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

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FEI is comatose this early in the season but S+P is exploding with data as we look at the first Pac-12 matchup. Oregon of 2014 and Oregon of 2015 are hugely different, and the main reason is not QB play - it's big plays on offense and defense. Don't expect that to change much as we face the Utes.

THROW THE BALL BRALON!
THROW THE BALL BRALON!
Jerome Miron-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

I'm SOOOOO HAPPY

Not because of the Ducks. As you'll see, they look a bit concerning in places. No, I'm thrilled because Bill Connelly just released a page for stat profiles for every team in the FBS. Instead of having to reference and cross reference pages of data, I can just quickly look at the two pages and compare. I can now do scraping and generation of data that I never could before - such as receiver catch rates, havoc rates, weekly win expectancy, and how much better against the average a team is. It's super awesome.

But I have had like no time this week to get that done, so we'll be hopefully showing a lot of the fruits of that labor next week. For this week, it's going to look the same.

That being said, I strongly encourage you to go check out the Oregon page and the Utah page. I'll be referencing them quite a bit.

How S+P sees the game with 2015 stats:


OVERALL When Oregon has the ball When Utah has the ball
Category Oregon
(2-1)
Utah
(3-0
UO Off Utah Def UO Def Utah Off
F/+ Rk 9 (45.0%) 36(17.1%)



S&P Percentile 90.4 62.9



2nd Order Wins 2.1 (0.1) 1.7(-1.3)



S&P+ 15 (17.1) 47 (5.3) 5 (44.4) 35 (23.8) 58 (27.2) 29.1 (66)
Rushing S&P+

16(130.4) 35(118.3) 68(100.1) 20(127.4)
Passing S&P+

47(115.2) 108 (83.7) 81(94.0) 73(104.4)
Std Down S&P+

16(126.3) 75(96.9) 95(89.4) 58(106.8)
Pass Down S&P+

78(105.2) 58(104.5) 69(100.2) 39(122.4)
Explosiveness

100(1.16) 20(1.06) 86(1.32) 122(1.07)
Efficiency

10(53.5) 83(42.1) 68(40.0) 74(42.3)
Field Position

43(32.0) 78(29.5) 56(28.6) 120(26.1)
Finishing Drives

32(5.56) 16(3.44) 100(5.05) 13(6.2)
Turnover Margin 21(+3) 14(+4)



Turnover Luck +6.32 PPG +2.03PPG



Yay, full stats! And man, there are so many other stats to bring up. Explosive running ability, stuff rates, catch rates, adjusted sack rates...oy. Gotta get on that.

While I'm not doing the full changeover to all the new stats, I wanted to highlight a few of the new ones. S&P+ has been redesigned around the Five Factors of games that are most strongly correlated with what causes you to win: Explosiveness (big plays), Efficiency (getting at least what you need on every play), Field Position, Finishing Drives (how well you do when you get the chance to score) and turnovers. These are pretty easy to conceptually understand and don't require a ton of context, but the numbers aren't quite as clear.

The explosiveness number is IsoPPP, which is a measure of how explosive you are on successful plays only. The national average is 1.26. Oregon's offensive value is 1.16, which means Oregon is significantly less likely to get a big play on offense. Another way to say it is that on every play you can effectively 'score' 1.26 points, potentially, on average. Oregon scores about 9% less than that. And as you can see from the table above, Oregon is absolutely getting hammered on explosiveness  on both sides of the ball. This is a huge difference from prior years; Oregon was one of the most explosive teams in the country last year on offense,  and one of the better teams on defense in stopping big plays.

Success rate (Efficiency) isn't as bad - it's a percentage. How many plays get as much as they should and stay ahead of the down and distance. The national average for offense and defense are 40.4%.

Field position is simply the average starting field position. The national average is 29.6.

Finishing drives is a great measure: when you got inside the 40 yard line, how many points did you score? This was one of the reasons Stanford was horrible last year - and why they won against USC. The national average for finishing drives is 4.68.

Turnover margin vs. luck comes down to the number of fumbles vs. how many were recovered. While generating fumbles is a skill, recovering fumbles is pretty much a coin flip.

Similarity scores for Utah

Similarity doesn't come into play a whole lot this early in the season except in some rare cases. Utah is currently close to Washington State (72nd) on offense and no where near Michigan State (12th) or Georgia State (101st). There's a whole passel of PAC-12 offenses in that 60-80 range.

While it usually doesn't come into play, Michigan State (27th) and Utah are pretty close to each other on defense. And both are similar in giving up character too - both give up more success but are stingy in explosive plays, both cause about the same amount of havoc from their lines, and both give up similar amounts of points.

Similarity scores for Oregon

Michigan (76th) is the closest thing Utah has thus faced. And that should be a pretty big scary thing for Utah, given how Michigan ran the ball.

The same can't be said for Oregon's defense, which only beats out Fresno State (88th). Both Michigan (12th) and Utah State (38th) are better, significantly so.

Oregon's offense vs Utah's defense

This is a really weird one, and is very dependent on whether Vernon Adams or Jeff Lockie start.

Utah is good against the run and not very good against the pass. Despite Michigan being able to run on Utah they're still far more vulnerable to the pass. Oregon, meanwhile, is very good running and not very good passing. Utah is one of the best at stopping explosive plays - and Oregon is one of the worst at causing them. Conversely, Utah is one of the worst at stopping successes and Oregon is one of the best at keeping ahead of the count, at least so far. I would not expect Oregon's woes at getting big plays, especially running the ball, to change much in this game. I would still expect Royce Freeman to continue to be amazing at getting good yards on every play. I don't think that we'll be behind the count all that often.

Sadly, I'd also expect more field goals. While Utah is not good at stopping people on down and distance, Utah is very good at not giving up points. Their defense power success rate is high (21st) and they're top twenty in stopping drives from finishing. They're excellent at getting turnovers as well. Oregon is pretty good at finishing drives, but they're not as good as Utah's defense. And as we saw, that is only exacerbated if Jeff Lockie is starting.

Oregon will likely get very good success early in the downs and on plays that can be run/pass. Passing downs will be a lot harder. Oregon has a 30 point advantage on standard downs, but only a 1 point advantage on passing downs. I would expect that if Oregon gets behind the count - due to penalty, sack, or a bad play - that that drive will be basically dead. Don't expect a lot of big conversions.

If Lockie starts, I would expect even worse things. Oregon's passing offense went down significantly between the two games (almost 20 points) and explosive plays went even lower. Utah's pass defense is not particularly strong at all, but they don't let big plays happen and do sack a whole lot (34th in the nation on sack rate). My suspicion is that Oregon will get a lot of of long drives, but those drives won't end up with a lot of success. The good news is that this will at least help Oregon's field position some. The bad news is that I'm not sure that it'll lead to an Oregon win.

Oregon's defense vs Utah's offense

Similarly, this is another weird game. While Oregon's defense isn't good, Utah's offense isn't particularly good either. The big problem is that Utah's offense is very good at running - and Oregon's defense  is slightly less atrocious at stopping the run. Oregon's pass defense is really really bad too, but Utah doesn't have the QB ability to really exploit that. While the rankings are different, Utah's advantage at running is bigger than Oregon's advantage on offense running by quite a lot.

Utah is similar to Oregon in that they don't tend to get a lot of explosive plays and favor running to passing. Where they differ is that they are very, very good at power running and getting good yards from their line. Between that and their sack rate it's pretty clear that Utah's offensive line is one of the best in the nation. They don't get almost any big plays after the line, but they're like Stanford circa 2013: runs for 5 yards, 4 yards, 3 yards, move the chains, repeat. DeVontae Booker is likely to have a very good, workmanlike day.

And if you were thinking that this might be the game where we get pressure on the QB, think again. Utah's adjusted sack rate is 3rd in the nation on offense, and Oregon's is 108th (and a horrible 108th at that). Whoever starts for Utah will likely be largely untouched for most of the game.

Oregon is also better against the passing downs than the running downs - but Utah has big advantages in both. 2014 Oregon this ain't. Expect a lot of conversions of drives for Utah. Furthering that, while Utah hasn't had as many opportunities to score, when they get one they're really money (13th) - and Oregon has been horrible in stopping that this year (100th). If Utah gets inside the 40 chances are very good that they'll score a TD.

What that tells me is that Oregon is going to have a tough time. Oregon trading FGs for TDs is not something Oregon fans are used to, but that might happen a lot in this game. Chances are good Oregon will get a lot more scoring opportunities - but not a lot more scores.

Furthermore, Utah is very very good at getting turnovers. Oregon has been as well - but much of that is due to luck, not their causing the turnovers, as they've been great at recovering the fumbles that have occurred. Oregon has almost a TD's worth of luck per game. That's not a good sign, either.

How FEI sees the game:

At this point, FEI has basically nothing to offer us as far as how a game goes. Preseason predictions are still quite high (60%), Oregon's game against EWU isn't factored in, and there just isn't that much data across the board. FEI still sees Oregon as the #3 team in the country. That doesn't seem even remotely realistic, and using the numbers FEI had for last season seem to be less and less relevant to the 2015 team.

Therefore, listed are only the FEI numbers for this season.


OVERALL
Category Oregon

Utah

F/+ Rk 9 (45.0%) 36 (17.1%)
FEI Rk 3 (.228) 29(.106)
Raw Efficiency 31 (.126) 17(.204)

Based on this, Oregon should win, quite handily. But also based on this, somehow Oregon is the 3rd best team in the nation and MSU is the 8th. So...yeah.

Utah is likely pretty close to what they were last year; they don't have Kaelin Clay, but they return a very large chunk of the rest of their offense. Their defense probably isn't quite as good, but it's still pretty close. It's Oregon that is the real question mark.

So what does this all mean?

This is what I said for last week:

It was a pretty fun game to watch. Oregon did end up covering, but the worries that were in the stats showed up in giving up big plays while MSU was able to limit explosive plays. The intangibles seemed to be more correct though - Adams looked uneven in his second start, being on the road was difficult, and the game was a back and forth thing. And boy, does MSU need to get their act together on special teams.

Stats didn't do so well otherwise. Oregon's defense looked much better and it wasn't nearly the basketball game that I predicted. Lost this one. Oh well.

And you don't need to use stats to have this game predicted. Oregon's going to win. It's a 45 point spread, and my suspicion is that Oregon does not cover - because it gets 42 points by the middle of the second quarter.

I was right, but for entirely the wrong reasons. Oregon didn't end up covering because Oregon's defense gave up 28 points in non-garbage time. Lockie started and that brought down Oregon's efficiency and finishing ability significantly; that alone was probably the biggest reason Oregon had 27 points at the end of the 2nd instead of 42. Instead of a dominant game where starters got to rest for a significant time we had a fairly interesting game through the third quarter, until a second turnover for a score put Oregon ahead for good.

So you can count me as right, but I wouldn't. I'm not that worried about it though; using advanced stats to predict how a team plays after starting a different QB is a fruitless exercise.

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.