How FEI and S+P see the game: Oregon Ducks at Washington Huskies

Bralon Addison in the Fiesta Bowl - USA TODAY Sports

This is the chance for Washington. They've played a hard schedule and done superbly. They're running the Oregon spread offense and Price appears to be the best QB they've had for 20 years. Their defense is fast, hits hard and plays with an edge. They're playing at home in the new, loud stadium against an Oregon team without their star coach, star running back and star TE - and Oregon simply hasn't been tested all year. What do the stats say? Surprisingly, that Washington is vulnerable to the run and not great offensively, and Oregon should win handily.

FEI is the Fremeau Efficiency Index, created by Brian Fremeau. Brian Fremeau is an author at Football Outsiders, ESPN and BCFToys. FEI is an advanced statistical measure for college football that tracks drive efficiency instead of per-play success.

S+P is created by Bill Connelly. Bill Connelly is an author at SBNation, RockMNation, Football Study Hall and Football Outsiders. S+P is an advanced statistical measure which combines success rate, explosiveness per play and opponent adjustments.

How S+P sees the game:


OVERALL When Oregon
Has the Ball ...
When Washington has the ball...
Category Oregon

Washington

ORE Off UW Def ORE Def UW Off
F/+ Rk 2 11



S&P+ Rk 4 (266.5) 11(241.3) 2(152.9) 7(131.0) 29 (113.6) 39 (110.3)
Rushing S&P+ Rk

2 (1.409) 65(.853)
5(.575) 47(.938)
Passing S&P+ Rk 10(1.369) 3(.661) 27(.868) 24 (1.221)
Std. Downs S&P+ Rk

2 (1.478) 26(.851) 11 (.746) 87 (.936)
Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk

10 (1.225) 5(.596) 25(.712) 3 (1.330)
Raw S&P

2 (1.390) 18(.764) 14(.733) 36(1.067)
Raw Success Rate

8 (52.4) 32(37.5) 5 (30.2) 17(49.2)
Raw PPP

2(.87) 10(.39) 23 (.43) 45(.58)

Note that S+P is still using some preseason data to weigh things, which means that (in general) Oregon will look better than they might be - and Washington - which had been ranked something like 77th - will look worse than their base stats demonstrate.

Oregon's offense is on pace to be better than last year. The #2 ranking is because, simply, Baylor is phenomenal and not of this world. Oregon's current numbers are about 10 points better than they were last year and they're still not close to Baylor; Baylor is on another plane of existence. Don't feel too bad though; Oregon is so far above everyone else as far as running it goes that it might as well be Baylor. Only Texas A&M and Miami are within 10 points of Oregon's offense. The raw stats back this up nicely, having an absurd .87 PPP (explosive play rate) and a great 1.390 S&P.

Oregon's defense is good. Not great, just good. Unlike last season when a couple of amazing performances against strong offenses early on made the defense look incredible for a couple weeks, Oregon has simply been good enough on defense to cover spreads and crush - but they've allowed some yards and a few points here and there.

What about Washington? Washington's very, very good on defense. Not as good as the dominant top two teams (Florida and Michigan State) but very good - and according to S+P, better than Stanford. This may also prove to be sample size theater; their throttling of Arizona looks less relevant than it did at the time, and trouncing Boise State is proving to be not as impressive as we once thought.

Similarity scores for Washington

Oregon has had an absurdly easy schedule thus far. There's very little that Oregon can compare to in their games to Washington. The best team Oregon played was Tennessee (33rd); what's interesting is that the difference between Washington and Tennessee is roughly the same overall difference that Oregon has over Washington. On defense, Virginia (15th, 127.1) is pretty comparable. Both Virginia and Washington are great against the pass and fairly meh against the run. Virginia was much worse on passing downs than Washington but better on standard downs. This is a good sign given how the Ducks performed. On offense, Tennessee (34th, 111.9) is the closest to overall ranking, though not in style; Tennessee was horrible passing the ball (103rd) but great running (11th). Washington is okay at running and good at passing. The next closest to Washington on offense is California (61st), but it's not really comparable - and the Cal game basically tells us nothing unless a tsunami happens to hit during that time.

Similarity scores for Oregon

Given Washington's brutal early schedule there's lots of similarity to other opponents. For overall ranking Stanford (8th) is the best; Arizona (12th) is up there as well. Stanford is also the closest offensively (19th), but the difference between Stanford and Oregon's offense is a massive 33.7 points; this is the difference between Stanford and UL-Monroe(108th). While Washington has seen some good overall teams they've not faced, statistically, anything close to what Oregon's offense brings to the table. On defense, Oregon is an odd duck; Stanford (10th) and Arizona (13th) are significantly better than Oregon (by about 16 points), while Boise (59th) is significantly worse (by 10 points). Of those, Arizona is closest in style to Oregon - being good at defending the run and stopping on standard downs, but not particularly great on passing downs or against the pass.

Oregon's offense vs. Washington's defense

The similarity scores between Washington's D and Virginia are the real key here; Washington has not done particularly well defending the run. Oregon has, as usual, done a pretty awesome job running the ball. Even without De'Anthony Thomas Oregon should be able to run early and often. Washington has occasionally shown some issues defending running QBs; Denker of Arizona got a respectable 51 yards on 11 attempts. The difference between the rushing offensive S&P and the defense S&P is .556; when this value has been so high we've seen Oregon have some absurdly good games. In particular, the last time I can find when it was this big of a difference was Oregon vs. USC. That didn't turn out so bad, running wise. Another game close to that? Arizona State last year.

However, if Oregon gets behind in the down and distance it is almost assuredly over for that drive. Washington is one of the best in the nation on passing downs and against the pass; Oregon is merely good. My suspicion is that Wilcox will load the box and dare Oregon to throw on them. I'm hoping that Oregon simply trucks them in response.

Oregon's Defense vs Washington's offense

This one might drive me absolutely nuts. Washington, despite running Bishop Sankey an absurd amount of times, is not that great running the ball. Oregon's D is very good at defending the run. While Oregon has occasionally given up some fairly big plays on the run, in general Oregon has made stops. Oregon has been good against the pass and Washington's offense is only good passing the ball; while they don't do it often, they do it effectively. Oregon is very good in standard downs - and Washington is abysmal.

But.

Washington is just insanely great in passing downs. For whatever reason - Keith Price making a big play, Sankey busting out some yards, penalties, whatever - Washington keeps drives alive with big plays and moving the chains. Nothing is more aggravating when watching a game than to see Oregon let a team off the hook after a 3rd and 12 or 3rd and 14 - and Washington is by far the best team we've played that does that, and one of the best teams in the nation at doing just that. In particular they're very good passing the ball on 3rd and long; according to cfbstats Washington has had 10 3rd and 7-9 yards, made 8 of them and had an absurd 166.52 pass rating for that down and distance. Is this sustainable? Probably not. But it makes my blood pressure go up just thinking about it.

How FEI sees the game:

FEI data is not updated per unit until about week 7 - which means that very little of the breakdown is helpful. Still, you can see what FEI thinks about opponent adjustments for Washington compared to their results.

Oregon Washington
FEI 6 (.263) 11 (.240)
Game Efficiency (GE) 5 (.366) 40(.085)
Previous SoS 123 (.939) 4(.225)
Future SoS 1(.051) 18(.195)
F/+ rank 2 (26.7%) 11(19.4%)



Only two other teams in the nation have had easier schedules - though it may not surprise you who they are. Baylor (.954) and Florida State (.939) are the culprits. Note that of the two systems, FEI is much more strong in their opponent adjustments.

Similarity scores for Washington

Not surprisingly, Oregon is closest to Stanford (#1, .315) than basically any other opponent Washington has faced. Note that Stanford is a lot better according to FEI than Oregon, though a ton of this has to do with playing and beating Washington. Arizona is the next closest (18, .198).

Similarity scores for Oregon

Oregon has faced nothing like Washington this season; Virginia (92nd), Colorado (100), Cal (105) are all pretty putrid as far as that goes. The best opponent Oregon has faced is Tennessee (69th), with a FEI of -.027. Oregon has obviously not remotely been tested with anything close to Washington's caliber all season. This is a big reason why FEI doesn't like Oregon that much and does like Stanford - while Oregon has done really well, their very low strength of schedule is punished heavily by FEI.

Special Teams and other data

FEI doesn't have special teams data broken down, but we can get an idea of how well each team has been playing from the game splits that Brian Fremeau does. In those, we see that Oregon has not had a negative special teams game all season and has had a couple of very good ones against Virginia and California. Washington, meanwhile, essentially lost the game against Stanford because of special teams and field position, and has had fairly poor field position all year. From the splits of FEI we see Oregon's field position advantage too: 34.4 over the 4 games FEI tracks (FEI ignores FCS games). Washington currently has a cumulative -10.4 field position value. While Oregon's advantage isn't as good as Stanford (who is #1) it's very strong.

Field position and special teams are currently a big weakness of Washington. They're currently allowing 8.5 yards a punt return while only getting 3.8 yards. They're getting 19 yards a return on kicks while allowing 25. Their punting and kickoff distance are basically the same as their opponents - so this likely means that Oregon has some chances to return big returns. Oregon, meanwhile, is averaging 22 yards a punt return and 22 yards a kick return. Bralon Addison should hopefully have a very good day again.

Other interesting stats: Washington has over 100 more penalty yards than Oregon; while I've thought Oregon was penalized badly, Washington has been even worse. Oregon's also been getting better at this; Washington has not.

So what does this all mean?


Using advanced stats this early in the season is always a risky proposition. Arizona State last year was supposed to be a strong contender; USC was supposed to have a good defense. Oregon was supposed to have a stellar defense, too. Arizona was a big test for the Ducks. Etc, etc. This is especially true when you've seen no real difficult action from one team. At this point we know pretty well what Washington is about. They've played good defenses, good offenses, good special teams. They've played well on the road and at home. They've looked good for the most part with some obvious faults, but were able to hang with Stanford and dominate the rest of their fairly strong schedule.

We just don't know what we have with Oregon.

Is the Tennessee game a good sign given that Tennessee almost beat Georgia? Is the Cal game essentially a wasted game due to the monsoon? Does Virginia give any hints to what Oregon might perform like? None of these teams are of the caliber of Washington; what does it tell you about how good a team is and what a team can do when they've never been tested?

The thing that I rely on most when doing these analysis is the S+P breakdown and the FEI breakdowns of strength vs. strength. Those tend to be the most accurate in terms of describing how the game is going to go, and when I've not paid attention to them (such as the Stanford game) it's been problematic as far as my prediction. So, here goes. Oregon has a commanding, gigantic advantage in the running game over Washington. This should make Oregon able to score often and run well. Oregon's D is not incredible, but is not bad - and while it doesn't match up perfectly with Washington it will almost certainly force Price to beat them with his arm. S+P indicates that Washington can possibly do just that, but it'll be harder to do and less certain. Between that, the turnover ratio (Oregon averages a full +1 turnover margin per game better than Washington), the penalties, the special teams - I think Oregon wins. The line is currently Oregon - 14, however, and that seems way too high.

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