by Brian Fremeau
The Ohio State Buckeyes are the champions of the inaugural College Football Playoff. They stomped the Oregon Ducks on Monday night in what ranks as the sixth-best single game performance of the season according to GFEI. Their dominant Big Ten Championship win over Wisconsin on December 6 ranks as the second-best single game performance of the season. No other team this year matched the impressiveness of Ohio State's best pair of wins.
The Buckeyes' win over Michigan State on the road back on November 8 ranks as the 25th best performance according to GFEI, and their win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl ranks 28th. Out of 1,520 single-game performances by FBS teams this year, only one other team matched Ohio State with four top-30 single-game performances this year. That team claimed four of the top 15 single-game performances, in fact. That team is Oregon, and that team is ranked ahead of Ohio State in the final FEI ratings of the season.
For only the second time in the last 12 seasons, the team hoisting the national championship trophy at the end of the season is not ranked No. 1 in the final FEI ratings. In 2011, Alabama claimed the BCS championship with a shutout victory over LSU, but the Crimson Tide ranked behind both LSU and Oklahoma State in the end according to my opponent-adjusted possession efficiency ratings. Especially when a head-to-head victory in a championship setting is claimed in such definitive fashion, it is particularly jarring to find rankings that don't seem to validate that result. Is there something wrong with the system, or is there something else going on here?
It would be absurd to defend the FEI ratings (or any other computer or poll system) as a valid alternative to crowning a champion via the playoff we just witnessed. That's not what the ratings system is designed to do, and college football wouldn't be any fun if it were. After a rough start to the season, Ohio State played their way into playoff contention, was selected by the committee over other strong contenders, and beat two of the best teams in the nation in an 11-day span to win it all. That's a championship, and an impressive one at that.
We aren't crowing championships at the end of the year, but we are evaluating each team on its statistical merit in order to more deeply understand past performances and refine our projections of future ones. As far as the national championship is concerned, it didn't matter on January 1 or January 12 that Ohio State lost by 14 points to Virginia Tech on September 6. But that result, the 634th-best performance of the season according to GFEI, receives the same weight in the formula as the Buckeyes' postseason wins over Alabama and Oregon.
Perhaps a different game weight distribution will provide for more accurate projections. Perhaps the opponent adjustments that are applied to wins and losses should be tweaked as well. These are items on the long list of offseason projects I'll be investigating as we prepare for the 2015 season and beyond.
To get things started, I've updated the 2014 Program FEI ratings, a five-year measure of program efficiency and one of the foundational data points in forecasting next-season success. Enjoy the offseason everyone.
Final 2014 FEI 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.
[ad placeholder 3]
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 games scheduled, including bowl games and playoff games. 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.
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.