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How FEI and S+P see the game: Oregon at Cal 2014

Cal games have often been odd and unpredictable, but this week holds few surprises. Expect big pass plays, domination on offense and a solid Oregon win.

Steve Dykes

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, RockMNationFootball 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 California has the ball
Category Oregon


UO Off Cal Def UO Def Cal Off
F/+ Rk 7 (29.2%) 43 (8.1%) 2 (20.3%) 58 (1.4%) 25 (9.8%) 41 (4.8%)
S&P+ 9 (252.5) 63 (211.2) 4 (132.8) 91 (98.6) 20 (119.7) 38 (112.6)
Play Efficiency

7 (139.6) 100 (90.1) 28 (117.0) 34 (116.2)
Rushing S&P+

10 (135.9) 76 (97.7) 40 (114.0) 77 (99.5)
Passing S&P+

9 (144.6) 104 (86.3) 30 (118.6) 25 (123.7)
Std. Downs S&P+

13 (127.7) 103 (90.2) 22 (119.3) 54 (107.1)
Pass. Downs S&P+

4 (171.1) 86 (90.7) 53 (111.8) 11 (143.7)
Drive Efficiency

10 (122.3) 54 (104.0) 12 (125.6) 88 (96.1)

Oregon actually dropped one spot in F+, though that is mostly a product of the other teams out there being amazing. S+P tracks fairly closely to the actual AP polls right now, loving the SEC - but also loves Marshall heavily. In an odd bit of synergy Oregon is almost precisely the same as Ohio State at this exact moment. Both the offense and defensive S+P scores are within .2 points.

Similarity scores for California

Cal and Arizona (37th) have the same raw values on offense (OMG PANICCCCC) but do things very differently. Cal is much better at passing the ball and much much worse on drive efficiency. Cal is worse than UCLA on offense (29th) and much better than Washington (73rd).

Cal's defense is even worse than Washington as well (78th) and is the worst defense that Oregon has faced so far this season in the PAC-12 - and will likely be the worst defense Oregon will face in the PAC-12. They're comparable to Wyoming (97th) though are better at stopping drives.

Similarity scores for Oregon

Cal still hasn't faced anything as good as Oregon on offense. Blah blah, no big surprise. The closest that they've faced is Washington State (30th). That's really not that comparable. Arizona (37th) is probably closest from a scheme standpoint. Giving up 59 and 49 points to both of those teams doesn't say a lot of good about Cal's defensive chances.

What might be more surprising is that Oregon is also the best defense Cal has so far faced. UCLA (34th) is the next best one with a 5 point differential. UCLA is fairly comparable in ability across the board to Oregon save in one spot - Oregon is much better at stopping drives from turnovers on downs and actual turnovers.

Oregon's offense vs California's defense

There's really not much to say here. Barring a whole lot of unpredictable events there's essentially nothing that Cal can do to stop Oregon. In particular Oregon should have huge advantages passing the ball, but Oregon will have advantages everywhere. Cal can't even claim to stop Oregon well on passing downs like UW could. The best thing that Cal can hope for is that they can get some stops on drives in various ways - but that's unlikely given Oregon's fairly strong ability to finish drives and not turn the ball over. This should look fairly similar to the UW game, only moreso.

Oregon's defense vs California's offense

Oregon has a slight disadvantage (5 points) in the passing game and is better in every other way. Cal doesn't do a ton of rushing in general; whatever advantage Oregon has in stopping the run will largely be unimportant. I would expect that Cal will be able to get some yards passing - but their poor drive efficiency and Jared Goff turning the ball over should be a big deal here. The only other thing to note is that Cal is very good at getting long third downs. Getting long or short third downs really won't matter a whole lot as far as stopping Cal goes.

How FEI sees the game:

Oh, FEI. I love you too.

OVERALL When Oregon has the ball When California has the ball
Category Oregon


UO Off Cal Def UO Def Cal Off
F/+ Rk 7 (29.2%) 43 (8.1%) 2 (20.3%) 58 (1.4%) 25 (9.8%) 41 (4.8%)
FEI Rk 1 (.306) 40 (.096) 3 (.761) 48 (-.171) 27 (-.368) 41 (.182)
Field Position 25 (.533) 69 (.492)

Raw Efficiency 11 (.199) 74 (-.030) 1 (.931) 96 (.335) 75 (.120) 40 (.213)
First Down rate

8 (.783) 107 (.759) 121 (.794) 17 (.759)
Available Yards rate

3 (.626) 117 (.576) 86 (.515) 33 (.503)
Explosive Drives

4 (.250) 96 (.172) 65 (.127) 7 (.229)
Methodical Drives

21 (.183) 116 (.207) 115 (.206) 84 (.120)
Value Drives

3 (.593) 117 (.533) 78 (.417) 56 (.394)
Special Team rank 77 (-.518) 26 (1.183)

Field Goal efficiency 119 (-.643) 72 (-.063)

Punt Return efficiency 71 (-.110) 23 (.089)

Kickoff return efficiency 106 (-.260) 14 (.030)

punt efficiency 43 (-.141) 47 (-.132)

kickoff efficiency 11 (-.327) 110 (-.025)

Nothing I said last week really has changed with respect to Oregon and FEI. FEI still sees the PAC-12 as amazing, still sees Oregon as one of the best, and sees an Oregon team dominate a team on both sides of the ball - and FEI thought Washington had a fairly strong defense. Everything that was done last week only reinforced Oregon's superiority in FEI's eyes.

It's almost certainly wrong, but from a raw perspective Oregon has also looked very strong, especially on offense. Oregon is the best in offensive efficiency right now before opponent adjustments. And after this week, I wouldn't expect anything different either.

Game Factors: the best and worst of the teams

Oh, game factors, I've missed you so.

Oregon Game Factors

Oregon's offense was about as efficient as we've seen, putting in the 4th best performance of the season. The defense didn't do nearly as well from FEI's standards given that UW was supposed to not be that good - and it was our second-worst performance of the season. You can see easily using this chart how consistently good Oregon is on offense - and how volatile Oregon is on defense.

Cal's games are basically summed up by two words: opponent adjustments. Because UCLA is one of the best teams in the nation according to FEI, anything Cal did that was good made their values look amazing. Cal's defense against UCLA looked incredible, though Cal's offense wasn't insane. Cal has been all over the place on offense and defense and as you can see, that tracks fairly consistently with what team they've been playing.

Cal essentially plays pretty much the same every week - good offense, suspect defense, allowing scores of 40+ points and scoring 40+ points.

Similarity scores for California

Cal is much worse than any of the PAC-12 teams we've faced so far this season on offense save, of course, Washington. UCLA (#2), WSU (#5) and Arizona (#14) are all much better. Wyoming (95th) and Washington (84th) are much worse. Cal really isn't close to those other teams. They're a whole new special snowflake.

On defense Cal is closest to Washington (45th) and much worse than Arizona. That's almost entirely because of opponent adjustments, as Cal has faced the 4th hardest schedule on defense in the nation.

Similarity scores for Oregon

Cal actually has faced UCLA, Arizona and WSU, so they've faced something similar to Oregon. And we know how those games went. No reason to believe that Cal will be able to do something different.

Oregon oddly is also the best defense Cal has faced so far this year. Arizona (33rd) is the closest, and UCLA is next (43rd).

Oregon's offense vs California's defense

Oregon is still great at everything save methodical drives - but thanks to the Washington game, Oregon's even fairly good at those this year. Cal has overall bad numbers against everything but this is improved thanks to opponent adjustments. Cal is poor against explosive drives, methodical drives, first down yards, basically everything you can think of. This game should be more of the same - another high quality offense putting up major yards and points against a weak Cal defense.

Oregon's defense vs. California's offense

California is good at two things - getting at least one first down on a play, and getting explosive plays. Both of those are weaknesses of the Oregon defense this year, so expect Cal to get some long yards. Other than that there's nothing to indicate that this game will go particularly differently to other games Oregon's played against good offenses.

Special Teams

Ah, now, here's a big advantage that Cal has. Cal is great on special teams, particularly in returns. Fortunately Matt Wogan has been amazing so far this season, and the kickoffs shouldn't be such a big deal. Punt returns are better for Cal but only by a bit. Cal would normally be very vulnerable to kickoff returns. The problem is that Oregon has been horrible at kickoff returns this season.

Seriously, Charles Nelson, kneel down.

So what does this all mean?

This is what I said last week:

In this game I also think S+P is more right, especially with Jake Fisher coming back. While Washington's defense has been spectacular they've also had some fairly scary holes - and more importantly have not played great, balanced offenses. Washington's offense, meanwhile, has been at best adequate. Cyler Miles has had flashes of brilliance, but he's not as mobile as Brett Hundley and not as consistent as Connor Cook. I don't think Oregon is going to suffocate Washington's offense but I don't think that Washington can score much without getting very lucky on turnovers - something Oregon has been able to limit handily.

If Washington wins it will be because of big return yards from turnovers and a bad turnover ratio in their favor. Otherwise Oregon should win handily and likely blow out Washington. Based on the numbers I predict a win and a cover.

I also mentioned that maybe we'll split the difference and assume S+P was right about Washington's defense while FEI was right about Washington's offense. That appeared to largely be the case. It is a bit worrisome that Oregon did not deal with a scrambling QB well once again, but other than a 4th quarter largely already decided there wasn't a whole lot to worry about. Oregon with a healthier line is a significantly different beast than they were against WSU and Arizona.

If Cal executes perfectly, avoids turnovers, gets some turnovers and big special teams play they can probably hang around with Oregon for a while. But only for a while. Oregon has massive advantages on offense and a defense that should be able to slow down Cal enough. Cal is not multidimensional on offense enough to scare Oregon, nor are their receivers so amazing that they can handily win one on one matchups. There's really nothing that should concern here, statistically. The point spread is currently Oregon -18.5; based on the numbers Oregon should win and cover.