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NC State’s offense seems horrible, but what do advanced metrics say?

Sidenote: The Wolfpack defense is easily in the top four of the ACC

NCAA Football: North Carolina State at Florida State Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a pretty widely held (agreed upon?) view that the NC State offense is severely limiting the potential success of the 2019 team as a whole. The offense certainly didn’t show up in the 31-13 loss at Florida State last weekend, and wasn’t exactly confidence-inspiring in the win over Ball State and the loss at West Virginia.

Essentially, since halftime of the WVU game, the offense hasn’t really been there. That’s half the season to-date.

But let’s put aside feelings, “eyeball tests”, and other sensory evaluations and instead look at how the offense (and the defense, too) is stacking up versus the rest of the ACC in more advanced metrics.

Our good friends over at Aggie Analytics (I mean, I’ve never met the folks... maybe they hate us; I have no idea, but they did the work and we’re thankful for that) have pulled together and crunched the numbers for us, so let’s take a look.

(Also, bless their hearts, but they definitely got the Atlantic and Coastal divisions confused... try not to jump on Twitter and point it out - they already know.)

Atlantic Division
Aggie Analytics

Coastal Division
Aggie Analytics

Now would be a good time to define what Success Rate means. Per Bill Connelly, author/creator of the SP+ metrics:

The goal of success rate is to create an on-base percentage-style efficiency measure. Depending on a given down and distance, each play is deemed successful or non-successful:

First downs: gaining at least 50 percent of necessary yardage (usually 5 yards) is successful.

Second downs: gaining at least 70 percent of necessary yardage is successful.

Third or fourth downs: gaining at least 100 percent of necessary yardage is successful.

Since both of those figures from Aggie Analytics are broken out by division, if you’re wondering how the entire ACC stacks up, I recreated the above tables in a single view:

North Carolina, Syracuse, and Miami offenses: living off big plays.

As for NC State’s offensive rankings in the above:

  • 10th in Yards/Play
  • 8th in Points/Drive
  • 2nd in Rush Success Rate
  • 11th in Pass Success Rate
  • 11th in Standard Down Success Rate
  • 2nd in Pass Down Success Rate (?!?!?)
  • 6th in Explosive Run Plays
  • 14th in Explosive Pass Plays

Not going to add a lot of words about this. The run game is efficient, although not the same level of explosive, and the passing game is painful. That Pass Down Success Rate is shocking, though... but maybe there’s something to be said when the top two teams in that category are Virginia Tech and NC State.

Now for the other side of the ball...

And here’s how NC State’s defense ranks in the above:

  • 3rd in Yards/Play
  • 7th in Points/Drive
  • 4th in Rush Success Rate
  • 7th in Pass Success Rate
  • 9th in Standard Down Success Rate
  • 5th in Pass Down Success Rate
  • 1st in Explosive Run Plays
  • 3rd in Explosive Pass Plays

This basically confirms in another format what we already thought about the defense: Dave Doeren likes to run a softer coverage, bend-but-don’t-break philosophy. It’s also working, as frustrating as it can be to watch at times. This is a really good defense when the offense isn’t forcing it to play extended snaps.

Other items of note:

  • NC State ranks 7th in SP+ and 9th in FEI
  • NC State’s Strength of Schedule ranks 13th (yuck) in both SP+ and FEI