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

We're still not at the point where advanced stats tell us a whole lot, but they can tell us a few things - namely, Oregon is Really Good, Washington State is going to throw the ball, and water is wet.

Royce Freeman, get ready for your closeup
Royce Freeman, get ready for your closeup
Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

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 Washington State has the ball
Category Oregon

Washington State

UO Off WSU Def UO Def WSU Off
F/+ Rk 2 (28.5%) 66 (-0.1%) NA (NA) NA (NA) NA (NA) NA (NA)
S&P+ 3 (254.4) 68 (197.4) 1 (153.1) 86 (97.4) 65 (101.3) 64 (100.0)
Success Rate

11 (50.0%) 91 (40.1%) 79 (38.5%) 63 (40.0%)
Rushing S&P

2 (1.092) 91 (0.486) 54 (0.424) 116 (0.468)
Passing S&P

6 (1.247) 67 (0.508) 54 (0.494) 54 (0.901)
Std. Downs S&P

1 (1.269) 94 (0.538) 69 (0.493) 70 (0.810)
Pass. Downs S&P

23 (0.871) 23 (0.387) 64 (0.455) 33 (0.810)

6 (1.33) 47 (0.86) 25 (0.78) 48 (1.03)

2 (0.667) 78 (0.493) 57 (0.465) 62 (0.525)

Already you can see how Oregon's advanced stats are going to go, at least on offense. The success rate is still absurdly high even taking into account MSU; I expect that it will absolutely explode when opponent adjustments are factored in. Defense...well, that's another story entirely.

Similarity scores for WSU

Naturally there's not a lot to be similar to, this early in the season. That being said, there are some sobering things. Wyoming is 120th overall in S+P. Even after some opponent adjustments they're not going to be that good. That they were able to pile up an absurd amount of yards both rushing and passing speaks fairly ill of the Oregon defense. On the flip side, Michigan State's offense is 9th overall in S+P and are one of the best passing teams in the nation. Washington State's offense falls so far right in the middle of the two.

Wyoming has (at least so far) a better defense than Washington State - significantly so. (50th). Michigan State currently is 23rd, but with opponent adjustments that will rise, of course. If you're curious, the thing that MSU is hugely penalized for is dealing with explosive plays - they're currently 128th in the nation. I'm sure they'll be giving Oregon a christmas card for that one.

Similarity scores for Oregon

Oregon is, so far, the best offense in the nation. That'll probably change when Baylor starts rolling with Bryce Petty, but chances are pretty good Oregon's going to be pretty decent this year. The best offense that WSU has seen is Rutgers (43rd), and they're about 45 points different than Oregon.

On defense, Oregon and Nevada (78th) rank fairly similarly. Rutgers is much worse.

Oregon's offense vs Washington State's defense

Washington State's defense, it's there. In particular they are worse against the run than the pass, and significantly worse on standard downs. They're really good on passing downs though! That's pretty much because they're, well, they're never in a passing down situation. This should be about as easy a test of Oregon's offense as you could possibly get - teams that are bad against the run and bad on running downs tend to get eaten alive by Oregon's disturbingly efficient ground offense. Games like Colorado last year are good examples of this. Expect Oregon to run early, run often, and run well most of the time. It's possible that Oregon will stall a bit on passing downs, as Washington State actually has a fairly decent pass rush, but it's unlikely Oregon will get into those situations that often. Expect Royce Freeman, Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner to have a great day.

Oregon's defense vs Washington State's offense

Currently these units are about even overall. That makes me kind of sad. Remember - S+P doesn't care as much about turnovers, and Oregon's defense has (so far) survived heavily on turnover success. Still, our defense has not looked particularly good on the eyeball test or the advanced stats. Surprising no one, Washington State will not run the ball all that effectively against Oregon - but the passing game is almost perfectly even. Also interestingly, Washington State is fairly good at passing downs too - meaning (similar to MSU) I would expect a number of 3rd and longs to be frustratingly converted. Washington State is also decent at getting explosive plays (and Oregon has been giving some up), so I'd expect some big plays if Washington State will have success at all.

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. In addition, Special Teams data doesn't exist for this season, so 2013's stats are being used. Just a few more weeks, guys!

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

Washington State

UO Off WSU Def UO Def WSU Off
F/+ Rk 2 (28.5%) 66 (-0.1%) NA (NA) NA (NA) NA (NA) NA (NA)
FEI Rk .314 (1) .025 (64) - (-) - (-) - (-) - (-)
Field Position NA (NA) NA (NA)

Raw Efficiency 13 (.321) 83 (-.082) 7 (.884) 84 (.227) 32 (-.396) 64 (.032)
First Down rate

45 (.750) 28 (.583) 105 (.810) 50 (.750)
Available Yards rate

16 (.621) 64 (.469) 58 (.439) 33 (.556)
Explosive Drives

2 (.350) 60 (.125) 47 (.095) 7 (.292)
Methodical Drives

109 (.050) 117 (.250) 36 (.095) 95 (.083)
Value Drives

16 (.588) 81 (.435) 38 (.316) 36 (.500)
Special Team rank 26 (1.379) 53 (.387)

Field Goal efficiency 96 (-.235) 20 (.418)

Punt Return efficiency 4 (.201) 31 (.015)

Kickoff return efficiency 5 (.059) 103 (-.249)

punt efficiency 97 (.015) 108 (.084)

kickoff efficiency 73 (-.124) 16 (-.261)

Because FEI likes turnovers a lot more and also rewards good games against great teams a bit more than S+P, Oregon is really outstanding in FEI's eyes. This will likely only change if MSU craters in the rest of the season, as FEI will keep that game in mind for quite a long time. FEI and S+P largely agree on how they see Oregon and Washington State as well; there aren't a whole lot of surprises this early.

Game Factors: the best and worst of the teams

Game factors are not yet available for 2014 - and unlike last time there's not a lot of good reason to do the game factors for WSU, as they appear to be quite different from last season. Instead, I'll talk a bit about game splits.

Game splits is one way that FEI measures how well a team did on offense, defense, and special teams - or more accurately how each component adds to the overall score of the game. They are not modified by team difficulty and represent essentially how many points a team 'scored' on a given drive. They have a lot of interesting value, but the part that I really like is that they can show very big differences in what should have happened vs. what actually did happen - IE, how lucky or unlucky a team is. In particular, you can do things like look at the turnover points vs. the actual differential in the score and see whether or not a team would have won without those turnovers.

For Oregon, we have 45.3 'points' scored via offense, 1.7 on defense, and .8 on special teams for the entire season. Huh. That doesn't sound too great relative to the actual scores - and it isn't. Where are the rest of the points? Well, Oregon has scored an absurd 18.5 points on turnover value in the two games FEI counts - which as far as I can tell is the highest per-game value of anyone out there. Field position is another interesting thing: Oregon gained a ton of points via field position but also gave away even more for Michigan State. Field position was okay but not insane against Wyoming as well. So what does this mean? Oregon has been very good at protecting the ball and getting turnovers, but Oregon has been good enough so far that even with the turnovers, they would have won. Oregon has also not been good on defense or special teams so far, but they have at least not been a particular liability.

By comparison, Washington State could have won if it wasn't for turnovers against Nevada (-8.6 differential). Their defense was a major liability, and their special teams are a minor one. Washington State has been a bit unlucky or a bit sloppy. If they can avoid turnovers, obviously they're going to do better - but they could be actually pretty decent sans turnovers. That being said, historically avoiding turnovers and Washington State do not go that well together.

Similarity scores for Washington State

Because Michigan State has only played one game against an FBS team, that's the only rating we have for FEI for them - and they're actually worse so far in raw value than Washington State is. Heh. So Washington State is the HARDEST OFFENSE WE'VE SEEN THIS SEASON.

Michigan State also looks horrible in raw defensive efficiency (96th), meaning Washington State is the best defense we've faced this season too! OMG PANIC PANIC

Yeah, advanced stats this early are kind of disappointing.

Similarity scores for Oregon

Oregon, shocking no one, is much better than Rutgers (59th) and Nevada(65th). I'm not sure what else to say about that.

On defense, shocking a few people, Oregon is much better than Rutgers (67th) and Nevada(81st). FEI is totally fine with turnovers as a stop for a drive, so Oregon looks better overall.

Oregon's offense vs Washington State's defense

Oregon is once again unlikely to get a lot of methodical drives because they simply get too many yards. That being said, that's also a weakness for Washington State - so if Oregon wants to get 14-play drives where they never pass, chances are decent that'll happen here. Oregon will likely get some yards on every drive no matter what - 3 and outs are very unlikely.

Oregon's defense vs. Washington State's offense

Much like we saw with S+P we see that Washington State should be somewhat successful with explosive plays. In addition to that, Oregon is very weak when it comes to stopping just first downs. The problem with bend but don't break is that you give up 5-6 first downs while bending. Overall this looks like it'll play out very similarly to other Oregon/Washington State games - Washington State will be able to pass on Oregon, get first downs, and then will likely score or turn the ball over. There really isn't a lot of middle ground.

Special Teams

We don't have the data for 2014, but if it's like last year Oregon should have an advantage when returning punts. Unfortunately I don't see Oregon actually making WSU punt the ball that much. Washington State hasn't been all that good returning kickoffs which negates one of Oregon's weaknesses. There's not that much to be excited about here; I don't see Oregon getting a bunch of big returns, and I don't see WSU getting a lot of value here either. This isn't where the game will be won or lost.

So what does this all mean?

Washington State has given Oregon teams fits for the last 5 years. Whether it was causing a scary injury to Kenjon Barnerkeeping the game close for two quarters and making everyone question whether Oregon was 'that good', being one of the worst teams in the nation and still gaining yards - Oregon has had something of a hard time with WSU teams. That's usually been self inflicted, mind you, but Washington State does pose an interesting problem for Oregon's defensive schemes - namely, they're very good at passing the ball and don't care that you've taken away the run. That appears to be part of the DNA of Cougars stretching back 15 years, and it certainly didn't change with Mike Leach taking things over.

So far this year there's very little to think that'll be different. Oregon has given up tons of yards through the air against good to meh teams. Oregon has gotten big sacks and big turnovers where it mattered, but in the process gave up a ton of yards. Washington State has generated video game stats in their games but it has always been in the horrible 'In a Losing Effort'; Connor Halliday is the king of that title in college football. And Oregon has so far taken a bit of time to get out of the gate on both offense and defense, having done much better as the game has progressed.

The spread is 23.5 points. I don't see Oregon covering that on the road. If they do cover it'll be because Oregon had to come on late and put it away in the fourth quarter, and got some late TD that sealed it (similar to what they did against MSU). I don't think that's how it's going to go.