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Football Outsiders on the 2010 Jayhawks

With football season right around the corner, it's about time to start checking in on where different publications/blogs/people place the Jayhawks in the Big 12 pecking order.  For my part, I'm taking a look at Football Outsiders College Football Almanac and their thoughts on the team and the Big 12.  

The Outsiders focus on advanced and specialized statistics based on data from previous years. As explained at the site, there are four main ways data can be used in looking at football.  They are season data (think W/L records), game data (think pass yards per game), possession data, and play by play data.  At FO, the possession data and play by play data is the focus. Possession stats are measured with the Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI), play by play is measured with S&P Ratings.  Definitions and a look at the ratings below.


Definitions from the glossary at Football Outsiders

Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI) College football rating system created by Brian Fremeau based on measuring the success rate of a college football team scoring and preventing opponent scores during the non-garbage possessions of a game. Like DVOA, FEI rewards playing well against good teams, win or lose, and punishes losing to poor teams more harshly than it rewards defeating poor teams. Unlike DVOA, it is drive-based, not play-by-play based, and it is specifically engineered to measure the college game.

S&P: Combination of two measures, Success Rate and PPP (EqPts Per Play). S&P combines measurement of efficiency with Success Rates and explosiveness with PPP, similar to the way baseball analysts use OPS to
combine On-Base Percentage and Slugging Percentage.

Success Rate (college football): Our Varsity Numbers column calculates Success Rate for teams, not just running backs, using a set of baselines that differ slightly from our NFL Success Rates: 50% of needed yards on first down, 70% of needed yards on second down, or 100% of needed yards on third or fourth down

Equivalent Points (EqPts)
: Method used by our college football analyst Bill Connelly, giving each yard line a
point value based on the average number of points a team can expect to score from that spot on the field.  From there, each gain or loss is given a point value based on the change in EqPts.

For a more thorough explanation on these measures, Bill C explains it all very clearly over at Rock M Nation.

How does the Big 12 North look in the Almanac?

Team Mean Wins
Nebraska 9.8
Missouri 7.8
Kansas 7.4
Colorado 4.8
Kansas State 3.6
Iowa State 2.8


It's actually better than I expected.  Preseason F/+ has them as the #49 team in the country.  The offense is projected to be 42nd and the defense is projected at #54.  The schedule isn't the strongest, only ranking 89th but we aren't complaining about that this year.  The Jayhawks are also projected at 7.4 "mean wins" and between 4-5 conference wins.  From what I can tell, Kansas is getting credit for both their 5 year recruiting ranking and the easier schedule this year.  

Would anyone be unhappy with 7 wins and a close finish behind Nebraska and Missouri in the Big 12 North this season?

I also checked in with one of the writers of the Football Outsiders Almanac, Bill Connelly.  He writes for both Rock M Nation and Football Outsiders and is the man behind their play-by-play data.

1) I know the projections are based on a lot of factors but with Texas Tech being at 16 and Kansas also getting a somewhat favorable projection, how comfortable are you with these considering the coaching changes?

Honestly?  Not comfortable at all.  I'm still whittling away at the best method for accounting for coaching changes -- we can't just assume a team will get worse after a change, because many don't.  I'm not satisfied with always just pretending the change didn't happen, of course, but we're going to have to figure out how to fit teams into certain profiles (Was the coach fired? Did he to a bigger job? Was the team more or less successful than their historical profile with the last coach? Is the new coach a rookie, or does he have experience?  Et cetera.)  As it stands now, most of the teams I feel shakiest about in terms of FO projections (Tech, Kansas,Tennessee) are the ones with new coaches, and I don't think that's a coincidence.

2)  In looking at your part of the F/+, do you put more emphasis on Success Rates or EqPts? 

It's equal.  I've been tempted to give slightly more weight to EqPts, as their correlation to overall success is a smidge higher, but right now it's 50/50 between the efficiency measure (Success Rate) and the explosiveness one (PPP+).

3)  When can we expect to see a Beyond the Box Score Preview for Kansas?

Iowa State's up next -- will probably attempt to hammer that out this weekend.  After that is KU (we're going in order of Mizzou's schedule), so ... middle-to-late next week?

Thanks to Bill C for the answers and if you haven't already ordered a copy of the Football Almanac, you can order the College section for only $5 here.  Highly recommended.