After a long hiatus Florida State Seminoles football returns to action this Saturday at 4PM in Doak Campbell Stadium against the Duke Blue Devils.
FSU has not played since their November 14th loss to NC State, and has recently seen some opt outs from contributing players. Duke on the other hand comes off a rough two week stretch, dropping a game to Georgia Tech and then a blowout loss to Miami. For a team going through a youth movement, FSU has a great opportunity to test out their young talent against an equally struggling Duke team. This preview will take you through the advanced statistics to uncover some keys to the game.
As always we will be acquiring data from CollegeFootballData.com, courtesy of @CFB_data, using the cfbscrapR package, created by Meyappan Subbaiah (@msubbaiah1), Tomahawk Nation contributor Saiem Gilani (@SaiemGilani) and Parker Fleming (@statsowar). We will also utilize @cfbNate code to look at rolling averages of each team’s offense and defense.
It is a rare sight this season to see FSU with a better efficiency rating than its opponent. For this matchup FSU does hold the edge with an ESPN Football Power Index offensive efficiency rating of 34. This, however, is nationally a well below average rating (96th out of 127 teams). Duke’s offense sits at an offensive efficiency rating of 24, which puts them at 112th in the country. Expected Points Added (EPA) tells a similar story, with each offense averaging negative expected points per play. The only real strength in this game is the running game for FSU, who average an extremely efficient 0.211 EPA/Rush. Both teams struggle heavily in passing efficiency, which could spell trouble if either team gets behind early.
Both teams have below average success rates, but have explosive capabilities. This is a big indicator of a “boom or bust” offense. FSU has struggled in containing explosive plays (see Louisville) and can allow a struggling offense like Duke’s to suddenly catch on fire.
The graph above is a 100 play rolling average of the FSU offense’s EPA/Play. This gives us a look into how the offense has changed over the course of the season. As you can see from the graph FSU’s offense gradually improved from a slow start to the season, before regressing after the Notre Dame game. A lot of these trends can be traced to the play and injuries of QB Jordan Travis. Now that he is healthy, we should see an improvement to FSU’s offensive efficiency.
Duke’s offense saw a similar improvement after an early season struggle, but they differed from FSU in that they maintained some level of consistency longer than the Noles offense. Their last two games saw a similar drop in production, but the dip is more pronounced than FSU’s offense. Both teams are struggling offensively and are looking for a late season spark to enter the offseason with some level of optimism.
The edge in defensive efficiency belongs to the Blue Devils in this matchup. At a defensive efficiency rating of 28.1, the Florida State defense is well below average at 109th in the country. Duke on the other side ranks slightly above average with a defensive efficiency rating of 49, which is good for 64th in the country. The biggest difference between these defenses is in the passing game. Duke has done a good job taking away the pass, allowing -0.029 EPA per pass. FSU has allowed 0.273 EPA/Pass, which makes them one of the worst pass defenses in the country. Duke has a weak spot in the run defense, allowing 0.118 EPA/Rush with a low stuff rate of 0.15. This spells optimism for the Noles offense, who have shown they can run the ball with a high level of efficiency.
(*Note* For these defense rolling average charts, upward movement now means worse defense)
The Florida State defense has been consistently bad this season. As you can see from the graph they have generally been higher than the 75th percentile (remember, up is bad!) the entire season. The defense bottomed out against Louisville and Pitt, before showing some improvements against NC State. A struggling Duke offense could be what the FSU defense needs to improve their confidence.
Up until the Charlotte game, the Duke defense had seen a level of consistency and above average defense. After Charlotte, the Duke defense regressed, which you could expect playing high powered offenses like North Carolina and Miami. Overall the Duke defense is not one that FSU should overlook.
The biggest key to the game for FSU is to keep the game close enough to deploy their efficient running game. If FSU gives up a couple explosive plays defensively to start the game, the passing offense will not be able to get them back into the game. This puts pressure on the defense, which has given up highly efficient games to previously inefficient QBs. If FSU can accomplish this, they have a good chance to win this game and continue to build momentum into next season.
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