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

An early view into which statistical methodology is more right: is Oregon a good team that will have played the two best teams in the nation? Or is Oregon a passing powerhouse that will dominate a middle of the road Bruins team?

Arik Armstead better have a big game
Arik Armstead better have a big game
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.

S+P doesn't have some advanced stats at this point in the season, so instead we'll be looking at a few unmodified values: success rate (how often a specific play did at least enough to keep the chains moving), ISO PPP (a measure of explosiveness) and unmodified S+P (how good success rate + explosiveness was overall). In addition, all values here save the overall values are unadjusted for opponent - which is why they don't have the + in the table (they're just S&P, not S&P+.

How S+P sees the game:

OVERALL When Oregon has the ball When UCLA has the ball
Category Oregon


F/+ Rk 6 (18.4%) 10 (15.8%) NA (NA) NA (NA) NA (NA) NA (NA)
S&P+ 10 (229.3) 23 (218.4) 3 (122.9) 34 (106.3) 33 (106.4) 24 (112.2)
Success Rate

15 (49.1%) 58 (40.4%) 68 (41.7%) 51 (44.8%)
Rushing S&P

26 (0.557) 29 (0.430) 34 (0.438) 54 (0.509)
Passing S&P

3 (0.680) 59 (0.507) 84 (0.535) 54 (0.545)
Std. Downs S&P

5 (0.643) 40 (0.485) 59 (0.511) 44 (0.567)
Pass. Downs S&P

18 (0.564) 59 (0.460) 67 (0.471) 97 (0.436)

3 (1.13) 26 (0.74) 57 (0.81) 74 (0.82)

5 (0.619) 48 (0.471) 68 (0.496) 61 (0.523)

How bad are Oregon's issues with their offensive line? How much do they miss Jake Fisher and Tyler Johnstone? Well, Oregon's rating for rushing is 26th in the nation. It hasn't been that bad since 2005, when we were 64th. Ever since then, save one year (2008) we've been in the top 5 in the nation.

But hey, that passing offense is pretty amazing.

Similarity scores for UCLA

UCLA falls into a sort of no mans land on offense. They're 24th, and no one we've played yet is around there. The closest is Washington State (35th); UCLA is significantly less explosive on offense than WSU, if you can believe it. Michigan State (8th) is the other comparison, and they're pretty much better across the board - but especially in big plays.

Oregon and UCLA are virtually identical on defense - another oddity. Arizona (47th) is the closest Oregon has faced; UCLA is significantly better at stopping the run. UCLA isn't all that close to MSU (12th), though UCLA is much better at stopping explosive plays.

Similarity scores for Oregon

Despite the poor rushing S+P, Oregon remains one of the best offenses in the country - and something UCLA really hasn't faced. The closest is Arizona State (29th) - but they're almost 20 points different from Oregon. So far the Pac-12 has this weird clump of teams that starts with Cal (21st) and has UCLA, ASU, USC, and Washington State. Weird, that.

Oregon and Memphis (32nd) are almost identical on defense. Oregon is slightly better against the run and much worse against the pass, which as you'll see bodes ill. Otherwise, at least as far as S+P is concerned they're just the same. Oregon is worse than Virginia (25th) and much worse than Texas (20th) - in particular, Oregon is massively worse at explosive play stoppage.

Oregon's offense vs UCLA's defense

I mentioned this in the Football Study Hall breakdown of Oregon-Arizona - Oregon was fairly bad at converting third downs, but more importantly to Oregon's demise Oregon faced a ton of third downs. Oregon was 4 of 14 on third down conversions - that sucks. (Arizona was 9 of 17). That is bad - but facing 14 third downs is horrible for Oregon. It means that Oregon's explosiveness and ability to get far ahead in the count on first down were hugely impacted. That goes well in hand with Oregon's difficulties running the ball. If Oregon has similar issues with getting a lot of third downs - even if they're converting a bunch - chances are good Oregon's going to lose.

From the actual S+P analysis, Oregon should have major advantages passing the ball, should they choose to do so. I say that because they had similar advantages against Arizona and for whatever reason did not pass the ball particularly much. They have almost no advantage running the ball, but have huge advantages on passing, passing downs and standard downs. If Marcus Mariota can stay upright chances are pretty good he can get some yards passing - though don't expect UCLA to give up nearly the big plays that other opponents have.

Oregon's defense vs UCLA's offense

Despite what instincts might tell you S+P is not particularly impressed by UCLA's offense. My suspicion is that UCLA is artificially degraded due to not having Brett Hundley in against Texas and their numbers are better than what is shown - but not so significantly that they are going to be likely worldbeaters. Oregon and UCLA are shockingly decently matched in S+P. Oregon has a large advantage against the run but an equally large disadvantage against the pass. UCLA is very poor when they get into passing down situations and not particularly explosive, so unless UCLA stays ahead of the count they're likely to stall a bit. If there was a time where the defensive front seven needed to step up and get some pressure, this would be the game.

How FEI sees the game:

While we have more FEI data we have a lot that is missing - especially the rankings for offense and defense overall. But we get special teams this week from this year. And...we're not that hideously bad!

OVERALL When Oregon has the ball When UCLA has the ball
Category Oregon


F/+ Rk 6 (18.4%) 10 (15.8%) NA (NA) NA (NA) NA (NA) NA (NA)
FEI Rk .238 (5) .257 (2) - (-) - (-) - (-) - (-)
Field Position NA (NA) NA (NA)

Raw Efficiency 18 (.153) 37 (.097) 1 (.858) 63 (-.027) 81 (.209) 23 (.396)
First Down rate

27 (.738) 59 (.661) 119 (.814) 18 (.767)
Available Yards rate

13 (.578) 62 (.444) 101 (.545) 49 (.477)
Explosive Drives

5 (.262) 11 (.048) 102 (.186) 10 (.233)
Methodical Drives

83 (.119) 124 (.242) 111 (.209) 50 (.150)
Value Drives

10 (.538) 53 (.350) 81 (.439) 70 (.368)
Special Team rank 61 (.262) 65 (.201)

Field Goal efficiency 85 (-.220) 64 (-.019)

Punt Return efficiency 74 (-.132) 93 (-.218)

Kickoff return efficiency 88 (-.201) 54 (-.132)

punt efficiency 42 (-.166) 70 (-.070)

kickoff efficiency 17 (-.294) 14 (-.320)

What? I...uh...what? The FEI rankings this week are, shall we say, unique. Arizona is the top team. UCLA is #2. TCU and Oklahoma are tied at #3. Oregon is right behind them. I can understand Arizona being the top team; Cal looks better as a win, for instance (and they're 9th in FEI!). I don't understand at all how UCLA, after losing to Utah, can go up 7 spots.

Well, I sort of can. The top value last week was Oregon with a .310 or so. The top ranking this week? .273. Everyone sucked last week, and everyone went into a tailspin. In addition, the program FEI scores got more faded out, meaning what we thought at the beginning of the season became less important and what had happened this season became more important. Florida State's horrible performance for half a game against Wake Forest pushed them from 2nd to 14th, as an example. So it's not so much that the Pac-12 is this amazing conference - it's that they weren't so hideous, they played well against each other, and the rest of the universe decided to implode all at the same time.

Game Factors: the best and worst of the teams

Again, I'll be talking game splits, as game factors won't be available for a bit.

Oregon was remarkably consistent from week to week; the offense still did well, and the defense still did fairly badly. As far as FEI is concerned Arizona was not an unlucky game; Oregon did not gain a lot of value or lose a lot of value via special teams, field position or turnovers. This was just an old-fashioned butt whooping by a superior team. This was also our worst offensive performance all season, though it was still decent.

UCLA is all over the place as you might expect from their games. Against Virginia they had a killer defense; against Memphis it was about as bad as Oregon's was against Arizona. Their offense was insanely good against ASU, and fairly bland against Utah. If we did game factors, I would bet they would have a huge deviation from week to week. They have basically lived and died by the turnover. Against Virginia they would have lost were it not for turnovers, and against ASU they used them to utterly dominate.

Similarity scores for UCLA

Well, the good news is that Oregon's faced a team just as good as UCLA in Arizona. The bad news is that Oregon lost to that team. UCLA is close to Washington State (21st), much worse that Arizona (8th), and much better than Michigan State (54th). If you think that MSU is worse than Arizona, chances are that you think UCLA will do pretty well against us.

UCLA isn't really near anyone on defense - the closest is Wyoming (73rd). Arizona is close too, I guess (79th). WSU is much worse, Michigan State is much better.

Similarity scores for Oregon

Marshall is #3 in raw offensive efficiency so far this season. FEI is just plain odd right now. Oregon is the best pure efficient team in the country right now, but UCLA has faced almost as good in Arizona State (7th). That's really the closest UCLA has faced; Utah is 88th, Memphis 79th, Virginia 91st.

Oregon is closest to Arizona State (76th) and would be the worst defense UCLA has faced so far this season. This is before opponent adjusted scores, mind you; Oregon's faced three very good offenses, and chances are good that Oregon's rankings will go up. The raw numbers however are not particularly pretty.

Oregon's offense vs UCLA's defense

Oregon should be able to move the ball, but one thing that is very problematic - like mentioned above - is that UCLA is excellent at stopping explosive plays. They're one of the worst teams in the country in allowing methodical drives - they allow them almost 25% of the time - but Oregon really has never operated in a methodical drive way, and with the rushing difficulties we've had I don't see that changing any time soon. This alone makes me fairly concerned. I suspect Oregon will get yards here and there, but it will be tough for Oregon to string together drives.

Oregon's defense vs. UCLA's offense

Almost the precise opposite is true for Oregon's defense. Oregon is bad at allowing explosive plays and UCLA is great at getting them. Expect a lot of big broken plays for UCLA. Paul Perkins and Jordan Payton should both have big highlight plays. I'd expect some fairly big mental breakdowns for Oregon along the way.

Special Teams

This is the first week where we have some special teams data!'s not super great for anyone, in this matchup. Both teams are very similar across the board. UCLA and Oregon both are very good on kick coverage, not great at punt returns or field goals. Sadly, one of Oregon's strengths in kickoff returns is now a glaring weakness. Nothing else stands out for UCLA here. Based on this, I would not expect Oregon to get much in return yardage or get momentum back after UCLA scores.

So what does this all mean?

This is what I said last week:

As long as Oregon does not stick stubbornly to a game plan where the offensive line is over their heads, Oregon should win by a comfortable margin.


Based on S+P, that is again true this week. UCLA doesn't have a killer defense and Oregon has major advantages in the passing game that should be available to be exploited all night. However, that goes fairly against what we've seen of Oregon's offensive identity through 5 games this season. We aren't WSU and aren't going to turn into WSU after a week. Oregon's defense is also a good matchup for UCLA in theory and should stop them at least some of the time.

That's the S+P view. The FEI view sees UCLA as a team that can get a lot of turnovers, get drive-stopping plays and puts a ton of pressure on the other team via big plays. While I think FEI is a bit confused right now, I do think that the relative values of PAC-12 teams are likely right - and UCLA has been better than Oregon so far. If Oregon can limit the turnovers against UCLA I think they've got a good shot.

I don't think that's what is going to happen, however. I think that Oregon's undisciplined play and their inability to run consistently is going to continue to haunt them in this game, and the lack of balance combined with the lack of big plays is going to give them fewer TDs and fewer long drives. It will be a close one, but I suspect UCLA is going to win. The spread is Oregon - 3. If Oregon wins I could easily see it being that close a game. If you think S+P is more accurate this early in the season Oregon should win by about 7-9 points. If you think FEI is more accurate, Oregon should lose by about 5-6.