Lindy's Five Essential Websites (Non-Major Media) for 2013
[+] Team Summaries

Monday, December 31, 2012

Red Zone Points

RZ = Points per possession in the red zone | PPP = Points per possession | Gap = RZ-PPP

 - Oregon leads the nation in points per trip in the red zone and is almost a half point better than everyone else nationally with 5.8
- The Ducks are followed by Louisiana-Monroe, Louisiana-Lafayette and Ohio State.
- Massachusetts, Boston College and Tulane are at the bottom of the list.
- Notre Dame is less than a point better when inside the 20 than in possessions that start anywhere on the field; Baylor and Kansas State are 4th and 5th in the smallest gap between RZ and PPP, largely because they score a lot of points per possession in general.
- Alabama, Notre Dame and Florida are 1, 2, and 4 nationally in fewest points per possession. Those three are joined by BYU and Utah State in the top 5.
- Notre Dame allows only 1.7 points per possession in the red zone. Only 15 other teams allow less than twice that. Alabama is not one of those 15 teams.
- Oregon leads the nation with 2.5 more points scored in the red zone than they allow. They are followed by Utah State and Georgia.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Bowl Preview Part III: New Year's Smorgasboard

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
Vanderbilt vs NC State
Vanderbilt -7.5
The ACC did not have a very good season in 2012, and this is one of their final chances to make a statement against their big brothers from the SEC. If you stopped paying attention to college football following the 2010 season you would probably think the betting line beside Vanderbilt was missing a vertical bar. No way Vandy is a touchdown favorite, even playing in Nashville right? Sorry friends, this ain't your big brother's Vanderbilt. This marks the second consecutive bowl game for the Commodores under head coach James Franklin. Franklin has already done amazing things at Vanderbilt, winning seven SEC games in just two seasons. Steve Martin Bobby Johnson, arguably the most successful football coach Vanderbilt has had since Dan McGugin roamed the sidelines before World War II, and a man who nearly won a IAA national title at Furman, won just 12 SEC games in his eight seasons at Vanderbilt. In fact, with a win here, Vandy would tie the school record for wins in a season (9) set in 1915! The best player for the Commodores is probably junior receiver Jordan Matthews, who hauled in 87 passes for 1262 yards, becoming the first Vandy receiver with 1000 yards in a season since Earl Bennett in 2006. Vanderbilt will be opposed by a team that just fired its head coach despite making its third straight bowl trip and fourth in five seasons. However, to be fair, the Wolfpack did lose at least five games in five of the six seasons they were led by Tom O'Brien. In fact, you have to go all the way back to 1979 to find the last time NC State won an ACC title! The Wolfpack won seven games in 2012, but their lone win of consequence was a one-point win at home against Florida State. After that, their second best win is probably Connecticut, and it only gets worse from there. Even without their head coach, the Wolfpack will probably be somewhat motivated in this game to send senior quarterback Mike Glennon out on a winning note. Glennon threw 61 touchdown passes in his two seasons as a starter and is and is rated as a top-10 quarterback prospect. Vanderbilt is the better team based on their body of work, but I don't fell comfortable laying more than a touchdown. Enjoy the clash of former Southern Conference rivals, but don't waste your money here.

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Carousel: NC State

Out: Tom O'Brien
In: Dave Doeren

O'Brien was hired in December 2006 and given a 7 year, $7.7 million deal.  It was a pretty big get at the time for NC State.  O'Brien had guided Boston College to eight straight bowl berths.  He remains the winningest coach in BC history with 75 victories, and his .625 winning percentage, among coaches with at least 50 games at the school, is topped only by Joseph Yukica's .648.  BC had perceived recruiting issues, and many believed O'Brien would truly take things to the next level when he became coach at a school that could naturally recruit better.  North Carolina State was supposed to be that school.

However, that perception might have been a bit off.  Take a look at the recruiting for both schools since 2002:

Yes, NC State had pulled in a big class in 2003 right after Chuck Amato - a very good recruiter in his own right - guided the Wolfpack to an 11-3 season.  Aside from the spike from the 2002 season, North Carolina State wasn't really pulling in demonstrably better recruiting classes than Boston College.  Where you might notice a difference is in 4 and 5 star recruits.  Amato was able to lure them to Raleigh when there was some excitement over the program.  O'Brien was also able to lure them as well, until things got a little stale over the last few years.

Of course, recruiting is just half the battle.  Performance is the bottom line, and here's how O'Brien's teams performed (I've included NC State in 2006 to illustrate what things were like before O'Brien arrived, but you should note that he had nothing to do with those plot points):

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Carousel: California

Out: Jeff Tedford
In: Sonny Dykes

I wrote in detail about Tedford's firing in a recent article.  Tedford, the winningest coach in school history, just wasn't keeping up in a Pac-12 that is quickly evolving.  The conference is now home to powerhouses like Stanford and Oregon (and to a lesser extent USC), just added Rich Rodriguez, Mike Leach, a resurgent Jim Mora, and Todd Graham to the roster of coaches.  Kyle Whittingham has completed an undefeated season at Utah just a few years ago.  Jeff Tedford, in the span of just a year or two, had the stench of obscurity.  Worse, the performance on the field reflected it to an extent.

Aside from the 2012 defense, you can see that Cal never suffered a drastic collapse in any year under Tedford.  It was just a slow, steady decline.  And while Tedford's supporters seemingly make a good point that he never had the chance to take advantage of Cal's massive facilities makeover, his recruiting didn't really suffer through the years:

Monday, December 24, 2012

Bowl Preview Part II: The Rest of the Undercard

Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl
Western Kentucky vs Central Michigan
Western Kentucky -5.5
The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers will be making their bowl debut on the day after Christmas. Of course, the bigger story around the Western Kentucky program at this point is the hiring of noted scumbag Bobby Petrino as head coach. I predict Petrino will have a long and successful career at Western Kentucky as long as:

Friday, December 21, 2012

Game by Game Turnovers

This table includes the point impact of every pre-bowl game this season. Pts is the points scored in the game for each team, TO is the number of turnovers, -TO is the point impact of turnovers using NEPA, etc. Use the headers to sort, filter, and other tomfoolery as you choose.

Quick observations:

1) SFA's -36.88 against SMU was the most turnover-impacted performance of the season. This is no surprise since they turned the ball over 10 times. SMU was also the beneficiary of the second worst game for turnvoers as Houston cost itself 23.69 points.

2) Fresno State cost itself 23.6 points against San Diego State but still won (filter on Win? to see only teams that won or lost). The win was substantially added by the fact that San Diego State turned the ball over 5 times for a -10.53 point impact.

3) Five teams (USC, Colorado State, Troy, UCLA an Texas A&M) won despite 5 turnovers. Three of the 5 (Colorado State, UCLA, and Texas A&M) had positive point impact margins in those games (the opponent's turnovers were more costly). Cincinnati won with 6 turnovers against Delaware State.

4) Boise State had a +18.3 points from turnovers against BYU and won by 1.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Vegas vs. CFBTN: The Bowls

In 6 of the remaining bowl games Vegas and the model disagree by more than 3 points. In the case of Rutgers/Virginia Tech, Vegas likes the Hokies while the model favors Rutgers. The model like Northern Illinois, Wisconsin, Kansas State as underdogs and Cincinnati and San Jose State as favorites. 

Of the 6, San Jose State is the most obvious case of an undervalued team. Kansas State is a really tough match-up for Oregon IF the KSU can run the ball (and they should have some success in that department). The model does not think highly of the ACC in general; I don't think highly of the ACC either, but I also don't think highly of the MAC and Big East.   

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Points by Quarter

The first table is total points by quarter, the second points per possession by quarter and the third is % of total by quarter. I limit this to a few observations.

1) Oregon leads the nation in 1st quarter points and points per possession. The Ducks scored almost 5 points per possession in the first 15 minutes. Texas A&M also scored well in the first half, followed by Clemson and Alabama.

2) Kansas State takes the lead in the 3rd and 4th quarters (in large part because Oregon and Texas A&M often closed games out in the first half).

3) UMass was terrible in all quarters. Idaho, Colorado and Hawai'i were also in the bottom 25 in every quarter in points/possession. Auburn was last in the 4th quarter.

4) Utah State was 3rd best nationally in points/possession in the first quarter and in the bottom 25 in the 4th. Texas State similarly got worse as the game when on.

5) Two teams, Arkansas and Fresno State, scored more than 1/3 of their total points in the 1st quarter. Six teams score more than 40% of their points in the 2nd quarter. No other teams scored more than 40% of their points in any quarter.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Turnover Margin

This post is here to wrap a bow on a couple of earlier posts (1, 2) on turnovers. This post will only make sense if you look at those first. A quick run down: Off is turnovers, Def is turnovers forced, and delta (the triangle) is the difference (turnover margin). -TO is the point impact of Off, +TO is the point impact of Def, and mTO is the difference.

As noted earlier, Kansas State, Kent State, Fresno State, Boise State (I'm noticing a trend) and Oregon (nevermind) were the big winners of the turnover game. LSU and Alabama also did well.

Idaho didn't fair poorly in terms of forcing turnovers, but they committed so many turnovers it was really a lost cause. If you sort by mTO and look at the bottom of the list, Texas Tech really stands out.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Breaking down play selection, or how Johnny Manziel became Johnny Heisman

You want to know why Johnny Manziel won the Heisman and Kliff Kingsbury got the head coaching job at a Big 12 school just years after being a grad assistant? Why Texas A&M has the best offense in the country? I can tell you with two statistics what it was that set these two apart. Spoiler: It's all about play selection.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Carousel: Tennessee

Out: Derek Dooley
In: Butch Jones

First, a quick review of Tennessee under its last three coaches.  The following graph shows NEPA output for Phil Fulmer's final years (2005-2008), Lane Kiffin's single season (2009), and the Dooley tenure (2010-2012):

That chart shows a lot, and I mean a lot, of bad timing for Tennessee over the past 8 seasons.  Seasons where they'd have a great offense to go with a bad defense.  Seasons with a great defense hamstrung by a terrible offense.  Only one year saw both sides of the ball better than average - Lane Kiffin's 2009 season.  Bet you didn't expect that.  I really railed on Dooley in my earlier article on his firing for the switch to the 3-4, and I'm gonna take a chance to do it again here.  You can see that the defense had made some small strides in 2011, improving on 2010's season.  And 2012's offense, as you can see, was pretty phenomenal.  If the D just kept what it had, it still probably wouldn't have been very good, but it probably wouldn't have been this atrocious.  It remains a baffling decision, and one that ultimately cost Dooley his job.

What does this recruiting chart tell us?  Well, it tells us that Tennessee is unlikely to ever have serious problems recruiting talent.  Even with Dooley sucking any and all excitement out of the program, they were still a top 20-30 school.  That's clearly not up to par for Tennessee, and there was obvious decline.  Dooley has managed to get a decent amount of star talents.  However, it pales in comparison to Fulmer's halcyon days of the early 2000's.  It's clear the Dooley staff was poor at recruiting.  After all, some local high schools were basically ignored by the Dooley regime.  These were even high schools that produce Division I talent, too.  Most SEC coaching staffs don't even ignore the schools that don't produce top level talent.  Dooley's ignored those that do.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Ranking Defenses with the Negative NEPA

EPA/NEPA attaches a point value to every play based on whether that play increases or decreases a team's expected point total. Plays with a positive NEPA are good for the team on offense, plays with a negative NEPA are bad.

That being said, good defenses should force a lot of negative NEPA plays and prevent positive NEPA plays. The chart below aggregates just that. For each defense I have listed the percent positive NEPA on run plays, pass plays, and total. - I want to emphasize that this is not the same thing as a negative play or a tackle for a loss. For example, 5 yards on 3rd and 12 would earn a team a negative NEPA because their expected point total would go down. A majority of plays are negative (even when Johnny Football has the ball), but there are more large and positive NEPA plays than negative (for the distributionally inclined, the distribution is positively skewed); the average play has a NEPA of 0.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Bowl Preview Part I: The Pre-Christmas Games

Hi. My name is Matthew Melton. I'm terrible at introductions. I run a little blog on the interwebs called Statistically Speaking where I blog about college football. I've been told by at least one person not related to me that it has some decent content from time to time. Scott has graciously invited me to contribute to this blog, and while I held out for better offers, none were forthcoming. Over the long and arduous offseason, I'll be contributing semi-regular posts about some stats and the like that I find interesting. I don't possess the statistical abilities that most of the fine posters here have, but I do love numbers. Before the offseason arrives though, I thought I would jump in and preview all 35 bowl games. I'll dig deep and try to find some statistical minutiae about each bowl you may not have known about, and for the degenerates who peruse this site, I'll offer you betting advice about the games I think are the 'locks' of the postseason. As a primer on what statistics I use, when I refer to how well a team did in conference play, I will be referencing Standard Deviation Power Index, a concept used by Eddie Epstein in his book Dominance. It determines how many standard deviations a team is above or below average in a closed system (i.e. conference play) in terms of yardage. I will also be using the Adjusted Pythagorean Theorem, created by yours truly, which functions much like the normal Pythagorean Theorem created by Bill James, with the exception that it focuses only on offensive touchdowns and touchdowns allowed (field goals, defensive touchdowns, and special teams touchdowns are ignored). Sit back and enjoy while I preview the pre-Christmas bowl menu.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Smarter Look at Turnovers II

Thanks to for the raw data.

This is a continuation of the post from Sunday, a smarter look at turnovers. Yesterday we looked at offenses, today we look at defenses. When referring to defenses, the points gained due to turnovers is represented as +TO instead of the -TO for offenses.

Turnovers are one of the more random outcomes in football (another being long field goals). For example, I can usually tell you how many yards per rush a team will get in a game in advance. I might be off by a yard, even two in the exceptional case, but I won't be off by five or six yards. Turnovers, on the other hand, are incredibly hard to predict. It doesn't surprise me at all when a team turns it over four times when the "should" have turned it over one or two. But I would be off by 100% to 300%. And those two or three turnovers will cost a team between 6 and 10 points in most cases.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Carousel: Kentucky hires Stoops

I wrote about the tenure of Joker Phillips at the time he was fired, so we won't get into all that again in depth.  Here's a quick review.  The '05-'09 starting point represents the average output of Rich Brooks' last 5 teams.

The 24.5 offensive average from '05-'09 is somewhat misleading.  They were at times brilliant on offense - to Joker's credit, the OC at the time - and at other times awful.  Rarely were they just kind of good, which is what the 24.5 suggests.  That being said, the offenses have plummeted under Phillips.  So has the defense.

As recently as 5 years ago, Kentucky was excited about its football program.  They've tasked Bob Mike Mark Stoops with making it that way again.  The kneejerk reaction is, "Oh, another Stoops gets a head coaching job.  Shocking."  However, it was probably just a matter of time before he got such a job.  He played for and started coaching under Hayden Fry at Iowa.  He coached the secondary for the 2001 Miami Hurricanes, one of the greatest teams in college football history.  He got his first coordinating opportunity in 2004 working for his brother Mike in Arizona.  Our NEPA database starts in 2005, so we can track his tenure as a defensive coordinator for basically his entire coordinating career.

Utah St.

Click here for an explanation

Utah St. CFBTN 1
Utah St. CFBTN 2 Utah St. CFBTN 3 Utah St. CFBTN 4 Utah St. CFBTN 5 Utah St. CFBTN 6 Utah St. CFBTN 8

Utah St. CFBTN 9
Utah St. CFBTN 15
Utah St. CFBTN 13 Utah St. CFBTN 14

Sunday, December 9, 2012

A smarter look at turnovers

The average fumble costs the offense -3.28 points and the average interception -2.93 points, but not all fumbles and interceptions are created equal. A turnover on 3rd and 20 is less costly than on 1st and 10, or at midfield versus the red zone. A long return can make a relatively harmless turnover into a killer, while a long pick on 4th down can actually be a positive play for the offense.

Using the NEPA logic, we can calculate the point impact of every turnover this season. Briefly, we look at the points we can expect a team and their opponent to score based on their down, distance, spot and time remaining before the play to that after the play. -TO is the total point impact of turnovers for each team this season and -TO/TO is the average point impact per turnover.

It should be no surprise that Kansas State is on top. Alabama is 5th, but McCarron and crew would like the -8.8 against Texas A&M back (and -6.3 against Georgia almost cost them as well). That Louisville and West Virginia score so high is a real testament to Geno Smith and Teddy Bridgewater.

At the other end, Hawaii, Western Michigan, Tulane and Idaho have cost themselves more than 100 points. Idaho averaged a remarkable -10 per game this season; seeing as how they were outscored by 27 points per game this season, though, those 10 points probably would not have saved their season.

Thanks to cfbstats for the data. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Coaching Carousel: Paul Petrino to Idaho

There will be a Petrino in college football in 2013.  For a while, it looked as if there might be two, but now it seems quite unlikely that Bobby gets hired anywhere.  Enter younger brother Paul, getting his first head coaching gig.  He'll lead Idaho into their transition to FBS independence.  First off, let's look at what he's taking over.

When Idaho fired Robb Akey, I wrote a quick piece on the matter.  That was before I had past NEPAs at my disposal, however, so I wasn't able to include a graphical display of NEPA.  And what can I say, I like making these.  So here's the Akey era in graphical NEPA form.  As usual, I'll include the year prior to arrival, for the sake of perspective.

So, to recap, Akey took over a team with a pretty bad offense and a really bad defense.  For a brief period, he turned them into a team with a fantastic offense and abhorrent defense.  Then, he returned them to being a team with a pretty bad offense and a really bad defense.  In 2012, they were pretty awful all around.

Enter Petrino.  Petrino has no head coaching experience, and he has been an OC with and without his brother's influence.  Our NEPA database goes back to 2005, and Petrino has been a collegiate OC every year in that span except 2007.  So, here's a look at his offenses over the years:

Friday, December 7, 2012

Friday's Trip around the Statverse

Drive-By Football breaks down the probabilities for the new proposed kickoff rule in the NFL. I love the strategic implications of the rule, but it would represent a serious statistical break in football history. And, since I know you're wondering, in CFB teams would convert 4th & 15 15% of the time against average opposition; A&M would convert 25% of the time.

And someone at ESPN stats and info needs to get fired for this one. Seriously. The Manziel witch-hunt in some places is out of control. First, the "Manziel vs. ranked opponents" thing needs to end. Manziel's ranked opponents are three of the four best defenses in the country. Texas A&M was 24th in average defense faced, and if you exclude games in which Manziel played less than one drive in the 3rd quarter they were 4th. And the second part must be a joke. The two quarterbacks to score low in % of total offense in close games were Manziel and Mariota. Why? They blew people out. A trademark of the Aggie offense was scoring on the first drive, and they often had three scores in the first quarter. If that's bad, then I don't want to be good.

And Brian Fremeau has a bunch of stuff, all of which is better than ESPN stats & info.

Coaching Carousel: Arkansas

Out: John L. Smith/Bobby Petrino
In: Bret Bielema

Normally, in a coaching carousel post, I show how the outgoing coach compared to his predecessors.  However, Arkansas isn't a normal situation.  Bielema won't ultimately be compared to John L. Smith.  He'll be compared to Bobby Petrino.  So, for the Arkansas charts, I'm combining the Petrino and Smith tenures into one.  Let's delve in.

Petrino's name is virtually synonymous with offense, and it's no surprise to see that he took Arkansas' offense to the next level pretty quickly:

We can see that Houston Nutt's last 3 offenses at Arkansas weren't bad at all (and they were getting better each year, well over 100 in 2007), and as Petrino installed his offense, there was predictable dropoff.  After that, Arkansas enjoyed a 3 year reign of explosiveness.  The offense tumbled with John L. Smith in 2012, but it wasn't as bad as most Arkansas fans think.  It's just bad by comparison.  Petrino's offense is his legacy, without question, especially once you glance at his defenses:

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Army vs. Navy, graphically

The chart below summarizes in two squiggly lines a little bit of college football history. In fact, these lines capture a little bit of US history. So, what are they?

I call this the running margin. Essentially, you sum over time the point margin of every game a team has ever played. When a team is winning games their line points up, and vice versa. You've probably guessed at this point that these are the running margins for Army (red) and Navy (blue). Clearly something (actually, a lot of things) happened in the late 1960s and early 1970s: The Civil Rights movement, unlimited substitutions, a war in SE Asia, the end of conscription in the US military, the wishbone, OPEC and stagflation, scholarship limits, etc. This is not the place to break it down, but, in short, where military academies were once major players in the college football scene, now they are not.

This next chart is Navy's running margin against Army. While both programs took a nosedive four decades ago, Army dove faster. Since 1950, Navy has outscored the cadets by more than 500 points, with almost half of that coming in the last decade. 

To say that Army and Navy have struggled through the last half century is not to say they don't excel in some areas. Most obviously (and recently), they run the ball. The chart below is total rushing yards since 2005. From the bottom is Texas Tech (green), Army (red), Oregon (yellow), and Navy (blue). In the last 8 years, Navy has rushed for almost 18 miles. Army has kept pace with Oregon over the last several years, which is impressive considering what Oregon has been doing in the running game. 

Finally, penalty yards (same colors as above). I sleep a little bit better at night knowing that the future leaders of my national defense avoid committing penalties. Army and Navy have been penalized about half as much as Tech and Oregon.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

It's the Voters Fault

As Scott pointed out, NIU going to a BCS bowl is silly.  It’s the voters fault.  It doesn't make any sense to anyone…except of course the voters who made it happen.  The rule is a rather arbitrary threshold that a team in a non-BCS automatic qualifying conference gets to go to a BCS bowl if ranked 16 or higher and ranked ahead of a conference champion from an automatic qualifying conference (thanks Big 10 and Big East).  While the whole aq/non-aq distinction is frustrating, I suppose you have to draw a line somewhere.  But more importantly, how did Northern Illinois jump from 21 to 15 just by winning the MAC Championship?  It's a dangerous combination of voter maliciousness and ignoring the relative quality of the teams NIU has played.  Here’s where things get weird.

NIU beat Kent State, who was ranked 17.  Okay, so Kent State was overrated.  Texas gets crushed by K State, but K State was ranked 6, so that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone nor have a strong impact.  UCLA was 16 and lost to Stanford, but they had just lost to Stanford in the weak previous, so their ranking shouldn’t change either.  Michigan didn’t play.  Boise State beat Nevada.  So there are two teams that could reasonably be moved as lower ranked than NIU: Nebraska, crushed miserably by unranked Wisconsin, and Kent State.

That doesn’t get NIU in the top 16.

The voters committed “BCSicide” where, when an outlandish outcome is possible because of the BCS’s rules, they take the opportunity to humiliate the system.  NIU is not undefeated Boise, Utah, or TCU of years past.  They lost to Iowa.   They have no place in a BCS bowl over Oklahoma…and the voters know it.  Here’s how it went down.  Below are the week 14 rankings for the Harris Poll, USA Today, BCS Computer Average for Nebraska, UCLA, Kent State, Texas, Michigan, Boise State, and NIU.  As a comparison to more analytically rigorous approaches, I’ve also included my own Network Ranking and Scott Albrecht’s Hybrid ranking.

Harris Poll
USA Today
Computer Avg.
Kent State
Boise State
Northern Illinois

First, by none of the rankings, portions of the BCS or otherwise, is Kent State a top 16 team.  NIU didn’t provide evidence by defeating Kent State that they deserve BCS status.  The voters have the two teams essentially tied at the 18/19 spot.  Here’s how they miraculously changed their minds in week 15:

Harris Poll
USA Today
Computer Avg
Kent State
Boise State
Northern Illinois

It’s perfectly fine for NIU to move up because of bad loss by Nebraska.  But, that’s not what happened.   To pull it off, NIU had to jump both Texas and UCLA.  Texas lost to K State – which the voter’s previous ranking expected would happen and should have no bearing on the relative rank of Texas v. NIU.  Even more egregious is that UCLA, after losing to Stanford, is ranked above NIU in Week 14, but somehow, after losing to Stanford in Week 15, they’re ranked below NIU.  The voters are applying some difficult logic.

And the voters weren't alone in this debacle.  The computer rankings could have stopped their attempts at BCSicide like they did with Boise State.  Some of them tried (thank you Kenneth Massey).  Others were more of a problem than the voters (thanks, Richard Billingsley, stress expert from Oklahoma with a high school degree who never took calculus).  The difference, however, between the voters and guys like Billingsley is the voters are fully aware of what they're doing.

Setting aside whether or not they’re in the top 16, they’re not even the best non-aq team!  The Network Ranking has San Jose State and Louisiana Tech while the BPR has San Jose State and Utah State.  It’s a travesty for not only Oklahoma, but also Clemson and Michigan – both far more deserving of a BCS bowl than NIU (as well as half the SEC, but the BCS allows only 2 teams per conference in the BCS bowls).

And don’t think this will all be corrected by the four team playoff.  The bowls aren't going anywhere, and the four playoff participants will be selected by committee.  Given the moaning on ESPN that if only we had a playoff so Oregon could go – that’s right, Oregon who didn’t even participate in their conference championship game or win games against terribly impressive opponents – I don’t think we can expect logic to play a strong roll.  Given that rankings will influence selection committee decisions, expect a fair amount of manipulation by voters in the next era for that fourth seed at the end of the season.

Does Northern Illinois deserve the Orange?

Of course not. It's really a stupid question to even ask. Northern Illinois is 24th in the BPR, 34th in the power rankings.

NIU lost to Iowa. Iowa is terrible. Oklahoma lost to Kansas State and Notre Dame; LSU lost to Florida and Alabama; Georgia lost to South Carolina and Alabama; Texas A&M and South Carolina lost to Florida and LSU. If you're going to look at non-BCS conference schools, Utah State and San Jose State with two losses are much more deserving.

But idiots depend too much on counting losses and miss the fact that NIU's schedule is devoid of talent. They played two BCS conference teams, but it would have been hard to pick weaker BCS conference opponents (Kansas and Iowa), and they lost to one of them. As it stands right now, NIU has played zero teams in the top 30 in the BPR, 1 in the top 40, two inside the top 50 and five inside the top 100. That's terrible.

Now that we've established that, let's talk about why they might be deserving. The Huskies have outscored their terrible opponents by 21.8 points per game, 5th best nationally (1 spot behind Texas A&M who has the nation's 3rd and 6th toughest schedules by SOSBE-becoming bowl eligible-and SOSUD-going undefeated, vs. 122nd and 104th for NIU). Jordan Lynch leads the nation in NEPA (although he's still behind Manziel in NEPA/game). And . . . that's it. I've got nothing.

NIU can only hope the Florida State that showed up against NC State and the Techs will be playing in the Orange Bowl, and not the FSU that played the rest of the games.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Champ week's Best Off. Performances

The EP3, or effective points per possession, measures the average number of "effective" points earned each drive during a game. Effective points consider field position as well as actual points. The EP3+ is the team's average performance over the course of the season adjusted for the opposition. The EP3+D is the defensive score while the EP3+O is for the offense. The Perf-O begins with the single-game EP3 and adjusts for the opponent's EP3+D. The Perf-D begins with the opponent's EP3 and adjusts it for the opponent's EP3+O.

You would assume that Wisconsin rushing for 539 yards and scoring 70 points would be the nation's top performance, but the computer preferred West Virginia's brand of shalacking. Essentially, the computer decided the Big 10 championship game was a joke. I agree.

Champ week's Best Def. Performances

The EP3, or effective points per possession, measures the average number of "effective" points earned each drive during a game. Effective points consider field position as well as actual points. The EP3+ is the team's average performance over the course of the season adjusted for the opposition. The EP3+D is the defensive score while the EP3+O is for the offense. The Perf-O begins with the single-game EP3 and adjusts for the opponent's EP3+D. The Perf-D begins with the opponent's EP3 and adjusts it for the opponent's EP3+O.

The week's best defensive performance came from TCU in a losing effort. I guess that's what you get for trying to play defense in the Big 12. You lose. Except Kansas State won, so maybe the key is to play Texas and not Oklahoma if you want to win. Oregon State put up very impressive EP3s on offense and defense, even considering the opponent. And Florida State and Georgia Tech just demonstrated again how inferior the ACC is relative to the SEC.

Sunday, December 2, 2012


Click here for an explanation

Army CFBTN 1
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Champ week in review

Georgia runs out of time inside Alabama's 5 yard line. NIU knocks off Kent State in overtime. Stanford (not Oregon) repeats over UCLA to win the Pac-12. But as far as I am concerned there is only one story this weekend in college football: How broken is the Big 10? A 7-5 team scores 70 to win the conference championship largely because half the league has had serious institutional control issues. Someone thought it was a good idea to add Rutgers. Then again, 9-3 in the Big East will probably translate to 9-3 in the Big 10; the SEC has 6 teams in the top 13 in the power rankings while the Big 10 has 0. Pity the Big 10.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

CFBTN vs. Vegas, Champ Week

CFBTN and Vegas disagree by more than field on two games this weekend. The model still likes Pitt to win, but by about 2, not a touchdown. The logic here, it seems, is that USF has nothing to play for while Pitt does (i.e., bowl eligibility). It's a smart model, but it struggles with contextualized human incentives. 

It's funny to think that the world decided West Virginia was good because they scored 70 against Baylor. Scoring 70 on Baylor is as hard as scoring drugs at TCU (scoring points against TCU is another matter). At the time I discounted the victory because they only beat Baylor by 7. WVU might score 70 if they played again, but I'm pretty sure Baylor would win. WVU is 4-7 ATS this season. They'll finish the regular season 4-8. Kansas is terrible, but they lost to Northern Illinois, Oklahoma State and Texas by a combined 17 points, not the 20 WVU is giving.

State of the Pigskin, Champ Week

After getting knocked around at home, UCLA travels up to Stanford (not Autzen) and is a very different team. Most notably, they didn't stop trying in the second half. Consciously, subconsciously, unconsciously, Pac-12 teams would rather play Stanford than Oregon.

I read that No. Illinois busted Kent State's BCS bubble. Let's review. Kent State had only one loss . . . a shalacking by Kentucky. KENTUCKY. Their biggest win on the schedule was probably Rutgers. Rutgers' big wins were Arkansas and Cincinnati? It'd be one thing if Kent State was blowing out opponents the way the real BCS busters did, but they had an average margin of victory under 11 points. Kent State was #22 in the BPR, not dramatically different than their 17 in the BCS, but they are 62nd in the power rankings. As UCLA will attest, losing now might not be so bad if it keeps you from getting blasted later (you can ask Hawaii if you want a second opinion).

Baylor and Oklahoma State are not playing for any kind of championship. But they will score a million points. Baylor has scored at least 21 in every game this season and at least 34 in all but two. Oklahoma State has scored at least 34 on Baylor every year since 1998 and has average 43 points/game since the Big 12 was formed. That does not mean this game will be fun to watch. While you might prefer MMA to heavy weight boxing for the action, watching Baylor is like MMA but every move is a submission. It gets old fast.

Staying in the Big 12, Kansas State and Texas are playing a football game. According to Wikipedia, Klein got his first start and win against Texas. Also according to Wikipedia, Klein could pummel both Texas quarterbacks blindfolded and unconscious. Consider this, four of the six most productive quarterbacks in the country by NEPA are playing in Texas (Baylor, Texas Tech, and Texas A&M) or next door (La-Tech). Texas' quarterbacks combined have been less than half as productive as either Manziel or Florence. They are all much better than Garrett Gilbert, though, who managed a negative NEPA this season. And that's why Saban, in my mind, is still trying to win his first real championship at Alabama (MNCs are even mockier if you didn't win your own division).

Friday, November 30, 2012

Championship Week Preview, Part II

For Part I, click here.  To see what NEPA is all about, click here.

Nebraska (10-2) vs. Wisconsin (7-5)

Nebraska passing attack (82.5 NEPA; .261 NEPApp) vs. Wisconsin pass defense (40.4; .102)
Nebraska rushing attack (39.1 NEPA; .070 NEPApp) vs. Wisconsin rush defense (-66.5; -.172)
Wisconsin passing attack (62.5 NEPA; .245 NEPApp) vs. Nebraska pass defense (-45.4; -.129)
Wisconsin rushing attack (12.6 NEPA; .024 NEPApp) vs. Nebraska rush defense (-41.2; -.087)
CFBTN Projection: 29-25, Nebraska

Maybe we should be glad Ohio State cheated.  Nebraska faced both Ohio State and Wisconsin in the regular season, and their loss to OSU was far less captivating (63-38) than their win over the Badgers (30-27).  One might think we could be in for another close one.

+.182 when Nebraska passes
-.051 when Nebraska rushes
+.058 when Wisconsin passes
-.032 when Wisconsin rushes

NEPA certainly favors Nebraska in this one.  As a team, Nebraska has over 200 NEPA this season.  Wisconsin has barely 100.  Really, the game should not be as close as the first matchup turned out.  In fact, the closeness of the first matchup was likely an aberration in itself.  In that game, Nebraska gained 24 1st downs to Wisconsin's 17.  Nebraska outgained UW 440-295.  Turnovers and penalties dug Nebraska into an early hole, down 20-10 at halftime, but they came back to win with a dominant 2nd half.  That 2nd half was closer to the true talent levels of both teams.  I'm hoping this game is close, because close games are more fun.  Unfortunately, I'm predicting a Nebraska blowout.  Think of two second halves from the first matchup.  That would come out to a 40-14 score, and that's not far off from what I'm expecting.  If Wisconsin wins, they'll have the lowest winning % of a Rose Bowl participant in over 80 years.  If NEPA is any indication, that streak will survive.

Preview: Alabama vs. Georgia

Petey Surber
Guest Blogger

For the second straight year, the Georgia Bulldogs will represent the SEC East as underdogs in the SEC Championship Game. Unlike last year, they’re eyeing a spot in the national title game themselves.
Call it a national semi-final game.

Over the years, no conference championship game has grown in popularity, importance, and pageantry the way the SEC championship game has. And this year the stakes couldn’t be any higher. Not only will the winner go on to face undefeated Notre Dame to compete for a national title, but the loser will likely fall out of a BCS Bowl, much to the dismay of Alabama Coach Nick Saban. No surprises here, but everything runs through the SEC once again.

How did they get here?

Friday's trip around the statverse

Brian Fremeau quantifies the luck of the Irish. Turns out they have been about as lucky as any team that finishes the regular season undefeated.

Jack Moore examines the efficacy of going for two to avoid overtime. He focuses on Wisconsin, but his conclusion could elicit a collective grown from Nebraska fans, particularly those more than, say, 28 years old.

ESPN Stats & Info argues that Manziel is the best scrambler in the business

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Championship Week Preview, Part I

I'm providing a NEPA-centric preview for each conference championship game, along with a few other games which will factor heavily into conference titles.  This is Part I, which will deal with Louisville/Rutgers, which will serve as the Big East Championship Game on Thursday, Friday's pair of title games for the MAC and Pac-12, and Saturday's Conference USA championship game.  As usual, I'll be using NEPA, which stands for Net Expected Points Added.  NEPA is explained here and requires no special math skills to understand (try that with QB Rating).  I'm also changing up the format of the statistical matchups.  Now I'm pairing up the units that will actually be facing off with one another.  Enjoy!

Louisville (9-2) @ Rutgers (9-2)

When Louisville Passes: Cardinals Pass O (145.2 NEPA; .388 NEPApp) vs. Knights Pass D (-6.5 NEPA; -.019 NEPApp)
When Louisville Rushes: Cardinals Rush O (5.5 NEPA; .015 NEPApp) vs. Knights Rush D (-88.7 NEPA; -.234 NEPApp)
When Rutgers Passes:  Knights Pass O (49.3 NEPA; .152 NEPApp) vs. Cardinals Pass D (44.2 NEPA; .139 NEPApp)
When Rutgers Rushes: Knights Rush O (-47.6 NEPA; -.130 NEPApp) vs. Cardinals Rush D (-10.4 NEPA; -.027 NEPApp)
CFBTN projection: 23-17, Rutgers

This isn't technically the Big East Championship Game, but it effectively is.  Such an official game does not exist, and officially, if Louisville beats Rutgers, the two will be co-champions with Syracuse.  However, the winner of this game will advance to the BCS, which makes this the Big East Championship Game.  For this week's games, every team I'm previewing has two things in common: they're all good at winning football games (ok, I suppose I'll have to preview Georgia Tech in Part II, but for the most part this is true), and they've all lost at least once this season.  So, one way to see what to expect would be to look at how these teams win, and how these teams lost along the way.

Week 13 NEPA rankings

A quick look at the leaderboards of our NEPA database.


  1. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M (206.0)
    68%, 3419 pass yards, 1181 rushing yards, 43 total TD, 8 INT
    Manziel, in his last chance before the vote, might have clinched the Heisman on Saturday.  Against Missouri, he had his 2nd highest NEPA output of the season (28.7), completing 73% of his passes for 372 and 3 TD, with 67 yards and 2 TD on the ground as well.  Amazingly, with more media attention, he has only gotten better.  And remember, he has missed roughly 12 quarters of play this season.
  2. Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois (200.3)
    64%, 2750 pass yards, 1611 rushing yards, 39 TD, 4 INT
    With two games to go, Lynch has a very minor chance, but a chance nonetheless, to pass for 3000 yards and run for 2000.  His season has been utterly magnificent. 
  3. Nick Florence, Baylor (178.5)
    61%, 3825 pass yards, 460 rushing yards, 38 TD, 13 INT
    Florence topped 20 NEPA for the 5th time this weekend against Texas Tech.
  4. Tajh Boyd, Clemson (172.2)
    67%, 3550 pass yards, 492 rushing yards, 43 TD, 13 INT
    Boyd slipped in the rivalry loss against South Carolina.  At -2.3, it was his first negative NEPA of the entire season.
  5. Colby Cameron, Louisiana Tech (163.7)
    69%, 4147 pass yards, 177 rushing yards, 35 TD, 5 INT
    Cameron ranks #1 in the country in something very important: Minimum NEPA.  His lowest NEPA of the season is 5.5.  That ends the regular season as the best "worst game" for

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A closer look at yards per play

The table below charts the percent of plays by the yardage. Ball State leads the nation with the fewest negative yardage plays, followed by Baylor, Penn State, Michigan State and Louisiana Tech. Maryland, Auburn, Memphis and Florida are the most likely to go backwards. Georgia has the most plays over 20 yards, ahead of Texas A&M, Clemson and Oklahoma State. Navy, Air Force, Georgia Tech and Army rank 1 through 4 in plays that go for 3-6 yards - you might notice a pattern. Those are also the four teams that are least likely to go for no gain on a play.