The Florida State Seminoles are reeling after going 0-4 in head coach Mike Norvell’s second year behind the helm. Rumors are swirling as blame gets shifted from place to place trying to find the culprit but I think a quick dive into some stats can help narrow that search.
When you look at a box score after a game what’s the most telling indicator of a team’s performance?
The first place I look is the most basic of all advanced analytics- the yards per play stat. It gives a sense of which team would gain the most yards on any given play in the game. Now like all things this can be skewed by outliers but fundamentally it’s a quick and easy way to see who was more efficient at moving the football.
In every game this season, except for the Notre Dame game, which has been a pretty big outlier in all respects, FSU has had higher yards per play than its opponent and all by a significant margin.
Let’s look at this past Louisville game. This margin of positive 1.3 yards means that on average FSU gained an extra 1.3 yards every time their offense ran a play compared to Louisville’s offense.
Now, no one stat can be a perfect predictor but this hunch is backed by some correlational data done by Football Study Hall in 2014. They found that teams with YPP margins between 0.5 and 1 had a 72% chance to win a game and if the margin was between 1 and 1.5 then the win % jumped to 86.2%. Now before you jump in the comment section I’m not claiming that FSU should have won these three games but I do think that it warrants the question if FSU is fundamentally winning the battle on any given snap, why are they always coming up short on the win column?
There’s a great site out there called Game on Paper that gives some really good quick advanced analytics that I used to compare these three games next to each other. From my perspective, there are two very important metrics that help explain FSU’s inability to convert this YPP advantage into tangible results.
The first is turnover margin. FSU has lost the turnover battle in every game this season. According to the same article by Football Study Hall, an average turnover is worth about 5 points. As you can imagine part of this has to do with luck but another part is skill and ability. However, the more confounding stat and the one I want to spend the most time on is the late down success rate.
FSU is 99th in the country in stopping teams on third down and 101st in the country in converting them themselves. This failure on third down is usually attributable to failures on first and second down but FSU has had a higher early down success rate than its opponent in every game this year. So what is it?
Let’s dive into the film and see if we can figure it out for ourselves.