Comparing advanced college football stats to traditional stats: Offense edition

Comparing Off. F/+ to total offense.

We looked at defense last time. This time, we'll switch to offense. My buddy Kyle Porter over at Pistols Firing Blog called this little project looking at the "most misunderstood" offenses and defenses in college football. I think that's a great way of summing up what I'm trying to do in these posts, where we compared traditional stats to advanced stats.

In the defense version, Big 12 teams emerged as the most misunderstood defenses -- traditional stats say they're awful, advanced stats say they're not. How about offenses?

Screenshot242_medium

In the chart, I plotted all 480 offense over the past 4 years in college football. A team's F/+ offensive ranking for the season they played in is listed on x-axis. Their total offense ranking (yards/game) for the same season is listed on the y-axis.

As with defense, sometimes traditional stats and advanced stats agree. When comparing the total offense and F/+ rankings for each team, a difference of 10 or fewer spots occurred about 40% of the time. Recent examples of near perfect matches:

  • 2012 Oregon: #5 in both total offense and F/+ offense ranking
  • 2012 Texas A&M: #3 in total offense and #1 in F/+
  • 2012 UCONN: #110 in total offense and #107 in F/+

In the chart, I highlighted ten extremes.

  • The 5 dots in green represent teams that are significantly better in F/+ than they are in total offense.
  • The 5 dots in red represent teams that are significantly worse in F/+ than they are in total offense.

Four out of the 5 green dots are SEC teams. This is the basically the opposite of what we discovered in the defense post with Big 12 teams. On defense, being on the field for an extra 15 snaps per game makes the traditional stats look bad - really bad in some cases. Even if you're playing good defense, yards given up on those extra snaps add up. Now that we're looking at offense, the slow-down, run-the-ball, huddle-up offenses in the SEC look worse in traditional stats than they do under the F/+ microscope. Here are the top 5 green dots:

Rk Team-Year Total Offense Rk Off F+ Rk Difference
1 LSU-2011 86 8 78
2 Florida-2012 103 32 71
3 Michigan-2012 78 16 62
4 LSU-2010 86 25 61
5 Auburn-2011 100 42 58

The average offensive plays/game for these five teams is 63.4. The NCAA average from 2009 - 2012 is 69.3. Let's look at the #1 team on the list as an example. In 2011, LSU earned just 355 yards/game, good enough for 86th in the country that season. F/+ identified LSU as the #8 offense in the country in 2011. Here's why:

  • Half of F/+ is S&P+, Bill Connelly's system. It analyzes teams using both play-by-play and drive data. S&P+ said LSU had the 8th best rushing offense and the 3rd best passing offense. The S&P+ system ranked the LSU offense #6 overall. More details here.
  • The other half of F/+ is FEI, Brian Fremeau's system. It analyzes teams using drive data. FEI wasn't quite as proud of the LSU offense as S&P+ was, ranking the Tiger offense #17 overall. While the component FEI rankings for this offense weren't outstanding in any one category (efficiency, first down rate, etc.), LSU benefited in the FEI rankings from having the 2nd most difficult schedule that any offense faced that year. After adjusting for SOS, the LSU offense was ranked #17 in the FEI system. More details here.

Let's look at the top 5 red teams.

Rk Team-Year Total Offense Rk Off F+ Rk Difference
476 La.-Monroe-2009 48 108 -60
477 Middle Tenn.-2011 45 109 -64
478 Houston-2012 15 83 -68
479 Hawaii-2009 14 86 -72
480 Middle Tenn.-2009 27 105 -78

The average offensive plays/game was 73.6 versus the NCAA average of 69.3 -- not a huge difference. Glancing at the teams, my initial guess was that the advanced stats were punishing these teams because they played relatively easy schedules. After looking at Brian Fremeau's offensive SOS rankings for each team, this suspicion was confirmed. The average offensive SOS for these five teams is 109, so even if these teams put up decent offensive numbers, the advanced stat systems didn't take them seriously.

This is just another example of another reason why you should be wary of using traditional stats. There are many things that can skew a simple yards/game measure...SOS is just one of them.

To cap this off, let's look at the top 25 in both the green and red categories.

Top 25 green teams:

Rk Team-Year Total Offense Rk Off F+ Rk Difference
1 LSU-2011 86 8 78
2 Florida-2012 103 32 71
3 Michigan-2012 78 16 62
4 LSU-2010 86 25 61
5 Auburn-2011 100 42 58
6 Kansas St.-2011 101 44 57
6 Miami (FL)-2011 70 13 57
8 Vanderbilt-2011 98 43 55
9 South Carolina-2012 82 29 53
10 Oregon St.-2010 94 43 51
10 Pittsburgh-2010 72 21 51
12 LSU-2009 112 63 49
12 Ohio St.-2009 68 19 49
14 Louisville-2011 103 55 48
14 Stanford-2012 84 36 48
16 Florida-2011 105 58 47
17 Clemson-2009 74 28 46
17 Florida St.-2010 60 14 46
17 Iowa-2009 89 43 46
20 Notre Dame-2012 54 9 45
21 LSU-2012 85 41 44
21 Navy-2009 77 33 44
21 Tennessee-2011 104 60 44
24 Louisville-2012 52 10 42
24 Ohio St.-2011 107 65 42
24 Pittsburgh-2009 52 10 42

Top 25 red teams:

Rk Team-Year Total Offense Rk Off F+ Rk Difference
457 Central Mich.-2010 50 89 -39
457 UAB-2010 30 69 -39
459 North Texas-2009 36 76 -40
459 Troy-2011 65 105 -40
461 Fresno St.-2012 16 58 -42
461 Rice-2012 44 86 -42
461 Texas-2010 58 100 -42
461 Troy-2012 11 53 -42
465 Western Mich.-2009 56 99 -43
466 UAB-2012 50 95 -45
467 Akron-2012 45 91 -46
468 New Mexico St.-2011 47 94 -47
469 Arkansas St.-2011 24 76 -52
469 Nevada-2009 2 54 -52
471 Utah St.-2009 12 65 -53
472 Troy-2009 3 57 -54
473 UAB-2009 22 77 -55
474 Toledo-2009 13 69 -56
474 Tulsa-2009 35 91 -56
476 La.-Monroe-2009 48 108 -60
477 Middle Tenn.-2011 45 109 -64
478 Houston-2012 15 83 -68
479 Hawaii-2009 14 86 -72
480 Middle Tenn.-2009 27 105 -78

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