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

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Revenge. Arizona killed Oregon's dreams last year in a way that hadn't been done since 2006. It's time for payback.

Devon Allen, start warming up
Devon Allen, start warming up
William Mancebo

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 Arizona has the ball
Category Oregon


UO Off UA Def UO Def UA Off
F/+ Rk 3 (26.2%) 41 (7.6%) NA (NA) NA (NA) NA (NA) NA (NA)
S&P+ 4 (249.9) 42 (212.3) 1 (149.3) 93 (92.4) 64 (100.7) 14 (119.9)
Success Rate

6 (48.8%) 84 (38.8%) 85 (39.0%) 33 (43.8%)
Rushing S&P

8 (0.598) 57 (0.436) 47 (0.418) 42 (0.511)
Passing S&P

3 (0.697) 106 (0.560) 77 (0.518) 32 (0.594)
Std. Downs S&P

3 (0.671) 80 (0.518) 87 (0.523) 20 (0.597)
Pass. Downs S&P

18 (0.575) 84 (0.495) 32 (0.415) 72 (0.474)

5 (1.27) 80 (0.95) 45 (0.86) 36 (1.03)

3 (0.645) 81 (0.500) 71 (0.485) 28 (0.556)

Oregon's ratings went slightly down against WSU on offense, notably in the running attack. That's almost certainly a blip and not a trend; even if we don't get any better on the OLine for the rest of the season, health wise, people are going to get better fairly quickly as they get more reps. Defensively we stayed about the same as far as S+P goes, which is itself somewhat interesting; as far as S+P was concerned on defense, nothing 'new' was learned about us. Or it's a measure of statistical averaging, as Michigan State showed itself to be better on offense while we might have shown ourselves to not be as great this game.

Similarity scores for Arizona

I would have thought Arizona would be the best team that Oregon had faced offensively so far this season - but that's not true. Michigan State is 8th, almost 10 points higher than Arizona. Michigan State is significantly better at getting successes on every play and getting bigger plays. They're also much better at passing and in down and distance. Washington State (55th) is almost as close to Arizona as Michigan State is, and aside from their running ability is a fairly decent comparison.

Arizona is close to Washington State (80th) and much worse than Wyoming (41st) or MSU (26th). Outside of South Dakota Arizona is the worst defense Oregon has faced so far this year. They are better at stopping successes than Washington State but worse at stopping explosive plays. They are significantly better at stopping the run, but otherwise worse across the board - and especially bad at passing defense. If Oregon is going to do well chances are that it's going to be in passing the ball and getting big passes. So...pretty much what we've done for all of our hardish games.

Similarity scores for Oregon

Oregon is the best team in the nation right now, offensively, despite declining a bit since last week. And it's surprisingly not that close; I would have thought Alabama would be right up there but they're not. Oregon is a full 16 points higher than the next team. That might not change as much as you think - both MSU and Wyoming were very good on defense, and opponent adjustments should only help that somewhat. Cal (42nd) is the team closest to Oregon. They are 40 points worse. Arizona really hasn't faced anything as good - not even close.

I have to say this because it's funny: Oregon is statistically very similar to Florida, USC, Miami and Washington. Those aren't on Arizona's schedule, but the notion that Oregon's D is right up there with those heavyweights tells you a lot about those programs - and about how unstable advanced stats are at this moment. Both Nevada (85th) and California (74th) are worse than Oregon, and UNLV is much worse. UTSA, however, is 12th in the nation on defense (WTF???).Cal is probably the most comparable and hopefully we can emulate their success for all four quarters, instead of just 3. Oregon is much better at stopping explosive plays and much worse at stopping successful ones, and is weakest on standard downs.

Oregon's offense vs Arizona's defense

Marcus Mariota should have a very big field day against Arizona's defense. He is currently the top rated passer in the NCAA and Oregon is the top rated passing offense in the NCAA. Arizona is weakest against the pass. Arizona should be able to hold the run a bit better - especially if Oregon's offensive line remains somewhat unhealthy - but Oregon should still be able to find plenty of opportunities to pass the ball. If I were coaching, I'd expect a lot of what we saw in the second half against WSU - quick passes, pocket rollouts, smoke and go concepts with the occasional pick/post concept. Receiver screens are also a likely option, getting away from the line and to receivers who likely have advantages in blocking. Devon Allen should continue his dominant run as well. Of the three RBs, I would think Byron Marshall would be most influential due to his ability to get catches and act in a TZR role.

Oregon's defense vs Arizona's offense

Oregon has a fairly big disadvantage here. In particular, Arizona is great at passing and especially great on passing in standard downs. If Oregon can force a long down and distance they've got a good shot of stopping Arizona - Arizona is only 72nd in passing downs and Oregon is 32nd in stopping them - but getting them there is going to be tough. They're high in success rate too. I would suspect a lot of similar drives to what we saw against WSU (though with more running), where Arizona is able to stay ahead of the down and distance for a while and then possibly stall or score in the red zone. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu better have a good day.

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 Arizona has the ball
Category Oregon


UO Off UA Def UO Def UA Off
F/+ Rk 3 (26.2%) 41 (7.6%) NA (NA) NA (NA) NA (NA) NA (NA)
FEI Rk .298 (2) .113 (36) - (-) - (-) - (-) - (-)
Field Position NA (NA) NA (NA)

Raw Efficiency 16 (.237) 33 (.117) 5 (.968) 76 (.099) 68 (.022) 16 (.569)
First Down rate

57 (.710) 54 (.647) 111 (.813) 12 (.843)
Available Yards rate

13 (.602) 60 (.440) 86 (.515) 11 (.622)
Explosive Drives

2 (.355) 84 (.157) 82 (.156) 23 (.216)
Methodical Drives

94 (.097) 35 (.098) 91 (.188) 56 (.157)
Value Drives

8 (.607) 66 (.388) 71 (.400) 12 (.587)
Special Team rank 26 (1.379) 107 (-1.789)

Field Goal efficiency 96 (-.235) 92 (-.172)

Punt Return efficiency 4 (.201) 113 (-.236)

Kickoff return efficiency 5 (.059) 115 (-.266)

punt efficiency 97 (.015) 71 (-.052)

kickoff efficiency 73 (-.124) 70 (-.126)

FEI loves good games against good teams, but really dislikes meh games against meh teams. As a result of that and a couple of other teams doing really well this week, Oregon drops to 2nd. The offense actually improved a bit according to FEI, but the defense plummeted from 32nd to 68th.

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.

In the Washington State game Oregon earned 6.8 points via turnovers, 23.7 on offense and -18.2 points on defense. Special teams also earned 3.4 points. As you can see from that, the turnovers was almost precisely the difference in the game. As I've said elsewhere, that likely means that if we don't recover the fumbles or at least have worse luck we run a very good chance of losing vs. WSU.

Now, here's the good news: This was unlike every single other game we've had so far on defense. By a large margin. Offensively we were very similar to the two other games, but defensively this looks fairly anomalous. Time will tell whether the MSU and Wyoming games were the real outliers, but this does at least give some credence to the notion that Oregon's D is not as weak as they appeared in the WSU game.

Arizona has also had similar consistency on offense - but also has been fairly consistently bad on defense. They've not been particularly lucky with turnovers, but where they have had a lot of success is on field position - either in getting turnovers in good position or getting return yards. That might be something to watch this game; if Arizona regularly tilts the field in their favor they may play similarly to other games on offense. If they regularly get pinned back they may have a much harder time.

Similarity scores for Arizona

Boy does S+P differ from FEI right now, at least in some places. Michigan State is 51st, and Washington State is 42nd in raw efficiency. Yeah...really? Huh. Here's where S+P using FCS data helps some; Michigan State's cupcake schedule basically gives them only Oregon as a data point. Arizona is by FEI's numbers the best offensive team Oregon's faced. I don't really buy that; while they're likely very good, I suspect MSU will end up being better by season's end.

And in the confusing stats, Baylor is third in FEI - on defense. Really? Um...k. Washington is 18th, which should tell you a lot about how good FEI is right now. Oregon and Cal are actually right next to each other. Wyoming is probably the closest (51st) to Arizona, but they're not really that close.

Similarity scores for Oregon

Quick - who are the top 5 teams in offensive efficiency? Oregon is 5th, of course. Who are the others? Texas A&M, Nebraska, Alabama - and NC State. FEI is so very weird early on in the season before things are well connected. Teams like Old Dominion and Western Michigan are in the top 15. Baylor, meanwhile, is #20. By this token Arizona hasn't faced anything as good as Oregon yet.

As I said, Oregon and Cal are neck and neck in FEI value. We're significantly worse than UTSA and much better than UNLV (128th) and Nevada (85th)

Oregon's offense vs Arizona's defense

Oregon should get a lot of big play chances. Oregon is 2nd in the nation in explosive drives, and Arizona's worst trait is giving them up. Arizona does match up decently in getting three and outs, but only somewhat. I do expect Oregon might stall in the red zone, but I also think Oregon will score on a lot of plays outside the red zone.

Oregon's defense vs. Arizona's offense

Oregon is almost certainly not going to get any 3 and outs against Arizona. Oregon is horrible at getting them and Arizona is great at getting at least something. Much like Oregon, Arizona doesn't tend to get methodical drives all that much. Unlike Oregon, Arizona tends to get something - and Oregon will often give up something. So expect drives that last at least 6 plays.

Special Teams

We still don't have data for special teams. That being said - Arizona doesn't appear to be particularly good at kickoff returns but appears to be good at kickoffs. From last year's numbers they're not really good at anything. Oregon hasn't gotten a ton of value from punt returns so far this year - largely because teams haven't really been punting - but Oregon might get some value on returns if they can manage to force them.

So what does this all mean?

I think a lot of people are going to ask - how can we stop what happened last year in the desert from happening again? How is Arizona not going to march up and down the field on offense? How is Arizona's D going to get beat? The stats painted a much rosier picture last year when we got crushedNo one saw this coming.

A lot of reasonable critics of these articles reasonably cite that stats are not the only thing that determines outcomes. They're absolutely right. Teams do have schematic advantages against other teams that aren't covered by stats. Individual matchups matter. Teams can play much better than they usually do for one game; we've seen this for the last two years against Stanford. Stats are a tool. They're one aspect of prediction. They are not the sole factor, and shouldn't ever be treated as such.

So can Arizona beat Oregon? Absolutely they can. Oregon has significantly more talent virtually everywhere you look, but that doesn't always matter. Oregon has shown a very simple way to be beaten in recent times: if you can reliably run the ball over and over again, get third down conversions and occasionally pass to keep the safeties honest, you win. It doesn't matter how you run the ball - spread or power. It is simply always staying ahead of the down and distance and be on schedule reliably. Arizona is quite good at running the ball, though they do not have Ka'Deem Carey any more. In fact, on a per-play basis they're better than Oregon before advanced stats have their way.

That being said, Arizona has far more question marks. They gave up absurd yards to California and have been shredded by a good passing attack - and Oregon has currently the best passing attack in the nation by virtually every measure you choose to look at. They're not good at defending the run or defending the pass. Marcus Mariota is healthy. Oregon is playing at home.

And stats wise, Oregon should win a race. I don't think the defense is going to stop Arizona all that often, and if we do it will be like 2012, where Oregon let Arizona get yards and get beyond the 40 and then get nothing afterwards. That's not likely. I suspect it will look a lot like the game we just watched in Pullman, where Oregon cannot reliably stop Arizona but Arizona really can't stop Oregon. 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.