Straight Sabermetrics: Oregon V LSU
Football is a unique sport in that it is so hard to quantify. Baseball, on the other hand, is an individual sport built in to a team concept. This makes it one of the easiest sports to quantify, as everything in the game is measurable. Teams can now measure the difficulty of a defensive play being made by a left fielder. Advanced statistics have been creeping in slowly to the football scene for a few years. It can help predict a teams ability in the future based off certain statistical categories found to be important.
The best way to use these statistics, in my opinion, is to compare Oregon to Louisiana State University. Instead of talking about, which players are leaving (not a good determinant of wins the next season), we might as well discuss things that seem to be constant over time like F/+ and Adj. Line Yards. Exciting stuff, I know.
The first statistic we will discuss is F/+. F/+ is one the best predictors available when forecasting wins for the next year. Football Outsiders states that the best predictor of future success is past success, and the correlation between the last four years of success and only the previous year are similar. F/+ is a combination of the S/P+ (play by play) statistic and the FEI (drive based data).
The best score in the country last four years belongs to Florida, with a score of 26.4%. Oregon State, our brethren to the north, are ranked 25th overall with a score of 10.9%. LSU has a F/+ statistic of 18.3%, ranking them tenth overall. Oregon comes in at 20.2%, 1.9% better than LSU and puts them at 7th overall. So now you can see how these teams fit in to place. Florida has been the best team of the last four years by a fairly wide margin. Oregon and LSU are bunch fairly close together in the Top 10. One can also see how the elite teams are separated from the non-elite. Oregon State, a continual overachiever and late bloomer every season, cracks the top 25, but has a score of that is almost half of Oregon’s.
Let’s take closer look at one of the inputs in to the F/+ statistic, known as FEI, the Fremeau Efficiency Index. It takes in to account almost 20,000 possessions from the last year. It eliminates first half clock kills and end of game garbage drives. The statistic ultimately determines baseline efficiency expectations. Meaning a drive beginning on a certain yard line gets assigned a certain amount of points that could be expected to score from it. Drives beginning on your own 20 have fewer points assigned to them than drives on the opposing 20.
Auburn’s offense was a juggernaut last year, and is number one in almost every spot. They led the country with a score of .348. USC had a score of .124, good enough for 26th in the country. LSU ranked 6th overall with a score of .247. Oregon comes in two spots better, with an FEI of .267. Again, LSU is closely ranked with Oregon, with Oregon having a slight edge.
We can break down the F/+ rating further though with an Offensive F/+ rating, which takes in to account only the offensive possessions. Auburn, again ranked first, was +25% last year. LSU was +7.5% that puts them at 24th overall. That is much higher than I would have expected, but the “+” in the formula accounts for strength of schedule, so LSU must’ve gotten a boost from all the tough defenses it played. That isn’t what shocked me most in this stastic. What amazes me is that Oregon is ranked 16th, at only +9.4%. Traditional stats like yards per game and points per game say Oregon has one of the best offenses ever, but advanced statistics that account for strength of opponents have Oregon as only 16th.
The defensive F/+ statistic has Boise State as the best defensive team, on a drive-by-drive basis, than the Boise State Broncos with a score of +17.7%(with opponents taken in to account). Oregon is ranked 13th overall with +12.1%. LSU is directly behind with a defensive F/+ of +11.5%, good for 14th overall. The edge again goes to Oregon.
I’m sure minds may be melting at this point in time. The second part of the F/+ rating is the
S&P+, which is a combination of success rates (Determined by the success of a play, gaining 50 percent of the yards needed on first down, seventy on second, one hundred on third and fourth), and Estimated Points Per Play (assigning points to a yard line based on how likely it is to score from that point on the field).
The success rate for LSU on offense was 109.6, ranked 28th overall. This is the only statistic that Oregon ranks lower than LSU in. Oregon had a success rate of 107.5, ranked 33rd. even more shocking is that Oregon’s leverage was .692, a statistic that basically shows how consistently a team moves the chains. Oregon came in 41st, surrounded by the likes of Michigan State, Iowa, and even below Oregon State. I understand that Oregon has a big play offense and can go the distance on any given play, but with a low leverage rate it leaves Oregon susceptible to getting in a funk and going three and out often. Three and outs don’t wear down the defense, don’t keep the defense off the field, and stop the offense from getting in a rhythm.
For the defensive success rate numbers, Oregon has the edge again. It is weird to see a PAC-10 defense be ranked higher than a SEC defense, especially one that is supposedly God’s gift to football. Oregon comes in with a 111.3, ranking them overall at 21st in the country. LSU on the other hand ranks 34th, with a score of 107.1.
The PPP is a measure of explosiveness derived from determining the point value of every yard line. Oregon ranks 14 (that low due to strength of schedule), with a score of 132.4. Football Outsiders and Football Study Hall has even broken it down in to rushing and passing. Oregon ranks 10th overall in rushing PPP with a rating of .4, and 13th in passing with a rating of .5. LSU’s offense ranks 35th overall with a score of 115.8. Rushing, the Tigers rank a mediocre 41st with .33. Passing, they rank an atrocious 81st, with a score of .34.
With the PPP and the SR+ we get the S&P+. Oregon’s overall S&P+ rating is 238.2, putting them at 16th, and LSU’s is 232.3, six spots behind Oregon at 22nd. Boise State took the top spot with a score of 286.3.
One of the hot topics running throughout summer and in to the season is which offensive line is going to be the best. If we use the same theory that past successes are indicative of future success, and talent is more important than returning starters, we can make some interesting observation from these stats. The Adj. Line Yards, which have been discussed before on this site. ALY+ attempts to separate the ability of the running back from the ability of the line. It takes the average yard per carry and accounts for variability in running backs. It also uses sacks and the relation to a team’s run-pass ratio. Oregon has a score of 104.9, good enough for an average 53rd. LSU does much better with a score of 112.7, good enough for 21st. Again, traditional statistics may show that the Oregon line is one of the best in the countries, but the advanced stats would differ. These statistics are not perfect, but can show some truths or insight. One thing LSU’s offensive line does not do well, is protect the quarterback. Their sack rate score of 95.8 puts them at below average, at 62nd nationally.
One of the newest statistics Football Study Hall has come out with is the GOATB quotient, essentially trying to measure how aggressive/effective a defense is at causing turnovers. LSU had a score of .723, good for 2nd overall. Oregon had .739 as their score, for 1st overall.
These statistics are not perfect, but have been proven to be an accurate predictor of effectiveness and next seasons success. Almost all of these stats show Oregon having a slight edge over LSU. What they may best be used for though, is arguing over during the summer in the new content-less summer, somehow simultaneously the most boring and most exciting part of the year.