Fremeau Efficiency Ratings
College football power ratings and analysis

FEI Week 7 Ratings

Coastal Carolina Chanticleers RB CJ Marable
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

Stop me if you've heard this one before: Alabama overwhelmed a challenger to the SEC throne (41-24 over Georgia) and Clemson laid waste to an ACC also-ran (73-7 over Georgia Tech), reaffirming their respective positions at the top of the college football food chain. The 2020 season hasn't been and won't be entirely predictable, but last weekend certainly underscored the theme that the hierarchical structure remains intact. Alabama and Clemson have been the best programs over the last half-decade (or more) and they are still leading the way.

We've had seven weeks of FBS games, but it's still very early to draw too many other conclusions. A total of only 143 games between FBS opponents have been played to date. Last year, 339 games had been played through Week 7. This is typically the point in the season when I completely eliminate preseason projection data from the FEI formula, but I'm taking a different approach due to the circumstances this year. The Big Ten and Mountain West conferences are only starting up this week, and the Pac-12 and MAC conferences will follow suit soon. And among teams that have already played, there are big differences in the number of results in the books. Even conference mates are out of whack -- Navy and Tulane have each played five FBS opponents, while fellow AAC conference members Cincinnati, Houston, Tulsa, and Temple have played only two FBS opponents each.

Making sense of it all will be an ongoing challenge, and my preseason projection weight methodology is admittedly experimental. For teams that haven't yet played a game, the preseason projections are the only data input. For the teams with three games played to date, preseason projections account for 57% of their team rating. For teams such as Duke, Texas State, and Middle Tennessee, each with six FBS games already played, their preseason projection factor is 29%. That's still substantial, and something that may feel a bit skewed deep into the season when results don't line up with expectations. But game projections are still performing well, so I'm not convinced yet to rethink the approach.

Since we only have limited data and we are still leaning heavily on priors, is there any value and reliability in exploring strength of schedule? If you'll indulge me, I think there is some benefit to evaluating schedule strength using my unique approach precisely because the 2020 season is so peculiar. It certainly doesn't make sense to compare the relative strength of Duke's schedule of six opponents and Air Force's schedule of one opponent by taking a simple average of their respective opponent ratings. Instead, let's ask the question a different way: how many losses would an average team be expected to have incurred against each team's schedule to date?

Expected Average Losses
(Losses an Average Team Would be Expected
to Have Against Given Team's Schedule to Date)
Rk Team FBS Games EAL
1 Duke 6 3.52
2 Ole Miss 4 3.25
3 Arkansas 4 3.01
4 Georgia 4 2.98
5 Alabama 4 2.97
6 Auburn 4 2.90
7 Tennessee 4 2.90
8 Mississippi State 4 2.88
9 Georgia Tech 5 2.87
10 Louisville 5 2.82

The Blue Devils haven't faced a gauntlet of championship-level opponents, but an average team would still be expected to be under .500 against Notre Dame, Boston College, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, and NC State. (Duke currently rates as a slightly below average team, a dip from their preseason projections following a 1-5 record against that slate). Quantity of opponents doesn't supersede quality of opponents through this schedule strength lens, but both are important. It's notable that a number of SEC teams with only four opponents have played tougher schedules than many with five or six opponents according to this metric.

We can also adjust the question by evaluating the gauntlet through the lens of an elite team rather than an average team. How many losses would an elite team (two standard deviations better than average) be expected to have incurred against each team schedule to date?

Expected Elite Losses
(Losses an Elite Team Would be Expected
to Have Against Given Team's Schedule to Date)
Rk Team FBS Games EEL
1 Ole Miss 4 1.23
2 Georgia 4 1.16
3 Texas A&M 4 1.16
4 Missouri 3 1.02
5 Auburn 4 0.97
6 Tennessee 4 0.97
7 Arkansas 4 0.93
8 Virginia 4 0.91
9 Miami 5 0.90
10 Mississippi State 4 0.84

This list is dominated by teams that have already faced an elite opponent so far in addition to at least one other strong (or at least decent) opponent. Ole Miss has already played both Alabama and Florida, each of which is a top-10 opponent according to this week's FEI ratings. This is where some circular logic takes over, of course -- Florida is rated as a top-10 opponent in part due to the strength of its preseason projections, and SEC schedules overall are rated highly due to the highly rated starting position of each team. These schedule ratings will change as the season progresses, and as we speculated last week, the SEC will eventually be given no benefit of the doubt when preseason projection factors are dialed back to zero.

One way to apply schedule strength data is to rate each team's record by comparing it against what an elite team would be expected to achieve. I've explored this in the past by attempting to quantify the factors that are most important to the College Football Playoff selection committee. Alabama has four FBS wins this year, 0.83 more than an elite team would be expected to have against the same schedule. Clemson has four FBS wins, 0.36 more than an elite team would be expected to have against the same schedule. It's early, yes, but those two teams lead the nation through this lens as well.

Wins Above Elite
(More Wins Than an Elite Team Would be Expected
to Have Against Given Team's Schedule to Date)
Rk Team FBS Record WAE
1 Alabama 4-0 0.83
2 Clemson 4-0 0.36
3 BYU 5-0 0.20
4 SMU 4-0 0.18
5 Georgia 3-1 0.16
6 Texas A&M 3-1 0.16
7 Coastal Carolina 3-0 0.12
8 Oklahoma State 3-0 0.12
9 Notre Dame 4-0 0.10
10 Marshall 3-0 0.09
11 Liberty 4-0 0.06
12 Cincinnati 2-0 0.06
13 Air Force 1-0 0.01
14 Florida Atlantic 1-0 0.01

Two one-loss SEC teams, Georgia and Texas A&M, have more wins than an elite team would be expected to have to date despite their respective setbacks against Alabama. BYU and SMU are both interesting non-Power Five teams to keep an eye on, especially if they manage to run the table to an undefeated record. And Notre Dame, currently in an elite position in the polls, has clearly not played the kind of schedule yet that merits elite consideration; according to this "Wins Above Elite" metric, it would be slightly more difficult for an elite team to have slain Coastal Carolina's three opponents (Kansas, Arkansas State, and Louisiana) than Notre Dame's slate of four opponents (Duke, South Florida, Florida State, and Louisville). Their one-year Atlantic Coast Conference affiliation is doing the Fighting Irish no schedule-strength favors so far.


2020 FEI Ratings (through Week 7)

FEI ratings (FEI) represent the per-possession scoring advantage a team would be expected to have on a neutral field against an average opponent. OFEI Offense ratings (OFEI) and DFEI Defense ratings (DFEI) represent the per-possession scoring advantages for each team unit. Ratings are based on a combination of opponent-adjusted results to date and preseason projections.

Points per drive are calculated based on the net scoring results of offensive drives (OPD) and opponent offensive drives (DPD). Available yards percentages represent net drive yards earned on offensive drives divided by available yards based on starting field position (OAY), and likewise for opponent offensive drives (DAY). Yards per play are calculated based on net drive yards earned divided by offensive plays (OPP), and net drive yards allowed divided by opponent offensive plays (DPP).

Ratings and supporting data are calculated from the results of non-garbage possessions in FBS vs. FBS games. Ratings for all 130 FBS teams can be found here.

Rk Team Rec FEI OFEI Rk OPD Rk OAY Rk OPP Rk DFEI Rk DPD Rk DAY Rk DPP Rk
1 Alabama 4-0 1.41 2.36 1 4.35 2 .723 1 8.62 1 .70 12 2.55 52 .544 57 5.85 40
2 Ohio State 0-0 1.40 1.70 2 - - - - - - 1.24 3 - - - - - -
3 Clemson 4-0 1.35 1.49 3 3.75 4 .631 9 7.22 7 1.62 1 .70 4 .294 6 4.50 7
4 Georgia 3-1 1.02 .66 19 2.57 29 .502 28 5.32 53 1.35 2 1.50 13 .331 9 5.10 18
5 Wisconsin 0-0 .94 .97 8 - - - - - - .93 4 - - - - - -
6 Michigan 0-0 .84 .64 21 - - - - - - .89 5 - - - - - -
7 Penn State 0-0 .82 .75 15 - - - - - - .81 9 - - - - - -
8 Notre Dame 4-0 .77 .93 10 3.22 9 .630 10 6.86 10 .70 13 1.15 6 .369 13 4.93 14
9 LSU 1-2 .74 1.13 6 2.62 28 .499 30 6.33 22 .32 37 2.59 53 .489 43 7.03 71
10 Florida 2-1 .72 1.22 5 4.38 1 .702 3 7.97 3 .21 41 3.13 67 .627 72 6.26 55
11 Washington 0-0 .69 .50 30 - - - - - - .85 7 - - - - - -
12 Utah 0-0 .68 .51 28 - - - - - - .82 8 - - - - - -
13 Oregon 0-0 .64 .73 16 - - - - - - .58 18 - - - - - -
14 Iowa 0-0 .63 .23 47 - - - - - - .87 6 - - - - - -
15 BYU 5-0 .62 .91 11 4.06 3 .707 2 8.48 2 .46 27 1.22 8 .316 7 4.51 8
16 Oklahoma 1-2 .61 1.25 4 2.88 19 .520 25 5.88 35 .01 55 3.00 61 .520 52 6.76 68
17 Auburn 2-2 .58 .57 24 2.00 51 .498 32 5.53 48 .45 28 2.39 44 .502 48 5.49 26
18 Oklahoma State 3-0 .56 .52 27 2.33 36 .488 36 5.84 37 .59 17 .57 2 .254 2 3.72 2
19 Miami 4-1 .51 .49 32 2.85 20 .489 35 6.27 23 .50 24 1.90 23 .430 24 5.39 20
20 Minnesota 0-0 .47 .73 17 - - - - - - .36 35 - - - - - -
21 Texas A&M 3-1 .45 .66 20 2.71 24 .549 19 6.23 26 .39 34 2.43 46 .495 45 5.89 42
22 Texas 2-2 .43 .49 31 3.13 11 .500 29 6.25 24 .41 32 2.46 48 .440 28 5.50 28
23 Kentucky 2-2 .42 .05 67 1.88 57 .410 59 5.11 59 .65 14 1.70 18 .395 17 4.96 15
24 USC 0-0 .42 .76 14 - - - - - - .19 43 - - - - - -
25 Air Force 1-0 .40 .55 25 3.30 7 .583 17 6.70 16 .15 45 .78 5 .243 1 4.18 5
26 Baylor 1-1 .38 .13 54 1.80 61 .350 68 4.17 74 .59 16 1.23 9 .282 5 3.89 3
27 South Carolina 2-2 .37 .31 40 2.71 23 .486 37 5.45 50 .44 30 2.12 28 .487 42 6.03 46
28 Iowa State 3-1 .36 .57 23 2.64 27 .526 22 6.46 21 .42 31 1.86 22 .460 34 5.52 30
29 Virginia Tech 3-1 .35 .60 22 3.12 12 .545 20 7.34 6 .00 56 2.31 37 .469 36 6.28 57
30 Memphis 2-1 .34 .97 9 3.08 15 .619 11 6.85 12 -.24 75 2.86 58 .657 74 7.17 73

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4 comments, Last at 21 Oct 2020, 5:06pm