My sports-related life changed dramatically for the better in the spring of 2005. It was then that I discovered the brilliance of Ken Pomeroy and the gospel of tempo-free statistics in basketball. Of course, the ideas utilized by Pomeroy were neither new nor unique; the true pioneers of advanced sports statistics were the sabermetricians in baseball, and Pomeroy benefited greatly from their work. Still, he has influenced the zeitgeist of sports to the point where it is not uncommon for TV commentators to reference "points per possession" or "adjusted defensive efficiency," particularly in the high-stakes games of March Madness. As the benefits of efficiency statistics have become more accepted by coaches and analysts, they have become more widely embraced by the general public.
So, what does this have to do with football? While the use of efficiency statistics in football have not yet become as far-reaching as in basketball, there are many out there fighting the good fight to provide meaningful and statistically useful analysis. Two of the best in the business are Football Outsiders and BCF Toys, and my goal is to bring you any info from their sites that is relevant to Terps football.
This may or may not become a weekly post. I'm nearly certain that there are others in the TT community better equipped to lead discussions on advanced statistics and data analysis, so I encourage constructive and enlightened criticism. All data is acquired from Football Outsiders statistics and BCF Toys projections pages unless otherwise noted. Now, on to Terps football.
Our Maryland Terrapins:
First, a quick word about the Fremeau Efficiency Index, which will be a key part of this analysis going forward:
The Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI) considers each of the nearly 20,000 possessions every season in major college football. All drives are filtered to eliminate first-half clock-kills and end-of-game garbage drives and scores. A scoring rate analysis of the remaining possessions then determines the baseline possession efficiency expectations against which each team is measured. A team is rewarded for playing well against good teams, win or lose, and is punished more severely for playing poorly against bad teams than it is rewarded for playing well against bad teams.
In the FEI, the Terps come in at a (perhaps) surprisingly high 42nd out of 124 teams in the FBS (34th percentile). For reference, Maryland finished last year ranked 81st out of 120 teams (68th percentile). While the feelings around this football team were certainly more positive this year than last, this level of efficiency is higher than even the most optimistic among us may have expected before the season.
As you could probably guess, this strong rating is due mostly to our robust defense. Our defensive efficiency is the 21st best in the country while our offensive efficiency is a meager 97th, but neither of which should come as a major surprise. This does contrast a bit with the raw data, however, in suggesting that our offense is slightly more efficient than we thought and the defense slightly less so.
Interestingly, our expected number of FBS wins for the season based on our FEI is 5.7; since this does not include William and Mary, this ratings index indicates a high probability that we win 6-7 games on the season. A reason for continued optimism, indeed.
The Virginia Cavaliers:
UVA, on the other hand, comes in ranked 96th overall in the FEI. Their defensive efficiency rank is an especially low 81st, while their offensive efficiency ranks only slightly better than ours at 95th nationally. As disoriented as UVA has looked on film, the numbers suggest they may be even worse.
Game Forecast via BCF Toys:
With a Projected Win Expectation (PWE) of 81.0%, the game prediction is...
Maryland 33 @ Virginia 17