FEI Week 11 Ratings
by Brian Fremeau
The top two teams in last week's FEI ratings, Georgia and Notre Dame, each fell flat on their respective faces last weekend, shaking up my opponent-adjusted drive efficiency rankings and the College Football Playoff picture as well. The game splits results were each team's worst across the board.
Georgia's 40-17 defeat on the road against Auburn was the Bulldogs' first game this season in which its defense had negative splits (-6.9 points in expected scoring), having led the nation in defensive efficiency coming into the game. For good measure, Georgia's offense had its worst performance as well (-10.8 points) and the Bulldogs' special teams missed a field goal and fumbled a punt, coughing up a negative game splits total (-7.1 points) in the third phase of the game.
Notre Dame's 41-8 defeat on the road against Miami was the school's worst offensive (-23.3 points) and defensive (-8.0 points) performance of the year and the third-worst special teams (-2.7 points) outing to boot. The Irish had been one of the most successful teams this season in generating turnover value coming into the game. Four turnovers against the Hurricanes accounted for nearly 50 percent of Miami's non-garbage scoring margin for the game -- -16.3 points in turnover value on 18 total non-garbage game possessions and a 34-0 non-garbage final.
Both games were terrible performances by teams that had otherwise played very well this year. A week earlier, another terrible performance by an otherwise great team was logged by Ohio State, a 55-24 drubbing on the road against Iowa. The Buckeyes have had five single-game opponent-adjusted performances in the 90th percentile over their last six games, and two of their last four games (against Nebraska in Week 7 and against Michigan State in Week 11) rank among the ten best single-game performances of the year. But that game against Iowa was a 29th percentile performance, ranking 850th nationally out of 1,194 FBS single-game performances played to date.
Those three teams -- Georgia, Notre Dame, and Ohio State -- rank fifth, seventh, and eighth in this week's FEI ratings. It is unusual that these teams haven't fallen off more precipitously. It isn't as though top teams are infallible, but when they do stumble, it's rare that top teams lose by significant margins.
Last season, the top 10 teams according to FEI at the end of the year had combined to lose a total of 25 games. Seventeen of those 25 losses (68 percent) were decided by a single score, and the average margin of defeat for those teams was 9.2 points per game. Only two of the 25 losses were "dominant," decided by four scores (25 points or more), and only one of those came in the regular season; Florida State's 62-20 defeat at the hands of Louisville was an extraordinary blemish on what was otherwise a very good Seminoles team. The other dominant defeat by a top-10 FEI team last season came in the playoff, when Clemson crushed Ohio State by a final score of 31-0.
It was a similar story in 2015. The top 10 teams at the end of the year according to FEI combined to lose 21 total games by an average margin of 9.1 points per game. Thirteen of the 21 losses (62 percent) were decided by a single score, and only two -- a 28-point loss by Ole Miss to Florida, and a 38-point loss by Michigan State in the playoff against Alabama -- were of the dominant variety.
The top 10 teams this week have combined to lose 13 total games to date. Eight of those losses (62 percent) have been decided by a single score, and the average margin of defeat for those teams is 11.8 points per loss. Georgia's 23-point loss, Ohio State's 31-point loss, and Notre Dame's 33-point loss each rank among the five worst losses suffered in the regular season by an FEI top-10 team in the last three years.
This isn't an FEI-specific phenomenon either. Georgia, Notre Dame, and Ohio State all rank in the top 10 of the Massey Consensus, a composite rating of more than 100 unique computer rating systems and one I reference often and have used for model-building purposes. Massey Consensus top 10 teams have lost a total of 178 times in the last ten seasons, and 25 of those losses (14 percent) have been by at least as large a margin as the three losses by Georgia, Notre Dame, and Ohio State in the last two weeks. We're on pace for twice as many blowout losses by top 10 teams as usual.
It's too soon to tell if this is a blip or a trend, but it will be very interesting to see if any of the blowout losses turns out to ultimately "forgivable" in the College Football Playoff selection committee's eyes. At this point, Ohio State and Georgia may very well run the table the rest of the way, claim conference championships, and forget all about the terrible November defeats. Without a conference championship opportunity, Notre Dame may not get the same chance, but may still finish the season strong and leave us scratching our heads about what went so wrong that one night in November.
Or perhaps the blowout losses are red flags about the true identity and vulnerabilities of these three teams. Perhaps instead of a blip, those vulnerabilities will be exposed again. We'll have a few more key opportunities the coming weeks to find out.
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FEI 2017 Week 11 Ratings
The Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI) is a college football rating system based on opponent-adjusted drive efficiency. Approximately 20,000 possessions are contested anually 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 measure of net success on non-garbage possessions, and FEI opponent adjustments are calculated with special emphasis placed on quality performances against good teams, win or lose. Strength of schedule (SOS) ratings represent the average number of losses an elite team (two standard deviations better than average) would have against the team's schedule to date.
Offensive FEI (OFEI) is value generated per drive adjusted for starting field position and opponent defenses faced. Defensive FEI (DFEI) is value generated per opponent drive adjusted for starting field position and opponent offenses faced. Special Teams Efficiency (STE) is the average value generated per possession by a team's non-offensive and non-defensive units.
|23||North Carolina State||6-3||.122||.043||50||1.35||22||2.72||30||1.99||43||-.08||120|