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

No. 4 Auburn travels to Oxford to take on No. 7 Ole Miss. On the undercard, plucky South Carolina hosts scrappy Tennessee.

Stacy Revere

This weekend brings another slate of SEC games with few national implications, but Auburn heading to Ole Miss likely serves as a de facto playoff elimination game for the loser. This game also serves as a match-up between F/+ No. 1 and No. 2 teams with the winner being the favorite to earn the Adjusted Statistics Title Belt for next week. In the SEC East, South Carolina welcomes Tennessee to Columbia, and like Auburn-Ole Miss, this game will also features a great offense going against a great defense.


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 Auburn Rankings
Measurement Ole Miss Auburn
F+ Overall 1 (35.5%) 2 (35%)
F+ Offense 22 (10.1%) 3 (19.4%)
F+ Defense 2 (23.5%) 10 (14.9%)
F+ Special Teams 25 (1.9%) 50 (0.7%)
FEI Overall 7 (.246) 6 (.249)
S&P+ Overall 2 (266.5) 5 (254.9)
S&P+ Rushing Offense 50 (111.5) 8 (137)
S&P+ Rushing Defense 8 (147.5) 6 (140.7)
S&P+ Passing Offense 8 (146.8) 1 (173.2)
S&P+ Passing Defense 1 (183.1) 21 (122.7)

Both teams have high scores and are closely matched as one would expect for the top two F+ teams. Just look at the S&P+ rushing and passing match-ups. Auburn has the top ranked passing offense, and Ole Miss has the top-ranked passing defense. Auburn has the 8th best rushing offense, and Ole Miss has the 8th best rushing defense. The largest discrepancy appears to be between Auburn's run defense against Ole Miss' run game.

Ole Miss looks to bounce back from a close loss in Baton Rouge that may not have been as close as the score indicates. The Auburn offense they'll face is rated higher than the LSU team they faced last week that went for 406 yards against their vaunted defense. At the same time, this is still the Ole Miss defense that held the No.'s 1 and 11 S&P+ offenses (Alabama and Texas A&M respectively) to a combined 37 points.  We know well their potential.

Ole Miss's offense was challenged last weekend by LSU's top ten S&P+ defense. Bo Wallace only passed for an average of 5.3 yards and made a critical mistake at the end of the game. Auburn's passing defense is ranked 21st which is still very good, but lower than LSU's ranking of fifth. For perspective, Alabama's passing defense is ranked 16th, and Wallace went 18/31 and 251 yards against the Crimson Tide. Ole Miss should be able to generate more offensive production this week, according to these numbers. Ole Miss will need Wallace and his receivers though, as Auburn's defense has an advantage to stop Ole Miss' run game.

Auburn's offense has been consistently strong all season, and its defense is playing better than many thought it would at the beginning of the year. Its offense has faced tough competition against Kansas State (defense ranked 24th) and Mississippi State (ranked 9th), but it's still managed to put up points and yards in those games. Ole Miss's defense will be its toughest challenge yet. Nothing will come easy in the air or on the ground.

Both teams are evenly matched and will likely require exceptional individual performances for victory to be claimed. Nick Marshall will have to outperform the Ole Miss secondary when no one has yet this year. Bo Wallace may have to put the offense on his back, and carry them to victory with accurate passing and big plays. Either defense is capable of turning its opponents over and scoring themselves. It's hard to imagine this won't be a good game.

Tennessee and South Carolina Rankings
Measurement Tennessee South Carolina
F+ Overall 37 (9.8%) 52 (2.7%)
F+ Offense 69 (-1.7%) 7 (16.5%)
F+ Defense 22 (10%) 119 (-14.8%)
F+ Special Teams 59 (0.7%) 40 (1.0%)
FEI Overall 49 39
S&P+ Overall 30 (223.4) 44 (210.6)
S&P+ Rushing Offense 60 (104.9) 23 (123.8)
S&P+ Rushing Defense 21 (124.5) 90 (92.1)
S&P+ Passing Offense 40 (113.5) 28 (121.2)
S&P+ Passing Defense 8 (140.2) 61 (105.9)

It's interesting when FEI and S&P+ disagree. FEI ranks South Carolina higher than Tennessee, while S&P+ feels the opposite. Both systems add up to giving Tennessee the overall F+ edge. As strong as South Carolina's offense is, Tennessee's defense maybe be capable of slowing them down. Tennessee's offense has been inconsistent this season, but this week they face the SEC's worst defense.

South Carolina outperformed most expectations last week when they gave Auburn all the trouble they would want. As subpar as South Carolina's season has been for its supporters, its offense is truly a wrecking ball that won't be denied scoring somewhere in the thirties. Too bad it's defense is determined to allow opposing offenses do the same. One could possibly argue that South Carolina's offense had not had that kind of production against elite competition, but that argument may be void after scoring 35 on Auburn.

Tennessee is likely better than its 3-5 record suggests. Four of its five losses have come against Top 12 teams, and it's their scheduling misfortune that on the same year they face Ole Miss and Alabama out of the SEC West they also play Oklahoma. Has the first half of the schedule hardened them, and they're now ready to cut through the softer back-end of their schedule? Likely new starter Joshua Dobbs played well against Alabama last week without two of his offensive line starters, and will probably continue his good play against South Carolina's defense. If Tennesse can pair an efficient offense with its already strong defense, it could win on Saturday and maybe the three games following too.