Throughout this season you're going to see references from me and others around ODB to advanced football stats focusing primarily on efficiency. If you read the preview posts I wrote for SMU then you were already exposed to them somewhat through my citations to Bill Connelly's work at FootballStudyHall.com. Efficiency stats, like pace-adjusted statistics in basketball, look beyond the facile "traditional" measures like points and yardage totals to grade relative performance on a much deeper level. Pioneered by the good folks at FootballOutsider.com, including, once again, Mr. Connelly, these statistics are, in my opinion, the best way to understand how teams are actually performing at any given time. FO's three primary measures, FEI, S&P+, and the combination of the two, F/+, measure each team's efficiency in all three phases of the game in a way that is both easy to understand and comparable across teams that haven't even played each other. FEI focuses on drives in each game while S&P+ looks at each play for situation and result. As the season goes on and we have access to more information, these stats become even more reliable.
I didn't put up this post to explain how these stats work on a detailed level. I couldn't do that even if I wanted to. Besides, each has their own page linked above that do the job more than admirably. Instead, I wanted to make you aware of their existence before talking about what they say, albeit in extremely limited sample sizes, about the 2012 Baylor Bears so far.
To reiterate, one game is not enough information to draw meaningful conclusions about the course of an entire season. The information we have is so limited, in fact, that Bill's baby S&P+ has not yet posted its first week. Bill says that should happen tomorrow. One game is enough, however, to draw conclusions about that one game. And what we see from the Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI) is that if you thought Baylor was good against SMU, you were wrong. Baylor was great. And, surprisingly enough, it was great across the board.
The first thing you should notice about the current FEI rankings is that they don't line up with the efficiency scores actually represented. That's because, with so little 2012 information to go on at this point, preseason projections factor heavily into the aggregate rankings. As we progress through the season and the information base builds, the impact of those projections will lessen until they eventually don't matter at all.
The reason that matters to you is that without those projections, Baylor would top this chart after its first game against SMU. Stated differently, Baylor had the single highest game efficiency score in all of college football last weekend (FEI only includes FBS teams playing other FBS teams, Oklahoma State). Baylor played more efficiently against SMU in all three phases than any other FBS team against any other FBS team in Week 1.
When I told you in my statistical review on Tuesday that Baylor was efficient on offense compared to 2011, I wasn't lying. FEI agreed completely, ranking us fourth this past week behind only West Virginia, Nebraska, and Louisville. It sounds conceited to say, but after looking at the statistics, I honestly did expect this kind of lofty ranking. Baylor was really, really good on offense against SMU. Once the specific offensive statistics go up-- again, hopefully tomorrow-- we should know more about why. Look out for that.
The defensive efficiency rating, on the other hand, made my jaw drop to the table. According to FEI, Baylor ranked seventh in Week 1 in defensive efficiency. Only Connecticut, USC, BYU, Oklahoma, Michigan State, and Illinois did better. Think about that for a second. The yardage SMU put up against us says our defense didn't do that well. FEI says differently. Because FEI understands the multiplicative effect of pace. Again, we'll know more when we get access to specific defensive statistics. I'm going to go write Bill C. an angry email.
Even more shocking than that of our defense, at least to me, was our rating in FPA (Field Position Advantage), the stand-in for special teams. We were 11th. In an area where Art Briles teams notoriously struggle, we didn't against SMU. In fact, we excelled. And, in reviewing the game film again, it actually matches up with what I observed. The change in kickoff rules helped us keep SMU at or inside the 25-yard line on every kickoff. Aside from the first, our punts were all either well-placed (when booming it wasn't an option) or well-struck (when it was). We didn't have any turnovers that gave SMU short fields.
Baylor wasn't just good against SMU, it was great. Sure, it's only one game and the information could flip entirely the next time we look, but it's better to be ranked highly than lowly, right?