5 Things: "It's Only June?" Edition

Chief Osceola intently considers TN's 5 Things list, early-June edition. Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-US PRESSWIRE

I really enjoy rooting around for buried stats. I unfortunately got out of following baseball ardently right around the time sabrmetrics got hot (thanks, Chicago Cubs). But I've learned a lot from guys like Brian Fremeau, FootballOutsiders, and other folks who dive into the deep-end.

However, I am intrigued by stats that are more rooted physically (and directly) to actual play on the field. For instance, sacks allowed is a great statistic -- it's hard to win a game when you're going toward the wrong goalline. But we know that sacks allowed can be conditional for instance by the number of times you're attempting a pass ::cough:: GEORGIA TECH ::cough:: So, some slight adjustments are in order at times. Mostly, I'll try to let the stats - or collection of stats - do the bulk of the legwork.

This is an upgraded version of previous "5 things" articles I've done as lists. Here I'll provide a bit more commentary on the stats I lob in your general direction. Unless otherwise noted, all of the basic stats used here are pulled from http://www.cfbstats.com. Give them a click.

Let's get to the goods.

A)

27 -12 - 4.

No, this isn't the combination to the President's luggage. This is the number of rushing touchdowns allowed by FSU's defense in 2009, 2010, and 2011. That's an 85% reduction in ground scores since 2009. Not surprisingly over the same period, the rushing yards per carry drop precipitously: 5.39, 3.41, 2.35 , good for a 56% reduction. Some of this can be attributed to increased sacks over the period (25, 48, 41), as the NCAA brainlessly counts sack yardage against a team's rushing offense. But notice FSU 2011 recorded 7 fewer sacks than 2010, yet lowered its rushing ypc allowed by over a yard. Stout.

If we filter those numbers to show ypc for FSU opponents that finished with a winning record, we get: 5.74, 3.73, and 2.2 ypc, a 62% reduction. That should grab your attention: FSU did worse defending the rush against winning-record FBS teams in '09 and '10 compared to their overall average, which makes statistical sense -- but better against the better competition in 2011. (From 2009 to 2011, FSU has faced the 10th, 38th, and 37th hardest set of offenses, respectively.)

2)

Alabama. LSU. FSU.

That would be your 2011 leaders in yards per play allowed: 3.32, 4.08, and 4.16 ypp, respectively. Nice defensive company to have, there, if you're Florida State. How about filtering the ypp allowed numbers to include only FBS opponents with winning records? Alabama (3.29 ypp), Florida State (4.20), LSU (4.46).

However, consider that Alabama faced the 78th hardest set of FBS offenses; LSU, 20th; FSU, 37th. So FSU could be showing a little bit of the Fool's Gold value in 2011 compared to LSU. Though FSU did face a considerably harder set of offenses (DUKE POWER) than Bama did to get their 2nd/3rd place rankings.

FSU returns about 8.5 starters from a 6th-ranked 2011 defense heading into Fall 2012. And Terrence Brooks should be considered an upgrade at Stoops' SS position over departed Terrance Parks, an average safety who worked hard and never got into trouble. With freak Christian Jones moving to a play-making position at WLB and Nick Moody moving to his arguably natural position in Stoops' defense at SLB, the grouping with Alabama and LSU and ESS-EEE-CEE sizespeed will not be Fool's Gold come this Fall.

D)

In 2011, FSU forced opponents to throw on 3rd and 10 yards+ 46 times. Opponents converted 14 for 1st downs (30.4%), rendering FSU's passing defense 6.3% worse than the national average.

And Clemson is not the biggest culprit to contribute to this stat, as they converted only 2 3rd-and-10+ on the game: 1 off a PINT against Parks, and 1 excellent conversion from Boyd to Allen.

The 46 passing attempts in a 3rd-and-10+ situation puts FSU's defense in at T-19th. This is not surprising, given the excellent rushing defense.

What this means is still a little murky. Maybe some corollary 2011 stats will help us here:

  • FSU allowed 56.5% of passes on 3rd-and-10+ to be converted, 81st nationally (52.1% national average).
  • Of the 26 completions allowed, 10 went for 15 yards or more (38.5%), 78th nationally.

These collection of stats suggests to me that FSU's pass defense had 2 weak spots in 2011:

  • Poor deep-thirds / deep-quarters coverage, principally due to safety play.
  • Poor underneath coverage by linebackers, allowing short gains to become big plays when the back-4 were in deep-thirds / deep-quarters coverage.

4)

In 2011, FSU's offense incurred about 3 sacks for every 32 passing attempts.

For reference, the 3:32 rate (9.46%, to be exact) earned FSU the 111th spot amongst FBS teams. The median number was about 2 sacks for every 32 offensive passing attempts, or about 6%. This is very bad.

5)

On 3rd downs with 3 yards or less to go, FSU's rushing offense gained 1st downs 43.8% of the time, goodbad for 110th nationally.

For reference, the national average was 59.7%. UF was the next worst than FSU at 43.5% (111th), so at least we can brag about that. Maybe.

FSU's number is really embarrassing when you see that in 2010, FSU's rushing offense converted 3rd-and-3-less at a 75.8% clip -- 5th nationally (60.3% was the national average).

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