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How FEI and S+P see the game: Oregon vs. Washington State 2015

Oregon comes off an expected and promising win and faces a very similar team in the Cougars. Oregon shows signs of clear change and improvement in needed areas thanks to a stout pass rush and Taj Griffin doing miraculous things.

Doug Pensinger/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

Was Colorado a turnaround?

Last week I mentioned a few things to look for in order to see whether or not Oregon was making changes and making things better. How did we do on those?

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.

This looked pretty good. Despite Colorado's good sack rate and fairly good offensive line Oregon got its second highest tackles for loss (the only higher game was against Georgia State) and as many sacks as they had against the first four teams combined (5). That's a great sign. Colorado was running for its life quite often too; even when sacks weren't there, pressure was.
Oregon getting solid stops - especially in the red and orange zones.
Eh. Mediocre at best. Oregon did force a few 3 and outs due to sacks, but they also allowed fairly long drives to score. Colorado converted 7 of 17 3rd downs and their only relevant 4th down conversion. This, as you'll see, is still a pretty weak link.
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.
YAY! This was a huge win for Oregon this week. Royce Freeman did Royce things, but Taj Griffin was a revelation. Taj Griffin's highlight yards (the yards that are attributed to a player after the line has done it's job) is a crazy 15.1, and he has an average yards per carry of over 9 yards. This was a huge, huge success and is one of the most promising signs from this game we could hope for.
Oregon's offense getting any major success on passing downs.
Kinda? Our 3rd down conversion rate was not great (7 of 16) but even more telling, our passing down success looks like this:
  • 6 yards running on 3rd and 8
  • interception on 3rd and goal
  • 4 yard run on 2nd and 9
  • 3 yard pass on 3rd and 5
  • false start, then incomplete on 3rd and 10
  • 11 yard pass on 2nd and 12
  • incomplete on 2nd and 10
  • sack on 3rd and 10
  • 3 yard run on 2nd and 10
  • sack on 3rd and 7
  • 2 yard loss on 2nd and 10
  • 13 yard gain on 3rd and 12
  • 7 yard run on 2nd and 10
  • 9 yard run on 2nd and 8
  • 3 yard loss on 2nd and 10
  • 10 yard run on 3rd and 13
4 of 16 is a pretty horrible rate for passing downs. This is also pretty much what Oregon has been like for the rest of the season too. Now, it's pretty typical to not convert these at a high rate - but this is pretty bad, even for the national average. It is also something that Mariota was insanely good at last season, in case you were curious - Oregon was one of the best in the nation at passing down conversion with an absurdly high rate above what the typical value was.

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 WSUOff
F/+ Rk 44 (13.2%) 94(-19.9%)

S&P Percentile 57.8 23.1

2nd Order Wins 3.1 (0.1) 2.4(0.4)

S&P+ 56 (3.7) 96 (-7.9) 20 (36.3) 107 (35.8) 91 (32.5) 27.9 (73)
Rushing S&P+

17(130.4) 116(82.7) 71(100.6) 116(84.9)
Passing S&P+

47(112.2) 88(92.5) 71(98.9) 97(92.6)
Std Down S&P+

7(133.9) 82(94.5) 83(94.1) 121(83.4)
Pass Down S&P+

97(89.8) 118(75.8) 50(110.9) 38(120.6)

97(1.17) 14(1.05) 80(1.27) 109(1.13)

5(51.6) 119(49.3) 88(43.0) 20(47.8)
Field Position

47(31.6) 56(28.4) 88(30.3) 66(30.0)
Finishing Drives

41(5.15) 97(5.05) 121(5.67) 82(4.52)
Turnover Margin 45(+2) 69(+0)

Turnover Luck +3.23 PPG +4.13PPG

For the first time all year, we get S+P rankings without any preseason value at all. This is entirely based on the 5 weeks of football we've had. Sigh.

As we get into the season a bit more we continue to get more solid into things. While some values jumped around - notably Oregon's passing down offense - things stayed pretty close to the same. Oregon did get a bit better at explosive plays on both offense and defense after the Colorado game, and that's a great trend - though probably not relevant to this game, as we'll see.

More importantly, Oregon's offense is still a dominant machine running. And that really may be all that matters in this game.

Similarity scores for Washington State

WSU's offense is significantly better than Colorado (105th) and Georgia State (89th) and much worse than Utah and Michigan State (31st and 33rd). They're pretty unlike any team we've faced, though Georgia State is vaguely close in certain aspects such as being bad early in the count and then having a good success on passing downs.

Colorado (95th) is most comparable to WSU on defense. WSU is slightly better early in the count, but just as bad against the run and much worse on the pass. This is a very bad matchup for WSU.

Similarity scores for Oregon

Oregon will be the best offense that Washington State has so far seen - though they won't be the best all year. That, sadly, goes to the honor of Stanford (yes, seriously). Cal (30th) is the next best offense, though as you might imagine Oregon is much better running the ball and much worse passing. Cal is also much better at passing downs and much worse at standard downs. The two aren't super comparable save in their overall rankings.

WSU has faced similar defenses to Oregon so far this season. That's not so great. Rutgers (111th) is much worse, Wyoming is even worse than that (120th), and Cal (70th) is better by a fair margin. Oddly, while Cal is better ranked their actual values are worse in every aspect. Interesting, that.

Oregon's offense vs WSU's defense

As good a matchup as Oregon had last week, we face an even better one this week. WSU is easily as bad as Colorado is against the run. Their one highlight is that they get stuffs - negative plays - against the run more often - but they give up a lot more successful runs and more highlight runs. Oregon, meanwhile, has shown major improvement and should continue to do so with Taj Griffin. Last week was Griffin's introduction; this may be his breakout game.

In particular the Cougars are the 3rd worst team in the nation at giving up line yards - the first 5 yards on a run. This is often bad news against Oregon, as this is typically the best place to stop an Oregon runner. This is also why I suspect Taj Griffin may run for a boatload of highlight yards - if he gets past the line, he'll likely go for 20+ almost every time.

I would expect a similar balance of run/pass and a similar amount of yards. I would expect even fewer passing downs and a lot more long, methodical drives interspersed with big plays. Oregon isn't too great in power situations, however, so on short yardage Oregon may fail to convert (as we did a few times vs. Colorado). Especially given that WSU is 13th in the nation against power runs.

An even brighter spot is that WSU isn't particularly good against the pass, either. Oregon actually has a 20 point advantage here and crazily, a 15 point advantage on passing downs. I say crazy because Oregon is bad on passing downs - but WSU is terrible. Don't expect a lot of big passing plays - WSU is very good on stopping explosive plays in general, but particularly against the pass.

A scary part for Oregon is that WSU is one of the best in the nation (7th) in their adjusted sack rate. While Oregon did improve on this, they're still bad. If Oregon is to be stopped it is likely on getting pressured on passing downs. If I were Oregon I would not deviate from packaged plays and running plays except in rare circumstances (like, say, 2nd and 2) to mitigate the WSU rush and crazy blitzes. The rare WR screens would be another welcome addition here.

Oregon's defense vs Washington State's offense

While the general consensus is that Washington State's offense is going to be a problem for Oregon, the stats don't see it nearly so badly. As stated above, WSU and Georgia State are pretty similar - and while GAST got some yards and some points, it wasn't a particularly close spectacle.

As you might expect, WSU isn't good at all running the ball. That's a bit misleading though, as they actually get decent successes doing so (about 50%). They don't do it all that often, and they don't get almost any explosive plays from running - but they will do it somewhat well. They are horrible at getting power success and are one of the worst at getting stuffed, so short yardage situations should be handled if they choose to run.

Note that they are literally the least likely team in the nation to run - 32% on standard downs, 10% on passing downs.

So the big question - how does Oregon defend the pass? Much like Oregon, WSU is successful but not explosive in their passing game. They get a successful completion about 48% of the time - and Oregon allows it about 46% of the time (one of the worst values in the nation). Oregon typically deals with this by getting sacks - but WSU is 30th in the nation in their sack rate. Where Oregon will likely succeed - much like Oregon opponents have been doing - is forcing WSU to have long, methodical drives and hoping that WSU makes a mistake somewhere along the line. This will likely work fairly well, as WSU is one of the worst in the nation (114th) in getting big passing plays.

One problem with this is that WSU is very good on passing downs as well, which you might expect. When you pass 70% of the time and 90% on passing downs, chances are good that you're decent at it. Oregon has gotten better on passing downs, but it's likely not going to be enough to stop WSU completely. And even more scary, WSU gets their biggest plays on passing downs. Essentially they're somewhat boom and bust. It might be better to face them on 3rd and 3 than 3rd and 10.

Obviously WSU is going to pass a lot against Oregon. My hope is that the sign of life in our pass rush will continue. If that doesn't occur, we may be in for a long night.

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. Week 7 is coming soon!

Category Oregon
Washington State
F/+ Rk 44 (13.2%) 94(-19.9%)
FEI Rk 30 (.098) 95(-.095)
Raw Efficiency 66(-.006) 55(.032)

Oregon improved in raw efficiency but continued its downward slope in FEI as more of this season's rankings phase in and the preseason rankings phase out. Colorado is slightly less beloved than WSU is, but both teams are pretty close to each other in value. And FEI thinks Oregon should handle them pretty easily.

So what does this all mean?

This is what I said for last week:

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.

Yay, Oregon covered! And as I said above, a big giant Yay for the return of the Oregon big play rushing attack! Oregon didn't make a ton of mistakes (some, but not a crazy amount), Oregon's offense changed its style to be a much more run-focused team and more importantly a much more explosive run-focused team, and Oregon's defensive front 4 played like many of us expected them to for the first time this season.

So is it a trend or a blip? Based on my prior analysis I think it's closer to a trend. Colorado had been good at protecting their QB - and Oregon was brilliant in pass rush. Colorado had been good against stopping big plays - and Oregon had a ton of big runs and passes. Oregon didn't improve in a couple of key areas I was really hoping for, but they did get better in places that I expected there to be a hard time doing so. To me, that's a sign that it wasn't just going up against an easier team - that it's a change in our philosophy and attack.

Because of that, and because WSU is even worse of a team in almost the exact same ways that Oregon is good, I think Oregon wins - and wins big. While I don't expect our defense to shut down WSU I do expect DeForest Buckner to get some big plays. More importantly I don't expect WSU to be able to stop Oregon basically at all.

S+P believes Oregon wins but doesn't cover - it has Oregon by 15 and the spread is 17. I have them by 25. Oregon wins, and covers handily.