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

The numbers haven't handled Oregon all season - let's hope that trend continues. If Oregon can get sound pressure, occasionally stop Stanford from running well and continue their offensive success they've got a shot - but that's a long, long shot.

Steve Dykes/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

The difference between consistency and quality

Something I did last year was track not only the average value of a team's ability (which is basically the raw numbers) but how well teams did week in and out, using FEI. FEI doesn't print the stuff that would let me do that, but S+P started doing it a bit more in the form of percentile performances. These aren't opponent adjusted, so they aren't quite as useful as I'd like - but they do tell an interesting story.

Namely, Oregon is totally schizo.

Oregon had their best performance of the season against Cal, with the third best predicted scoring margin (largely because of turnovers) and third best win expectancy (96%). Oregon has had a percentile performance above 80% three times this season - against Georgia State, Colorado, and Cal. Eastern Washington barely misses out at 77%.

Oregon mostly lives in the 40-60% range - Michigan State, WSU, UW, and ASU were all there.

And then Oregon had a 9% performance against Utah.

I said this in the Quack Fix comments - this season, the numbers just don't have a good handle on what Oregon's going to be like. It's not just offense, which could be reasonably expected to be somewhat lower than what they're performing at with Vernon Adams and Darren Carrington out for much of the season. Defensively Oregon jumps all over the place, and does so against different teams. Who would have predicted that Oregon would largely shut down Cal - but give up 700+ yards to Mike Bercovici and ASU? The numbers certainly didn't. Neither did I. So far the numbers this year have had, I believe, a 14% success rate in predicting. Overall, for all of college football against the spread - they're at 53%.

So this is the long and short way of saying that the numbers with respect to Oregon aren't nearly as useful as they have been in prior years, and you should not get too sad if the numbers are disrespecting Oregon.

Which they are this week. A lot.

How S+P sees the game:

OVERALL When Oregon has the ball When Furd has the ball
Category Oregon
UO Off Furd Def UO Def Furd Off
F/+ Rk 48 (12.2%) 9(41.9%)

S&P Percentile 62.8% 88.1%

2nd Order Wins 5.8 (-0.2) 7.4(-0.6)

S&P+ 51(5.0) 14(14.6) 18 (37.8) 41 (24.3) 96 (32.8) 14(38.9)
Rushing S&P+

6(126.9) 36(112.1) 115(84.5) 21(119.2)
Passing S&P+

41(111.9) 52(103.1) 63(100.3) 13(128.4)
Std Down S&P+

14(120.5) 50(104.3) 82(95.7) 4(129.3)
Pass Down S&P+

35(114.8) 25(120.1) 87(93.1) 69(99.0)
Success Rate+

32(112.6) 41(109.2) 69(98.9) 8(120.7)

18(123.4) 46(108.3) 94(93.0) 17(123.5)

24(1.35) 52(1.21) 72(1.26) 69(1.25)

19(47.3) 40(37.7) 94(44.7) 7(49.4)
Field Position

28(32.0) 4(25.4) 90(30.6) 11(33.4)
Finishing Drives

49(5.00) 48(4.44) 104(5.15) 8(5.57)
Turnover Margin 38(+3) 0(73)

Turnover Luck +0.44 PPG -1.43PPG

Something I learned from last week's analysis is to look at the run/pass tendencies. While Cal had a massive advantage running the ball, they were bottom ten in the nation at attempting to run the ball at all. Despite them having a lot of success just putting it on the ground Cal went away from it again and again. That's not the case with Stanford, which runs on standard downs 68% of the time.

Stanford isn't that different than Cal (as you'll see) on offense at least, and if Oregon's defense plays at the level they did last week (along with AIR having a great game) Oregon can stand up to a lot of what Stanford does, especially on a key area that Oregon has traditionally been good at (though perhaps not this year). The real key is that Stanford is a far more balanced team, which bodes ill for a team that averaged only 4.4 points per drive inside the 40.

Similarity scores for Stanford

Stanford takes the lead as the best team Oregon will have faced on offense, beating out Cal (27th) and Michigan State (28th). I'll be saying this again next week provided Stanford doesn't have an absurd day and USC doesn't drop off the face of the planet. Cal is better at passing, barely, but much worse at running and standard downs. Where Cal is very good compared to Stanford is on passing downs, a notable weakness for Stanford.

Stanford's defense is almost perfectly aligned with Michigan State (45th). They play very differently though - Stanford is far better on passing downs and worse at every other kind of down, and is worse at both stopping successes and explosive plays - though not by a lot. Stanford is much worse than Utah (19th) or Washington (8th) and much better than the next best defense we've played - Cal (71st). Yeah, I don't know either.

Similarity scores for Oregon

Oregon is similar in pure ranking on offense to USC (10th) and UCLA (13th), and is probably pretty close to both of them when fully healthy. Oregon is far better running the ball than either team (though USC comes closer), worse at passing, and better on getting yards on standard downs.'s where that optimism goes away. Remember kids, the numbers aren't always the story. Anyway, Oregon's defense is similar to Oregon State (100th), Colorado (104th), Central Florida (105th) and Arizona (114th). Wow, has Stanford played some bad defenses this year. Some of those games looked pretty stupid - Stanford scored  55 against Arizona - but oddly they didn't do insanely well against the likes of Central Florida (31), Oregon State (42) or Colorado (42). Those are still pretty big numbers.

Oregon's offense vs Stanford's defense

Stanford's defense is not the juggernaut that it was in 2012 and 2013. It's a good defense, but it's not the Oregon killer that other defenses were. In particular, their running defense is not nearly as good as it has been in the past.

But it's still good. Unlike last week, Oregon only has small advantages on offense. The good news is that Oregon's best advantage is also where it's most important - Oregon has a 14 point advantage running the ball, and a 16 point advantage on standard downs. Stanford is better on stopping successful plays - 36.5% of  the time they give up a successful play - but 98th in giving up big running plays. Oregon, meanwhile, is top 20 in both areas. Chances are good that Stanford won't let Oregon get the 5-7 yards per run that they did against Cal, but Oregon will have some big runs here and there along with mostly successful runs. Furthermore, Stanford is 80th in Adjusted line rate, which means that Oregon should get 3-4 yards per carry at a fairly good rate.

The Oregon passing game isn't nearly as good as their running game so far, but Stanford's pass defense isn't particularly good either. We don't have a major advantage here but it should be enough to get some success and threaten big plays. I say threaten because while Stanford does give up big runs, it doesn't often give up big passing plays - Stanford ranks 20th in allowing explosive plays in the air. What this tells me is that Stanford will try to stop the run most of the time and have a cover-2 or cover-3 look more often, with their safeties playing fairly far back and their corners and LBs in man-free or manning up on the WRs and zoning the TEs and RBs.

So what does that mean in English? My suspicion is that Oregon will be able to throw a lot to Royce Freeman and Evan Bayliss for easier yards, will have some trouble with deeper passes, and will likely be able to pop some big runs.

Passing downs are another matter. Stanford's defense is only okay on standard downs, but they shut the door if they can get a good down and distance. Oregon's never been good at passing downs and this will make things worse. In particular they can bring good pressure with their linebackers (Peter Kalambayi and Mike Tyler have combined for 8 sacks and they have a 26th ranked LB havoc rate) but mostly play strong defense against the pass; teams throw on them 70% of the time on passing downs. They don't tend to force interceptions or fumbles; they simply go for stops. They are almost the worst team in the nation on getting sacks, so expect Adams to have some time to throw or at least avoid pressure.

My suspicion is that drives will look a bit different than what we've seen in other games. ASU gave up big plays; WSU gives up a lot of runs and success. Stanford will get stops on long downs and distances, but will have trouble getting there in the first place. If Oregon gets a lot of big runs I think they've got a shot. If Oregon can't break free and gets stuck in long, methodical drives, it's going to be tough to keep up.

Oregon's defense vs Stanford's offense

Well, this is going to sound familiar based on last week.

Stanford's advantage running? 34 points. And they're not even that great at running, but Oregon is just that bad on defense.

On passing? 28 points.

Standard downs? 35 points.

The difference between Cal and Stanford, and the one really bright spot, is on passing downs. Stanford only has about a 6 point difference there. Passing downs are already difficult to convert (average nationally is about 30%), so them not being gangbusters awesome is probably Oregon's best chance to get any stops against a very dangerous offense.

So how to get Stanford in passing down situations? If they run the ball chances are pretty good that it'll look like 2013 Stanford all over again - Oregon almost certainly won't get stuffs, Oregon is much worse on power situations, etc. And on short yardage Stanford should be able to convert easily. That leaves the pass.

Stanford is pretty good passing the ball. And pretty good at getting big plays. Where they are weak - and where Oregon has a chance potentially - is in sack rate. Stanford is 105th in their sack rate allowed. Sadly, Oregon is 100th overall in sack rate; why I say this might be okay is that Oregon has been improving in the last few weeks.

The bad news is that Oregon is mostly good at getting sacks on standard downs (28th in the nation) - but not particularly good on passing downs (85th). Stanford is horrible on passing downs (122nd, giving up a sack 12.2% of the time) but only 40th on standard downs. And as you might imagine, Stanford isn't facing a whole lot of long downs all that often, as they run well early on.

And another issue is that Stanford is stellar running the ball on passing downs, what with Kevin Hogan scrambles. They're 3rd in the nation there, and that is a major weakness for an Oregon team which has had problems dealing with running QBs all season.

The last negative is one that Bill Connelly has been noting - Stanford's scoring ability. Stanford last year was excellent at moving between the 20s but failed utterly to score when they got there. This year they aren't just doing better, they're doing amazingly well. They're 8th in the nation in points scored inside the 40. Oregon is either going to have to do a lot better than they did against Cal when they get a chance to score or they're going to have to make Stanford revert to type. Hopefully both.

There are some bright spots. As noted elsewhere, Oregon didn't rush 3 a lot against Cal, and did come in with some interesting CB blitzes involving Tyree Robinson. Stanford still doesn't have a ton of talent at WR and TE this season. But ultimately it comes down to whether Oregon's defense can stop the run in any way. If they can - even just a few times - Oregon has a shot. If they can't, I don't see how Oregon's going to keep up with Stanford.

How FEI sees the game:

Unusually, FEI is not contrarian at all.

OVERALL When Oregon has the ball When Furd has the ball
Category Oregon


UO Off Furd Def UO Def Furd Off
F/+ Rk 48 (12.2%) 9(41.9%)

FEI Rk 44 (6.7%) 4 (24.0%) 20 (.69) 51 (.20) 90 (-.31) 5 (1.11)
Field Position 20 (.12) 14 (.13)

Raw Efficiency 52(2.6%) 4(25.6%) 25 (.73) 39(.19) 99 (-.60) 5(1.51)
First Down rate

15 (80.4%) 15 (62.6%) 108 (79.0%) 2(87.4%)
Available Yards rate

21 (54.6%) 30 (39.2%) 93 (51.0%) 4 (63.6%)
Explosive Drives

18 (20.6%) 7 (6.6%) 90(16.2%) 17 (20.7%)
Methodical Drives

38 (15.7%) 108 (17.6%) 54 (12.4%) 23 (17.2%)
Value Drives

24 (48.3%) 51 (35.3%) 74 (40.2%) 6 (56.6%)

As explained last week, FEI has gone through a slight change so that the values are expected points added per drive. More details here, if you're so inclined.

Yeah, not a lot of changes for Oregon. Stanford, however, is the most amazing team ever.

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

Oregon is pretty much where people think it is, and for some reason FEI always seems to think more highly of the PAC-12 (probably because it ignores FCS team play). So why is Stanford so highly rated in FEI? When I first looked into it I thought it was going to be because of the drubbing of UCLA - and that's part of it. But really it comes down to them having a top 50 performance against USC (8th), UCLA (14th), Washington (30th) and Colorado (47th). Those all are very awesome games against really good teams (okay, save Colorado) and Stanford is rewarded for them.

The bad news is that they're playing much better in general than they did early on, too; 3 of their 4 best games have come in the last month, and 3 of their four worst games came early on.

Similarity scores for Stanford

Unlike last week, FEI agrees that Stanford is the best offense Oregon will face - and even better than USC. The next best offense is...uh...Michigan State (13th), though it's a pretty big drop off there. Stanford is a lot better at getting big plays.

FEI thinks even less of Stanford this year on defense, and they compare with ASU (46th) and WSU (57th). Which naturally means that Oregon is going to go to overtime with Stanford too, right? The big difference between Stanford and those two teams are explosive plays; Stanford gives up very few, ASU and WSU give up a lot.

Similarity scores for Oregon

Oregon is oddly close to Arizona (21st), which...uh, what? What Arizona team has FEI been watching? Weird. Anyway, they're closish, though Oregon is a lot more explosive in general.

Oregon's defense is pretty close to Colorado (89th), Oregon State (84th) and better than Arizona (103rd). Not a lot to be said here; Oregon doesn't give up as many methodical drives, but that's likely because they give up a lot of big plays.

Oregon's offense vs. Stanford's defense

Just like last week, the key as far as FEI is concerned is long grind out drives. (which ya know, we didn't actually do, but hush). Stanford is one of the best in the nation at not allowing explosive drives, but methodical drives they're one of the worst. Keep in mind that this isn't a huge percentage; we're talking about the difference between 18% and 14% here. Still, chances are good that Stanford is willing to give you easy stuff and allow you to make a mistake, and not let anything too big go against them.

If Oregon's going to win, they're going to have to break that trend.

Oregon's defense vs. Stanford's offense

This week should be even more shoot-outy. Oregon has a .7 point advantage per drive on offense. Stanford? 1.4 points per drive advantage. That, as you might guess, is a Pretty Big Deal. Stanford is going to get yards on every drive. Stanford is going to likely get field position as a result. Stanford is good at getting big plays and long drives. Oregon...uh...doesn't allow as many long drives? I guess? Sorry; the numbers for FEI just don't look good.

Special Teams





Special Teams Efficiency
26 (.06)
3 (.13)
Field Goal Efficiency
20 (42%)
Punt returns vs. punt efficiency
19 (16%)
57 (-1%)
Kickoff returns vs. kickoff efficiency
15 (16%)
69 (0%)
Punting vs. punt return efficiency
71 (-1%)
Kickoff vs. Kickoff return efficiency
5 (32%)
Opponent Field Goal Efficiency

Stanford's pretty good at special teams, though in odd ways relative to Oregon. Both teams are very good at FG kicking. Stanford is great on kick returns and assuming it gets a chance after Matt Wogan boots it, will get good yards some times. Oregon is horrible at punt coverage - and getting two punts blocked will add to that - but Stanford isn't all that good. Oregon should also have pretty good chances at big returns, especially on kickoffs. Charles Nelson should get a chance to pad his Hornung award resume.

So what does this all mean?

This is what I said for last week:

So what does that mean for this week? Oregon's offense is still going to be a bit lower than they should be due to the Jeff Lockie/Taylor Alie experience, but the Oregon defense is if anything buoyed incorrectly by that MSU game, which looks increasingly like Don Pellum spent the entire summer devising how to beat Connor Cook. I can see Oregon doing almost as well against Cal as Cal does against Oregon, but I can't see how Oregon is going to get stops like they need to.

In the past, this would be the kind of game where Oregon's defense would get a ton of turnovers and win that way. If Oregon's defense was decent against the run I could see that. They aren't. I don't think that Oregon will force Cal to throw all that often, and as a result you'll see a game a lot like Arizona in 2013 - where Jared Goff has a high completion %, plays are successful all over the place, and Oregon looks like they have no answers.

The current like is Oregon -5.5. That seems incredibly insane to me; even if you figure Oregon at home is a boost it's not enough to counteract how good Cal is. Perhaps Cal has injuries that I'm unaware of, or Oregon has some voodoo that they can do. Otis Day will be there, and that's awesome. It's homecoming, and I guess that's awesome if you're living in 1958. The S+P spread has Cal favored by about 2 points. The numbers think that AtQ south is ready to become CGB, and AtQ will turn into CGB north again.

I don't think Oregon wins. If Oregon does win, it'll be because either Jared Goff melts down in spectacular fashion, Oregon gets a lot of special teams shenanigans, or some major injury hits Cal. I hope the latter doesn't happen and I don't expect the others to happen.

Totally blew this one, too. As I said above, neither I nor S+P have a good handle on Oregon this year. I predicted Oregon romping over WSU, and we...didn't. I predicted Washington crushing Oregon, and they didn't. I predicted ASU to win, and they didn't.

Jared Goff did kind of melt down. I expected he'd be able to throw at a good completion rate, and he couldn't for whatever reason. AIR was a great defensive get for us in the few days leading up to this game. And Oregon's offense was incredibly good, even on third downs. Oregon actually lost the turnover battle and gave up big special teams plays - and it didn't matter, because Oregon's defense was good enough and Oregon's offense was scary effective. It didn't got at all like I thought it would, really, save that Oregon would be able to run pretty well and stay out of 3rd down situations. Which at least mostly happened. Yay!

Well, what about this week? This week is pretty clear:  just like against Washington, Oregon should lose. Even with a 9 point spread Oregon should lose. Oregon's on the road (just like Washington) against a team that statistically is one of the best in the PAC-12 (just like Washington) and has played better throughout the season (just like Washington). Stanford is a pretty different team otherwise; defensively, they're far closer to Cal. Offensively, they're far closer to what Oregon used to play like. But yeah, the numbers don't think highly of Oregon one bit.

So let's play a game, just like we did against Washington or ASU: what does an Oregon win look like?

  • Oregon somehow manages to get a lot more disruptive, likely getting turnovers at the end of long drives. Oregon has to win the turnover battle and likely has to win it by at least 2.
  • Oregon manages to get a few crucial run stops and force longer 3rd downs. And Oregon keeps Stanford under 50% conversion of 3rd downs.
  • Oregon gets a lot of pressure on Kevin Hogan, especially on standard downs. At least 4 sacks.
  • Oregon's run attack almost always gets positive yards and either avoids 3rd downs entirely or gets very manageable 3rd downs.
  • Evan Bayliss, Royce Freeman and Taj Griffin have a great day both running and catching the ball.
That's what a winning formula against Stanford probably looks like. Let's hope, once again, that the numbers and I are totally wrong.