College Football 365 2018 Preview: Understanding How We Measure Offensive and Defensive Efficiency

Evaluating offensive efficiency ratings for all power five teams.


Please also see our Experience Matters evaluation as we provide an overview of all power five teams returning starters in 2018.


There are a lot of options in the analytics industry that map out offensive/defensive efficiency. The list includes the likes of Football Outsiders S&P, ESPN FPI, and Pro Football Focus.


The Football Scout 365 approach to measuring offensive efficiency uses two numbers and simple division. We take the total points scored by a total teams offense, or defense and divide that number by the total number of yards gained. This approach of measuring offensive efficiency was pioneered by TIM Chou at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in 2013. Chou, who is also a football coach, explained at the 2013 conference his ideology on measuring a teams efficiency as a way to identify how many yards it takes a team to score a single point.


"Instead of using misleading information, such as total yards or points per game, this efficiency number measures the average amount of yards an offensive team must attain in order to score a single point."
-Tim Chou


Football Scout 365 has chosen this measure as a core measure of both offensive and defensive efficiency. Moving forward our use of this metric will be used in all of our analysis involving offensive and defensive efficiency measures. Previews and every play analysis will have a blend of subjective film review included after reviewing our data.


For our preseason analysis, we are using stats from the 2017 season to measure efficiencies on both the offensive and defensive side. Because we are using last years data, we can coordinate the data with returning starters on both sides of the ball as a way to project possible success in 2018. Some teams will be harder to project than others because of the amount of returning production/starters they have for 2018, but that does not mean that we cannot be subjective in our analysis as we compare other case studies involving teams who have lost production in the past.


For example, we can look at Michigan as a blue blood program in football that lost a lot of production from 2016 and returned the second youngest roster for the 2017 season. The difference was three wins. The Wolverines were 10-3 in 2016, and only a few points away from a shot at the college football playoff. In 2017 the Wolverines finished 7-5.


Alabama who has a program that loaded with talent year in and year out, regardless of player production lost they always seem to reload. Michigan in comparison is still in the process of building their overall depth, and therefore when they lost all of that production from 2016, they were not in the same position as Alabama to reload immediately in 2017, (Harbaugh's third season), compared to Saban who is now in year 11 at Alabama.


As always, there is going to be a certain level of subjectivity when it comes to preseason evaluations. Our goal is to let the data do more talking than the analyst to be as objective as possible.


The below charts represent the top ten power five conferences run/pass game offenses, and defenses from the 2017 college football season. Our preseason analysis will utilize our core efficiency stats in combination with returning starters to gauge what teams have the best opportunity for success in 2018. We plan to also look at other measures, such as turnover margin, 3rd down efficiency, red zone efficiency, penalties, and individual player stats. In the weeks and months leading up to the college football season, you will begin to see single team analysis with these metrics as well as many more as we preview the 2018 season.


Top Ten Power Five Teams Passing Offensive and Defensive Efficiency




Top Ten Power Five Teams Run Game Offensive and Defensive Efficiency




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