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Advanced Analytics: 2021 FSU schedule release review

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Diving into the digits of the 2020 Season to preview the 2021 schedule

Don Juan Moore/Character Lines

Florida State Seminoles looks to turn the page on a painful 2020 season. The Covid pandemic proved to be a chaotic experiment that involved sudden game cancellations, coaches and players coming down with the virus, and massive roster turnover. That doesn’t even include the 3-6 record on the field. Needless to say, the 2020 season had very few fond memories for the Seminoles. 2021 brings us a new year, new transfer players, and a chance to get the program on track.

The 2021 schedule has been released, which you can find here. For this article we will take a quick look at the advanced stats to see how each opponent did in 2020. It should be noted that each team will undergo their own roster/staff turnover, which will change their projected strengths for 2021. Until the dust settles on these changes, we will stick to 2020 data.

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).

For those that need a quick refresher, Expected Points Added (EPA) essentially looks at the context of each play (down, yards to go, where you are on the field etc.) and determines how many points you’d be expected to score given that situation. If EPA/Play is negative, that more or less means your opponent is expected to score next more often than you are. Offensively, Florida State had a hyper efficient running game. Unfortunately, Florida State was severely lacking in the passing game, with only UMass and Syracuse performing worse last year. Fortunately for FSU, they landed former star QB for UCF, McKenize Milton:

Milton could do wonders for Florida State in the passing game, assuming he is healthy and shakes off the rust from his 2 year hiatus. Even if he has lost some of his passing ability from the layoff, his arm will be something the FSU QB room has desperately lacked.

Now we turn to the defense. Florida State struggled heavily on defense last year, especially when defending the pass. While it was nice to see Florida share in the defensive struggles, this is a unit that must improve in order to see more wins. The scariest thing on this chart is the Clemson defense, who returns all starters from a 2020 team that had an elite defense. We did not get to see what FSU’s efficient run offense could do against Clemson’s efficient run defense, but that will change in 2021 and is something to keep track of throughout the season.

Let’s take a look at the schedule and use SP+ (Bill Connely’s metric for gauging efficiency) to chart FSU’s path this season. Note this does not include the bye week (which comes before UMass) or FCS opponent Jacksonville State, who FSU plays week 2 after Notre Dame. FSU finished with a SP+ rating of -4.9, which is represented with the dashed line.

FSU has a nice stretch after Notre Dame before playing a North Carolina team looking to win the ACC. The season closes out on a tough gauntlet that includes Clemson and both in state rivals. SP+ numbers will change when final rosters are settled, but for the most part they won’t change dramatically for most teams. Given the incoming transfers FSU should see a bump in SP+, but for the most part will be behind numerous teams on this schedule.

Aside from an efficient running game, there weren’t too many bright spots for FSU in 2020. However, with the incoming addition of Mckenzie Milton and other transfer players, Florida State could look to reverse its downward trend and continue its climb back to the top. If they can capitalize on the opening stretch of the season, we could be looking at our first interesting late season in a couple years.

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