Florida State Seminoles: By the Numbers

By the numbers: Going deep

July, 3, 2014
Earlier this week, we looked at the top offensive lines in the ACC, which led me to tweet about the units that had the best and worst sack rates in the conference.

The best:

Duke (1 sack every 29 dropbacks)
Miami (1 every 24)
Syracuse (1 every 24)
North Carolina (1 every 23)
Virginia (1 every 23)

The worst:

Pitt (1 sack every 10.3 dropbacks)
NC State (1 every 13.2)
Boston College (1 every 13.2)
Virginia Tech (1 every 14.1)
Florida State (1 every 14.4)

For the teams ranking at the top, there may have been a few surprises, but UNC and Virginia both had offensive lines with top-tier NFL talent, and Syracuse and Duke both had mobile quarterbacks capable of avoiding sacks. It is probably worth noting, however, that the Blue Devils' offensive line was remarkably good in pass protection, but also had the ACC's lowest rate of running plays that went for a loss or no gain, too (7 percent).

On the other end of the spectrum, the names are a bit more surprising. Pitt's line was a problem, and Tom Savage didn't move around much in the pocket, so the Panthers' spot at the top makes sense. But didn't Boston College have a solid line protecting a veteran quarterback? Didn't NC State play half the season with mobile Brandon Mitchell taking snaps? Wasn't Logan Thomas one of the hardest quarterbacks in the country to bring down? And, of course, isn't Florida State supposed to have one of the top O-lines in the country to go with a Heisman-winning quarterback?

A few people on Twitter thought they had the answer, though: Deep balls. FSU, Pitt and BC had offenses that encouraged quarterbacks to look downfield, and the unfortunate side effect of such a philosophy is a few more sacks while quarterbacks are hanging on to the ball an extra second or two.

The theory made some sense, but we wanted to see if the numbers backed it up.

Here, courtesy of ESPN Sports & Information, are the ACC offenses that had the highest percentage of pass attempts go 20 yards or more.

As it turns out, only Florida State fits the bill as a team that looked deep often and suffered a few extra sacks as a result. Pitt's and NC State's deep-ball rates were right around the league average (22.3 percent), Virginia Tech was even lower (21.5 percent), and Boston College had the lowest percentage of any team in the conference (15.5 percent).

On the other end, the teams that had low sack rates did seem to throw deep a little less often. Duke, Virginia and Syracuse were all well below the league average for deep balls. But how about Miami and North Carolina? Both looked deep relatively often, and both still managed to limit sacks.

What this all likely means -- which is probably relatively intuitive in the first place -- is that a penchant for the deep ball likely plays some small role in the number of sacks a team allows, but it's hardly the overwhelming factor. A quarterback's decision-making and mobility play a part, the quality of talent on the line and ability of tailbacks and fullbacks to pick up blocks matters. The play calling (see: Georgia Tech) has an effect, too.

In other words, filtering out all the little nuances that define a successful offensive line from a not-so-successful one isn't a simple process, which is just one more reason the big guys up front tend to get far too little credit for the work they do.

By the numbers: QB experience

June, 5, 2014
Phil Steele released his preseason All-ACC teams earlier this week, and it might have been noteworthy to some that the player he listed as his second-team quarterback — North Carolina’s Marquise Williams — isn’t currently assured of even keeping his starting job. That, of course, speaks to the quality of Williams’ competition (Mitch Trubisky has a little talent, too), but mostly to the lack of any established experience at the position around the ACC.

Of the ACC’s 14 teams, only Florida State and Virginia return quarterbacks who appeared in every one of their games last season — and Virginia's David Watford isn’t currently listed as the team’s starter this year.

None of this is a new story, of course, and we’ve already touched on what impact the turnover at quarterback might have this season around the league. Looking at last year’s records, the teams that returned quarterbacks saw an aggregate increase of nine wins, while teams with turnover at the position broke even.

Those victory totals only tell us so much, though. Florida State only increased its victory total by two with a new quarterback, but those were two pretty important wins. UNC’s victory total dipped by one game, but its returning quarterback wasn’t the one on the field when the Tar Heels were playing their best.

So we dug a little deeper into the numbers to see what impact, if any, a change at quarterback might have on the offense.

Looking just at 2013, there were five ACC teams that had the same starting quarterback in at least 75 percent of its games as it did the preceding year. Seven had changes at the position. The results were about what you might expect.

Overall, teams replacing a quarterback had a 1 percent dip in total offense and a 4 percent dip in yards per attempt, while the teams with returning experience improved in both areas.

It’s probably worth noting, too, that both Florida State and Maryland represent outliers in this discussion. Florida State had a new QB, but Jameis Winston won the Heisman Trophy. He’s a unique talent. Maryland, meanwhile, was using a linebacker at quarterback by the end of 2012, so change was inherently a good thing for the Terps. If we take those two teams out of the equation, the numbers change a bit: Teams undergoing change at QB had a 6 percent dip in total offense and a 9 percent decline in yards per attempt.

So, that settles it, right? Change at quarterback means a decline in offensive production, which is bad news for the ACC in 2014.

[+] EnlargeJameis Winston
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesFlorida State had a new quarterback last season, and the Seminoles certainly didn't take a step back with Jameis Winston.
Not exactly.

In 2012, the vast majority of the ACC (9 of 12 teams) returned their starting QBs from 2011, and while those teams did have a slight increase in offensive production (1.75 percent, compared to a 4 percent decline for the three teams with turnover), the actual passing performances told a different story. The nine teams returning QBs actually had a 3 percent dip in yards per attempt, while the teams with turnover (Maryland, Miami,Virginia) had a 6 percent increase.

Look at the numbers in 2011 for teams returning QBs, and the outcome is even more counter-intuitive. Five teams returned quarterbacks and had a 2.25 percent increase in yards per attempt and essentially broke even in total offense. The teams with turnover at QB, however, increased total offense by more than 3 percent and had a whopping 9.5 percent increase in yards per attempt from 2010.

In other words, in 2011 and 2012, change at quarterback didn’t make much of a difference. In fact, during the last three years collectively, teams that made a change at QB saw no discernible change in total offense and enjoyed a 2 percent increase in yards per attempt (better than the 0.67 percent increase for teams returning QBs).

So why did last year’s numbers paint such a scary picture?

The answer is probably that the returning quarterbacks in the league actually played a far smaller role in their respective offenses. Overall, the five teams returning QBs from 2012 had a whopping 15 percent decline in passing attempts per game, with Boston College being a prime example. Chase Rettig returned as QB, but BC’s attempts per game dipped from 39 in 2012 to 20 in 2013, while its yards per attempt jumped from 6.5 in 2012 to 7.5 last season.

In other words, the veteran quarterbacks probably had a little more help surrounding them (such as Andre Williams), while the young QBs were left to figure a lot out on their own (such as Pete Thomas).

As we look to 2014, there will no doubt be major question marks at QB for a lot of teams, but for many, there’s nowhere to go but up. And based on the numbers, there’s no reason a first-time starter can’t engineer those recoveries.
Jameis Winston gets the bulk of the publicity (both good and bad) on Florida State’s offense for good reason, but as the Seminoles look ahead to 2014, it’s perhaps the offensive line that offers the biggest cause for optimism on that side of the ball.

While center Bryan Stork has moved on to the NFL, Florida State still projects to have five senior starters on the offensive line, all with prior starting experience. In fact, the depth chart on the line includes 114 career starts, led by Josue Matias' 29. Matias, Tre' Jackson and Cameron Erving have been fixtures for the past two seasons (during which FSU is 26-2 and has averaged 7.3 yards per play), while Bobby Hart started in both 2011 and 2013 and Austin Barron has seen consistent work behind Stork.

In fact, from 2010 through last season, only 13 teams (and just seven in a Power 5 conference) have returned more career starts on the offensive line than Florida State will this year.

So that’s reason to be optimistic, right?

Thanks to Phil Steele’s helpful accounting of returning starts on the offensive line over the years, we dug a little deeper into what exactly that experience has meant.

Since 2010, there have been 42 teams that returned at least 100 career starts on their offensive lines. The conventional wisdom would suggest all that experience would pay dividends, particularly in the running game, but in the aggregate, the numbers don’t tend to agree.

Of those 42 teams, 22 increased their yards per carry from the previous season, 19 saw decreased yards per carry and one (BYU in 2011) broke even. Overall, the teams with 100 career starts worth of experience on the line saw an average increase of just 0.07 yards per carry. In other words, it was roughly a 50/50 proposition on whether all that experience corresponded with an improved rushing offense.

Dig a little deeper, though, and it’s possible that Florida State’s circumstances are more nuanced. In fact, if we look only at teams that play in Power 5 conferences, the numbers change quite a bit.

Of the 42 teams we just looked at, 22 play in power conferences. Of those 22, a far more noteworthy 16 saw improved yards per carry, with that subset increasing its YPC by an average of 0.30 (a roughly 7 percent increase) and upping its national ranking by nearly seven spots.

What’s more, the six teams in that subset that failed to see an improvement in YPC also share some common concerns. In five cases, there was a change at quarterback. The lone exception was last year’s Georgia squad, which suffered a remarkable rash of injuries, including to its two star running backs, Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley.

There’s also the case of Florida State’s 2011 squad. That team returned 115 career starts on its line (one more than this year’s unit) but turned out to be absolutely abysmal in the trenches. The 2011 Seminoles rushed for just 3.34 yards per carry -- a decline of 1.45 YPC from the previous year. A combination of injuries and inconsistency on the line, at quarterback and at tailback all played a role. It’s a reminder that experience is great, but it also has to be quality experience for healthy players if it’s to matter at all.

Of course, Florida State’s line has been remarkably healthy the past two years, and there’s a good chance that at least four of the current starters will be selected by NFL teams in next spring’s draft, so there’s every reason to believe the Seminoles will be among the best rushing teams in the country yet again in 2014.

The running game is only part of the equation, however. While the ground attack has been consistently excellent during the past two years behind Erving, Jackson and Matias, the pass protection has been a bit more of a concern.

During the past two seasons (2013 with Winston at QB, 2012 with EJ Manuel), Florida State allowed a sack every 15.75 drop-backs (i.e., attempts plus sacks) -- good for 79th nationally. Manuel was widely criticized by FSU fans for his methodical approach that often led to some drive-killing sacks at crucial times (see Virginia in 2011, NC State in 2012), but that 2012 team actually averaged nearly three more drop-backs per sack than last year’s squad.

Part of that blame certainly falls to Winston, who often looked a bit too long for the big plays to open up downfield and took a sack as a result. (Note: While Manuel and Winston’s sack numbers look similar, it’s to Winston’s credit that he also averaged nearly two more yards per attempt than Manuel.) But some of the onus falls on the offensive line, too, and the Seminoles should hope that with so much experience returning in front of Winston in 2014, that pass protection can improve to meet the lofty standard the ground game has already set.
The biggest news to come from last week’s ACC league meetings was a decision on future conference scheduling. With expansion, there was a push to move to a nine-game conference slate, along with the potential to switch up the conference title game format. For now, however, things are going to stay more or less the same.

What has changed in terms of scheduling is a rule that will require all teams to play at least one nonconference game against a team from a Power 5 conference (Pac-12, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC). While that won’t affect the four ACC teams with annual rivalry games against the SEC (FSU, Clemson, Louisville and Georgia Tech), it will force some others to up the ante on future scheduling.

[+] EnlargeACC logo
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesThe ACC has not performed well in regular-season, nonconference games against Power 5 teams since 2009. The combined record of the 11 current ACC members who have been a part of the conference since then is 22-51.
(Note: For a more detailed look at scheduling of Power 5 nonconference foes in the next few years, BC Interruption has a detailed list.)

Rather than look ahead, however, we decided to take a look back at how the ACC has fared against Power 5 competition in recent years.

As colleague Andrea Adelson pointed out, the 2013 nonconference slate in the ACC was one of the toughest in the nation, and the 2014 schedule projects to be similarly daunting.
“The ACC played one of the most challenging nonconference schedules in the country a season ago, featuring games against Georgia, USC, Florida, Northwestern, Penn State, Alabama, South Carolina, BYU and Oregon.

This year, Oklahoma State, Georgia, Ohio State, Nebraska, UCLA, USC and Iowa are on the nonconference schedule, in addition to the standard SEC rivalry games for Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech and Louisville.”

But while the ACC played a fair number of tough nonconference games, it didn’t exactly perform particularly well in them.

In fact, going back five years to the 2009 season, the numbers are pretty bleak.

The 11 current ACC members who have been a part of the conference since 2009 have played a total of 73 regular-season, nonconference games against Power 5 teams. Their combined record is a dismal 22-51 (.301).

Here’s how bad it actually is:

• Three of those 22 wins actually came against Pitt, Syracuse and Louisville when those programs were not part of the ACC.

• Seven more wins came against Vandy, Kansas, Rutgers and Indiana — hardly traditional powers despite their conference affiliations.

• No ACC team has a winning record in nonconference, regular-season games against Power 5 teams during that span. The team that has performed the best during that stretch is North Carolina, which is 3-3.

• The most impressive nonconference, regular-season wins over Power 5 teams for the ACC in the last five years amounts to a short list: Clemson over Georgia (2013), Miami over Florida (2013), Clemson over Auburn (2011), FSU over Florida (2010), Miami over Oklahoma (2009) and Virginia Tech over Nebraska (2009).

The failures against Power 5 teams are league-wide, but the spread is a bit one-sided. Since 2009, there are a few teams that have distinctly avoiding playing nonconference, regular-season games against Power 5 teams. The full list is in a chart on the right.

What’s worse, four of those six games played by NC State and Virginia Tech came in 2009, meaning those two programs have each played just one regular-season, nonconference game against a Power 5 team in the last four years. (Virginia Tech played Alabama last season, while NC State played Tennessee in 2012.)

Of course, conference games are also played against Power 5 foes, and the ACC has won its share of bowl games against teams from major conferences as well. With that in mind, here are the league’s standings since 2009 based on all games against teams currently in a Power 5 conference (plus Notre Dame).

It’s probably no surprise that Florida State, Clemson and Virginia Tech -- the league’s power teams -- have performed the best.

Georgia Tech’s solid 31-24 record might be a nice feather in Paul Johnson’s cap, if not for the five straight losses to UGA.

Miami and North Carolina have played .500 football in big games the last five years, which puts them in the middle of the pack but, of course, is far below the expectations for two programs with the resources to perform much better.

The league’s newcomers -- Syracuse, Pitt and Louisville -- have won a few significant games, but the ACC obviously has higher hopes for all three schools moving forward.

(Note: Losing Maryland certainly isn't hurting the ACC with respect to these numbers. The Terps were a dismal 13-33 (.282) against all Power 5 teams in the last five years and just 1-5 in regular-season, nonconference games against Power 5 foes.)

Overall, however, the win-loss records don’t exactly tell the story of the ACC as a rising power in the national landscape. In fact, the new scheduling strategy is effectively a carbon copy of the one installed by the SEC, but the difference between the performance of the two leagues in those games is actually quite stark.

In the last five years, the 12 continuous SEC programs are 41-24 (.631) in nonconference, regular-season games against Power 5 opponents, winning at more than double the rate of the ACC. While the ACC doesn’t have a single team that has won more than half of its games against Power 5, nonconference teams in the regular season, the SEC has three teams (Alabama, LSU and South Carolina) that are undefeated in such games.

The knock on the SEC, of course, is that its programs have widely shied away from top-notch competition outside the league. While ACC teams have played, on average, 6.6 regular-season, nonconference games against Power 5 foes in the last five years, the SEC has averaged just 5.4.

But that doesn’t really mean much in the grand scheme of things. Scheduling big-name opponents wasn’t really the problem in the first place. Winning more of those games is the big hurdle the conference needs to clear.
We’ve talked plenty about the myriad of quarterback battles going on around the ACC, but the conference actually returns five QBs who accounted for 2,000 yards of offense or more last season.

We wrote about the big-name receivers headed for the NFL draft, but the ACC also has three wideouts returning who accounted for 1,000 receiving yards in 2013, too.

But how about the tailbacks? How many 1,000-yard rushers from 2013 will be back again this season?

Believe it or not, the lone representative on that list is Virginia’s Kevin Parks, who racked up 1,031 yards on the ground for a team that didn’t win a single conference game.

The depth chart among returning running backs in the conference doesn’t get much better beyond Parks, either. Duke Johnson is probably the ACC’s best returning running back. He racked up 920 yards in eight games before getting hurt. Beyond that, only Louisville’s Dominique Brown, who played in the AAC last year, returns with at least 800 yards on the ground from 2013.

So, if there aren’t a ton of top tailbacks returning for 2014, which teams are poised for the most success on the ground this year?

I think the issue is, if we collectively agree that we're going to schedule up, we don't have to come up with a hard rule we have to go to nine games or everybody has to schedule one game against an SEC school. It's just a matter of getting everybody to agree to that.

-- FSU athletic director Stan Wilcox

If we break down the numbers by tailbacks only, Pittsburgh is the clear front runner. No ACC team’s returning running backs accounted for a higher percentage of its 2013 carries (76 percent) than Pitt’s, and thanks to the negative rushing totals courtesy of sacks, James Conner (799 yards), Isaac Bennett (776 yards) and Co. actually accounted for 106 percent of the Panthers’ rushing yards from 2013. (A neat trick that comes courtesy of Tom Savage's 76 carries for minus-208 yards.)

With Parks back for 2014 along with highly touted sophomore Taquan Mizzell, UVA’s returning backs account for 74 percent of last season's rushes, along with 91 percent of its yards. Of course, without star lineman Morgan Moses, those yards might be a bit tougher to come by this season.

Virginia Tech, NC State and Louisville all return running backs responsible for at least 50 percent of last season's ground gains, too (with Miami falling just short after swapping Dallas Crawford to the secondary).

The bottom of the list might be even more intriguing. Wake Forest’s stable of running backs is a mess, but that’s been well documented. The rest of the bottom six, however, include BC (which lost a Heisman finalist) and the top four offenses in the league from 2013 (Florida State, Clemson, Duke and Georgia Tech).

In other words, the best offenses lost big-time runners, and the shakiest (aside from Wake) have talent returning. So, does that mean there’s reason for some serious shakeups in the ACC’s offensive standings?

Not necessarily.

Yes, the ground game is essential for most teams to succeed. Of the 10 teams that played in BCS bowl games last season, seven returned a tailback who rushed for at least 500 yards in 2012.

But the ground game isn’t defined entirely by the men toting the rock. FSU returns four starters on a veteran offensive line, along with a Heisman-winning quarterback. That should provide some room for its relatively green stable of running backs to roam.

And, of course, just because there’s talent departing doesn’t mean there isn’t more waiting in the wings. Florida State’s returning running backs (Karlos Williams and Ryan Green) averaged 7 yards per carry in reserve roles last season. Georgia Tech’s averaged 5.9, and Duke’s averaged 5.8 (QB Brandon Connette’s departure is the biggest blow to the Blue Devils’ ground attack). Even Clemson has cause to be excited about its rushing game in 2014 with the development of C.J. Davidson and Zac Brooks and the debut of uber-talented redshirt freshman Wayne Gallman.

The veteran presence in the backfield for Pitt, Virginia and NC State should offer some hope to teams in need of some offensive optimism, but it’s also a likely scenario that FSU, Clemson, and others will supply a few names to the ACC’s rushing leaderboard in 2014, too.

By the Numbers: EJ's inconsistency

January, 11, 2013
With the 2012 season officially in the books, we took a look through the stats to determine some of the most significant improvements and problems Florida State endured this year, with five stats that defined 2012.

The numbers don't always tell the whole story, but these numbers shed some light on some of the biggest reasons Florida State won 12 games and its first ACC title in seven years, and also why those other two games got away.

We started with a look at the ground game on Monday.

We looked at some curious playcalling by Jimbo Fisher on Tuesday.

We looked at the impressive work by FSU's secondary on Wednesday.

We looked at the depth on the Seminoles' defensive line on Thursday.

[+] EnlargeEJ Manuel
Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY SportsQB EJ Manuel had a career year, but the numbers suggest that he wasn't necessarily getting better as the season went along.
And finally: 156.03.

That was EJ Manuel's passer rating this season, which ranked second in the ACC and 15th nationally, just a tick behind Heisman finalist Collin Klein.

That rating was an improvement over 2011, as were virtually all of his other stats -- passing yards (3,392), touchdowns (23), completion percentage (68.0) and yards per attempt (8.8). And yet, it's hard to call Manuel's season a complete success.

Big picture, Manuel took a step forward in his fifth year in the program and his second as the full-time starter, but he was maddeningly inconsistent at times, with the loss to Florida -- in which he accounted for five turnovers -- as the low point.

And while the season as a whole represented progress for Manuel, the numbers suggest he might have regressed as the year went along.


In FSU's final five games of the season, the offense mustered fewer than 400 yards four times -- it had topped that total in every other game in 2012 -- and Manuel threw for fewer than 200 yards three times.

The battle to become the next starting quarterback at FSU will be the biggest story of the spring, and while replacing Manuel won't be easy, there are reasons a sizable contingent of fans are excited about the alternatives.

By the Numbers: Depth on the line

January, 10, 2013
With the 2012 season officially in the books, we took a look through the stats to determine some of the most significant improvements and problems Florida State endured this year, with five stats that defined 2012.

The numbers don't always tell the whole story, but these numbers shed some light on some of the biggest reasons Florida State won 12 games and its first ACC title in seven years, and also why those other two games got away.

[+] EnlargeCornellius Carradine
Kim Klement/US PresswireCornellius Carradine (31) stepped in and had a monster senior season after Brandon Jenkins went down.
We started with a look at the ground game Monday. We looked at some curious play calling by Jimbo Fisher on Tuesday. We looked at the impressive work by FSU's secondary Wednesday.

Next up: 26.5.

That's the number of sacks recorded by Florida State's defensive ends this season, just one of which was made by Brandon Jenkins.

Jenkins thrilled Florida State fans when he decided last offseason to return for his senior year, but that enthusiasm lasted all of one quarter before he went down with a foot injury that ended his season. The loss could have been devastating, but as it turned out, Jenkins was hardly missed.

(Read full post)

By the Numbers: Lockdown DBs

January, 9, 2013
With the 2012 season officially in the books, we took a look through the stats to determine some of the most significant improvements and problems Florida State endured this year with five stats that defined 2012.

The numbers don't always tell the whole story, but these numbers shed some light on some of the biggest reasons Florida State won 12 games and its first ACC title in seven years, and also why those other two games got away.

We started with a look at the ground game on Monday.

We looked at some curious playcalling by Jimbo Fisher on Tuesday.

Next up: 161.9.

That's the average number of yards Florida State's defense allowed through the air in 2012, more than 30 yards per game fewer than it allowed a year earlier.

That's something of an astonishing feat considering how many questions there were in the secondary when the season began. Xavier Rhodes was still recovering from a knee injury. Greg Reid had been dismissed from the program. Youngsters Nick Waisome and Ronald Darby were thrown into the fire. Terrence Brooks (safety) and Tyler Hunter (nickel) were in their first seasons as starters. It was a turbulent preseason.

And while there was ample reason to dismiss Florida State's schedule this season, it's not as if the ACC lacked viable passing attacks. Clemson, Virginia Tech and NC State all featured quarterbacks projected as NFL prospects. And yet, no team in the nation allowed fewer passing yards per game than Florida State.

Here's a comparison of 2011 vs. 2012 for FSU's pass defense:

Stat 2012 2011
Yards/Game 161.9 192.3
Opp. TD/INT 13/11 16/16
15+ Yard Plays 41 58
Opp. Comp% 48.8% 59.1%

It's a tribute, in part, to the work done up front, where QBs rarely had much time to throw, and to the work of former coordinator Mark Stoops. But more than anything, it's a tribute to the players in the secondary who stepped up. For the season, Florida State allowed just 41 passing plays of 15 yards or more -- tied for the fewest in the nation.

The only potential concern is that the interceptions were down a bit, but that also comes from the fact that there were so many three-and-outs. FSU allowed the fewest passing first downs per game of any team in the country.

Now with Lamarcus Joyner coming back for 2013 and Waisome, Darby and Karlos Williams playing with experience under their belts, it's possible this could be the best set of defensive backs in the nation next season.
With the 2012 season officially in the books, we took a look through the stats to determine some of the most significant improvements and problems Florida State endured this year with five stats that defined 2012.

The numbers don't always tell the whole story, but these numbers shed some light on some of the biggest reasons Florida State won 12 games and its first ACC title in seven years, and also why those other two games got away.

We started with a look at the ground game on Monday.

Next up: 3.

That's the number of completions for EJ Manuel on throws of 10 yards or more against NIU in the Orange Bowl. He attempted just nine throws of 10 yards or more in the game.

What makes that number significant is that it was such a surprising departure from the norm, and in a game in which Florida State relied so heavily on its passing game and had a distinct advantage physically, both at the line of scrimmage and on the perimeter, it was hard to figure the game plan. And as a hefty contingent of FSU fans bemoaned throughout the 2012 season, explaining Jimbo Fisher's play calling was always a bit frustrating.

Here's a look at Manuel's passing charts for the season:

Prior to the Orange Bowl, 37 percent of Manuel's throws were beyond 10 yards, and those throws accounted for a whopping 52 percent of his passing yards. Against NIU, however, just 24 percent of Manuel's throws went beyond 10 yards, and those accounted for a paltry 21 percent of his passing yards. Against a better team, that might have made sense. Against an overmatched NIU, it played a big factor in why FSU struggled to pull away.

Florida State fans can look back to similarly strange play calling against NC State and Virginia Tech and find more frustration, which is why the question of when Fisher will hand over the keys to his offense to a play-calling coordinator remains front and center going into 2013.

By the numbers: FSU's ground game

January, 7, 2013
With the 2012 season officially in the books, we took a look through the stats to determine some of the most significant improvements and problems Florida State endured this year with five stats that defined 2012.

The numbers don't always tell the whole story, but these numbers shed some light on some of the biggest reasons Florida State won 12 games and its first ACC title in seven years, and also why those other two games got away.

First up: 40.

That's the number of rushing touchdowns by Florida State this season -- double its total from a year ago.

Florida State's offense might have lacked some consistency, but this year's unit was markedly improved, and that started with the ground game. Only four other teams in the country boasted a bigger increase in rushing touchdowns from 2011 to 2012 than Florida State, and even with the loss of starter Chris Thompson in Week 8, the Seminoles still finished with the third highest yards per carry of any team in the nation (5.62).

It's hard to quantify the impact the improved ground game had on FSU's offense this year, but across the board the differences were staggering.

Essentially with just three additional running plays per game, FSU doubled its ground gains in 2012.

Perhaps as impressive as the overall running game was the depth. Take away the yardage lost to sacks, and Florida State had five runners -- Lonnie Pryor (8.0), Thompson (7.5), EJ Manuel (6.4), Devonta Freeman (6.0) and James Wilder Jr. (5.8) -- rack up at least 45 carries and average at least 5.5 yards per rush.

Of course, plenty of credit goes to the offensive line, with the Orange Bowl providing a prime example. Of the 243 yards FSU gained on the ground against Northern Illinois, 196 of them came before contact was made with a defender (81 percent), and runners went untouched on all three touchdown runs.

By the Numbers: FSU 21, Ga. Tech 15

December, 2, 2012
Some of Saturday's numbers were ugly -- namely the second-half shutout for the Seminoles' offense. Some were impressive, like Karlos Williams' 11 tackles in emergency duty at linebacker. They all added up to Florida State's first ACC title in seven years.

Digging a bit deeper, here are five key stats that told the story of FSU's 21-15 win over Georgia Tech in Saturday's ACC championship game.

7. That's the number of turnovers coughed up by EJ Manuel in his past three games, including two in the second half against Georgia Tech. Manuel had been exceptional at protecting the football through the first 10 games of the season, even if he wasn't always particularly aggressive downfield. In the past three weeks, however, Manuel has made few big throws and has been prone to mistakes. In those three games, Manuel is a combined 51-for-77 (66 percent). He has just two completions of 25 yards or more and has averaged just 153 passing yards per game while tossing four INTs and just three touchdowns. On Saturday, he threw for just 134 yards against a Georgia Tech defense that had been allowing 248 yards per game through the air, and his longest completion of the day was a 21-yarder to fullback Lonnie Pryor, with the bulk of that yardage being picked up on the ground.

117. That was FSU's total second half offensive output. The Seminoles averaged a woeful 4.03 yards per play in the half and, for the second time this year, failed to score during a full half of football. Florida State had six second-half possessions Saturday, three of which ended in turnovers, two in punts, and the final came when the Seminoles ran out the clock to end the game. While Manuel did little to jump start the offense in the second half, the bigger problem was the running game, which averaged just 2.8 yards per carry after a strong first half in which it racked up 147 yards on 20 touches.

183. Georgia Tech's rushing yardage total was its second-worst performance of the season, with more than 150 yards fewer than its per-game average for the year. Tech ran 52 times, but mustered just 3.5 yards per carry as the Florida State defense was strong up front even without star defensive end Cornellius Carradine, and the linebackers turned in an exceptional performance. Karlos Williams, Telvin Smith, Vince Williams and Christian Jones combined for 37 tackles, including three for a loss, and a game-clinching interception. Tech entered the game second in the nation with 38 runs of 20 yards or more. It had just one Saturday -- by QB Tevin Washington for exactly 20.

3. That was the total number of catches by all of Florida State's wide receivers other than Rashad Greene, who set a season high with nine grabs. The remainder of FSU's receiving corps struggled to get open, and the three grabs it managed accounted for 16 yards, while Kelvin Benjamin's lone catch ended with a fumble. In the Seminoles' first 12 games of the season, the fewest catches by receivers other than Greene was six.

3. That's the number of times Manuel was sacked, on just 24 passing attempts. If there's a common thread in Manuel's recent struggles, it might be the pass protection. In FSU's past four games, Manuel has been sacked 14 times -- once every 9.6 passing plays. In the Seminoles' first nine games, Manuel was sacked just 13 times, or once every 17.7 passing plays. Of course, part of Saturday's troubles stemmed from Menelik Watson's ankle injury which forced Bobby Hart into action in the second half. Concurrently, FSU's offense withered.

By the Numbers: Florida 37, FSU 26

November, 25, 2012
When it was over, Jimbo Fisher couldn't help but recount all the opportunities Florida State had let slip by. From the turnovers to the run defense to the special teams blunders, every unit contributed to the 37-26 Florida win, he said.

The numbers tell the story of an FSU team that hardly resembled the dominant group that had won 10 of its first 11 games. Here are five that made the biggest impact in Saturday's defeat at the hands of the Gators.

244. That's the number of rushing yards Florida State allowed Saturday, the most for an FSU defense since a loss to Florida in 2009 when the Gators tallied 311 yards on the ground. Florida's Mike Gillislee finished with 140 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries, the most yards by an individual back against FSU since Clemson's Jamie Harper ran for 143 in 2010. Florida's three rushing touchdowns were the most against FSU since NC State had three in 2010, and the Gators racked up four different runs of at least 20 yards in game, matching the total number FSU had allowed all season.

23. That's the number of turnovers Florida State has this season -- four more than the Seminoles finished with a year ago. In seven games this season, FSU had turned the ball over at least twice, but it managed to win all of them. On Saturday, however, the luck ran out. The Seminoles coughed up the football five times -- the most in any game since last season's loss to Wake Forest. EJ Manuel threw three ugly interceptions and gave up a fumble, while Karlos Williams fumbled away a kick return. Two of the turnovers occurred deep in Florida territory -- taking likely points off the board for FSU -- while the Gators turned two turnovers into 14 points in a game that ended up decided by just 11.

36:20. That's Florida's time of possession in Saturday's win, but it may not even tell the whole story. Thanks to FSU's early offensive miscues, the Gators dominated the time of possession in the first half, slowly wearing down the Seminoles' D. By the time Manuel coughed up a fumble with 11:09 remaining in the fourth quarter, Florida had a nearly 18-minute edge in time of possession and had run 62 offensive plays to FSU's 34. Not surprisingly, FSU's D had nothing left, and Gillislee ran for a 37-yard score one play later.

3. That's the number of times Florida State punted Saturday, and freshman Cason Beatty averaged just 42 yards on those kicks. That still marked his fourth-best average on the season, but despite the seemingly big advantage Florida had in that area, it wasn't Beatty's leg that proved to be the difference on special teams. His longest punt of the day was a 54-yarder, but FSU couldn't cover it and Marcus Roberson returned it 50 yards to the Seminoles' 32-yard line, setting up a touchdown that effectively sealed the game.

6. That's the number of tackles for Bjoern Werner in the game, including 3.5 sacks. Werner was dominant through three quarters, consistently pressuring Florida QB Jeff Driskel and almost singlehandedly changing the momentum in the third quarter, culminating with a huge fumble recovery that set up a touchdown run. But after Manuel coughed up the fumble in the fourth quarter, there were no more heroics left for Werner, who had simply run out of gas. He finished without a tackle in the final quarter, and Florida responded with 24 unanswered points.

By The Numbers: FSU 41, Maryland 14

November, 18, 2012
Florida State cruised past another ACC foe, closing out the division title and picking up its 10th win of the season -- the second time in three years that Jimbo Fisher's squad has won 10 games and made an ACC championship appearance.

While the game wasn't particularly close, there were some numbers that stood out. Here are five that told the story of FSU's 41-14 win over the Terrapins.

237. That's the rushing total for Florida State's ground game on Saturday, a vast improvement from the struggles against Virginia Tech a week earlier. Devonta Freeman led the way, averaging 9.3 yards per carry en route to a career-high 148 yards and two scores. The 237 yards represents a season high for FSU on the road -- its four previous road games had been its four worst rushing performances -- and no designed runs were stuffed in the backfield.

16. That's the number of sacks Florida State has allowed on the road this season, after EJ Manuel was dumped in the backfield three times by Maryland. That represents 76 percent of the Seminoles' season total. Fisher chalked up the struggles on the road to playing better defenses away from home, but FSU will get its chance to test that theory against Florida's stellar defense at Doak Campbell Stadium this week.

7. That's the number of passing plays of 25 yards or longer Florida State has allowed in the past two weeks. In the first nine games of the season, the Seminoles allowed just eight plays of 25 yards. While the big plays have been more common the past two weeks, opponents haven't found much overall success in the passing game. Virginia Tech and Maryland completed just 53 percent of their passes against FSU.

3. That’s the number of receptions for tight end Nick O'Leary on Saturday, including 10-yard touchdown grab in the first quarter. The three catches matches O'Leary's total from the past five games combined. After starting the season with 10 catches in his first four games, O'Leary had largely disappeared from the offense, but Saturday he was a focal point early. For the season, O'Leary has 13 catches for 206 yards -- topping his season total of 164 yards from 2011.

26. That’s the number of tackles for loss this year by Bjoern Werner and Cornellius Carradine, who were both dominant against the Terrapins. Werner and Carradine combined for nine tackles, three sacks, 3.5 TFLs, a fumble recovery and a pass breakup. The 20 combined sacks Carradine and Werner share this season is the most by any pair of teammates in the country.

By the Numbers: FSU 28, VT 22

November, 9, 2012
It would have been easy to dismiss Virginia Tech's chances in Thursday night's game, particularly given how badly the Hokies had played just a week earlier against Miami. And it would've been easy to assume Florida State would cruise to an easy win.

So the fact that the Seminoles needed a desperate final drive and a big interception by Tyler Hunter in the game's final seconds to secure a win was something of a surprise. The funny thing, however, is that there were plenty of numbers before the game that gave cause for concern, and most of them showed up in a big way Thursday night.

Kyshoen Jarrett, Tyrel Wilson
AP Photo/Steve HelberEJ Manuel was under attack from Virginia Tech on Thursday, something that's been a theme in FSU road games.
Here are five key stats that defined Florida State's dramatic 28-22 victory.

5. That's the number of times EJ Manuel was sacked by the Virginia Tech defense Thursday, a season high. Four of the Hokies' sacks came on third down, when Bud Foster's defense was exceptionally aggressive, blitzing Manuel routinely. The line had no answer in a performance eerily similar to the struggles at NC State last month. Manuel was sacked four times in that game, meaning that half of FSU's 18 sacks allowed this season came in the two games played outside the state of Florida. Overall, 13 of the 18 have come on the road.

-15. That's Florida State's rushing total for the game, the fourth-worst output on the ground in school history. To be fair, 44 yards were lost to sacks, but the Seminoles' 20 designed runs still amounted to just 29 yards total -- more than 200 yards less than what FSU had been averaging for the season. In Florida State's second game without Chris Thompson, things got extremely ugly, and the tailback tandem of James Wilder Jr. and Devonta Freeman ended up getting just two carries in the second half.

(Read full post)

Florida State had the weekend off, but that didn't stop Jimbo Fisher or his Seminoles from looking ahead.

With three games remaining before an anticipated ACC championship game appearance, FSU has tallied some impressive numbers -- leading the ACC in virtually every significant statistical category. But dig deeper, and there are a few other key stats worth noting as the Seminoles make their final push.

4.4: That's how many passing yards Florida State's defense is allowing per attempt this season, by far the best mark in the country. Only two teams (Clemson and Miami) have averaged less than than 5.0 yards per attempt against the Seminoles' secondary this season, and those numbers could certainly improve going forward. Virginia Tech and Maryland rank ninth and 10th, respectively, in passing in the ACC, and the Terps are down to their fifth quarterback of the season -- a converted linebacker. Florida State also ends its season with Florida, which is last in the SEC in passing.

179.8: That's the difference in yards per game at home for Florida State vs. what the Seminoles are averaging on the road -- the sixth-largest disparity in the country. FSU has outscored its five home opponents by an average score of 54-9 this season. On the road, however, it's a much closer 26-18 margin. Given that two of the next three are away from home, Fisher needs to find a way to ensure the dominance FSU enjoys at Doak Campbell can carry over to the road, too.

23.08: That's the percentage of third downs Florida State's opponents have converted this season, the best percentage in the country and the best rate by any team in at least eight years. Meanwhile, the Seminoles' offense has converted 45.5 percent of its third-down chances, which ranks second among ACC teams this season.

6.57: That's the average yards per rush for Florida State's ground game this season, factoring out yardage lost to sacks. Oregon is the only team in the nation has averaged more yards per rush, and it's been a group effort for FSU. Injured starting tailback Chris Thompson led the way with 7.5 yards per carry, but Devonta Freeman (7.4), Lonnie Pryor (6.5), EJ Manuel (6.4) and James Wilder Jr. (5.9) are all among the ACC leaders.

0: That's the number of times Florida State has held a three-game winning streak against both Miami and Florida concurrently. That could change with a win over the Gators this year, and it would push Fisher to a perfect 7-0 against in-state rivals (including a win over USF). A victory over Florida would also provide FSU a marquee win, helping earn some national respect in a down ACC.


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