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There's a serious need for defensive help in Kansas City, Los Angeles, and Oakland. In Denver, meanwhile, the Broncos must determine whether or not Case Keenum can really be a long-term solution at quarterback.

13 Sep 2017

FEI Week 2 Ratings

by Brian Fremeau

The defending national champion Clemson Tigers were projected to be one of the best teams in the country again this year in the preseason FEI ratings, but I was a bit skeptical of the lofty ranking even though I well understood the reasons for it. Clemson had played in back-to-back College Football Playoff championship games in 2015 and 2016 against Alabama and carried the nation's second-best five-year program rating into this year. The Tigers also recruit very well, and despite losing some key components to the NFL draft in the offseason, they returned enough potential weapons on both sides of the ball to be a playoff threat once again.

The wild card was the graduation of Deshaun Watson, an historically great quarterback in the program's legacy, and his impact on the team was a factor I thought the FEI projection formula may have missed. Now two weeks into the 2017 season, it's too early to say that that the Tigers will be just fine without Watson. But with their win over Auburn on Saturday, Clemson has already demonstrated they're a contender, and shown that it will be the defense that will lead the way.

Auburn's offense was held to only 117 yards of total offense against Clemson, the fewest the Tigers have generated on offense since Gus Malzahn arrived in 2013. They averaged a paltry 3.3 yards per pass attempt and 0.9 yards per rush attempt. Auburn's second-half drives in particular went nowhere. Clemson scored a touchdown on the first possession after halftime to take a 14-6 lead, the final points recorded of the game. Auburn's six possessions in the half went as follows:

  • 5 plays, 2 yards, Punt
  • 7 plays, 5 yards, Turnover on Downs
  • 3 plays, 6 yards, Punt
  • 3 plays, -5 yards, Punt
  • 6 plays, 17 yards, Punt
  • 5 plays, -5 yards, Punt

Auburn ran a total of six plays in the second half from Clemson's side of midfield. Four of those six plays resulted in a sack of quarterback Jarrett Stidham, and collectively those six plays resulted in a total net loss of 10 yards. Auburn didn't have a single possession in the second half conclude in Clemson territory.

Clemson's dominant defensive effort can also be articulated in terms of game splits data, my process for assigning the value generated and lost on every possession to the offense, defense, and special teams units that contributed to each score and possession-change event. Clemson's special teams were actually net-negative for the game, costing the Tigers 2.9 points in scoring value due to a missed field goal and several punt exchanges that were more favorable to Auburn than to Clemson.

Clemson's offense didn't produce either. Based on starting field position alone, an average team would have been expected to score 22.9 points, but aside from two touchdown drives bracketing halftime and an effective clock-killing drive to conclude the game, Clemson didn't find much success. They coughed up two turnovers as well, and didn't record any from Auburn.

It was the defense that generated value, more value in fact than Clemson put on the scoreboard. According to game splits, Clemson's defense generated 18.4 points of scoring value in the game, again the most value generated against an Auburn offense in the Malzahn era. That they did so without forcing a turnover is a testament to how dominant they played, play-by-play and drive-by-drive. There were only three instances in FBS games last season in which a defense generated as much game splits value against an opponent without generating any turnover value.

Clemson's defense has a major test this weekend on the road against Lamar Jackson and the Louisville Cardinals. The Tigers may not have the same kind of success and defensive value generation they produced against Auburn, but it wouldn't shock me to see another Clemson victory led by that side of the ball.

FEI 2017 Week 2 Ratings

The Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI) is a college football rating system based on opponent-adjusted drive efficiency in FBS games. Preseason projected ratings are a function of five-year program ratings, recent recruiting success, and returning offensive and defensive experience, and account for 71 percent of this week's ratings. Strength of Schedule (SOS) ratings are a function of the projected FEI ratings of a given team's schedule of opponents and the location (home/away/neutral) of each game, representing the average number of losses an elite team (two standard deviations better than average) would have against the schedule.

Ratings for all 130 teams can be found here.

Rk Team Rec FEI SOS Rk
1 Alabama 2-0 0.303 1.32 23
2 Ohio State 1-1 0.243 1.06 48
3 Oklahoma 2-0 0.221 1.43 16
4 Clemson 2-0 0.215 1.13 43
5 Florida State 0-1 0.215 1.63 6
6 Georgia 2-0 0.209 1.28 29
7 USC 2-0 0.203 0.94 57
8 LSU 1-0 0.187 1.62 7
9 Stanford 1-1 0.185 1.23 34
10 Penn State 2-0 0.174 1.10 45
11 TCU 1-0 0.168 1.20 39
12 Michigan 2-0 0.160 1.29 26
13 Wisconsin 2-0 0.156 0.59 82
14 Washington 1-0 0.152 0.79 65
15 Auburn 1-1 0.148 1.95 1
Rk Team Rec FEI SOS Rk
16 Notre Dame 1-1 0.147 1.28 28
17 Oklahoma State 2-0 0.138 1.00 53
18 Florida 0-1 0.132 1.48 14
19 Oregon 1-0 0.119 1.00 54
20 Louisville 2-0 0.115 1.03 51
21 Kansas State 1-0 0.114 1.08 46
22 Georgia Tech 0-1 0.109 1.24 31
23 Tennessee 1-0 0.100 1.76 3
24 Miami 0-0 0.098 1.06 47
25 Texas 1-1 0.098 1.55 11
26 Texas A&M 0-1 0.097 1.66 5
27 UCLA 2-0 0.092 1.53 12
28 Virginia Tech 1-0 0.087 0.77 68
29 Memphis 1-0 0.085 0.35 106
30 Boise State 1-1 0.084 0.44 95

Posted by: Brian Fremeau on 13 Sep 2017