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How FEI and S+P see the game: Oregon at Colorado 2015

How far has the sky fallen? How much of what we see in Colorado is legit, and how much is simply showcasing what we already know? Colorado will give us a bounce back - but it may not help answer more questions about our season will go.

Streeter Lecka/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.

New! If you're curious what these numbers mean, here's a glossary, stolen happily from our friends at Roll Bama Roll.

  • FEI: The Fremeau Efficiency Index, an overall team quality metric that is drive-based and opponent-adjusted. For a more detailed discussion of FEI, check out the PTN primer.
  • OFEI: The offensive component of FEI.
  • DFEI: The defensive component of FEI.
  • FPA: FEI Field Position Advantage, a measure of how much field position value a team earned against its opponents.
  • STE: FEI Special Teams Efficiency, a composite measure of a team's efficiency in all facets of special teams (kicking, punting, and returning), based on points per game.
  • S&P+:S&P+ is primarily play-based and consists the Five Factors: efficiency, explosiveness, finishing drives, field position, and turnovers (measured largely by sack rate). This is then adjusted for opponent strength.
  • Second Order Wins: Defined here, this is how many wins a team would have expected to have won if you just take how well they actually did in a game.
  • S&P+: The overall S+P rating, given as both a percentage and as a margin above the average points scored. IE, a team with a +10.0 S+P would likely score 10 points more than a team with a 0 S+P.
  • OS&P+: The offensive component of S&P+.
  • DS&P+: The defensive component of S&P+.
  • Weighted S+P: This weights more recent games more heavily, giving a bit more value to teams that do better as the season goes on (or teams that get devastated by early injuries after looking great).
  • F/+: The F/+ combined ratings combine FEI and S&P+ into one metric that serves as Football Outsiders' official rankings for college football. For a more detailed discussion of F/+, check out the PTN primer.
  • Off. F/+: The offensive component of F/+.
  • Def. F/+: The defensive component of F/+.
  • ST F/+: The special teams component of F/+.
  • line yards are in general how many yards the line is responsible for compared to how many yards the running backs get by themselves.
  • Opportunity rate is how often a team gains at least 5 yards.
  • Power rate is how often a run play converts 2 or fewer yards on 3rd and 4thd own.
  • Stuff rate is how often a running play gets zero or less yards.
  • Sack rate is adjusted to opponent and is how often the team is sacked

Sometimes trusting the numbers is the right thing

There was a comment in the last article from NICKPAPAGEORGIOTHEDUCK that struck me as I watched the Utah game unfold.

Everything in the write up sounds like a loss

I’m surprised you think we’re going to win.


My prediction wasn't a loss. It was either

a) cover the 11 point spread or

b)win but don't cover

depending on if Jeff Lockie played. But reading the article again, he had a good point. The numbers weren't saying an Oregon win. They were saying that Oregon had some serious issues.

They still didn't say it would be this bad.

Still, some times I interpret the numbers wrong. Or sometimes the numbers aren't representative of what is going to happen. Most people think I tend to be pessimistic about my predictions, which isn't quite true. I tend to focus more on longer trends and try to avoid recency bias. Some times that's really good - it points out that a hot team really has only one great game and it's unlikely they'll play like that consistently (say, in the case of FSU). Other times it misses things, like how well we were playing last year after the Arizona game and how different that was from our first few games, which implied that we were going to struggle instead of move on. In this case, I focused on how well we played against MSU, thinking that MSU was a very good team, we played very close on the road, and that we played much better - especially passing the ball - against them. What I didn't focus on was our abysmal performance against Georgia State, particularly on defense.

And clearly, that was wrong. Also, clearly, Utah is a very good team that deserves every single bit of praise they get.

Anyway, if you want to punish yourself with more numbers while getting a somewhat healthy (if small) dose of optimism, Bill Connelly has a great article on a whole lot of the aftermath (and our favorite sad Oregon fan is pictured too).

Let's move on a bit and talk about Colorado, which looks...interesting.

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 30 (19.2%) 36(17.1%)

S&P Percentile 62.8 29.8

2nd Order Wins 2.1 (0.1) 2.6(-0.4)

S&P+ 52 (5.6) 88 (-5.6) 21 (38.1) 74 (29.3) 89 (32.4) 23.7 (98)
Rushing S&P+

13(132.2) 101(87.8) 92(91.4) 65(108.2)
Passing S&P+

60(107.9) 72 (98.7) 97(90.5) 91(97.7)
Std Down S&P+

18(125.4) 66(100.4) 115(86.0) 70(105.1)
Pass Down S&P+

84(100.7) 109(81.0) 77(95.9) 100(92.7)

105(1.16) 43(1.16) 86(1.32) 111(1.13)

11(51.1) 62(39.4) 68(40.0) 39(46.4)
Field Position

72(29.7) 38(27.2) 56(28.6) 30(33.0)
Finishing Drives

39(5.31) 21(3.67) 100(5.05) 92(4.47)
Turnover Margin 63(0) 14(+5)

Turnover Luck +3.09 PPG +1.68PPG

What's interesting to me as I do this is that the Utah game didn't change many numbers.

Oregon's rushing offense: still really good, still not explosive.

Oregon's standard down offense: still really good, still not explosive.

Oregon's passing and passing downs: still mediocre to bad.

Oregon's standard down defense, pass defense and stopping people from scoring? Still really bad.

This is what I mean when I say that the numbers kind of showed this result: Oregon wasn't that different than what they've been in the last few weeks. Oregon's defense didn't suddenly regress; they were a bit worse than they have been, but not crazily so. Utah did WAY better than what they had shown. Oregon though? They are who the numbers thought they were. The good news is that Colorado isn't particularly well built to take maximum advantage of Oregon's weaknesses. The bad news is that the optimism we might have after this game should be taken with big grains of salt.

Similarity scores for Colorado

As I said last week, similarity isn't as big a deal this early in the season. Still, Colorado's offense is pretty close to Georgia State (113th). Colorado is much better at basically everything save passing downs, where Georgia State is quite decent. I would expect that to also improve when Colorado plays us.

Colorado isn't really close to anything Oregon has faced thus far on defense - Utah and Michigan State (20th and 26th) are much better on defense, and Georgia State (114th) is much worse.

Similarity scores for Oregon

While Colorado hasn't faced any real juggernauts on offense - and won't against the Ducks - they have faced Massachusetts (41st). Oregon is actually not hugely different so far this year in character, save that Oregon is much better running the ball than passing (UMass is the opposite).

And yes, it is one of the most depressing things I've written on AtQ that Oregon compares favorably to Massachusetts in offense. That offense was held to 14 points against the Buffalo defense, just FYI.

Ugh. Okay, so Colorado has faced harder defenses than Oregon basically all season - Colorado State (56th) and Hawaii (71st) are both better than Oregon thus far. Hawaii is better in every way but especially at pass defense.

Oregon's offense vs Colorado's defense

Oregon in theory matches up exceeding well against Colorado. Colorado is weakest against the run; Oregon is very very strong. This is a 50 point differential that has typically led to 400+ yards of rushing when we've had this kind of advantage.

But that was then. I don't know what this means. I would suspect that Royce Freeman will continue to get a lot of very successful runs early in the count, that we will get short 2nd and 3rd downs, and that we will convert easily. Due to the lack of explosive plays  thus far I would still expect long drives, and I would still expect a few field goals instead of TDs. Oregon has another big advantage in standard yardage situations. Unlike against Utah, Oregon is 'good' on passing downs vs. Colorado's defense.

Don't expect much improvement in big plays either; Colorado gives up a lot of successful plays but is 43rd in explosive plays, which is far better than Oregon thus far. On the other hand Oregon should be able to move the ball for good chunks at a time: Colorado is very bad (100th) in adjusted line yards, and Oregon is great. That likely means runs of 5-6 yards easily most of the day. Colorado's stuff rate is one of the worst in the nation too (116th) - so short yardage and stops of runs shouldn't happen that often.

Passing is another story. Colorado is fairly even with Oregon against the pass, and is especially good at stopping big plays - at least compared to Oregon's ability to get them. I would expect whoever ends up throwing for Oregon to have some success with short stuff, but not a lot of success otherwise. Note also that Colorado is atrociously bad at getting to the QB (114th in the nation) so Oregon should have a lot of time to survey the field and throw an inaccurate long pass to someone.

This is, by the way, why I mentioned that we shouldn't read too much into the performance here. Oregon should have a lot of advantage running the ball and should have a lot of time in the pocket. This might lead people to think that the offensive line woes or the offense's woes in general are going to be solved. In particular, the notion that Oregon should establish the run will likely be a narrative after this game. That probably is just an illusion; the reality is that Oregon should run more against teams that suck against the run, and Oregon should be able to pass protect against teams that can't rush the QB.

Oregon's defense vs Colorado's offense

This is sort of a mirror of the Oregon offense vs. Colorado defense matchup. Colorado is better at running than passing; Oregon is better on passing downs. Colorado should be able to get good yards early in the count, but if they get behind chances are good Oregon will be able to get a stop.

Also similar to Oregon, Colorado is very good at getting successes running the ball (18th) and not as good at getting explosive plays (97th). That is at least a strength vs. kind of not the worst thing matchup. Colorado rarely gets stuffed, so don't expect a lot of zero yard plays. Oregon has a slight advantage in power situations; it might be the most Oregon can hope for to stop Colorado from converting obvious 3rd and short and 4th and short situations.

Colorado is very good at protecting the QB (39th) so don't count on Oregon's sack woes to improve this game; Oregon is worse at sacking than Colorado is (116th). Colorado probably won't pass a ton, however.

One oddity is that Colorado isn't very successful on passing downs - but when they do succeed they absolutely get huge yards (16th in the nation on explosive passing down plays). Oregon in theory should be able to shut that down somewhat, but again - who knows with this team?

How FEI sees the game:

FEI still has huge weight on preseason numbers, and is still not breaking down on individual categories. As a result it isn't particularly useful at this point in the season.

Category Oregon
F/+ Rk 30 (19.2%) 93(-20.3%)
FEI Rk 21 (.139) 102(-.113)
Raw Efficiency 83(-.075) 35(.105)

What's interesting to me is the huge gulf between efficiency and ranking. Oregon has had a tough schedule - Utah and MSU are both very good teams, so they get 'credit' in FEI, whereas Colorado has played meh teams and looks okay against them - but wow, did that efficiency change from last week for Oregon. If you're curious, Utah's game efficiency jumped all the way to 5th.

So what does this all mean?

This is what I said for last week:

Which brings us to this game. So far, Lockie hasn't been named a starter. From what I've seen that's going to be the key. If Lockie is the starter Oregon may not win, primarily on the lack of ability to score TDs. Utah will probably not get a ton of big drives, but chances are good that they'll maximize the result of those drives - and that means Oregon's going to have to score well in order to stay in. I'm not confident in that happening with Lockie in there.

I'm not hugely confident with that in Adams, but at least with Adams we have a much bigger chance to go down field, get explosive plays from receivers and throw for bigger gains and hopefully more points.

The spread is currently 11 points. I'll be optimistic and say that if Vernon Adams starts (and Bralon Addison plays some QB) we win and cover the spread. If Lockie starts, we win but don't cover.

So things that I was right about here:

  • Utah maximizing their possessions. Yep. 2 FGs and 7 TDs later.
  • Not particularly confident with Lockie running the plays and being able to keep up. Well, yeah.
  • Oregon will have to score well to stay in it: yeah, they would have had to given that stopping Utah was just not happening.
  • Bralon Addison didn't play QB, so we didn't cover
What I was wrong about: basically everything else. Adams starting didn't help at all, and he certainly didn't improve explosive plays. We did get good results in special teams at times, but Utah had significantly better ones. Oregon lost the turnover battle. Oregon lost every battle.

For this game,  Oregon should be able to be more efficient, get more longer drives, keep pressure off of Jeff Lockie (who I'm assuming is starting) to perform miracles and in general control the flow of the game. Oregon will be stopped some of the time but not as many times as Colorado is. Both teams should have good success running the ball, and both teams will have good success stopping the other's pass.

If there is going to be a turnaround and a change in how things are going don't look at things like how often Oregon's QB is pressured or how well we're running the ball. Instead, look for these things:
  • Oregon causing havoc, especially with their defensive line. Getting sacks here would be a huge change for this Oregon defense, even moreso considering how good Colorado is.
  • Oregon getting solid stops - especially in the red and orange zones.
  • Oregon getting explosive plays, especially running the ball. Oregon has one run of greater than 20 yards so far this season - and that was by Taylor Allie. Changing this would be hugely different compared to the prior 4 games.
  • Oregon's offense getting any major success on passing downs.
If you see those sorts of things that's a very good sign that Oregon's coaching and playcalling have changed significantly from the earlier season and that Oregon can have a turnaround. If you don't see those things, chances are good that Oregon is what we think they are.

Per S+P, Oregon has a 67% chance of winning and about a 7.5 point advantage on the road. S+P doesn't do individual matchups the same way I do, however, so there are some things to take heart on.

The spread is currently 7. Given the advantage in running attack I think that Oregon covers. But if Oregon makes a lot of mistakes or turns it over - something that Colorado is pretty decent at causing - I could easily see Oregon losing. My prediction is that they win.