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2012 Team Profiles: Time To Set The Template

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As amazing as it sounds, 2012 team profiles are not that far off on the horizon. There are, after all, 124 of them to do now with the addition of UTSA, Texas State, UMass and (provisionally) South Alabama to the FBS masses. But before I go down that road, it's time to play with last year's template.

Below is an example of the data associated with last year's previews. I chose Minnesota at random. Let's look at each section, what could/should be discarded, and what could/should be added.

(And yes, the "2010 Season Set To Music" section is cut. My iPod can't take another year of that.)

2010 Schedule & Results*

This was, obviously, the "season in review" portion. I included the week-to-week Adj. Score progression, along with quick comparisons of record to Adj. W-L and offense/defense rankings to Adj. Yardage. The goal was to give you a visual look at the team's in-season progression and show what the difference can be between raw numbers and opponent-adjusted ones.

Record: 3-9 | Adj. Record: 4-8 | Final F/+ Rk**: 77
Date Opponent Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L
2-Sep at Middle Tennessee 24-17 W 33.4 - 38.9 L
11-Sep South Dakota
38-41 L 29.1 - 46.9 L
18-Sep USC 21-32 L 18.1 - 30.8 L
25-Sep Northern Illinois 23-34 L 32.5 - 30.2 W
2-Oct Northwestern 28-29 L 30.3 - 36.1 L
9-Oct at Wisconsin 23-41 L 32.7 - 31.9 W
16-Oct at Purdue 17-28 L 15.7 - 37.1 L
23-Oct Penn State 21-33 L 22.7 - 31.8 L
30-Oct Ohio State 10-52 L 19.2 - 35.7 L
6-Nov at Michigan State 8-31 L 16.7 - 25.1 L
13-Nov at Illinois 38-34 W 30.0 - 29.2 W
27-Nov Iowa 27-24 W 31.8 - 15.3 W
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
Points Per Game 23.2 89 33 98
Adj. Points Per Game 26 69 32.4 101


For both offense and defense, I was pretty happy with the amount of information provided in a short burst of graphics/tables. It was important to me to provide as much about a team's personality as possible, so I showed pace data, variability, and run-pass ratios for standard downs, passing downs and the red zone. For a reminder about Variability, click here.

I looked at teams' run-pass splits when ahead big and down big, when tied, ahead a little and behind a little, and when placed in different quadrants of the field. If you ran 10% more than average when up big, did you run 10% more than average when down big? At your 15 or your opponent's 15? Some teams were incredibly consistent. When losing by a little, Iowa State ran the ball 12% more than the national average on standard downs; when winning by a little, they ran the ball 14% more than the national average on passing downs. When between their 26 and midfield, they ran 11% more than the national average on standard downs. Et cetera. Their standard deviation from category to category was minuscule.

Category S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
OVERALL 54 69 48
RUSHING 61 61 66 Adj. Line Yards:
PASSING 51 84 33 56
Standard Downs 68 79 71 Adj. Sack Rate:
Passing Downs 33 50 17 26
Redzone 86 78 82
Q1 Rk 86 1st Down Rk 67
Q2 Rk 58 2nd Down Rk 57
Q3 Rk 46 3rd Down Rk 41
Q4 Rk 37


It is more difficult to zero in on defensive "personality" without a massive charting project, but I recorded the same run-pass ratios, and three other concepts:

  • Bend-Don't-Break: This is a comparison of a team's Def. Success Rate (efficiency) to its Def. PPP (explosiveness). The higher the number, the higher percentage of a team's overall S&P was made up by success rate, i.e. the more willing a team was to sacrifice efficiency to prevent big plays. (The lower the number, the more likely a team was to take aggressive risks.)
  • Need for Blitzes: This compares a team's standard downs sack rate to its passing downs sack rate. The lower the number, the more they were able to generate pressure on standard downs, and the less need for blitzes.
  • Go After the Ball: This looks at a team's forced fumbles, interceptions and passes broken up. In other words, it looks at their ability to go after the ball. The higher the number, the more they got their hands on the football.
Category S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
OVERALL 90 61 104
RUSHING 67 30 87 Adj. Line Yards:
PASSING 110 102 110 26
Standard Downs 67 36 84 Adj. Sack Rate:
Passing Downs 115 113 117 118
Redzone 74 51 79
Q1 Rk 91 1st Down Rk 65
Q2 Rk 92 2nd Down Rk 96
Q3 Rk 53 3rd Down Rk 108
Q4 Rk 113

I might tweak the way I record some of these, but the plan for now is to incorporate these same concepts again, along with some tastes of the Covariance measure you've come to know and love.

Summary and Projection Factors

The previews wrapped up with looks at some of the general factors impacting each team's season projections. I'll be changing the recruiting data from the five-year look to the two-year look for reasons mentioned here.

For the last few years, we have incorporated recruiting rankings into our Football Outsiders Almanac projections. I have begun to realize over the last few months, however, that we may have been going about it all wrong. For the most part, we have used a weighted, five-year average of recruiting rankings, using the logic that most of your starters will have been recruited two, three, four or even five years ago, therefore their rankings are what matter the most. However, it appears that isn't necessarily the case. In general, recruiting rankings are indeed predictive, but they have a shelf life. By the time a class is four years old, their performance has trumped their potential. Classes from a while ago, therefore, should be judged by on-field performance; older recruiting rankings are no longer valid.

I might also have a better way of figuring the "Adj. TO Margin" number, but otherwise I'm good here. (Though I'm always happy to make changes based on solid requests.)

Below is a small handful of projection and change factors most pertinent to the Football Outsiders' preseason projections you will find in this summer's
Football Outsiders Almanac 2011.

Four-Year F/+ Rk 72
Five-Year Recruiting Rk 39
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin**** +2 / +1.5
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 14 (5, 9)
Yds/Pt Margin***** +3.7

So that's pretty much it. Feedback is not only welcome, but encouraged. I want this to be as informative and easy-to-understand as possible, so let me know what might be done about that. Thanks for reading!

And here is the glossary that was at the bottom of each post. Is there anything in need of adjustment?


* For more on the 'Adj. Score' and 'Adj. Record' measures below, feel free to read this Football Outsiders column. Adj. Score is a look at how a team would have performed in a given week if playing a perfectly average team, with a somewhat average number of breaks and turnovers. The idea for the measure is simple: what if everybody in the country played exactly the same opponent every single week? Who would have done the best? It is an attempt to look at offensive and defensive consistency without getting sidetracked by easy or difficult schedules. And yes, with adjusted score you can allow a negative number of points, which is strangely satisfying.

** F/+ rankings are the official rankings for the college portion of Football Outsiders. They combine my own S&P+ rankings (based on play-by-play data) with Brian Fremeau's drives-based FEI rankings.

*** What is S&P+? Think of it as an OPS (the "On-Base Plus Slugging" baseball measure) for football. The 'S' stands for success rates, a common Football Outsiders efficiency measure that basically serves as on-base percentage. The 'P' stands for PPP+, an explosiveness measure that stands for EqPts Per Play. The "+" means it has been adjusted for the level of opponent, obviously a key to any good measure in college football. S&P+ is measured for all non-garbage time plays in a given college football game. Plays are counted within the following criteria: when the score is within 28 points in the first quarter, within 24 points in the second quarter, within 21 points in the third quarter, and within 16 points (i.e. two possession) in the fourth quarter. For more about this measure, visit the main S&P+ page at Football Outsiders.

**** Adj. TO Margin is what a team's turnover margin would have been if they had recovered exactly 50 percent of all the fumbles that occurred in their games. If there is a huge difference between TO Margin and Adj. TO Margin (in other words, if fumbles and unlucky bounces were the main source of a good/bad TO margin), that suggests that a team's luck was particularly good or bad and might even out the next season.

*****Phil Steele has long tracked Yards Per Point as a means of looking at teams that were a little too efficient or inefficient the previous season. A positive Yds/Pt Margin means a team's offense was less efficient than opponents' offenses, and to the extent that luck was involved, their luck might even out the next year.