 1 turnover-neutral FEI rating this week. Alabama and Notre Dame (minus 29.1 points in turnover value to date) rank as the only teams in the FEI top 25 with a negative total turnover value in 2014.
Degree of Difficulty through Week 11
The degree of difficulty rankings (DOD) 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 inaugural College Football Playoff selection committee is likely to value and reward something akin to DOD through their process and deliberations. Updated DOD rankings for all teams with two or fewer losses are provided each week, and the current selection committee rankings are provided in the table for comparison.
|Degree of Difficulty: Record Against Schedule To Date|
|DOD - Likelihood that an elite team would have the given team's record against the given team's schedule
SOS Pvs - Strength of Schedule of all games played to date
SOS Fut - Strength of Schedule of all games remaining to be played
Win Out - Likelihood given team will win all of its remaining games
CFP - College Football Playoff selection committee ranking
FEI 2014 Week 11 Ratings
The Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI) is a college football rating system based on opponent-adjusted drive efficiency. Nearly 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. Game Efficiency (GE) is a function of the starting field position and outcome of non-garbage possessions. Opponent adjustments are calculated with special emphasis placed on quality performances against good teams, win or lose.
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Strength of Schedule (SOS) is calculated as the likelihood that an "elite team" (two standard deviations above average) would win every game on the given team's schedule. SOS listed here includes all regular season games scheduled. A multifaceted approach to measuring schedule strength is available here and visualized here.
Mean Wins (FBS MW) represent the average total games a team with the given FEI rating should expect to win against its complete schedule of FBS opponents. Remaining Mean Wins (FBS RMW) represent the average total games a team with the given FEI rating should expect to win against the remaining opponents on its schedule.
Offensive FEI (OFEI) is opponent-adjusted offensive efficiency. Defensive FEI (DFEI) is opponent-adjusted defensive efficiency. Special Teams Efficiency (STE) is the composite efficiency of field goal kickoff, punt, and return units. Field Position Advantage (FPA) is the average share of field position value generated by offense, defense, and special teams efficiency.
These ratings are exclusively produced from 2014 game data and are not influenced by preseason projections. Complete ratings and ratings splits for all 128 FBS teams are available here. Supplemental data including points per drive, game splits, and game factors are available as well.