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Advanced box score: Florida State was lucky to be close against Louisville

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Louisville dominated FSU in almost every area.

Jimbo Fisher keeps saying that his Florida State Seminoles are just “one play away.” From what, I’m not sure.

Certainly not one play away per game from being an elite team.

FSU sits at 2-4, and is about as close to being 0-6 as it is 4-2. The team should probably be 3-3 based on how it has played.

But in some games, FSU has been legitimately unlucky to lose. For instance, the Seminoles had a 70% chance to beat NC State, and a 77% chance to beat Miami, given neutral luck.

Against Louisville, however, FSU was lucky.

Lucky to have the game be as close as it was.

FSU had a win expectancy of just 12%. If the ball had bounced evenly, Louisville might have blown the doors off FSU.

Using Bill Connelly’s advanced stats from Football Study Hall, we can measure where the game went wrong.

(Click to enlarge)

Why was FSU’s win expectancy just 12%? Why were the Seminoles lucky to not get blown out?

  • Louisville outgained FSU by 18% per play (6.85-5.82).
  • While both teams moved the ball, FSU did not take advantage of its scoring opportunities. Louisville had one extra opportunity, and scored 27% more points per opportunity.
  • FSU also gave away a possession by electing to kick a 44-yard field goal on 4th and ~2.5 from the 27. The decision was bad before Roberto Aguayo ever put toe to leather. And to complicate matters, he missed, making it even worse.
  • FSU allowed a 54% success rate to Louisville, while posting a 49.
  • Louisville destroyed FSU on passing downs, posting an incredible 2.03 IsoPPP (explosiveness rating) on 2nd & 7+ / 3rd & 5+. FSU’s offensive success rate on such downs was just 21%.
  • Taking out sacks, Louisville ran for 7.12 yards/carry. That is an incredible number. FSU didn’t make Lamar Jackson beat them with his arm.

FSU was dominated by Louisville in every key facet of this game, but some major breaks kept them in it.

Turnovers are largely luck, especially when it comes to fumbles. There’s no skill in recovering a fumble, since it depends on the random bounce of a ball. But when you think about the breaks FSU got with its turnovers...

FSU had two huge recoveries in this game: Matthew Thomas’ recovery of a Lamar Jackson fumble with nobody in front of him, and Nyqwan Murray recovering Jacques Patrick’s fumble for a touchdown. FSU did lose one fumble, as James Blackman tried to pull a handoff designed for Cam Akers. The Seminoles also threw two interceptions.

It stinks for FSU that it lost the game in which it finally got more good bounces than bad.

Here are FSU’s win probabilities so far in its games, assuming neutral bounces, per Football Study Hall:

  • Alabama 3%
  • NC State 70%
  • at Wake Forest 60%
  • Miami (FL) 77%
  • at Duke 99%
  • Louisville 12%