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Several Thoughts on OSU’s Advanced Metrics Heading Into the 2020 Season

All the numbas!



With the offseason in full swing, the nerd numbers are taking center stage. Most of this is the work of Bill Connelly, who is brilliant and covers college football as a whole better than anybody else I know.

Anyway, I have some thoughts on some of these figures. First let’s look at what numbers, rankings and stats we’re actually talking about.

Preseason FPI: OSU is No. 17
Preseason SP+: OSU is No. 21
Returning production: OSU is No. 9

First, let’s talk about the difference between FPI and SP+ (mostly because I always forget). Here are the definitions.

SP+ is a tempo- and opponent-adjusted measure of college football efficiency. It is not a resume ranking that gives credit for big wins or particularly brave scheduling — no good predictive system is. It is simply a measure of the most sustainable and predictable aspects of football. If you’re lucky or unimpressive in a win, your rating will probably fall. If you’re strong and unlucky in a loss, it will probably rise.

FPI is a predictive rating system designed to measure team strength and project performance going forward. The ultimate goal of FPI is not to rank teams 1 through 128; rather, it is to correctly predict games and season outcomes. If Vegas ever published the power rankings it uses to set its lines, they would likely look quite a lot like FPI.

• They’re both nerd city, but I like SP+ more, if only because Connelly invented it. Anyway, both have OSU in the 15-25 range, which I think is fair.

• The good part here is that both have only OU and Texas ahead of OSU. Obviously OU is always problematic, but Texas? Numbers can’t account for how bizarre that place has been for the last decade. There are no advanced stats for this.

• I think some of what’s going on here speaks to the fact that yes, OSU is going to be really good in the Big 12, but nationally? Well, they have almost no chance at making it to the CFP or winning it all. As good as they might be, they’re just not going to be in that elite class of teams like it feels like maybe they should be.

• Connelly has them with the 18th-ranked offense and 38th-ranked defense. That feels … about right? I could actually see the defense being a little better and the offense being slightly worse.

• Pokes got a big boost for the 2020 preseason from their final 2019 SP+ rating (see here) because of returning production. That’s one of the inputs when determining SP+.

• The stuff on returning production (read it here) is really interesting. Based on Connelly’s data, two things are actually working against OSU (again, this is one of the inputs for SP+, where OSU is No. 21). The first is that RB return yardage doesn’t matter as much as other numbers (not sure this properly measures Chuba’s value). The second is that pass defense is more important to return than the DL (OSU lost A.J. Green).

• I haven’t measured the data on all of this stuff, but what Connelly is (and others are) saying makes sense. Again, I’m not sure you can measure the value of somebody like Chuba on paper, but on the whole, OSU’s advanced metrics place them right where I think they should be heading into the upcoming season.

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