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Advanced Analytics: After 2 games, what do the numbers say about FSU?

Breaking down the advanced stats for the Seminoles

Don Juan Moore

Florida State Seminoles football has gotten off to a rocky start this season. After dropping the home opener to Georgia Tech, FSU was embarrassed on the road against the Miami Hurricanes in Hard Rock Stadium. What exactly has gone wrong this season? We can take a look at the numbers to see what has happened 2 games in. It is important to note that the predictive power of these numbers is still relatively weak 2 games into a season. This article is best served as a recap and insight into what FSU can improve upon in the games to come.

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).

We shall start on the offensive side of the ball:

Perhaps a bright spot for the FSU offense is in its running game. FSU has averaged 0.16 Expected Points Added (EPA) per rush, which is well above average nationally. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the passing game. FSU has averaged -0.39 EPA/Pass, which is well below average nationally.

It seems to be a consensus that the passing game needs to be better. It is worth a look deeper in order to see if we can get a better idea as to where and why FSU has struggled passing the ball. One way we can accomplish this is by breaking down pass plays by standard and passing downs.

As a reference a passing down is when any of the following occurs:

  • Second-and-8 or more
  • Third-and-5 or more
  • Fourth-and-5 or more

A standard down is any down and distance outside of the parameters above. We will start with passing on standard downs.

On standard downs QB James Blackman has been successful on 41.3% of his passes. As you can see from the chart above, that is below average among ACC passers. His EPA/Pass on standard downs is -0.12, which overall is not very good.

It is good for above average among ACC passers, but that is not saying much when the majority have negative EPA per pass. While his numbers are not good, this doesn’t seem to be plaguing the FSU offense. Let’s look at passing downs to see what we can learn.

I believe we have found a massive red flag. On passing downs James Blackman has a 20.6% success rate, which is second worst in the conference only behind Syracuse’s Tommy DeVito. On these passes he has a -0.72 EPA/Pass, which is downright abysmal. This is a glaring hole in the Florida State offense and something that must be fixed in order to get the offense back on track.

Transitioning over to defense we will be splitting analysis between early down defense (downs 1-2) and late down defense (downs 3-4). This can give us a better idea of how the defense has performed in certain situations.

We will also be using Expected Points Subtracted (EPS), which is essentially just taking EPA/Play and turning it negative. The only reason to do this is to keep the continuity between graphs in this article, where upper right = elite and lower right = not so good.

On early downs the FSU defense has not been bad. They have been above average when defending the pass, and very slightly below average when defending the run. Overall this isn’t cause for alarm. Unfortunately when opponents get into the later downs this is when you see the FSU defense drop off substantially:

On late downs FSU is below average at stopping the run, and one of the worst teams in the country at stopping the pass. A pass defense this bad on late downs makes it nearly impossible for the defense to get off the field and give the ball back to the offense. In conjunction with the offense it appears that FSU has a massive problem playing efficient football on late and passing downs. As stated in the beginning of this article these numbers have weak predictive power due to the small sample size of 1-3 possible games played. This means that there is hope that FSU corrects its mistakes and turns the season around.