Flip the script: FSU's offense and defense about to see something different

Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

The defenses FSU's offense is about to see? Much better than what they've faced. The offenses the defense is about to play? Considerably worse than what they've gone up against to date.

The traditional numbers say that Florida State's offense has been much improved. The Seminoles are the only team in the country to put up 7.5 yards/play against D-1 opponents (yards/play is probably the best traditional measure of offense). The points are there too, as in 40 per game, 12 more than in 2011 and roughly 10 more than the excellent attacks of 2009 and 2010.

But week after week, we note a lot of mistakes in the film review that a truly great offense shouldn't be making. We also note mistakes made by the opposing defense.

And I wonder, maybe you do too, just how good this offense really is?

As the weeks roll on, we're able to get into the use of advanced metrics -- measures that take into account things like garbage time, opponent quality, field position, number of plays, etc.

And a lot of these factors are very important when evaluating Florida State's offense.

For starters, consider that Florida State, despite playing a fairly standard (read: not up-tempo) pace, gets a lot of bites at the apple because its tremendous defense gets the ball back to Manuel's crew with a quickness. That defense also provides very good field position more often than not. Those are two advantages for this 2012 offense. In the past (2010 and especially 2009) they were weaknesses and served to hide just how efficient Florida State's excellent attack was.

Perhaps more tempering of the enthusiasm, however, is the awful slate of defenses faced by the Seminoles to date. Brian Fremeau's system (@BCFremeau) says that Florida State's offense has faced the 118th-toughest slate of defenses to date. There are only 124 teams in D-1. 118th out of 124.

Things are about to get a lot tougher, however, as the 118th set is behind FSU's offense and what lies ahead (at Virginia Tech, at Maryland, Florida) is pegged as No. 20 by Fremeau.

Florida State's offense has improved considerably over last year, as it was expected to do. I'm not arguing otherwise. I'm just not ready to put the elite tag on this attack. Not yet.

A good way to think about this is that FSU has done very well, but so have many other offenses when facing the defenses faced by Florida State.

Source: FO's F/+ ratings
Team Offense Rank Defense Rank
Wake Forest -8.20% 101 0.30% 61
Clemson 13.60% 14 -2.30% 68
South Florida 11.90% 18 -7.50% 85
N.C. State 5.70% 37 3.80% 44
Boston College -3.40% 75 -8.20% 89
Miami 0.40% 59 -5.80% 79
Duke 0.50% 57 -9.60% 93
Virginia Tech -3.10% 74 8.90% 29
Maryland -13.10% 109 10.00% 27
Florida 5.20% 38 28.70% 2

The defense is a different story.

Florida State is one of only three defenses (hello, Alabama and LSU) to allow less than four yards/play to D-1 teams. That's not as impressive as Florida State's offense.

Except it is. Moreso. And that's because the defense has faced a much better set of offenses than the set of defenses faced by the offense.

How much better?

Try 31st (as opposed to 118th), according to Fremeau

That should be intuitive if you read the Tomahawk Nation previews. Clemson, South Florida, Miami and Duke all have much, much better offenses than defenses, while only Wake Forest has a considerably better defense than offense.

In a strange twist, while FSU's offense is about to face a much tougher slate of defenses than it had (118th played, 22nd remaining), FSU's defense is about to get a break (31st faced, 103rd upcoming).

As the table shows, perhaps better than anything else could, things are about to get a whole lot tougher for FSU's offense and considerably easier for its defense.

Expect the traditional offensive numbers to take a dip, and for the defensive numbers to get absolutely ridiculous.

And keep all this in mind in the final three weeks when lesser-informed fans start to wonder about "what happened to the offense" or begin to talk about how the defense has totally stepped up its play.

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