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How FEI and S+P see the game: Oregon vs. Colorado 2014

Colorado gave UCLA fits and played ASU and Arizona tough. Oregon's strong running game against a weak running defense and Oregon's ability to make explosive plays spells doom for the Buffaloes.

Steve Dykes/Getty Images

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 Colorado has the ball
Category Oregon


UO Off UCB Def UO Def UCB Off
F/+ Rk 2 (34.0%) 73 (-5.2%) 1 (22.5%) 80 (-4.2%) 30 (8.6%) 58 (-0.3%)
S&P+ 9 (245.6) 84 (189.7) 2 (131.8) 93 (93.0) 25 (113.7) 75 (96.7)
Play Efficiency

2 (145.3) 83 (95.7) 48 (106.0) 64 (102.2)
Rushing S&P+

2 (145.2) 101 (89.9) 54 (104.3) 84 (95.6)
Passing S&P+

4 (149.2) 63 (99.4) 51 (105.9) 47 (106.5)
Std. Downs S&P+

2 (136.5) 101 (90.7) 36 (111.7) 66 (101.4)
Pass. Downs S&P+

4 (164.2) 42 (113.4) 87 (92.6) 56 (103.8)
Drive Efficiency

7 (132.4) 77 (96.9) 9 (138.2) 84 (94.0)

Oregon officially won the bye week in the hearts of S+P, going up a rank despite not playing anything. We even went up slightly in the rating as well. How come? Well, Auburn utterly cratered against Georgia, TCU looked meh against Kansas and Oregon's opponents didn't do too badly for themselves overall. Oregon's overall offense improved ever so slightly but more accurately Oregon's rankings went up due to others going down.

Similarity scores for Colorado

Colorado is closest to Utah (79th), worse than Stanford (61st) and better than Washington (91st) on offense. Compared to Utah they're much better at passing the ball and much worse at running the ball. Colorado is better at passing downs and worse at drive success.

Colorado continues the no defense trend in the PAC-12, and is most similar to California (87th) and Washington State (88th), and is slightly better than Wyoming (103rd). Colorado is better than most of those teams at defending the pass and much worse at defending the run. They also stand out on passing downs compared to those other teams.

Similarity scores for Oregon

This one is odd - Oregon is obviously the best offense Colorado has seen, but the next best one is in Colorado State (22nd). Also odd is that Oregon is the only PAC-12 team in the top 25 by offense. Colorado State is closest to Oregon in passing (20th) and standard downs (27th) but is about 20 points worse than Oregon is in all of these categories.

Defensively Oregon is the best team Colorado has faced this year, though they are close to Arizona State (30th), USC (34th) and Utah (35th). Oregon is worse at defending the run and the pass than ASU is and is much worse on passing downs - but they are great at drive stops. Yep, this is another sentence basically cut and pasted from previous weeks.

Oregon's offense vs Colorado's defense

The big key matchup is that Colorado is 101st in the nation at defending the run and is going up against the 2nd rated run offense. Oregon has large advantages on offense everywhere - but this is the biggest matchup. Oregon has a 55-point advantage when running the ball. Colorado has a good passing down defense and might be able to slow down Oregon if penalties or negative plays put them in passing situations, but Oregon doesn't project to get into those all that often - and Oregon is still one of the best in the nation at converting long third downs too.

Colorado is also one of the worst in the nation at stopping explosive plays (121st in ISOPPP) which bodes ill for going up against the 2nd most explosive team in the nation. Their havoc rate is not great except in one area - cornerbacks and safeties, where they're 30th. This all speaks to Oregon simply running the ball, running the ball again, and running it some more. If you were hoping for a Marcus Mariota Heisman statement, this game is likely not it unless he does it with his feet. Expect a heck of a lot more of Royce Freeman and Thomas Tyner.

Oregon's defense vs Colorado's offense

Oregon actually does not match up super well against Colorado here. The one thing Colorado has been able to do is pass the ball with Sefo Liufau. He's been excellent all season. Nelson Spruce has been great as a receiver too - over 1000 yards already and 11 TDs. While Oregon's defense has advantages almost everywhere over Colorado the one place they do not is against the pass, where Colorado has a 10 point advantage. This is similar to how Oregon looked against Washington State, so you may see some fireworks for Colorado here and there. Oregon has a fairly good havoc rate (36th) vs. the pass so you should expect some turnovers - but also expect a lot of yards and plays. That being said, Colorado won't get a lot of big plays - they're 114th in the nation in ISOPPP. What they will do is pass, pass, and pass some more, having one of the highest pass ratios on standard and passing downs of anyone in the nation.

They also have the second highest adjusted pace in the nation, so I would expect a high score regardless.

How FEI sees the game:

OVERALL When Oregon has the ball When Colorado has the ball
Category Oregon


UO Off UCB Def UO Def UCB Off
F/+ Rk 2 (34.0%) 73 (-5.2%) 1 (22.5%) 80 (-4.2%) 30 (8.6%) 58 (-0.3%)
FEI Rk 1 (.324) 67 (-.012) 2 (.814) 76 (.115) 33 (-.311) 56 (.042)
Field Position 15 (.542) 118 (.455)

Raw Efficiency 7 (.219) 95 (-.087) 1 (.846) 92 (.240) 70 (.054) 65 (-.029)
First Down rate

2 (.806) 94 (.716) 115 (.755) 44 (.696)
Available Yards rate

2 (.642) 90 (.504) 97 (.515) 60 (.457)
Explosive Drives

5 (.247) 124 (.224) 67 (.133) 111 (.080)
Methodical Drives

17 (.183) 6 (.060) 116 (.194) 26 (.167)
Value Drives

2 (.613) 90 (.435) 93 (.446) 63 (.383)
Special Team rank 10 (2.012) 84 (-.418)

Field Goal efficiency 59 (.074) 46 (.149)

Punt Return efficiency 9 (.127) 85 (-.148)

Kickoff return efficiency 84 (-.185) 87 (-.189)

punt efficiency 22 (-.211) 73 (-.077)

kickoff efficiency 16 (-.255) 78 (-.122)

Oregon went up again this week, increasing their FEI lead significantly and having one of the highest FEI scores I've seen in a while. As has been pointed out, FEI by itself is not super great predictively (one of the bottom 10 systems that's being tracked) but it is quite good at measuring how good Oregon is.

Game Factors: The best and worst of the teams


Colorado has had a few fairly decent games - against the toughest teams they've faced. The three major peaks there are against Arizona State, UCLA and Arizona. If Oregon has a game like they did against Washington State or Arizona and Colorado continues to play their best games ever, Oregon could have a tough time. I don't find that all that likely, given that Oregon has so far played significantly better since those two games.

The problem for Colorado is that they are remarkably inconsistent. They can play with the top teams - or they can crater and play worse than almost anyone.

Oregon offense vs Colorado defense:

Colorado's defense had an absurdly good game in their overtime loss against UCLA - but has looked entirely average other than that game. A lot of that success is simply how good UCLA is perceived to be, but a lot of it was getting either destroyed on an explosive play or bottling up UCLA; there was very little in between. If Colorado can play like they did against UCLA they've got a shot, though that defensive performance would have been better than only Oregon's worst offensive performance.

Oregon defense vs Colorado offense:

This graph is so...weird.

Oregon's defense has been clearly all over the board, one way or another. Colorado's offense started out about as schizophrenically, but has since settled down into a consistently decent thing. And Oregon's defense is trending down a bit. Oregon can match up with Colorado potentially, but it's much more likely Colorado wins a bit on offense.

Similarity scores for Colorado

The next closest team that Oregon has faced is Stanford (66th) on offense, which is a bit odd. Stanford's high ranking isn't even based on strength of schedule - they're very close to each other. Colorado is much better at methodical drives than Stanford and way, way worse at explosive drives.

Colorado isn't particularly impressive on defense, as you might expect - they're right up there with Wyoming (93rd) and Cal (61st). They have also faced the 6th hardest strength of schedule that you can. They are really, really great at not giving up methodical drives compared to Cal, but that's because they're really, really bad at giving up explosive drives.

Similarity scores for Oregon

As you might expect, UCLA (5th) is right up there with Oregon for offense, and they're fairly close. Arizona State (13th) and Colorado State (17th) are there too. Man, Colorado has seen some hell. Oregon is in general much better at everything than UCLA, but is especially much more explosive.

Oregon is right there with Washington (31st), Arizona (29th) and Arizona State (28th). Oregon in particular gives up more methodical drives than any of them, and also gives up more first downs and gets fewer three and outs.

Oregon's offense vs Colorado's defense

This should be really fun. Oregon has a .700 advantage here. That's pretty nuts.

Oregon is one of the best in the nation at getting explosive plays. Colorado is one of the worst defenses at giving them up. For whatever reason - my suspicion is defensive scheme - Colorado just lets guys go. I would expect a lot of very big plays and very short drives for Oregon. Especially on running the ball. Colorado is very good at not allowing methodical drives, but I suspect that's mostly because teams just score too fast in general. Colorado appears to be a kind of boom or bust defense, and I would expect Oregon to encourage that just fine.

As I said above, Mariota might get a big highlight or two this game - but it'll be with his legs, not his arm.

Oregon's defense vs. Colorado's offense

Oregon only has a .300 point advantage over Colorado here, and in particular Oregon will give up some long, clock killing drives. Oregon may hold the ball only 15-20 minutes between their methodical drives and our explosive ones. Colorado will probably get at least a first down on every drive, but after that it'll be somewhat tough going. Only somewhat though; Oregon is not great at stopping anyone, just slowing them down.

Special Teams

Oregon is top 20 in the nation at field position; Colorado is one of the worst in the nation. Oregon should have consistent advantages in drive starts. In particular Oregon has a good chance to return a punt a long ways. Charles Nelson may have another highlight or two. Oregon also gets very good kicks and punts, so when they do have to kick they should be able to pin Colorado back. There's very little to fear here if you're Oregon.

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.

From the Utah preview, since we haven't played FSU.

This week we have a Colorado team that plays up to its competition fairly well. We also have a Colorado team that is still young, does not have a ton of talent everywhere and is coming to Autzen to face one of the best offenses in the nation. Colorado isn't a bad team, and is certainly not the doormat they were last year. They're not a good team though, and barring some collapse Oregon should have their way with them. In particular, the running matchups and ability to get explosive plays play way too much into Oregon's bread and butter.

The point spread tells another story though - 33 points. That's way too much, even at home; Oregon hasn't beaten anyone that badly this year save South Dakota and Colorado is about as good as Cal or Washington State. Plus, I suspect Colorado will get some points. I expect Oregon to win - probably by about 3 scores - but they won't cover.