Welcome to the Matrix.
This is the first installment of Tomahawk Nation’s new feature on advanced statistics for college football, in the context of FSU. SB Nation has provided us with a treasure trove of data from Sports Source Analytics, and I get to play Grandmaster Stats Man! Special thanks to Parker Fleming of Frogs O War (@statswar), Chad Peltier of Land Grant Holy Land, and Paul Dalen of Corn Nation (@paul_dalen) for their help in getting me up to speed on these statistics.
Florida State lost in not just heartbreaking but truly dismaying fashion to Boise State this past Saturday. Below are a select few statistics that I will be highlighting to illustrate key aspects of the game.
Here is a glossary for terms that we will use, though this go-around we will individually define them as we go: College Football Advanced Stats Glossary
Third-down success rate is where we’ll begin. Success rate is defined as the following:
Success Rate: A common Football Outsiders tool used to measure efficiency by determining whether every play of a given game was successful or not. The terms of success in college football: 50 percent of necessary yardage on first down, 70 percent on second down, and 100 percent on third and fourth down.
The idea behind Success Rate is simple: every play is deemed successful or unsuccessful based on down, distance and yardage gained. Plays on first, second and third downs (and fourth, for that matter) all have as close to the same success rate as possible (between 40% and 45%).
The third down success rate indicates how well teams accomplish their offensive goal on third down— that is to say, how well teams reached first down yardage on first down.
Boise State reached first downs on 52.63% of their third down plays. Florida State reached first downs on 8.33% of their third down plays. That difference is staggering. FSU only reached first downs on one of twelve third downs, while Boise reached on more than half.
FSU’s inability to get off the field defensively was frustrating on first watch, and downright disturbing when statistically validated.
Overall success rate is defined above. In 2018, FSU’s offense averaged a 33.7% success rate, with the defense running at a 39.2% clip. Boise’s offense ran 48.0% last year, with their defense at 39.7%.
Saturday, FSU’s offense/Boise’s defense succeeded 35.5% of their snaps, with the defense/Boise’s offense at 43.5%.
I think the offense did well overall— with a poor second half. The defense was unquestionably poor.
Stuff rate is defined as follows:
This is the percentage of runs where the runner is tackled at or behind the line of scrimmage. Since being stuffed is bad, offenses are ranked from stuffed least often (No. 1) to most often (No. 130); for defenses, the opposite is true.
Florida State’s offense was stuffed on 20.83% of its run plays. FSU stuffed Boise at a 13.73% rate. FSU was stuffed at a 24.9% clip over the 2018 season, and stuffed opponents at a 20.8% rate. In 2018, Boise was stuffed at an 18.3% rate on offense, stopping opponents at a 22.6% stuff rate.
Considering the caliber of each team’s opponents, I think this shows a pretty significant offensive improvement for FSU over last year’s play. All four Boise State defensive down linemen starters are fourth year players or older, including stud Curtis Weaver. The Broncos started four offensive linemen who were in their fourth year or older, including three fifth year seniors. The fifth was a third-year player.
FSU’s abysmal offensive line averaged about 20% worse stuff rate in 2018 than FSU did on Saturday. This is pretty darned good, especially over the course of the game, with a terrible second half pulling it down.
FSU did poorly defensively keeping up negative plays against Boise. While Boise has a very experienced offensive line, FSU has enough individual talent along their defensive front that such a disparity isn’t acceptable.
I am very thankful to have SB Nation’s treasure trove of Sports Source Analytics data available to us, and this is just a small sample of what we will be doing this season. Below you will find the advanced box score for FSU’s game against Boise State this past Saturday.