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Advanced Analytics: FSU vs Virginia

Diving into the numbers for this Seminoles vs. Cavaliers matchup

Don Juan Moore

Florida State Seminoles football is back in action tomorrow night as they take on the Virginia Cavaliers in Doak Campbell Stadium at 8 PM.

The Seminoles were idle last week due to a last minute cancellation against Clemson, while Virginia is coming off a 55-15 blowout against FCS Abilene Christian. In this advanced stats preview we will dive into the numbers to see how each team has fared this season, as well as see if we can make any predictions about the game.

As always we will be acquiring data from, courtesy of @CFB_data, using the cfbscrapR package, created by Meyappan Subbaiah (@msubbaiah1), Tomahawk Nation contributor Saiem Gilani (@SaiemGilani) and Parker Fleming (@statsowar).

ESPN has efficiency metrics for both offense and defense that are scaled from 0-100 and show the contribution of that side of the ball. These metrics run on a per play basis and are adjusted to the opponents the team has faced. When we look at the efficiency for these two teams, we can see Virginia is significantly more efficient than Florida State. On a national scale FSU’s 33.4 offensive efficiency rating is good for 97th in the country (Out of 127 teams). Virginia’s rating of 53.2 is good for 55th in the country.

In terms of Expected Points Added (EPA), the teams offenses appear a little bit closer than ESPN’s metric. Both teams have strength in the running game, with FSU having a more pronounced split (-0.215 EPA Pass/0.211 EPA/Rush). Virginia holds a slight edge in success rate, with a success play coming 43.2% of the time. Florida State has had a difficult time containing explosive plays, which makes a 1.33 explosiveness for Virginia a somewhat welcoming sign.

According to the November 24th Florida State notebook, it is gearing up to be a game time decision for who will be the starting QB for FSU. Now that Chubba Purdy is out for the rest of the year the healthy options are Tate Rodemaker, who started against Jacksonville State but has played sparingly, or Jordan Travis who is coming off of injury. The sample size for Rodemaker is small and a majority of snaps are from garbage time, so we will focus on Travis for the time being. Through the air it has not been great for Travis, who has accumulated a -10.26 EPA. Of course the real damage for Travis has been on the ground with 29.13 EPA on his rushes. For Virginia, their starting QB Brennan Armstrong has seen success in both passes and rush plays. Due to a low volume of passes for Travis, you will notice though that each QB’s EPA/Play and success rate are rather similar.

Defensively the gap in efficiency between FSU and Virginia is much larger than it was on the offensive side of the ball. At a rating of 28.8, the FSU defense is ranked 107th in the country by this metric. The Virginia defense is ranked 42nd in the country with a defensive efficiency rating of 58.2. When we look at EPA, both teams have a weakness of pass defense, but FSU’s is much worse than Virginia’s. Giving up 0.273 EPA/Pass is a recipe for disaster no matter who the opposing QB is. Looking at success rate, the Virginia defense allows a successful play 39.6% of the time, while the Florida State defense gives up one nearly half the time at 48.1%.

Last time we saw FSU play they were tore up by Bailey Hockman, who coming into that game did not have impressive passing efficiency numbers. Brennan Armstrong has better numbers coming into this game than Bailey Hockman did, which could be a massive problem for Florida State. Armstrong can also get it done with his legs, which is an extra element the Florida State defense needs to be prepared to stop. Neutralizing Armstrong and getting into a rhythm offensively are the only hopes for FSU. The FSU offense is efficient running the ball, but if you’re down early and need to pass more, that could spell a long night for Florida State.

If you liked this post and would like to see more graphs and stats, you can follow my Noles Analytics twitter account at ScalpRNoles