Kentucky Football: F/+ Breakdown of UK vs Vanderbilt

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

How does F/+ advanced statistics see the UK-Vandy match-up?

Background

FEI is the Fremeau Efficiency Index, created by Brian Fremeau. Fremeau is an author at Football Outsiders, ESPN and BCFToys. FEI is an advanced statistical measure for college football that tracks drive efficiency instead of per-play success.

S+P is created by Bill Connelly. Connelly is an author at SBNation, RockMNation, Football Study Hall and Football Outsiders. S+P is an advanced statistical measure which combines success rate, explosiveness per play and opponent adjustments.

The combination of these two ranking systems provides the F/+ ranking.

This is how Fremeau and Connelly describe their rankings:

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 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.

The S&P+ Ratings are a college football ratings system derived from both play-by-play and drive data from all 800+ of a season's FBS college football games (and 140,000+ plays). There are four key components to the S&P+

If interested, here is a glossary that might be helpful. Lastly, keep in mind that the F/+ percentage ratings measure every team against a perfectly average team. So, if the F/+ rating of a team is 0% that team is considered perfectly average by this rating system.

The F/+ and S&P+ View

OVERALL

When UK Has the ball...

When Vandy has the ball...

Category

UK

Vandy

UK Off

Vandy Def

UK Def

Vandy Off

F/+ Rk (Overall)

91 (-12.2%)

45 (7.2%)

F/+ Rk (Off.)

52 (2.8%)

41 (5.3%)

F/+ Rk (Def)

114 (-14.5%)

63 (-0.5%)

F/+ Rk (Spec Teams)

80 (-0.5%)

19 (2.5%)

S&P+ Rk (Overall)

67 (201.9)

63 (204.9)

53 (103.8)

58(105.2)

85 (98.1)

62 (99.6)

Rushing S&P+ Rk

19 (120.9)

85 (94.5)

92 (91.7)

84 (95.1)

Passing S&P+ Rk

62(100.4)

30 (115.5)

60 (101.2)

60 (101.8)

Vanderbilt is better than UK in all three phases of the game, according to F/+. While the offenses are ranked pretty similarly (UK ranked 52nd and Vandy ranked 41st) there is a huge disparity between defenses (UK 114th to Vandy 63rd) and special teams (UK 80th to Vandy 19th). Yet, the S&P+ rankings show the teams are evenly matched ranking UK 67th and Vandy 63rd. Is there more to this?

UK's overall offense, ranked 53rd, matches up evenly against Vandy's overall defense which is ranked 58th, but UK has a distinct advantage in S&P+ rushing offense against Vandy's rushing defense. If the game performance bears out the advanced statistics this is huge for UK as the team cannot currently rely on its passing game to win SEC games. This is even truer against Vandy's passing defense which S&P+ ranks as the 30th best in the country. It continues to be the case that UK's offense must be successful on standard downs. If UK's opponent knows UK is in a passing down there is a very significant chance that UK will not convert. Vandy's passing defense did allow University of Florida's maligned quarterback Tyler Murphy to throw for a career high of 297 yards last Saturday, so there is a ray of hope, if you decide to overlook the fact Vandy caused Murphy to commit four turnovers in the process.

UK should be able to run the ball successfully against Vandy. The problem will once again be converting third downs and extending drives. UK's offensive line will face a reprieve this week in that Vandy's defensive line will not be as good as Missouri's, but systemic problems with the offensive line won't disappear. Whitlow will likely get a lot of carries because he is UK's most dynamic ball carrier, and if Ryan Timmons is back from injury he along with Javess Blue will make UK's offense more dynamic on sweeps and screens. Passing for major yards against Vandy will be a challenge, according to these numbers.

Vandy's overall offensive ranking of 62nd is one of the worst UK will face this season in the SEC. Vandy's rushing attack - featuring a running back by committee - is only slightly better than UK's rush defense. I expect Jerron Seymour to get the majority of carries, but UK shouldn't sleep on Brian Kimbrow who is averaging almost as many yards/per carry as Seymour with significantly fewer carries. Luckily for UK, Vandy's all-time leading rusher Zac Stacy is now playing for the St. Louis Rams.

Vandy's passing offense is currently ranked 60th which matches perfectly against UK's passing defense which is ranked 60th as well. Vandy has one of the best receivers in the college game this season. His name is Jordan Matthews and he owns the SEC record for most career receiving yards. His abilities cannot be understated and will be another challenge for UK's secondary, especially in third down situations. Vandy's second leading receiver is Jonathan Krause, but he has been injured the past few weeks with leg injury. It is currently unknown if he'll play, and if he doesn't it will allow UK to do more double-coverage against Matthews.

Vandy's quarterback will be back-up Patton Robinette. Last week against Florida he went 6-for-12 and 57 yards passing which obviously doesn't seem threatening. The week prior he threw 2 interceptions against Texas A&M. . Robinette seems to have a tendency to hold onto the ball too long, and there should be opportunities for UK's defensive linemen to earn some sacks. Robinette will likely be helped out with a conservative game plan that focuses on the running game, and getting the ball to Matthews.

Comparing Track Records

UK's Performances

Opponent

Off. S&P+

Def. S&P+

Outcome

Florida

95 (87.2)

11 (135.8)

7-24 (L)

South Carolina

21 (117.5)

19 (123.5)

28-35 (L)

Missouri

14 (121.0)

14 (128.7)

17-48 (L)

Miss. State

58 (101.7)

26 (119.8)

22-28 (L)

Vanderbilt's Performance

Opponent

Off. S&P+

Def S&P+

Outcome

Florida

95 (87.2)

11 (135.8)

34-17 (W)

South Carolina

21 (117.5)

19 (123.5)

25-35 (L)

Missouri

14 (121.0)

14 (119.7)

28-51 (L)

Texas A&M

4 (138.4)

68 (103.0)

24-56 (L)

The above chart illustrates the outcomes of Vanderbilt's and UK's common opponents. Both teams were competitive against South Carolina and neither was competitive against Missouri. Vandy beat Florida last week unlike UK, but "the difference in the game was turnovers" and causing three within your opponent's 20-yard line erases most statistical deficits. Also included in the chart are Mississippi State and Texas A&M due to their similarities to UK (MSU to UK's offense, and A&M has the nearest match of UK's defense Vandy has played). Using only these charts, Vandy should score 28-42 points, and UK should score in the 24-35 point range.

Vandy has been outscored 34-85 in the first quarter this season, and UK could take advantage as they have averaged about a touchdown in the first quarter this season. Nonetheless, no lead is safe against Vandy as they rallied against Georgia and had a strong second quarter after falling behind early against Texas A&M. Additionally, UK has been very good about not turning the ball over this season, and aside from the Florida game, Vandy is not especially good at causing turnovers. Vandy's special teams have been exceptional this year, and it's also been strength for UK, but UK's special teams must be better than last week despite the injuries for this game to be close.

TL;DR

So is this the week UK earns a SEC victory? Quite possibly. Vegas currently has Vandy as a 12.5 point favorite, and that seems too high. UK's offense matches up favorably with Vandy's defense, and Vandy's offense will be one of the least efficient UK faces all year but will still employ Jordan Matthews. Turnovers, special teams, and big-time players making big-time plays will make the difference. This game likely has a 3-10 point difference, and should be competitive until the end.

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