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Michigan State Spartans Football: The Best and Worst of the Dantonio Era

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Joe tells you some stuff you already knew

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Recently, NCAA Football analytics guru Brian Fremeau made his game-by-game FEI data available here (seriously, you should check out his site). Fremeau has made that data available back through 2007. To me, this was a perfect opportunity to re-live the best and worst of the Mark Dantonio era. From Fremeau himself:

GFEI Game Ratings are the opponent-adjusted single game data used to produce overall FEI team ratings. Adjustments factor in home field advantage and the strength of the opponent. Each team table includes the rating (FEI) and rank of each FBS opponent, plus the game location (Site) and final outcome. The non-garbage game results -- points scored (PF), points allowed (PA), and possessions (Po) -- are used to produce unadjusted game efficiency (GE) data. Game ratings include the national rank and percentile (Pct) of each game performance.

TL;DR: Game Efficiency (GE) is the raw score for a game based on roughly on score and possessions. Game FEI (GFEI) adjusts for opponent strength. Ranks and percentiles based upon all games played. Also, there are no FCS games.

One way to determine the best games of the Dantonio era would be to look at the most dominating wins, based upon Game Efficiency. Here are those:

Most Dominant Wins of the Dantonio Era

It was a little surprising to me that the top two came against Big Ten opponents. But the rest of the list is pretty boring; just shellackings of bad teams.

The better way to view the best games of the Dantonio era is by using Game FEI. Here they are:

Best Performances of the Dantonio Era

This list starts out as expected, with the Rose Bowl win and the Big Ten Championship in 2013. But the loss to Oregon slides in at third and the win against Michigan in 2011 tops Rocket. Then two dominant wins against overmatched Big Ten opponents top a trio of games against Wisconsin. And the Cotton Bowl win is nowhere on the list!

To be fair, the Cotton Bowl win is actually #11. It's interesting to see that games against #RealRival Wisconsin make up 40% of the list. And totally dominant wins against Big Ten opponents shouldn't be overlooked. Still, a little different list that I would've expected.

It also makes sense that a couple losses snuck into the Top 10, especially against FEI Top-5 Opponents away from home. Oregon actually turned out to be a much stronger FEI #3 in 2014 than Stanford was in 2013. The games against Oregon and Ohio State in 2014 were the two most difficult games of the Dantonio era, per FEI.

Because I'm a masochist, I also wanted to look at the worst games in the Dantonio era. So, like with wins, we could take a look at the worst shellackings based upon Game Efficiency:

Least Competitive Losses in the Dantonio Era

And while these games sucked (what happened in those two 2011 games, anyways?) they don't encapsulate the truly worst performances of the Dantonio Era. Those turn out to be mostly wins:

Worst Performances in the Dantonio Era

This looks right to me. The first two games of 2013 were horrendous, and I thought that it was possible that MSU team would lose to Youngstown State in Week 3. The 2010 Purdue game was inexplicably exhilarating; my lasting memory of that game will always be that my friends all removed their shirts in the student section despite the late November cold (and clearly spurred the comeback). The "next question" Eastern game makes a richly deserved appearance. And the "Neutral" game against Florida Atlantic in 2010 at Ford Field remains one of the weirdest games I've ever seen. Howard Schnellenberger admitted that FAU should've tried to score a touchdown while down 16 in the fourth quarter. Instead, they opted for a short field goal.

It's funny that only one loss sneaks into this list. And though it was before my time at MSU, it was certainly terrible.

With my masochism established, I decided to also take a look at the "best" losses in the Dantonio era. As in, the best performances in losses:

Best Performances in Losses in the Dantonio Era

This list hurts to look at. Like, really hurts. Just ugh. I'm sorry I did this.

Anyways, I think this data is awesome (other than that last table. I'm so sorry). Look for more posts using GFEI data in the lead-up to the season.