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Advanced Stats Preview: GT vs. NC State

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Georgia Tech bounced back in a big way against Duke. Will the trend continue?

NCAA Football: North Carolina State at Georgia Tech Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off of a dominant performance against a hapless Duke team, Georgia Tech looks to cement those gains and go on a late-season run. This Saturday, we will travel to Raleigh to take on a better than expected NC State team. Last year, Georgia Tech jumped out to a nice lead over NC State before surviving a late game comeback attempt, and behind the quarterback play of Bailey Hockman, the Wolfpack have improved this year. NC State is about 5 points better than their preseason SP+ rating; the Vegas Consensus has installed NC State as a 7 point favorite, while SP+ has it closer to six. This would give GT about a 35% win probability; at the conclusion of the article, we’ll reveal what our model sees happening on Saturday afternoon. First, let’s look at the stats matchup and relative advantages each team should expect to have:

GT vs. NC State Advanced Stats Preview

Metric GT 2020 NC State 2020 Advantage National Average
Metric GT 2020 NC State 2020 Advantage National Average
Offensive Success Rate 45% 41% GT by 4% 42%
Offensive YPP 5.4 5.4 EVEN 5.7
Offensive EPA/Play -0.06 0.004 NC State by .06/play -0.01
Offensive YPA (including sacks and scrambles) 6.52 7.9 NC State by 1.4 7.4
Offensive 3rd Down Success 40% 45% NC State by 5% 42%
Offensive Stuff Rate Allowed 25% 21% NC State by 4% 19%
Defensive Success Rate 46% 40% NC State by 6% 42%
Defensive YPP 5.5 5.3 NC State by 0.2 ypp 5.7
Defensive EPA/Play 0.09 -0.03 NC State by 0.12 EPA/play -0.01
Defensive YPA 7.5 7.1 NC State by 0.4 ypa 7.4
Defensive 3rd Down Success 47% 36% NC State by 11% 42%
Defensive Stuff Rate 18% 24% NC State by 6% 19%
Defensive Havoc Rate 15% 18% NC State by 3% 21%
*GT numbers come from my play by play charting. Opponent numbers come from @CFB_Data and cfb-graphs.com

I did not expect NC State to have such an across the board statistical advantage in this matchup. The only category where GT leads through this point in the season is offensive success rate, which continues to be a source of improvement and encouragement for GT compared to last year. Overall though, NC State has been the better football team this year.

When GT Has the Ball

NC State has been solid but not spectacular on defense. One exception that will be vital for GT to watch is NC State Defensive Tackle Alim McNeil. He is the second highest graded interior defender in the country, according to PFF. This will be far and away the toughest test for GT’s interior offensive line, which simply hasn’t been very good this year. You can see some of the evidence of McNeil’s play in NC State’s exceptional run stuff rate, which ranks 24th nationally. Interestingly, NC State has been below average in creating defensive havoc, which bodes well for the young GT offense.

This will be a tough test for GT, especially if Jahmyr Gibbs is unable to go. Jeff Sims will need to be efficient in the short and medium passing game. Jordan Mason will be called upon to duplicate the effort he had against the Wolfpack last year.

GT NC State Offensive Projection

Team Defensive Season Long Efficiency Score Defensive EPA/Play GT Offensive Efficiency Score GT Offensive EPA/Play
Team Defensive Season Long Efficiency Score Defensive EPA/Play GT Offensive Efficiency Score GT Offensive EPA/Play
FSU 3.17 0.202 2.95 0
UCF 2.51 -0.033 2.59 -0.07
Syracuse 2.42 0.028 2.42 -0.06
Louisville 2.22 0.043 3.45 0.43
Clemson 1.44 -0.197 0.47 -0.78
Boston College 2.68 0.059 2.12 -0.23
Notre Dame 1.6 -0.155 1.1 -0.35
Duke 2.3 0.03 3.22 0.13
GT Previous Opponent Average 2.26 0 2.29 -0.06
National average 2.39 0 2.39 0
NC State Projection 2.12 -0.03 2.05 -0.14
*Efficiency Score is Success Rate Allowed * Yards Per Play Allowed (From a GT offensive perspective, higher is better)
*GT’s offensive efficiency score and offensive EPA/play are projected based on opponent-adjusted performance in the previous games compared to NCSU’s season long statistics.

NC Sate’s defense is slightly better than the Duke and Louisville defenses against which GT had great success and nowhere near as good as the defenses that have shut GT down this year. This is a really helpful test to measure the overall progress of the GT offense. If GT gets close to 30 points in this game, that is a job well done. The matchup looks like a slight advantage for the NC State defense, and I would expect a GT offensive output in the mid to high 20s.

When NC State Has the Ball

This is an average offense that once again will prove to be a helpful measuring stick for the GT defense. Last week, GT was able to put up season high rates of run stuffs and havoc plays on defense, while forcing five turnovers. NC State doesn’t turn the ball over like Duke does (well, no one does), and they’ve been far more effective in throwing the ball downfield. Bailey Hockman has been an average starter at quarterback, which is a vast improvement over what NC State had to offer last year. Emeka Emezie is the playmaker to watch on the outside, and Zonovan Knight is having an elite season running the ball, ranking just ahead of Jahmyr Gibbs in PFF’s running back grades. This offense looks very similar to Boston College on paper, which obviously didn’t go well back in October. I’m concerned about GT’s ability to stop Knight and to limit Emezie’s big plays down the field.

GT NC State Defensive Projection

Team Offensive Efficiency Score Offensive EPA/Play GT Defensive Efficiency Score (lower is better) GT Defensive EPA/play
Team Offensive Efficiency Score Offensive EPA/Play GT Defensive Efficiency Score (lower is better) GT Defensive EPA/play
FSU 1.92 -0.08 1.56 -0.11
UCF 3.15 0.16 3.12 0.23
Syracuse 1.2 -0.3 1.99 0.1
Louisville 2.62 0.03 2.29 0.1
Clemson 2.9 0.183 5.34 0.46
Boston College 2.28 0.05 2.67 0.28
Notre Dame 2.9 0.13 2.95 0.13
Duke 1.95 -0.15 1.71 -0.28
GT Previous Opponent Average 2.32 0 2.7 0.09
National average 2.39 0 2.39 0
NC State Projection 2.214 0.004 2.56 0.09
*Efficiency Score is Success Rate Allowed * Yards Per Play Allowed (From a GT defensive perspective, lower is better)
*GT’s defensive efficiency score and defensive EPA/play are projected based on opponent-adjusted performance in the previous games compared to NCSU’s season long statistics.

The numbers like NC State’s offense to get the best of Georgia Tech’s defense, and I would project them to score in the high 30s.

Prediction

Last week, we introduced a new projection model, which pegged Duke as a 5 point favorite. That and every other model was way off and didn’t see GT’s 23 point win coming. GT bested Duke, but of course, the scoring margin was boosted by Duke’s 5 turnovers. That’s not likely to happen again this week. NC State has a marginal but across the road advantage in this game. We mentioned earlier that Vegas has NC State as a 7 point favorite, and SP+ has the Pack as almost a 6 point favorite.

What did our model spit out? NC State by 10. Let’s call it 38-28.

Year to Date Against the Spread: 0-1