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

Oregon's fleeting Pac-12 hopes and - more likely - bowl eligibility hang in the balance in one of the most even matchups I've ever seen. Oregon's success lies in big passing plays and getting turnovers.

Jennifer Nicholson-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.

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

What are the odds of Oregon making a bowl?

Those words seem so incredibly weird to type - the notion that Oregon has to do something to get to a bowl is a notion that hasn't been an issue in 10 years. But it is, now. And it's a reasonably good chance that this year it doesn't happen.

Right now, S+P has Oregon finishing the season with 6.25 wins. That's...not a lot of wins. That makes their bowl eligibility chances around 60%. Here's why.

Both Stanford (81%) and USC (71%) will be heavily favored against Oregon. Stanford as much as UW was (heh) and USC slightly less, but still quite favored. If Oregon beat Stanford that would be a monumental upset this season, at least stat wise. Winning either of these games would be pretty shocking, especially given how good both of those teams are on offense. Then again, Oregon beating Washington was a pretty big upset from S+P. So it can happen.

Anyway, that leaves 3 games that Oregon should have a reasonable chance of winning. One is Oregon State, which Oregon currently has an 86% chance of winning. That means Oregon realistically has to beat Arizona State or Cal. And of the two, Arizona State is the better chance. Barely. At 49%.

Oregon isn't favored in any game save Oregon State, but they only need to realistically take one of the four. That's still going to be tough. Oregon has a 17% chance to not win a single game of those 4 games, and about a 13% chance of winning nothing at all this season.

Time to earn that scholarship offer, Vernon Adams.

How S+P sees the game:

OVERALL When Oregon has the ball When Arizona State  has the ball
Category Oregon
Arizona State
UO Off ASU Def UO Def ASU Off
F/+ Rk 58 (5.1%) 54(6.8%)

S&P Percentile 58.1 48.5

2nd Order Wins 4.5 (0.5) 3.4(-0.6)

S&P+ 57(3.7) 67 (0.9) 25 (35.8) 62 (27.8) 89 (32.1) 67(28.7)
Rushing S&P+

19(123.8) 18(124.6) 104(87.4) 102(92.4)
Passing S&P+

45(110.4) 47(105.5) 71(97.8) 68(102.7)
Std Down S&P+

17(119.9) 22(118.0) 92(93.8) 87(97.0)
Pass Down S&P+

53(108.8) 54(105.3) 77(97.0) 83(97.1)

58(1.27) 69(1.25) 60(1.23) 40(1.31)

22(47.4) 39(37.6) 94(44.2) 101(38.2)
Field Position

36(31.4) 69(29.4) 52(28.6) 84(29.0)
Finishing Drives

65(4.82) 108(5.16) 117(5.48) 84(4.53)
Turnover Margin 36(+3) 99(-4)

Turnover Luck +1.92 PPG +3.24PPG

What a difference a game makes.

Oregon's passing efficiency shot up 30 ranks and Oregon's passing defense went to somewhat reasonable levels.

The problem? Oregon's run defense. While a lot of scrutiny has been paid to Oregon's passing defense - reasonably so, all things considered - what is probably a bigger issue is that Oregon's run defense is in the bottom quintile in the NCAA. Now, the good news is that Arizona State isn't particularly well-equipped to take advantage of that. The bad news is that the other 3 opponents that are scary are very much so. Christian McCaffery does not have an easier run defense on his schedule, currently.

But let's not talk about that depressing matchup in the future. Let's see what we have for Arizona State.

Similarity scores for Arizona State

The Pac-12 is down somewhat this year, though it still continues to be offense-heavy. Oregon is not an oddity in that they're really good this year (though not remotely by their lofty standards). Arizona State, though, is right smack in the middle which makes them not particularly similar  to anyone. Washington (79th) is reasonably close, though they play very differently - ASU is much worse at running and much better at passing, and is worse on both standard and passing down success. ASU is also more explosive offensively. The next team that we've played that's better than ASU is Utah (42nd), but they're pretty different across the board.

Arizona State's defense is similarly mediocre - though as you'll see, there are some problems with that for Oregon. They're also not a lot like any other team we've faced. Michigan State (38th) is much better. Washington State (93rd) is much worse. Arizona State is far, far better against the run than MSU is, and far, far worse against the pass. Both are similarly good on standard downs compared to passing downs.

Similarity scores for Oregon

Oregon is a top 25 offense - barely - but they're still quite good. They are, however, not as good as UCLA (12th) and not remotely as good as USC (7th). Probably the closest value-wise is Texas A&M (44th) or Utah (42nd). And of those, A&M is the most similar thematically, having a stronger rush offense and worse pass defense. Oregon is a bit better balanced than A&M, but only just. And like A&M, Oregon is very strong on standard downs and mediocre on passing downs.

As is usual in this space, Oregon's defense will compare with the worst defenses ASU has faced. Colorado (98th) is pretty close, New Mexico is a bit further, and that's about it. Oregon is a bit better against the pass compared to Colorado (seriously) and better across the board on any kind of down and distance. Which, ya know, isn't saying much given that Colorado gave up 48 to ASU.

Oregon's offense vs Arizona State's defense

Here's where we run into the first real alarm: Arizona State's run defense. ASU has a great run defense - better than Washington, better than Utah, better than anyone we've faced this year. And typically this is the way to beat Oregon - by having a dominant run defense. That was Stanford's methodology in 2012 and 2013, it was LSU's way in 2010, and it does tend to give Oregon trouble. When Oregon can't stay in standard downs it's tough. When Oregon can't get explosive plays in running, it's tough. Right now, ASU is averaging 3.21 ypc for their opponents, and while many aren't all that good (like New Mexico) others are phenomenal (like USC and UCLA).

One place that is a particular strength is their adjusted line yards. They're one of the best in the country (4th) at getting stops early in running, and much better than Oregon is (21st). While they're not stellar at power success (67th), they get a lot of stuffs and penetration. The Sun Devils aren't quite as good at dealing with explosive runs, but even that's pretty good (33rd) and much better than what Oregon has had (60th). The run game is likely not going to be a major factor for Oregon. If it is, that will be a very good sign that Oregon's offense has improved since early this season.

And that dovetails nicely into the other issue. Arizona State, as Scott Frost says, is very good at getting sacks and negative plays. DJ Calhoun and Antonio Longino have been great. ASU is 10th in the nation in adjusted sack rate, and that does not bode well for Oregon's 95th ranked sack rate given up. Now, the good news is that they give up a lot of big plays, and that's how they've lost in general - by giving up huge passes or runs. They're 100th in the nation in big passing plays, and Oregon with a healthy Vernon Adams and Darren Carrington should be able to take advantage of that a couple of times. Still, expect a number of Oregon drives to end as Adams gets hit, again and again. This is especially true on passing downs, where ASU has a 13% sack rate.

So what is the good news? Well, Oregon had a big advantage in finishing drives. ASU is one of the worst at stopping teams inside the 40. It's hard for teams to get to that point, but if they do they're scoring 5.16 points per trip, one of the highest in the nation. Oregon isn't great at finishing, but ASU will help that somewhat.

Really, I don't have a great grasp on this. I don't think Oregon's going to be able to run super well. I don't know how well Vernon Adams will do if we can't run that well. I hope, based on a couple of games, that he'll do great. I'm terrified that he's going to get sacked like 9 times and get injured.

Oregon's defense vs Arizona State's offense

This is a weird one. Which wins in a battle of stoppable force vs. movable object? Oregon's deservedly maligned defense is going up against an offense almost precisely matched up, weakness for weakness. Oregon has a horrible run defense, but ASU's rushing offense is 102nd in the nation. ASU's passing offense is better, but Oregon's passing defense is also better - not good mind you, but better.

One issue is that Arizona State is bad at running but crazy good at getting big plays. They have at least 4 runs over 40 yards this season, and big runs make up something like 25% of all their running yards. Oregon is okay at stopping runs, but really, really bad at stopping big runs. Demario Richard will get the lion's share of the carries, but chances are good DJ Foster has a highlight run or two.

I know it's weird that Oregon has a vaguely decent passing defense, but the reason isn't their secondary play - it's their line play. Oregon is best at rushing the passer as far as their defense goes, especially on standard downs, where they're 25th in the nation and get a sack close to 7% of the time. That, however, drops massively on passing downs, where they're 99th. Why the dropoff? #ThirdAndPellum, of course. Unlike the running attack don't look for ASU to get much in the way of explosive passing plays - they're 78th overall, and Oregon is 21st on defense, one of the few bright spots.

Another small glimmer of hope is that ASU is simply not that accurate as far as passing the ball. Mike Bercovici is a 58% passer this year, and that tends to do good for Oregon - where Oregon forces teams to march down the field in smallish chunks. Oregon may be able to get some stops.

The final glimmer is one that might have Oregon revert to type from last year - which is turnovers. ASU has both a bad turnover ratio and good turnover luck - which tends to mean that they're very likely to turn it over again. Bercovici has 5 interceptions in the 3 games that he's played against good opponents, and they've been lucky on fumble recoveries as well.

I expect ASU to get a few big plays, especially running (and super frustrating), but not a ton of sustained drives elsewhere. If Oregon is going to see improvement look for drive stops caused by disruption.

How FEI sees the game:

Oh hey, FEI. Nice of you to join us.

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

Arizona State

UO Off ASU Def UO Def ASU Off
F/+ Rk 58 (5.1%) 54 (6.8%)

FEI Rk 58 (2.0%) 43 (7.3%) 33 (.38) 27 (.46) 72 (-.07) 74 (-.12)
Field Position 9 (.16) 88 (.06)

Raw Efficiency 64(-.3%) 58(1.3%) 35 (.48) 37 (.14) 89 (-.56) 85(-.05)
First Down rate

11 (82.4%) 22 (65.8%) 82 (76%) 74(70.5%)
Available Yards rate

30 (50.7%) 28 (37.8%) 71 (47.5%) 88 (40.8%)
Explosive Drives

30 (17.6%) 89 (16.5%) 73 (14.7%) 60 (14.1%)
Methodical Drives

45 (14.9%) 5 (6.3%) 64 (13.3%) 83 (11.5%)
Value Drives

38 (41.9%) 18 (25.7%) 71 (39.7%) 82 (34.3%)

First off, FEI has gone through a slight change in presentation compared to other years. While the breakdown of tendencies is still percent-based, the offensive and defensive ratings are not. They are instead the added points per drive that that unit will give over the average. What does that mean? Well, it means that (for example) Oregon can be expected to add .38 points of value on every offensive drive. ASU's defense adds .46 value per drive. Taken together, that means every Oregon drive tends to favor ASU by .08 points over the average value - a clear win for them, though not an insane one. Similarly, Oregon's defense has a .05 value on every drive compared to ASU's offense.  The goal is to be able to do direct comparisons like that across offense, defense and special teams - which is pretty neat. You can do the same with field position (now known as field value) - so you can see exactly how much value each phase of a team is expected to get and compare it directly with the other team.

More details here, if you're so inclined.

Now it's time to play my favorite game - Why Do They Differ!

S+P narrowly favors Oregon (though it's not on a neutral field, which is why ASU is slightly actually favored by S+P's picks). FEI thinks otherwise. Why?

Well, typically FEI tends to favor strength of schedule over teams that have had weak schedules - but both of these teams are pretty close, and Oregon actually has a pretty hard SOS right now. So that's not it.

What it turns out to be is that the two worst games Oregon has had - WSU and Utah - have really high weights in FEI. A third, Georgia State, has high weights too - and Oregon's defense looking bad against one of the worst teams in the nation is not a good sign. Oregon's best game - Michigan State - has one of the lowest weights. Arizona State, meanwhile, has its best game - their win over UCLA on the road - as their best weighed game, and their game against Utah  their second best and third highest weight. Make all of their games average and they'd look a lot more like S+P.

Similarity scores for Arizona State

We really haven't played any just okay offenses. Colorado (94th) is vaguely close to ASU, And the closest is.....(drumroll) - the UW Huskies (85th). ASU is much better than UW despite the ranking difference, and behavior wise the big difference is ASU's explosive ability, which is mediocre instead of the horribleness that UW has.

Arizona State is much worse than Utah (13th) or Washington (10th) and pretty close to Michigan State (30th). ASU doesn't let nearly as many methodical drives go through - but they let explosive drives happen far more than almost anyone Oregon has faced this year - only Georgia State was worse.

Similarity scores for Oregon

Oregon is closest to Utah (29th) and UCLA (30th). ASU has a lot of familiarity with these level of offenses, and ASU in general has faced a murderer's row of good offenses (Utah, UCLA, USC and Oregon with WSU and Cal on the horizon). The big difference - and one of my keys to the game - is that Oregon is by far more explosive than Utah and about as good as UCLA - though they can't touch USC's explosiveness.

So...Oregon is 72nd. That's not good. You know who else isn't so great? Stanford (63rd). Really. Wow. Sadly, the closest team that ASU has faced on defense is Colorado (86th), and while Oregon is better they're not insanely so.

Oregon's offense vs. Arizona State's defense

As stated above, ASU has a slight overall advantage on defense against Oregon. S+P says a bit more about where - specifically in the run game. The big advantage here that Oregon has is on explosive plays. If Oregon is going to win, it's going to be likely because they got big passing plays. Which means Vernon Adams has got to shine, and receivers have got to get going. Unlike UW it's unlikely Oregon is going to be able to run the ball much, and unlike WSU it's unlikely Oregon is going to get a lot of long drives, either. Basically, unless Oregon gets a big play going chances are Oregon's not going to score - but chances are pretty good they'll get them.

Oregon's defense vs. Arizona State's offense

This is largely just a mess of meh teams running into each other. The good news is that Oregon doesn't do anything particularly horrible. The bad news is that they do nothing very good. ASU has a slight advantage in big plays - not nearly the advantage Oregon has on offense, but it's there. This game isn't likely to be a shootout, but it is likely to have a ton of highlight plays from receivers on Oregon and running backs on ASU.

Special Teams





Special Teams Efficiency
39 (.04)
59 (.01)
Field Goal Efficiency
22 (38%)
Punt returns vs. punt efficiency
22 (36%)
102 (35%)
Kickoff returns vs. kickoff efficiency
30 (2.0%)
18 (-19%)
Arizona State
Punting vs. punt return efficiency
115 (45%)
59 (23%)
Kickoff vs. Kickoff return efficiency
42 (-2%)
Arizona State
Opponent Field Goal Efficiency
89 (29%)
111 (49%)

This indicates a whole lot of potential for even bigger plays. Oregon has a massive advantage on punt returns; Bralon Addison should hopefully get close to housing one here, and if Oregon can get ASU to punt they will likely get  good field position in return. Arizona State has advantages in kickoffs and kickoff returns, but not huge ones. THey do have another big advantage in punt returns against Oregon, almost as big as Oregon, and De'Chavon "Gump" Hayes may have a shot. Plus i got to use his name in an article, and that's about as Key and Peele of a name as I can think of.

So what does this all mean?

This is what I said for last week:

This week it just isn't pretty. The line is currently +21/2 for Oregon - one of the very few times in recent history where Oregon has been the underdog against a PAC-12 team, and the first time in 11 years that Oregon has been the underdog vs. Washington.

Sadly, I think that it understates things. Oregon's offense is likely to not get many points at all, even with a healthy Vernon Adams. Oregon's defense is likely not going to stop Washington at all, period. This game may look like an even more frustrating version of the 2009 Boise State game. Barring some exemplary special teams play or some crazy lucky breaks, Washington is going to win, and likely is going to win in a dominant fashion.

0 for 2 in the last two weeks. I predicted a dominant crushing of WSU. I predicted a beating at the hands of UW. I'm getting positively Dan Rubensteinean in my predictive powers.

Oregon largely dominated the game, and only a 4th quarter absurdly slow comeback made the game particularly competitive. Vernon Adams was a massive difference as Oregon threw more long passes than they had all year, and against a very strong defense. I was right in suspecting that UW would play the run and dare Oregon to pass; where I was wrong was in thinking that it would fail.

So what does that mean for this week? Well, here's the thing about S+P and FEI: neither adjust for injuries or players coming back all that well. And Oregon looks like a hugely different team with a functional Darren Carrington and Vernon Adams. The defense is still very bad, and that sucks - but the offense can win a lot of shootouts if Adams can play at the level he played in getting the 12th win. Chances are good that S+P undervalues Oregon's current ability quite a bit on offense - and FEI definitely does. FEI also likely overvalues ASU's win over UCLA. Given that it's already likely to be a close game (ASU is a 2.5 point favorite and a 1 point favorite in S+P) I think that Oregon winning is more likely.

If Oregon wins, it's because Oregon has at least 4 big passing or punt return plays and wins the turnover battle. If Oregon loses, it's almost certainly because they lost the turnover battle or the turnovers were even.