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Study Hall: Wake Forest 35, Florida State 30

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Whenever a team hasn't been in the Top 5-10 for a while but is picked to make The Leap by preseason pollsters, our Football Outsiders numbers are usually there to tamp down the hyperbole a bit. See: Ole Miss 2009, Nebraska 2010, Texas A&M 2011, Nebraska 2011. Florida State, on the other hand, got a clean bill of health from the preseason projections. And they're 2-3. Go figure.

Wake Forest 35, Florida State 30

FSU Wake FSU Wake
Close % 100.0% STANDARD DOWNS
Field Position % 48.0% 55.4% Success Rate 47.2% 20.5%
Leverage % 72.6% 59.5% PPP 0.32 0.33
S&P 0.797 0.534
EqPts 21.2 27.2 PASSING DOWNS
Close Success Rate 45.2% 28.4% Success Rate 40.0% 40.0%
Close PPP 0.29 0.37 PPP 0.20 0.42
Close S&P 0.742 0.652 S&P 0.598 0.824
EqPts 7.6 9.0 Number 5 0
Close Success Rate 56.0% 20.6% Turnover Pts 23.7 0.0
Close PPP 0.31 0.26 Turnover Pts Margin -24.1 +24.1
Close S&P 0.866 0.471
Line Yards/carry 3.42 1.84 Q1 S&P 0.875 0.320
Q2 S&P 0.574 0.843
PASSING Q3 S&P 0.340 0.837
EqPts 13.5 18.2 Q4 S&P 1.045 0.500
Close Success Rate 39.6% 35.0%
Close PPP 0.28 0.46 1st Down S&P 0.682 0.450
Close S&P 0.678 0.806 2nd Down S&P 0.989 0.880
SD/PD Sack Rate 3.0% / 6.7% 9.1% / 11.1% 3rd Down S&P 0.354 0.623
Projected Pt. Margin: Wake Forest +30.1 | Actual Pt. Margin: Wake Forest +5

Five Thoughts

  1. Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. That Florida State almost won this game despite handing Wake Forest over three touchdowns' worth of turnovers says ... something. They're just resilient enough to almost make up for their own crippling mistakes, maybe?

  2. There is plenty of blame to go around for FSU in this one. First, the offense. Never mind the turnovers -- FSU couldn't order up a big play when they needed one, and both their Passing S&P and PPP were below the national average against an average-at-best defense. Of course, this fits Wake's general M.O.: awful run defense, decent pass defense, poor on standard downs, downright solid on passing downs.

  3. While I think the FSU offense was more to blame for this loss, it's easy to see why FSU fans may be frustrated with the defense: they were brilliant at leveraging Wake into passing downs, but time after time, they let Tanner Price and company make plays on passing downs and extend drives. The full-game numbers were not that strong for Wake, but they shouldn't have been as strong as they were considering their awful leverage rate.

  4. For all intents and purposes, Wake won the game in the third quarter. They led at halftime, but their +0.497 S&P margin in Q3 was significant, as were the nine points they scored in the first six minutes of the quarter. The second half began with a 15-yard sack of E.J. Manuel, then after a false start, the Deacs stuffed Jermaine Thomas in the end zone for a safety. Five minutes later, a 42-yard run by Josh Harris set up a Wake touchdown that gave them what ended up being an insurmountable 25-14 lead.

  5. Field position can matter so much in a five-point win. Wake Forest began three possessions in Florida State territory and ran 55 percent of their plays on that side of the field. Florida State, meanwhile, started just one in Wake territory (that drive ended with an interception), and their Field Position Percentage was just 48 percent. The stats say FSU shouldn't have ended up as close as they did, but one more drive with favorable field position could have given the Noles the outright win.

Quick glossary after the jump.

A Quick Glossary

F/+ Rankings: The official rankings for the college portion of Football Outsiders. They combine my own S&P+ rankings (based on play-by-play data) with Brian Fremeau's drives-based FEI rankings.

Passing Downs: Second-and-7 or more, third-and-5 or more.

PPP: An explosiveness measure derived from determining the point value of every yard line (based on the expected number of points an offense could expect to score from that yard line) and, therefore, every play of a given game.

S&P+: Think of this as an OPS (the "On-Base Plus Slugging" baseball measure) for football. The 'S' stands for success rates, a common Football Outsiders efficiency measure that basically serves as on-base percentage. The 'P' stands for PPP+, an explosiveness measure that stands for EqPts Per Play. The "+" means it has been adjusted for the level of opponent, obviously a key to any good measure in college football. S&P+ is measured for all non-garbage time plays in a given college football game. Plays are counted within the following criteria: when the score is within 28 points in the first quarter, within 24 points in the second quarter, within 21 points in the third quarter, and within 16 points (i.e. two possession) in the fourth quarter. For more about this measure, visit the main S&P+ page at Football Outsiders.

Standard Downs: First downs, second-and-6 or less, third-and-4 or less.

Success Rate: A common Football Outsiders tool used to measure efficiency by determining whether every play of a given game was successful or not. The terms of success in college football: 50 percent of necessary yardage on first down, 70 percent on second down, and 100 percent on third and fourth down.