Recently SB Nation's Bill Connelly introduced statistical profiles for every FBS team. These profiles, which contain a load of a ton of advanced metrics--some of which you've seen used here, many of which you haven't--will be updated every week, and I think this should be valuable as we get deeper into the season.
For now I thought it would be worthwhile to examine a couple of areas: explosiveness and efficiency. If you've seen the first three games, you know the story for the Wolfpack's offense so far: effectiveness through methodical efficiency without many big plays. The Pack has been able to lean on its ground game to grind opponents into a pulp simply by keeping the offense on schedule.
The success on the ground has made for a highly efficient passing game, with Jacoby Brissett completing more than three-quarters of his attempts, but again, the big plays haven't been three. In fact, NC State has only one pass play longer than 30 yards, and none longer than 40. Only three FBS teams have fewer pass plays of 30+ yards (which is to say there are three teams with none).
Courtesy of Connelly, here's a statistical visualization of what we've seen:
|NC State in 2015||Offense||Defense|
|Passing Success Rate||51.4%||15||36.8%||50||40.4%|
|Rushing Success Rate||50.0%||25||28.0%||15||42.1%|
Success Rate is a measure of efficiency***, and you can see that in terms of both passing and rushing success rate, NC State's offense fares well. IsoPPP is a measure of explosiveness, and the returns in those categories are not so great. The Pack has been only average on the ground, while the passing game has really been lacking. (You can see also that the big plays allowed by the defense give it some ugly marks in the IsoPPP categories.)
[***It is super straightforward: "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." This also serves as the definition for "staying on schedule."]
State's been winning with execution, playing far more efficiently than its over-matched opponents ... but not more explosively. That can work just fine--the results speak for themselves--especially when the gaps in efficiency between the Pack and its opponents are so large. Connelly found that teams winning the efficiency category win 83% of the time.
But teams that win the explosiveness category win 86% of the time, so there is some added benefit for a team with a greater penchant for big plays. Obviously you'd like an offense that is both explosive and efficient; that's just not been the case for NC State through the first quarter of the season.
This leaves some questions as we're nearing league play. First off, how much has limiting the play book played a factor? NC State's circumstances are somewhat unusual simply because the schedule has been unusually cruddy--if it's not the worst slate among P5 schools, it's close. The Wolfpack has shown as little as necessary to get by, taking advantage of the ol' call-it-until-they-stop-it strategy. Dave Doeren mentioned Thursday that there are packages for David Grinnage they haven't even bothered to implement yet.
Things like that could be limiting the overall explosiveness of the offense, particularly when there is little incentive to diverge from a game plan that is successful through a methodical approach. This will change once we get into ACC play and open things up, and with a greater diversity of plays, it seems like we should see more chunk yardage plays.
But assuming NC State's offense does become more explosive, how much more explosive will it be, exactly, and will that be enough to compensate for losses in efficiency? The Pack's going to start playing better defenses, beginning with a really solid Louisville group. And that's going to cut into State's efficiency; staying on schedule is not gonna be nearly the walk in the park it is now.
So it stands to reason State's offense is going to need a few more big plays to balance that out. It mostly feels like that's on the passing game to stretch things out a bit. If the Pack can't do that, it might start to feel a bit claustrophobic around the line of scrimmage. I'm optimistic--did you know that we have Jaylen Samuels--but there's also no doubt this team has a lot left to prove.