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Advanced Analytics: FSU vs. UNC Preview

A highly efficient offense and a solid defense — with a few areas of weakness.

Don Juan Moore

Florida State Seminoles football returns home to Doak Campbell Stadium to take on the North Carolina Tar Heels this Saturday at 7:30 p.m. on ABC.

Florida State comes into this matchup at 1-3 coming off a closer than expected loss against Notre Dame. In their last game North Carolina fended off Boston College in order to remain a perfect 3-0. In this preview we will look at how each team has done this season in terms of efficiency and advanced statistics.

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).

Without further ado, let’s get into this. First up is the offense:

The North Carolina offense comes into this with an offensive SP+ (Bill Connely’s metric for gauging efficiency) of 40.7. This is good for the 5th best offense in the nation (note: SP+ has ranked 127 teams this year). On the other side Florida State has an offensive SP+ rating of 30, which is good for 53th in the nation.

In terms of Expected Points Added (EPA), The Tar Heels have a well balanced offense, averaging 0.23 EPA/Pass and 0.28 EPA/Rush. The Florida State offense overall has struggled to pass, but it should be noted that the switch to Jordan Travis at QB has increased the Noles passing efficiency. The strength of the offense continues to be in the running game, where the Noles average 0.17 EPA per rush.

Early and late downs do not appear to be any issue for the Tar Heels, who succeed on over half of their plays on both early and late downs. In terms of OL play on run plays North Carolina only sees 18% of their runs stuffed at the line of scrimmage, and their OL produces 3.33 yards per rush.

This North Carolina offense is high powered and efficient, and it will take everything FSU defense can throw at them in order to stop the Tar Heels. If the defense continues to struggle the Florida State offense must keep up with the Tar heels offense in order to keep the Noles in the game.

One reason to remain hopeful is the success Jordan Travis has had thus far this season. Travis averages 0.13 EPA per pass, which isn’t necessarily spectacular but much more efficient than Noles fans have been accustomed to recently. Anyone that has watched Travis play has seen his effective running abilities, and advanced stats certainly back this notion. 0.28 EPA/Rush with a 57% success rate keeps the offense in rhythm and gives the Noles offense an efficient mobile QB. For the Tar Heels, true sophomore Sam Howell has been sensational this season, averaging 0.23 EPA/Pass with a 50% success rate. He does not take off often, but when he does decide to run it he has been efficient with a 0.32 EPA/Rush with a 54% success rate.

Jordan Travis will be without the Noles main target at WR, Tamorrion Terry, who could miss a couple weeks while recovering from knee surgery. WR’s like Keyshawn Helton and Ontaria Wilson will have to step up in order to fill the void that Terry occupied in order for the passing game to keep up. Travis can also turn to big TE target Camren McDonald who has been an exceptional target this season.

For North Carolina they will look to get the ball in the hands of Dyami Brown, who leads the team in receptions and win probability added. North Carolina’s other main target this season is Dazz Newsome, with an 80% success rate and 0.37 win probability added on 10 catches.

Florida State’s running backs have continued to be a bright spot for this Seminoles offense. True freshman Lawrance Toafili continues to impress with a 70% success rate on rushes and 0.22 win probability added. It will be vital for each of these RB’s to maintain a level of efficiency to keep this offense on schedule.

North Carolina has deployed the tandem duo of Javonte Williams and Michael Carter . For Williams he has not been as efficient as Carter, with only a 0.05 win probability added vs Carter’s 0.44 win probability added. FSU should naturally look to stop both RB’s, but it appears that Carter has been more lethal this season and should be the main focus for the FSU run defense.

Now is a good time to transition over to defense:

In relation to the offenses, the gap between both defenses in terms of SP+ rating is much more narrow. For Florida State, the defense has a rating of 25, which is good for 46th in the nation, while North Carolina comes in a 23.3, which is 42nd in the nation. The North Carolina defense has been more effective stopping the pass, allowing -0.14 EPA/Pass vs 0.04 EPA/Rush. For Florida State, it has been a struggle stopping both the pass and the run this season. FSU has allowed 0.225 EPA/Pass, and 0.146 EPA/Rush.

The Florida State defense has been battered on late downs, giving up a 55.6% success rate. The good news is this number continues to improve each week, which is encouraging for this defense. North Carolina has been rather successful on both early and late downs, allowing less than a 40% success rate in each category.

This will be another test for the Florida State offense, which is still trying to form its new identity. The good news is North Carolina is a little weak when defending the run, and could be something Florida State looks to exploit on Saturday.

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