SMU @ Tulane – Analysis, and Prediction – 11/17/2022

College football Week 12 continues Thursday, 11/17/2022, with an AAC matchup as the Mustangs of SMU head to New Orleans to tussle with the Tulane Green Wave.

Enough with the #MACtion (which was excellent btw), we’re onto a slightly better conference with the American being the only show in town for college football. I decided to compare the teams with a bunch of analytics to see if anything stood out. Maybe make a spread or total pick. Who knows?

Pretty sure all of these numbers are public. Most of them are found here: Football Outsiders

You may notice a lot of weird letters and have no clue what they mean. Me too. The most important, I think, is Fremeau Efficiency Index, or FEI. This rating is opponent-adjusted possession efficiency data representing the per-possession scoring advantage a team would be expected to have on a neutral field against an average opponent.) As you can see in the above chart, only two teams come between Tulane and SMU in FEI. (For more on each acronym, I highly encourage you to visit the link above the chart — fine, I’ll put it here again — to learn more.)

The Overall FEI Verdict: Small edge to Tulane.

Next up is digging a little deeper into FEI. Grabbing each team’s offense and defense FEI ratings, then comparing. I think it’s clear that SMU has a good offense (19th in FBS) and Tulane has a good defense 29th in FBS). However, Tulane has a decent offense (40th) and SMU has a poor defense (95th). Seems like it will be fun to watch SMU on offense vs. Tulane’s defense, with that being each team’s stronger side of the ball. Meanwhile, Tulane should do well against the worst of the four units, the SMU defense. Again, this is all just one metric, FEI. Just trying to start to paint a little picture here and see what we find. (side note: I have no clue what DE, RD, VD, etc. mean… once again I am asking you to visit the link above if you’re so inclined.)

The Off. and Def. FEI Verdict: Edge to Tulane

I’m going to choose to ignore special teams because each team is within a 0.3 standard deviation of 0. It just seems like to me that special teams won’t affect the outcome hardly at all. If this game comes down to special teams, please let me know how dumb these sentences were here (Halftime with Hambone Twitter).

Special Teams Verdict: slight edge to Tulane

My favorite number here is SP+. As explained here, SP+ ratings are tempo- and opponent-adjusted measures of college football efficiency based on play-by-play and drive data designed to be predictive and forward-facing. This shows that the teams are a little further apart than just the four ranking difference in FEI.

SP+ Verdict: Edge to Tulane … by 3.4

With all of the data above, I am going to pick SMU +3.5 on the spread.

I know it seems rather counter-intuitive given that Tulane has, at minimum, a small edge in each category provided. However, this feels like the right line and it even opened up at Tulane -4.5 (via Vegas Insider). The fact that it moved a point toward SMU is a positive in taking the Mustangs, I think. Of course, if Tulane wins by 4 points exactly you will be salty.

Final Score Prediction: Tulane 31, SMU 28

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