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How FEI and S+P see the game that might be: Oregon vs. Florida State 2014

In the bye week tradition we'll take a look at a matchup that Oregon would get if the playoffs were held today: Florida State, in the Rose Bowl. Want a game as entertaining and exciting as the 2011 Rose? Step right up and watch the two best QBs in college football do almost anything they want to.

George Frey

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 Florida State has the ball
Category Oregon

Florida State

UO Off FSU Def UO Def FSU Off
F/+ Rk 4 (33.2%) 9 (27.8%) 3 (22.0%) 29 (8.9%) 33 (8.4%) 4 (17.6%)
S&P+ 9 (245.8) 18 (234.3) 3 (131.5) 30 (111.2) 24 (114.3) 10 (123.0)
Play Efficiency

3 (144.5) 75 (97.5) 45 (108.0) 6 (137.8)
Rushing S&P+

3 (143.4) 91 (94.2) 55 (105.1) 8 (133.7)
Passing S&P+

4 (149.5) 70 (98.9) 49 (108.5) 10 (138.5)
Std. Downs S&P+

2 (137.0) 59 (102.0) 34 (112.8) 7 (132.3)
Pass. Downs S&P+

6 (161.0) 92 (89.6) 76 (96.6) 9 (145.1)
Drive Efficiency

7 (132.4) 12 (135.2) 9 (138.2) 16 (123.5)

Oregon went down a bit via S+P after struggling to put away Utah and needing a lot of turnovers and other non-play specific actions to win. But only a bit, mind you. Another part of that was that S+P didn't see Utah as particularly good, so there's not nearly that much in the way of opponent adjustments to be had.

Similarity scores for Florida State

Florida State is right there with Michigan State (9th) on offense. They're very, very close to each other in most everything. Michigan State is actually better passing the ball and on standard downs; Florida State is much better on passing downs. No one from the PAC-12 is really close to FSU either; the next closest would be USC (25th) and UCLA (31st).

And first thing out of the way: Florida State's offense is better than what S+P says it is due to the Clemson game. However, that's only one data point out of 9 at this point; Florida State isn't so much better that these numbers should be considered totally wrong. Florida State is also a bit better at finishing drives, but only a tad.

Florida State on defense is similar to Utah (32nd), UCLA (34th) and much worse than Stanford (5th). FSU is similar to Oregon in that they are not that great at most play stats, but are very good at stalling drives for whatever reason. They are significantly worse than all of those teams at stopping the run, stopping the pass or standard and passing downs.

Similarity scores for Oregon

As is usually said, Oregon's offense is better than anything FSU has seen this year. The closest they will see is Miami (16th), so this upcoming game may tell us a bit about how well FSU would handle a team like Oregon. Oregon is more than 13 points higher than Miami on offense, so it won't be perfect. Notre dame (17th) is another good choice, though as might be expected Oregon is much better running the ball.

Oregon's defense falls between Louisville (14th), Miami (15th) and Virginia (35th). Oregon isn't nearly as good at most things (particularly passing downs) but they are exceptional at one thing: getting stops. They're 9th in the country in getting drives stalled early. I suspect that would be a huge key in this game.

Oregon's offense vs Florida State's defense

Oregon's offense went down a peg, but that appears to not matter much in this matchup, as Oregon has a 50-point advantage on running the ball and on passing the ball. The only part that appears to be even a close matchup here is on drive success. If Oregon can manage to avoid turnovers, expect Oregon to have a great deal of success doing almost anything it wants to. And what it will likely want to do is run the ball against a fairly injury-depleted line. Royce Freeman and Thomas Tyner should have a huge amount of success, and I'd expect Marcus Mariota to break off some big runs. Even worse for FSU, Oregon has a massive 80 point advantage on passing downs - so even getting Oregon into long down and distance may not stop them.

While it's questionable how good or bad FSU's defense is given the massive rotation of players that they've had to use, it's still very likely that Oregon would have a tremendous advantage here. Which is good, because as you'll see they'll need it.

Oregon's defense vs Florida State's offense

While Oregon's defense is good it's not great - and Florida State's offense is really great. Florida State has a 30 point advantage running or passing the ball, and a 50 point advantage on long downs. It is only a 20 point advantage on short, that's good I guess? I wouldn't expect a lot of traditional stops. This comparison looks a lot like the comparison I did against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, and what ended up happening there was that only negative plays and turnovers stopped the Badgers. I'd expect a lot of things like that here too. If you thought Kaelin Clay could get open against Oregon, watch how Rashad Greene does. The one advantage Oregon has here is on drive efficiency. Oregon has a 15 point advantage here, which means turnovers and stops on 4th downs and forcing field goals instead of TDs. FSU has had a problem recently of turning the ball over, especially Jameis Winston and interceptions. This is the only advantage either defense has on either offense, and as such I would strongly suspect that if Winston plays like he has that would be the key reason that FSU loses the game.

How FEI sees the game:

FEI continues its love affair with the battle-tested Ducks. And like the Ducks, likes FSU more than S+P does.

OVERALL When Oregon has the ball When Florida State has the ball
Category Oregon

Florida State

UO Off FSU Def UO Def FSU Off
F/+ Rk 4 (33.2%) 9 (27.8%) 3 (22.0%) 29 (8.9%) 33 (8.4%) 4 (17.6%)
FEI Rk 1 (.314) 6 (.251) 4 (.797) 25 (-.365) 33 (-.290) 6 (.673)
Field Position 16 (.542) 55 (.499)

Raw Efficiency 10 (.219) 17 (.152) 1 (.845) 27 (-.315) 70 (.053) 38 (.194)
First Down rate

2 (.806) 51 (.635) 113 (.755) 20 (.730)
Available Yards rate

2 (.642) 41 (.405) 95 (.515) 52 (.467)
Explosive Drives

5 (.247) 61 (.125) 69 (.133) 13 (.200)
Methodical Drives

21 (.183) 35 (.115) 114 (.194) 87 (.120)
Value Drives

3 (.613) 40 (.326) 91 (.446) 46 (.409)
Special Team rank 10 (2.012) 33 (.922)

Field Goal efficiency 59 (.074) 2 (.803)

Punt Return efficiency 10 (.127) 111 (-.241)

Kickoff return efficiency 86 (-.185) 68 (-.164)

punt efficiency 24 (-.211) 54 (-.111)

kickoff efficiency 16 (-.255) 33 (-.223)

As Utah was rated 2nd on defense by FEI another strong showing by Oregon looks good. It doesn't look as good as the Stanford game, however, as Oregon gained 20 points of value via turnovers; the derp-6 was worth 12 points by itself, as Brian Fremeau points out. That tends to make the game look a smidgen less awesome. Mostly it was that Oregon struggled to get drive success; out of 12 scoring opportunities Oregon only scored an average of 3.67 points per opportunity. Ouch.

Game Factors: The best and worst of the teams


Overall you can see how close Florida State is to Oregon. They have had a very similar trajectory over the season. That first game, if you were curious, is Oklahoma State. The rest of their games have been much better. That being said, Oregon has been consistently better in the same period, with significantly higher highs (against Stanford and UCLA) and fewer big lows.

Oregon offense vs FSU defense:

This might surprise FSU fans a bit. FSU's defense has been very consistent - and consistenly meh. There are a couple of nice games in there (against Clemson for instance, and last week's game vs. Virginia) but nothing that stands out, and in general their defense has been hovering around break even all year. Oregon's offense, however, has been hovering around absurdly dominant all year and the average is over .800 points higher than FSU's defensive performances.

Oregon defense vs FSU offense:

FSU's offense has not been totally consistent all season, but they've been significantly better in the last 4 weeks and have stayed largely great. Oregon's defense has had some big highs (against UCLA and MSU) but is still not within particular striking distance of FSU's best day competing. This in general backs up that FSU is better than their stats show, and that this game would be a race to 50 points. Or more.

Similarity scores for Florida State

Florida State is right there with UCLA (5th) on offense. No, i wasn't expecting UCLA to be that high either, and a lot of that is likely due to their pasting of ASU early on. Both have played a hard schedule of defenses - UCLA the top in the nation, FSU 6th by FEI. Florida State is much better at getting explosive plays than UCLA, though does not do a good job marching down the field.

On defense, Florida State is worse than Stanford (18th), much worse than Utah (5th), and better than Arizona (28th). The main difference is that FSU gives up a lot more explosive plays than anyone other than Arizona does.

Similarity scores for Oregon

While Florida State has faced a lot of good defenses, their defense has not done the same with offenses from FEI's view. The best team FSU will face is Miami (10th). Before that, however, the next highest they've faced is Notre Dame (30th). As you might expect, Notre Dame isn't close at all to Oregon. And like I said above - seeing how FSU handles Miami may give some clues on how they might look against Oregon.

Oregon is also a peer of Miami (31st) and is better than Wake Forest (41st) and Syracuse (43rd). That's not a great trend for Oregon.

Oregon's offense vs Florida State's defense

As I mentioned above the biggest advantage Oregon has is on explosive drives - Oregon gets them 25% of the time, whereas FSU is fairly mediocre at stopping them. I would expect big plays running and passing to be a key for Oregon. Oregon should be able to get yards all over the place, one way or another. Oregon has a .500 point differential between offense and defense; that kind of thing tends to indicate a general ability to impose your will on the other team.

Oregon's defense vs. Florida State's offense

This is only a 200 point differential, though it is decidedly in FSU's favor. Taking out those early games it would be even more in FSU's favor. FSU is best at explosive drives, and Oregon is not...bad at it? But is bad at almost everything else. As I mentioned before Oregon is typically great at stopping drives as they get to the red zone or getting key turnovers. This will be another key.

Special Teams

Oregon tends to get really great field position in general and is one of the best overall at special teams. Even our field goal kicking isn't horrible this year. Weird. Both Oregon and FSU are good at kicking off and bad at returning kicks, but Oregon does have a very big advantage on punt returns. If FSU punts, Oregon should get some really good field position. Oregon also is one of the best at punt coverage and FSU is one of the worst. FSU has an advantage on kicking field goals; hopefully it wouldn't come down to that.

So what does this all mean?

This is what I said last week:

While I suspect that Utah will control the ball for long stretches and run consistently, I don't see them being able to do this all day. My gut feeling is that FEI is more right, again, and the key will be Oregon's defense being excellent against a bad Utah offense.

I think Oregon wins, and I think Oregon covers.

This time I pretty much got it on the money. Oregon's opportunistic defense getting 4 turnovers, a number of negative plays and stops where it counted were the major difference. Oregon's offense did enough to stay in and then blew the lid off the game late.

I also said this:

Oregon typically has problems with teams who can run decently but pass well

Hmm. That doesn't bode as well. FSU in 2014 reminds me a lot of USC in 2011 and 2012 - a team that looks like they shouldn't be that bad but gives Oregon some matchup problems, particularly in the secondary. Oregon's pass rush has been suspect all season as well, which is usually the major way Oregon does well against a good passing team.

And Florida State is one of the best passing teams in the country.

The issue comes down to how much you respect FSU's defense and how much you can expect FSU to make a big mistake or two. From the last few weeks the latter seems almost guaranteed; Jameis Winston has thrown one fewer interception so far this season than Mariota has in his entire career, and it hasn't looked good recently. I think that Oregon, which is one of the best at getting turnovers this year, can expect that to continue. Erick Dargan will come up with another huge play, and Joe Walker and Arik Armstead hopefully can get some pressure.

As to the Florida State defense, I simply can't see them handling an Oregon offense that has much of its line back from injury. Oregon has dismantled far stronger defensive teams in Stanford and MSU, and done well enough against Utah. I don't see how Oregon can be held below that.

My suspicion is that this does look like a game against USC - but not 2011. It looks like 2012, where both teams can score points at will. While I think FSU scores a lot - likely well over 31 points - I would expect Oregon to win due to getting more points per drive and a couple turnovers.