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FEI Is My New Favorite Poll

Posted by Mike on October 30, 2008

This article was originally posted on Tar Heel Mania, but I like the FEI system so much I’m going to post it here.

Many thanks to Tomahawk Nation for tipping me off to this.

As someone who majored in a hard science in college, I should probably be more knowledgeable about advanced football statistics. Alas, I have been pretty faithful to the box score up until now. But then I was tipped off to Brian Fremeau’s Efficiency Rankings for college football (FEI for short). It’s a very interesting formula, which you can read about in detail at Brian’s website and in Football Outsiders articles such as this one.

In essence, the rankings are based on the principle that a team’s efficiency in each offensive and defensive drive is a better reflection of a team’s quality than simple statistics accumulated over 60 minutes of play. Like some human and computer polls, the quality of opponents and how well a team plays against good teams. Unlike most human polls, the system rewards teams that play well against good competition whether they win or lose.

Fremeau’s Game Efficiency formula is fairly simple, involving margin of victory (MOV) and competitive possessions (CP, meaning the number of possessions in the game before garbage time, or the opposing team has fewer remaining possessions than is required for a comeback). The formula is as follows:

Game eff. = (MOV / 7) / (CP / 2)

Based on this rubric, one can get a pretty clear idea of how games stack up against one another. Let’s use three examples. First, Florida’s frighteningly efficient 63-5 victory over Kentucky:

Game eff = (58 / 7) / (16 / 2) = 8.2857 / 8 = 1.0357

Pretty scary, right? Conversely, here’s Auburn’s infamous 3-2 victory over Mississippi State:

GE = (1 / 7) / (31 / 2) = 0.143 / 15.5 = 0.0092

Granted it would have been the same if the score was 49-48, but still. Finally, here’s UNC’s 45-24 win over Boston College:

GE = (21 / 7) / (24 /2) = 3 / 12 = 0.2500

Fremeau then takes the game efficiency data and adjusts and expands his stats, factoring in strength of schedule as well as adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency based on opponents. Most or all of Fremeau’s statistical explanations can be found in his articles on Football Outsiders.

With this rubric in mind, Let’s look at his FEI top 25. Keep in mind, he factors out all games against FCS opponents.

Rank Team W-L FEI
1 Texas 8-0 0.302
2 Penn State 8-0 0.284
3 North Carolina 5-2 0.277
4 USC 6-1 0.267
5 Florida 6-1 0.266
6 Alabama 8-0 0.245
7 Georgia 6-1 0.217
8 Virginia Tech 4-3 0.200
9 Georgia Tech 4-2 0.200
10 Oklahoma 6-1 0.200
11 Oklahoma State 6-1 0.197
12 Texas Tech 6-0 0.194
13 Florida State 4-1 0.192
14 Missouri 5-2 0.184
15 Ohio State 6-2 0.166
16 Connecticut 5-2 0.162
17 Mississippi 3-4 0.157
18 Vanderbilt 5-3 0.141
19 Boston College 4-2 0.138
20 Ball State 7-0 0.135
21 Miami 4-3 0.134
22 Pittsburgh 5-2 0.129
23 Iowa 4-3 0.128
24 Wake Forest 4-3 0.120
25 South Carolina 4-3 0.119

Wait a minute…am I reading this right? Is North Carolina…NUMBER 3!?!?

It’s like that, except replace “Michael Bay” with “the collective heads of everyone outside the ACC”.

Even more interesting than UNC’s #3 ranking here is their #1 ranking in adjusted defensive efficiency. What this means is that the Tar Heels do a better job of disrupting the efficiency of opposing offenses better than any other defense in the nation. And this is in spite of an apparent allergy to blitzes and the frustrating 2-minute defense. That, my friends, is impressive.

Mind you, FEI is not my new favorite poll because it’s very UNC-friendly. (But it helps.) It’s my new favorite poll because it is a lot less arbitrary than the coaches or media polls, and is a statistic-based ranking that better reveals who the good and bad teams really are.

Once again, this post could not have been possible without Tomahawk Nation.


Posted in College Football, NCAA, Oooh shiny stats, Tar Heel posts | Leave a Comment »

Dr. Lou Alcohol Poisoning Watch: USC-Oregon State (9/25)

Posted by Mike on September 30, 2008

If you played the Dr. Lou drinking game during halftime of the USC-Oregon State game, how many brain cells would you, or should you, have killed during the broadcast? Let’s find out. The link to the video is here.

(NOTE: The Dr. Lou Drinking game is primarily intended for laughs only. But if you insist on playing for real, you should probably stick to beer.)

:10 Opening theme. 1 drink.

:35 That’s four different metaphors in a row. The guy’s on fire. “I don’t understand how a black cow who eats green grass produces white milk and yellow cheese” is both funny and confusing, but the rest are one drinkers. 2 + 1 + 1 + 1 = 5 drinks.

:50 It’s Matt Stafford! And he mentions emulationg Notre Dame QB Tony Rice from the 1988 title, even though I’m sure he was only told about Tony Rice 2 minutes before he called. 1 + 2 = 3 drinks.

1:05 Hyperbole! 1 drink.

1:25 It’s not in the rulebook yet, but reminiscing about a direct threat to a QB about playing time has to count for something. 2 drinks.

1:30 Next caller: Urban Meyer. 1 drink.

2:05 “‘Joseph died leaning on his staff’. The same can be said for me.” That Bible reference was…interesting. 3 drinks.

2:25: Dr. Lou wishes a dark, claustrophobic, automobile-related death upon all to dislike his show. Chug.

So if the math is correct, excluding the involvement of Rece Davis and Mark May, you would have taken about sixteen drinks plus one chug over the course of two and a half minutes.

Posted in Tar Heel posts | 1 Comment »

Duke Football is Favored To Win This Week

Posted by Mike on September 24, 2008

Let me repeat that. Duke. Football. Is. Favored. To. Win. A. Game This. Week. Excuse me while I wipe that thought out of my head with something less disturbing.

There, that’s better.

Granted, there are some very good reason for this. Virginia has yet to show anything resembling an offense this year, averageing 11 points per game this season. In addition, they’ve surrendered 52 points at home to USC and 45 on the road to UConn, they’ve just dismissed their starting quarterback, and AL Groh has been one of the more underachieving coaches in the ACC this decade (and that’s saying a lot). Meanwhile, the Blue Devils offense is firing on all cylinders under David Cutcliffe, and quarterback Thad Lewis and wide reciever Eron Riley are playing well enough to be draft picks. Still, the fact that Duke is favored to win a conference game for the first time in six years is rather shocking. If the Cavaliers lose this game and supplant Duke as the worst tem in the ACC, Groh might not survive October.

(via EDSBS)

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Matt Bosher Is The Greatest Punter In All Of Punterdom

Posted by Mike on September 17, 2008

They say that punters aren’t real football. players. All they do is kick. They don’t score like kickers, they don’t throw, that don’t run, and they certainly don’t tackle.

Try telling that to Matt Bosher. Not only does he perform every kicking job for the Miami Hurricanes, but he can defend if he’s needed. Last Saturday against the Florida Gators he recorded three tackles. And I’m not talking weak, kicker, push-the guy out of bounds on the sideline tackles. No I’m talking about about take the guy, pick him up, and piledrive him into the ground tackles, two of which you can see at the 3:05 mark of this video.

Unfortunately, I had until recently not been able to find any evidence of his triumphs. Now you can see, with your very own eyes, the most awesome performance out of a punter you will see all year.

I would pay to watch Matt play safety, if only to see 5-7 of these tackles a week. Tyrod Taylor, consider your solar plexus warned.

Posted in Tar Heel posts | 1 Comment »

The Current State of ACC Football Can Be Summarized Thusly

Posted by Mike on September 1, 2008

Hiding in the wilds of college football, hunted down one by one.

Posted in Tar Heel posts | 1 Comment »

The Killer Rabbits: Nine Potential FCS Upsets in 2008

Posted by Mike on August 27, 2008

After Michigan fell to Appalachian State, every fan of a major college football team has suddenly become wary of teams from the Division I Championship Subdivision. With so many programs scheduling what is supposed to be a guaranteed win, the odds are in favor of at least a few upsets. But come on, The App State win was the aberration to end all aberrations. They were the two time defending FCS champions, and Michigan’s slow starts under Lloyd Carr have been legendary.

More importantly, every FBS team now expects a serious challenge from their FCS foes. Programs vow in 2008 not to be the next Michigan. Nothing will catch them by surprise anymore. Let’s face it, the window of opportunity has closed. Such an upset can’t possibly happen again, right?


The killer bunny is out of the cave, and he’s taking no prisoners. Here are the FCS teams most likely to win against their FBS “victims” in college football’s opening weeks.

New Hampshire (@Army, 9/6): Unfortunately, the Black Knights are not very good. On the other hand, the Wildcats have a history of scheduling, and beating, their FBS opponents:

2004 vs. Rutgers: W 35-24

2006 vs. Northwestern: W 34-17

2007 vs. Marshall: W 48-35

This could very well be another notch on their FBS belt.

Richmond (@Virginia, 8/30): The Clawfense may be off to Tennessee, but the Spiders are still among the top teams in FCS. The Cavs, who won 9 games by the skin of their teeth in 2007, returns a very depleted squad in 2008. an upset here is certainly within the realm of possibility.

Southern Illinois (@ Northwestern, 9/13): While the Wildcats are much better now than they were 25 years ago, it’s diffcult to see them going beyond the middle of the Big Ten this year. Southern Illinois have been in the FCS top 20 for 54 consecutive weeks, and have won their last two games against FBS opponents (Indiana and Northern Illinois).  The main problem is that this game will be in week three, when teams are already warmed up. This significantly reduces a FCS team’s chances of an upset.

James Madison (@Duke, 8/30): James Madison is among the favorites to win the FCS title and Duke is, well, Duke. The Blue Devils should be better this year, but still.

Jacksonville State (@ Georgia Tech, 8/28): There are many reasons why Georgia Tech could lose this one. This is their first game under a new head coach, they’re running a completely new triple option offense, and top defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta is gone.

But there is one big reason why Jacksonville State can win. And that reason in the Sixty Million Dollar Man, Ryan Perrilloux. After Perriloux was dismissed from LSU in the offseason (let’s just say for hubris-related activities), he was allowed to play for another team immediately. the Georgia Tech game will be the only time this season that Perriloux will be given the chance to showcase his talent against an FCS opponent. You can bet that he will take advantage of it.

McNeese State (@UNC, 8/30): I hate to use my alma mater as an example here, but McNeese State could pull an upset here. The Cowboys are #11 in the preseason FCS rankings. THey finished the regular season undefeated before bowing out in the playoffs. They return a highly efficient, dual threat, spread offense quarterback in Derrick Fourroux. Matt Viator is one of the best coaches in FCS right now, and could make the leap into FBS in the very near future. And as much as I hate to admit it, my team (the Heels) is still a bit of an enigma. Odds are that the upset won’t happen, but it’s going to be a closer game than people think.

William & Mary (@ NC State, 9/6): In deference to the team that gave him his first station wagon and head coaching job, Lou Holtz will find a way to sabotage the Wolfpack in this game.

Appalachian State (@LSU, 8/30): Could lightning strike twice? Probably not. But wouldn’t it be fun?

Most Potentially Devastating FCS Upset of 2008

Northern Iowa (@BYU, 8/30): The Cougars are, for all intents and purposes, the team responsible for carrying the mid-major flame this year, as the only non-BCS conference team in the top 20. Not unlike Michigan last year, a lot of pressure is on the Cougars to go undefeated this season. A tough season lies ahead for BYU in perhaps the toughest non-BCS conference this season, with four Mountain West opponents who could conceivably derail their season.

The Cougars have big expectaions and big pressure this year. It’s not difficult for such a team to ignore the Panthers of Northern Iowa. But UNI, like Appalachian State, is one of the powerhouses of the FCS. The Panthers finished 5th in the final FCS poll of 2007, reached the 2005 Championship game and played in the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs in each of their six appearances since 1995. While their 24-13 win over Iowa State last year might not be too impressive, remember that App State lost 23-10 to NC State the year before their big upset.

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