FPA: another reason why Georgia is doomed in 2010

I’ve really been digging into the statistical analysis that Football Outsiders‘ Bill Connelly and Brian Fremeau have done with their 2010 College Football Almanac (a bargain that you can download for a mere five bucks, by the way).

One metric they’ve devised that’s gotten my attention – and you’ll see why in a minute – is something they call Field Position Advantage (FPA).  Basically, they’ve determined the scoring value of every yard line on the field (how much an average offense can be expected to score against an average defense from that place).  They then take a measure of a team’s entire set of offensive series for each game over the season and factor in non-offensive scoring.  For a particular game, the sum of each team’s scoring value is combined and the ratio of one team’s scoring value to the total is FPA.

As they put it,

… FPA is a description of which team controlled field position in the game and by how much.  Two teams that face equal team position over the course of a game will each have an FPA of .500.  Winning the field position battle is quite valuable.  College football teams that play with an FPA over .500 win two-thirds of the time.  Teams that play with an FPA over .600 win ninety percent of the time.

You can see where I’m heading with this, can’t you, Dawg fans?  Here’s a stat that quantifies a lot of stuff that drove us nuts last year:  turnover margin, penalties, directional kicking, Logan Gray fair catches… you name it.  It’s kind of like a Unified Theory of Mediocrity.  (It’s also going to account for positives like Boykin’s returns and Butler’s net punting work.)

And when you look at the FPA rankings for the SEC last season, it confirms your worst suspicions.  [Note:  Numbers in parenthesis are national standings.]

  • Florida, 0.547 (11)
  • LSU, 0.537 (15)
  • Alabama, 0.527 (23)
  • Arkansas, 0.523 (29)
  • Kentucky, 0.517 (35)
  • Tennessee, 0.509 (45)
  • Vanderbilt, 0.509 (45)
  • Mississippi State, 0.504 (56)
  • Auburn, 0.499 (62)
  • Mississippi, 0.494 (65)
  • South Carolina, 0.476 (89)
  • Georgia, 0.466 (104)

Not pretty.  But not in the least bit surprising, either.

I pestered Bill for some specific context on Georgia’s FPA.  He was kind enough to respond by e-mail with this:

Here’s a little chart showing how teams in different FPA ranges tend to fare in terms of win percentage:

FPA Range BCS  Teams Non-BCS ALL
.400 to .429 0.226 0.205 0.212
.430 to .459 0.303 0.285 0.293
.460 to .489 0.473 0.378 0.421
.490 to .519 0.559 0.484 0.526
.520 to .549 0.695 0.615 0.672
.550 to .589 0.730 0.750 0.738

Extremely linear, which is always what you want to see when talking about the legitimacy of a measure.  Basically BCS teams falling into Georgia’s range (.460 to .489) usually have about a .473 win percentage, which is about 5.6 wins over a 12-game season. [Emphasis added.] Of the ten BCS teams who have had an FPA between .460 and .470 in the last three years, only two had winning records (Georgia 2009 and NC State 2007) and six went 4-8 or worse (Colorado 2009, Purdue 2008, Iowa State 2007, Indiana 2008, Syracuse 2009, Texas A&M 2008).  It is VERY rare for a good team to be that bad in terms of Field Position Advantage.

You can look at this data in one of two ways:  either the Dawgs overachieved last season, or they were a talented bunch that dragged themselves down because they didn’t do a lot of the little things well (or did some of them stupidly, if you prefer).  I lean towards the latter, not because I’m being a homer, but because I have a hard time putting a Martinez-coached defense and overachievement in the same thought pattern.

Now, Bill is careful to warn that you can’t read too much into FPA – specifically, that it’s not a very predictive tool going from one season to the next.  Given that turnover margin is generated fairly randomly year to year, that makes a good deal of sense.

Even so, if you think about a few things going for Georgia in 2010, such as swapping Jon Fabris for Warren Belin on special teams, an easier schedule and our old buddy regression to the mean, it’s hard not to see an improvement coming in FPA.  If the offense and defense do no better than hold their ground from last season, that would still indicate a decent possibility that better days lie ahead in the won/loss department.  At least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it for now.



Filed under Georgia Football, Stats Geek!

23 responses to “FPA: another reason why Georgia is doomed in 2010

  1. Brandon

    Very interesting indeed, field position and turnovers there’s a reason why almost all coaches harp on it, its pretty darn important. The only way you can make up for it is by having a great defense.


  2. Cooper

    Great article! I am a huge believer in numbers and FPA is a great set. I believe that with an unexperienced QB, a new D, and several coaches cutting their teeth in the SEC, we are headed for a season similiar to 2009. This stat only adds to my theory. Thanks for confirming that my liver will take another pounding this season! GATA Dawgs!


    • JC in Powder Springs

      Coop, you could just as easily spin it the other way. I see 10 starters returning on O, including probably the deepest O-line CMR’s had at UGA. I see arguably the best kicking game in cfb. I see an aggressive D coming in to replace a complacent, poorly coached unit. Add in the Senator’s comment about an easier schedule. Finally, throw in a huge loss of talent at other sec-east schools (Berry, Williams, GPOOE, Haden, Pouncey, Dunlap, Cunningham, Spikes, Norwood, Peters, etc.). What did Dawgs loose? Curran, Cox and a few D starters who had poor or mediocre seasons in ’09. You can count on ’10 being much better.


    • Macallanlover

      Interesting, these numbers represent another measuring stick that a large majority of posters here use as a reason for optimism as things cannot possibly be that bad again (can they?), but you use to validate your feelings of pessimism. Not saying everyone doesn’t have a right to different perspectives, just that the exact statistics can be used to validate opposing viewpoints.

      I hear your words of caution, and will sweat every approaching contest with you, but I come down on the side of those who feel this is a positive indicator for UGA’s fortunes in 2010.


  3. Scorpio Jones, III

    uhhhhh OK, but Bama had a lower FPA than two teams they beat soundly.

    Please explain that.

    (I found a major with little or no math requirement.)


    • ‘Bama was frickin’ good on offense and defense last year. Take a look at FO’s numbers for the 2009 Tide:

      No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide

      2009 Record (Conference): 14-0 (8-0 SEC)
      2009 Ranks: 1st F/ | 1st FEI | 1st S&P+
      2009 Offensive Ranks: 4th F/ | 6th FEI | 5th S&P+
      2009 Defensive Ranks: 1st F/ | 1st FEI | 1st S&P+

      You can go to the website to get a detailed breakdown on the definitions there, but what they’re telling you is that Alabama was efficient and explosive on both sides of the ball, especially on defense. That carries more statistical weight than FPA does.

      Here’s what Bill said about that in an e-mail to me:

      … I love FPA, by the way…it’s not really predictive, and the correlations from one season to another are not great, but it fills in all the gaps that are left by FEI and S&P+. Why was this team ranked rather high in both measures, but they only went 6-6 overall? Oh, they ranked 102nd in FPA…there you go. It’s almost like a combination of special teams prowess and your ability to do “the little things” make up FPA, and I love looking into it.


  4. Jon

    Interesting stats. It also shows the detriment of playing a bend but don’t break defense. We have allowed too many long drives that result with Logan fair catching it at the 15 yardline.


  5. Bulldog Bry

    So this confirms it. We’ve been Richard Pryor as of late. Extremely talented and capable of so much more, but constantly being pulled down by self-created issues.


  6. Go Dawgs!

    Wow. We really need to start playing football games soon.


  7. gatriguy

    One thing I take out of this is that maybe there is something to Urban’s “we’re going to treat special teams special thing.” Florida has KILLED us with field position the past two years, especially in 2008. Hopefully with Fabris gone we’ll improve, although until we get a full time ST coach, I’ll have my doubts.


  8. Ben

    If I’m reading this correctly and remembering where the Dawgs stood in terms of TO margin, we’ve basically been winning games in spite of ourselves, esp last year. By this, I mean based on these FPA values we should have won about 3 or 4 and our neighbors in the TO margin were practically winless, right?

    Now, does the fact that we’ve been winning games despite these measures lead folks to believe it’s because of the talent on the field or on the sideline?


  9. Rick

    Since Martinez was fired I haven’t seen anything positive said about his competency. That makes sense, of course, since his competency (such as it is) does us no good anymore.

    But at least give credit where credit is due. Martinez really was getting the rawest of raw deals in the Field Position department, so much so that all the talk of “games giving up 30+ points” was very misleading.

    Martinez was not a great coordinator, and I expect the new guy to be better, but nor was he awful.


  10. “Unified Theory of Mediocrity”

    I believe that merits inclusion on your lexicon page.


  11. Dawg19

    I truly believe that one of the reasons we had Logan fair-catching those balls that were close to the goal-line, was because Richt was scared to death of a fumble. He KNEW our defense wouldn’t be able to hold the other team to a field goal. How many times do you remember our defense stopping the other team from scoring a TD after we turned the ball over deep in our own territory? Not many. A big time limitation to FPA…


  12. negative ?

    Not because I am a homer…

    Now, that’s a good one Bluto.

    Yes, you are sir.

    In a big way.

    Those who call it like it IS, you call negative.

    38 games in the Coach Richt Era, we have scored no more than 2 Touchdowns and we LOST 27 of them.

    The problem is on OFFENSE, so dead set clearly, Bluto.

    Our Offense has Averaged # 52 Total Offense the Entire 9-Year Coach Richt Era.

    Our Offense the last 4 years has Averaged :
    21 fumbles a year the last 4 years in a row Avg
    14 interceptions a year last 4 yrs in a row Avg

    # 96 NCAA Penalties Average last 4 yrs Row
    # 3 Fulmer Cup Standings over last 4 yrs Row

    Our Offense is bad, because our Offense is bad.


    We have done especially poor the last 4 years having a QB prepared for the following season :

    4 losses 2006 no QB prepared
    5 losses 2009 no QB prepared
    2 losses 2010 no QB prepared ? 3 ?

    12-2 is what we should be this season playing only 1 ranked team # 5 Florida.

    Dontavius Jackson should have had more than 3 carries all season at Running Back.

    Branden Smith should have had more than 2 passes thrown to him all season.

    Marlon Brown should have had more than 2 passes thrown to him all season.

    Aron White should Not have Started every game until Game # 12, but instead obviously Orson Charles.

    We should not have waited until the 3rd Quarter of the 5th game to rip the redshirt off Running Back Washaun Ealey.

    Richard Samuel should not have been made Starter at Running Back.

    We should have had more carries by Fullbacks Shaun Chapas and Fred Munzenmaier.

    Joe Cox should not have been the only Quarterback to play against Okie State with his flu and chronic sore shoulder.

    We should not call such wimpy 3rd and long calls; the play calls were horrid and every fan at Sanford Stadium booed the play calls.

    We play Favorites on Offense.

    If Mike Bobo were a great Offensive Coordinator, Coach Richt would not have announced 7 weeks ago that he was taking over the Offense FROM Mike Bobo.

    For these reasons, we WHIFFED on Offensive All-Stars in this state in our Great Defensive Recruiting Class 2010 and sorry Offensive Recruiting Class of 2010.

    We have an equally sorry Offensive Recruiting Class 2011.

    Can you get the picture why Bluto ?

    Christian LeMay will NEVER be allowed into UGA by UGA Admissions with same offense as they DENIED Michael Grant.


  13. negative ?

    We have squandered the talent handed to us on Offense because we have failed to maintain discipline. We have a huge issue with being # 1 in the Nation Today in Fulmer Cup Standings UGA # 1.

    We made Joe Tereshinski III # 1 on the Depth Chart in 2006, Joe Cox # 2 and Matthew Stafford # 3.

    We redshirted Knowshon Moreno so we only got to see him only 2 years.

    We don’t get our best players on the field on Offense. We don’t practice the best players at the positions on Offense. They then cannot line up in a game and run a play like they have practiced it and know what they are doing without penalties. And, when they do run the play – the play is misconceived, poorly designed, played by inferior personnel to others on the team better than they, and not plays the players on the field have practiced.

    Thus we lead the nation in Arrests / Suspensions, Penalties, Interceptions and Fumbles, and have done so over ALL of the last 4 years in a row, consistently.

    Thus Coach Richt is taking over the Offense from Mike Bobo.

    We also therefore have great recruiting classes on Offense where those recruits are NOT on the roster any more.

    Now, I have heard it all. We overachieved according to you Bluto last year when we LOST 5 games. God Almighty son, do you NEVER stop and think about what you write ? Overachieved in 2009 ? What in the hell do you mean by that Bluto ? We started the season ranked # 12 and ended the season ranked # NOTHING, not ranked. How is that overachieving again ? I must have missed that somewhere, Bluto.

    Get the Picture Bluto : We did NOT overachieve 2009.

    Now, this season up-coming we should go 12-2. After this season when we lose 15 seniors and 4 or 5 juniors, there is no way in hell that we are not DOOMED in 2011.

    All these players are gone after this 2010 season :

    # 2 Depth Chart Split End Kris Durham 6′ 5″ 209
    # 1 Depth Chart Left Tackle Clint Boling 6′ 5″ 309
    # 1 Depth Chart Right Guard Chris Davis 6′ 4″ 295
    # 1 Depth Chart Right Tackle Josh Davis 6′ 6″ 300
    # 1 Depth Chart Fullback Shaun Chapas 6′ 2″ 245
    # 2 Depth Chart Left End Brandon Wood 6′ 1″ 286
    # 3 Depth Chart Nose Guard Demarcus Dobbs 6′ 2″ 274
    # 4 Depth Chart Nose Guard Kiante Tripp 6′ 6″ 275
    # 2 Depth Chart Sam Linebacker Darryl Gamble 6′ 2″ 250
    # 1 Depth Chart Mike Linebacker Akeem Dent 6′ 2″ 233
    # 3 Depth Chart Mike Linebacker Akeem Hebron 6′ 1″ 233
    # 2 Depth Chart Strong Safety Quintin Banks 6′ 2″ 213
    # 1 Depth Chart Cornerback Vance Cuff 5′ 11″ 177

    NFL Draft Eligible, high round picks :
    # 1 Depth Chart Flanker AJ Green 6′ 4″ 207
    # 1 Depth Chart Center Ben Jones 6′ 3″ 300
    # 1 Depth Chart Will Linebacker Justin Houston 6′ 3″ 259
    # 1 Depth Chart Cornerback Brandon Boykin 5′ 10″ 185 load
    These 4 are most likely gone after 2010.

    Possible NFL Draft Pick with great Junior Year 2010 :
    # 1 Depth Chart Left Guard Gordy Glenn 6′ 5″ 328
    # 1 Depth Chart Nose Guard DeAngelo Tyson 6′ 2″ 294
    # 1 Depth Chart Strong Safety Nick Williams 6′ 2″ 219
    # 2 Depth Chart Mo Linebacker Marcus Dowtin 6′ 2″ 220
    # 2 Depth Chart TE Aron White 6′ 4″ 236 might just move on
    injured Caleb King Tailback 5′ 11″ 210 not listed Depth Chart

    So, enjoy your good year this year Bluto. I will. I am looking forward to being 12-2 in 2010. It will be a nice change from our “Overachieving Year of 2009.”


  14. ugafish

    Richt never said he was taking over the O. Our O has been consistently about the same throughout the whole Richt era, but Bobo has had 2 of the best scoring O’s in the 9 years.

    NC State had a losing record in 2007, which makes UGA the only team to have a winning record with awful numbers like that.


  15. Mr. Georgia Football Returns

    I think the FPA is more accurate on Georgia than you might like it to be. Martinez was Mark Richt’s Decision and he must be held accountable for it. The FPA clearly shows Richt’s poor decision. Now he has thrown $5oo,ooo in additional salaries at the problem with the new defensive hiers and must be accountable for that as well. Big money requires big results! Mark Richt has fallen and can’t get up! He is averaging 3 conference losses per year for the last four years. How many championships can you win with three conference losses? …….NONE!


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