Finding Flaws in the F/+ Top 25: Special Teams Edition

Michael Chang

As fans, we all know the feeling. It's a big moment in a big game. Your special teams unit trots onto the field, and at the same time a sinking feeling overwhelms you. You've watched this team all year, and you know what they're capable of...and it's terrifying.

Let's look at the top 25 teams in the F/+ ratings and where they might have some weaknesses in special teams. Does your team allow kickoff returns destined for #SCTop10? Does everyone in your section queue up a #collegekickers tweet when your kicker starts practicing kicks into net? This post is for you.

Before we get to the data, let's take a look at each of the special teams categories. All of this is from Brian Fremeau (@bcfremeau) and his special teams ratings over at Football Outsiders.

  • STE: Special Teams Efficiency, the composite of all of the items listed below. It's a measure of how good your team's special teams unit is as a whole.
  • FGE: Field Goal Efficiency, the scoring value per field goal attempt earned by the field goal unit as measured against national success rates.
  • PRE: Punt Return Efficiency, the scoring value per opponent punt earned by the receiving team as measured against national return rates.
  • KRE: Kickoff Return Efficiency, the scoring value per opponent kickoff earned by the receiving team as measured against national return rates.
  • PE: Punt Efficiency, the scoring value per punt earned by the opponent's receiving team as measured against national return rates.
  • KE: Kickoff Efficiency, the scoring value per kickoff earned by the opponent's receiving team as measured against national return rates.
As a summary, Fremeau takes your team's performance in each category and compares it to how other teams have done in the same situations. For example, let's say your kicker makes all of his kicks inside of 30 yards but can't hit beyond 40. His percentage may actually look pretty good because your coach won't let him kick long field goals. But his numbers in Fremeau's system will reflect the inability to make the long ones.

I used the rankings in each category rather than the actual ratings in Fremeau's data for simplicity's sake. If you want more, visit the Football Outsiders link above.

Here we go...this is the F/+ top 25, ranked by Special Teams Efficiency (STE).
F/+ Rk Team STE FGE PRE KRE PE KE
1 Alabama 1 9 5 3 4 2
3 Stanford 2 78 25 1 55 10
11 Auburn 4 51 10 8 22 81
5 Ohio State 6 30 13 15 36 38
24 Texas A&M 8 33 11 98 9 8
25 Kansas State 10 28 6 17 20 100
8 Oregon 11 86 1 7 106 39
21 UCLA 12 73 27 35 34 7
15 LSU 20 6 114 37 30 9
14 Michigan State 28 46 84 27 35 26
22 Central Florida 30 10 97 63 91 1
19 Louisville 32 85 43 29 3 105
9 USC 33 84 2 80 100 19
18 Washington 49 15 99 60 14 103
10 Oklahoma State 53 114 63 9 85 34
4 Baylor 56 80 88 31 45 61
23 Notre Dame 57 63 38 30 109 66
2 Florida State 60 24 46 45 120 40
20 Georgia 64 11 111 82 31 85
13 Clemson 65 37 103 69 43 69
6 Arizona State 74 32 106 76 65 50
7 Wisconsin 82 90 55 56 99 48
12 Missouri 84 89 65 51 79 75
16 Virginia Tech 95 111 68 73 82 51
17 South Carolina 118 43 118 125 75 83

Just about every team has a weakness in some category. Everyone except for...(sigh)...Alabama. Bama is top 10 in every category. Ohio State is the only other team on this list that can say they are in the top 40 in every category.

This week's Iron Bowl features STE #1 Alabama versus STE #4 Auburn. Between the two teams, the only real weakness might be Auburn's kickoff team (#81).

Florida State has some issues on special teams: #60 overall, and a serious weakness in punting (#120).

Aside from field goals, South Carolina is a bit of a train wreck when it comes to special teams. They are no better than 75th in any other category, and they are so bad in kickoff returns (#125) I'd almost be afraid to score.

These teams are on this top 25 list because they are good, but if you happen to have one of these programs left on your schedule this season, you have reason to hope...everyone has a weakness*.

* Except Alabama.

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