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Advanced Analytics: What do the numbers say about FSU vs. Pitt?

Diving deep into the digits

Florida State v Louisville Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Coming off a bye week, Florida State Seminoles football is back in action at home in Doak Campbell Stadium against the Pittsburgh Panthers this Saturday at 4 PM.

Both of these teams are coming off blowout losses, and will be looking to get back on track this game. In this preview we will be looking at each team’s advanced stats for the 2020, in order to see if we can spot anything interesting or things to look for during 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).

Starting on offense the Florida State offense has an SP+ (Bill Connely’s metric for gauging efficiency) rating of 28.1, which ranks 64th in the nation (Note: this is out of 127 teams ranked). On the other side the Pitt offense is ranked lower at 24.7, which is the 92nd ranked offense. In terms of Expected Points Added (EPA), the FSU offense is just barely positive at 0.003 EPA/Play, while the Pitt offense comes in at -0.133 EPA/Play.

The Noles also hold the edge on success rate, with the FSU offense achieving a successful play 41.9% of the time vs. the Pitt offense achieving a successful play 37.6% of the time. For both teams success rate dips slightly when going from early downs to late downs, which is typically expected. Overall neither team has a success rate that would categorize their team as a consistent offense. In terms of explosiveness (which is the EPA/play of successful plays) the Noles are slightly more explosive when they are successful. For a Noles defense that can at times struggle to contain success plays, 1.27 explosiveness is a welcoming sign.

The strength of the Pitt offense lies in their passing game. Despite a -0.069 EPA/Pass passing game, this is significantly better than their -0.213 EPA/Rush running game. The passing game significantly gets better when Kenny Pickett is in for the Panthers, but at the time of this writing it is still up in the air whether he is healthy to return. If he cannot play Saturday Pitt will once again turn to backup Joey Yellen. Just how much does the passing offense dip when Yellen is in vs Pickett? Let’s find out:

As you can see from the table, it is quite a significant drop off between Pickett and Yellen, especially in the passing game. The argument for sample sizes can be made, but as far as we have seen from Yellen it has not been pretty. If Yellen gets the start for Pitt, it will be a tremendous opportunity for a struggling FSU defense to get back on track.

For Jordan Travis his numbers have dipped after the loss at Louisville, but questions about his health may have been a factor in how he played. Drops and a tipped interception can also play a part in the negative passing EPA number. Overall when Travis is healthy he is efficient and does most of his damage using his legs.

Transitioning over to defense and we can see where Pitt has the advantage this game. The Florida State defense has a SP+ rating of 30.2, which is a disappointing 85th in the nation. On the other side Pitt has a rating of 19.9, which is good for 21st in the nation. The biggest liability on the FSU defense is the pass defense, which has allowed 0.27 EPA/Pass.

For Pitt the defense has been successful stopping the pass and run, but the bigger strength is in their run defense. At -0.248 EPA/Rush allowed, the FSU rush offense will have its hands full in trying to play to the strength of the offense. Pitt also has a stuff rate of 31.8% which is massive and could play a factor in how FSU gets into a rhythm offensively.

In terms of success rate the Pitt defense has only given up a 32.1% success rate. This is significantly better than the FSU defense, which essentially gives up a success play half of the time.

An interesting point is when Pitt does give up a successful play, it tends to be more explosive (1.46 defensive explosiveness for Pitt, 1.29 for FSU). This shows that while Pitt does not necessarily give up a ton of success plays, when they do it can do a lot of damage.

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