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SEC Football: Previewing Ole Miss-LSU and South Carolina-Auburn With Adjusted Stats

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LSU-Ole Miss should make for a great game. Can South Carolina-Auburn be the same?

Stacy Revere

There are not a lot of great SEC games this weekend, with the exception of the Ole Miss Rebels traveling to Baton Rouge. Beyond that, I think every game features a double digit favorite. Proper perspective may be needed: we college football nerds would gladly take this slate of games in the lonely offseason, right? Another game with a bit of intrigue is South Carolina traveling to Auburn. How much better has South Carolina gotten in the last two weeks, and can their highly efficient offense carry them to victory? This game will serve as the last opportunity for the SEC East to defeat a SEC West team this regular season.

Let's break down the F/+ numbers to see how these teams match up. F/+ rankings are comprised of the S&P+ ratings and the FEI ratings. This is how those ratings are described:

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 for additional use.

Lastly, the F/+ percentage ratings measure every team against a perfectly average team. So, if the F/+ rating of a team is 0 percent, that team is considered perfectly average by this rating system.

Ole Miss and LSU Rankings
Measurement Ole Miss LSU
F+ Overall 1 (37.6%) 27 (17.1%)
F+ Offense 19 (12.6%) 42 (4.6%)
F+ Defense 4 (22.2%) 31 (7.4%)
F+ Special Teams 22 (2.7%) 4 (5.1%)
FEI Overall 6 (.249) 50 (.057)
S&P+ Overall 2 (277.1) 14 (248.3)
S&P+ Rushing Offense 31 (119.6) 26 (121.3)
S&P+ Rushing Defense 5 (147.5) 21 (122.6)
S&P+ Passing Offense 5 (152.5) 20 (126.4)
S&P+ Passing Defense 2 (181.9) 12 (136.1)

Ole Miss appears to have a thorough advantage over LSU with the exception of special teams. LSU does have the 21st ranked S&P+ Rushing Defense compared to Ole Miss' 31st ranked S&P+ Rushing Offense. LSU's 12th ranked Passing Defense could also pose some problems for Ole MIss' 5th ranked Passing Offense. Outside of its defense and special teams, though, LSU looks to be relying on the magic of Tiger Stadium on Saturday nights to pull off this win.

LSU's pro-style offense features several great running backs. Leonard Fournette gets the headlines, but Terrence Magee is equally dangerous if not more so this season. Last week against Kentucky, for example, Magee went for over 200 yards of total offense. It's passing game is rated 20th—which may surprise LSU fans—but does have the potential to fulfill its ranking with the always dangerous Travin Dural out wide. Against Kentucky, LSU effectively used dump-off passes to Magee in space and he made defenders miss. He'll have a harder time doing that against the Rebels' back seven.

Ole Miss will come to the bayou with a team that hasn't had a close game in three weeks. They are thoroughly beating the teams they should which speaks to their coaching and mental make-up. It's been several weeks since anyone made a unironic Dr. Bo joke given he's almost eclipsed 2,000 yards passing along with 17 touchdowns. Against LSU, he'll be needed yet again because the Ole Miss rushing offense will be challenged by LSU's front seven. LSU also has several quality defensive backs, but Laquon Treadwell, Vince Sanders, Cody Core, and Evan Engram will probably win more than their fair share of battles in passing downs.

LSU's young team has improved as the season has progressed. They are extremely talented, and probably just needed some game experience to hone their skills. The stats indicate this game should be a physical, defensive game. Ole Miss' defense is playing so well that the team probably only needs one or two big plays from its offense to take and maintain the lead. This game looks to have a distinct Ole Miss edge.

Auburn and South Carolina Rankings
Measurement Auburn South Carolina
F+ Overall 5 (29.3%) 41 (9.3%)
F+ Offense 7 (15.5%) 5 (16.8%)
F+ Defense 18 (11.6%) 89 (-6.8%)
F+ Special Teams 25 (2.3%) 76 (-0.7%)
FEI Overall 11 (.228) 33 (.087)
S&P+ Overall 4 (260) 39 (223.5)
S&P+ Rushing Offense 6 (140.5) 14 (130.1)
S&P+ Rushing Defense 12 (135.8) 80 (96.3)
S&P+ Passing Offense 1 (175) 32 (120.2)
S&P+ Passing Defense 15 (133.2) 68 (103.2)

South Carolina's season may have gotten a slight reprieve the last two weeks but now faces an Auburn team coming off a bye week. The stats indicate South Carolina's offense should have some opportunities against Auburn's defense - most likely running the ball. If South Carolina can successfully run the ball and bleed the clock, that could minimize Auburn's possessions.

That would be a major help to South Carolina's struggling defense. South Carolina's defense is taking on a huge challenge this week. Nick Marshall is a threat to run or throw the ball, and Auburn still has a top ten S&P+ Rushing Offense despite not running the ball as well as they did last year. Auburn's top-ranked S&P+ Passing Offense will likely find success against South Carolina's passing defense.

South Carolina's offense probably scores points on Saturday, but its defense will need to force turnovers to keep the Gamecocks in the game. South Carolina's 89th ranked F+ defense is far worse than the Louisiana Tech (ranked 54th) and San Jose St. (ranked 62nd) that Auburn scored 45 and 59 points on respectively. The Gamecocks offense did score 20 points against a Missouri defense ranked 8th in F+ Defense, but it looks like they'll need even more points this Saturday to pull off this upset.