The dynamics of college football analysis are shifting rapidly. Thanks to a number of smart individuals, we are now seeing a rapid expansion of the tools and data available for us to interact with and understand the fluid patterns of college ball. The name of the game in analytics these days is efficiency. As many of you know, Bill Connelly and folks at Football Study Hall, among others, are doing outstanding work in terms of quantifying and understanding outcomes. There is still much to be done in that vein to bring analytics to everyday fans, though, and I for one am excited to see a fan base adapt to this new information.
In that light, I wanted to look at TCU and efficiency, to understand how the Frogs did last year, and to look forward at performance this year. I thought I would indulge myself and post that investigation here. Warning. This is dense.
"I do the numbers." - Kevin Malone, Dunder Mifflin Accounting Department
I love the FEI - Fremeau Efficiency Index - which is an opponent and time adjusted measure of drive efficiency for teams. Basically, any garbage time is filtered out and opponent strength is considered. Basically, it looks at how well a team did with what it had. I looked at the data on FootballOutsiders.com for 2014 and 2015 to understand TCU's profiles as a team, to look at potential benchmarks for success in 2016. In that light, I wanted to look at TCU and efficiency, to understand how the Frogs did last year, and to look forward at performance this year. I love the FEI - Fremeau Efficiency Index - which is an opponent and time adjusted measure of drive efficiency for teams. Basically, any garbage time is filtered out and opponent strength is considered. I looked at the data on FootballOutsiders.com for 2014 and 2015 to understand TCU's profiles as a team, to look at potential benchmarks for success in 2016.
SOS: Strength of Schedule, measured as the likelihood of an elite team going undefeated against the given team's full schedule, including conference championship games and bowl games.
FBS MW: Mean Wins, the average number of games a team with the given FEI rating would be expected to win against its full schedule of FBS opponents.
OFEI: Opponent-adjusted Offensive Efficiency value generated per possession.
DFEI: Opponent-adjusted Defensive Efficiency value generated per opponent possession.
STE: Special Teams Efficiency value generated per game possession.
FVE: Field Value Efficiency value generated per game possession.
In summary, TCU overall was about 1.5 standard deviations better than average in efficiency, good enough for the top 25 in efficiency rankings. TCU has also outperformed numerical expectations over the last two seasons, and one can call to mind more than a few plays that contributed to that balance (The Miracle Catch, Boykin-to-Doctson v. KState, just to name two).
Briefly, some thoughts. We see that TCU, not accounting for the bowls, was about a game worse in 2015 than they were in 2014 (and a dubious pass interference call from it being 2 games). But you knew that. The real value of this efficiency index comes in parsing out the differences in the opponent-adjusted performance rates we see. We can compare the profiles of how well each team took care of its business. Across the board, the Frogs were marginally worse in all aspects of the game. The FEI difference of .07 is negligible, but the team was 14% less successful as a unit throughout the season, despite the fact that they played a tiny bit softer of a schedule. The 2014 team performed less than half a win better than expected with those numbers, while the 2015 team earned closer to a full win more than their performance suggested. The biggest two changes are visible when we break down the offense and defense efficiency. The Frogs were .43 worse per possession on offense in 2015, compared to 2014, but that does not tell us much on its own. Comparing that as a percentage loss, we see that the Frogs lost 72% of their 2014 offensive efficiency. Surprisingly, the 2014 team was so good, that even with that fallout, TCU had an an offense right around the top third in CFB. The defense shows a similar story, as efficiency fell by 42%. That defense, best for 4th in the nation in 2014, held up strongly in 2015, despite extensive injuries. While the 2015 defense fell to 20th in the league, they were separated from 15th ranked Michigan's defense by less than 10 points, which is pretty slim. The 2015 defense, especially when considering the obstacles placed against them, was a very efficient unit. Special teams didn't change much at all, with TCU hovering in the top 20 for both years.
And what of the future? The Frogs’ profile shouldn’t shift much, honeslty – with all the returning depth on defense, one would expect a consistent, if not slightly improved defensive effort. With offense, the ceiling for efficiency is high. Very high. It will be interesting to watch the dynamic forces on the offense coalesce, and to watch just what mosaic comes out of all these pieces thrown together.