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Advanced Stats Review: GT vs. UCF

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Is Georgia Tech new and improved in 2020, or are we seeing the same struggles as 2019? Yes

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

Final Score: UCF 49-21

Projected EPA Margin of Victory: UCF by 25.60

GT Win Probability by Success Rate and Yards Per Play: 31%

Heading into this game, we asked whether the 2019 GT stats or the week 1 stats against FSU gave us a better indicator of how this game against UCF would go. As we guessed, the answer was somewhere in between. GT nearly matched UCF in efficiency, putting up numbers pretty close to last week against FSU. But, big plays and turnovers completely tilted the final outcome and showed how far GT has to go.

Advanced Stats Comparison

GT UCF Success Rates

Success Rate O GT Offense D UCF Offense National Avg
Success Rate O GT Offense D UCF Offense National Avg
Down 1 44.10% 1 35.10%
2 58.30% 2 56.70%
3 42.90% 3 64.70%
4 33.30% 4 33.30%
Qtr 1 63.60% 1 50.00%
2 39.10% 2 56.30%
3 35.30% 3 26.10%
4 53.80% 4 61.10%
Pass P 44.40% P 47.60%
Rush R 52.60% R 48.90%
Overall 48.00% 48.30% 42%

Success rate is the baseline metric for efficiency. As a reminder, a successful play gains 50% of the needed yards on 1st down, 70% on second down, and 100% on third or fourth down. GT and UCF were nearly identical on Saturday. The most glaring discrepancy jumps out on third down success rate, as UCF was able to sustain drives with a 65% third down SR. For Tech fans, there is great cause for optimism after posting a 48% SR against a defense that allowed only 35% all of last year.

GT UCF Advanced Box Score

Adv Box Score GT Opponent National Avg
Adv Box Score GT Opponent National Avg
Snap Count 75 88 71.5
# Pass Attempts 37 42 31
Avg Starting FP 69.43 68.86 70.5
YPP 5.4 6.53 5.7
YPA (incl. sacks, scrambles) 6.68 9.64 7.39
% of Passes on 1st Down 37% 42% 40.17%
Avg EPA/play -0.07 0.23 -0.02
Avg EPA/pass -0.14 0.35 0
Total EPA -5.58 20.02 -0.02
Avg Air Yards / Completion 6.53 9.52
Air Yards / Attempt 8.71 11.44
xCP 58.73% 55.52% 62.54%
CPOE -10.16% 10.33% 0.00%
Havoc Rate 15% 13% 16.20%

The story of the game starts to unfold when we look at the passing numbers. The baseline statistic of yards per pass attempt shows a nearly three yard advantage for UCF. Digging a little bit deeper, we see how successful UCF’s downfield passing game was. Dillon Gabriel averaged over 9.5 air/yards per completion. That is an elite number. He completed 10.33% more of his passes than would be expected by target depth, while Jeff Sims completed about 10% less than expected.

To dig a little bit deeper, let’s examine each of the primary GT defenders who were targeted in coverage on Saturday.

GT Defensive Target Metrics

Player in Primary Coverage Targets CPOE Allowed
Player in Primary Coverage Targets CPOE Allowed
1 0
2 3 19.33%
3 0
13 3 9.47%
16 6 8.92%
21 7 17.06%
22 0
25 1 35.00%
24 2 3.90%
39 7 7.64%
8 2 31.50%
17 1 30.33%

Not a single GT defender held Gabriel below his expected completion percentage on targets where he was the primary defender! Of the high target defenders, Zamari Walton struggled the most, while Myles Sims and Wesley Walker faired slightly better but still below average. Simply, the GT secondary gave up way too many explosive pass plays, and there is plenty of blame to go around.

EPA Highlights

EPA calculates the expected number of points added (or lost in the case of a negative number) on a particular play based on the down and the location on they field. Akshay Easwaran did a great job priming us for EPA this summer. Check out his column here for background. You can see the average EPA numbers from the game in the table above, but I want to highlight the most helpful and the most hurtful plays from the game from GT’s perspective.

Five Most Helpful Plays

  1. Demetrius Knight forced fumble when UCF had 1st and 10 from the GT 31 in the second quarter. Avery sHowell recovered the fumble and returned it to the GT 27. 4.89 EPA.
  2. Charlie Thomas deflected a Dillon Gabriel pass that was intercepted by Juanyeh Thomas on 1st and 10 from the GT 27. 3.75 EPA.
  3. Wesley Walker breaks up a pass on a UCF 4th and 3 from the GT 29. 3.42 EPA.
  4. The Georgia Tech defense forces an incomplete pass on 4th and 5 from the GT 43 to take over on downs in the middle of the third quarter. 3.22 EPA.
  5. Jahmyr Gibbs 33 yard touchdown run on 1st and 10 from the UCF 33 in the beginning of the fourth quarter. 3.10 EPA.

Five Most Hurtful Plays

  1. Jeff Sims’s 1st interception on 1st and 10 from the 50, returned to the GT 35. -6.05 EPA.
  2. The fumbled handoff exchange between Jeff Sims and Jamious Griffin on 1st and 10 from the GT 29 early in the third quarter. -5.23 EPA.
  3. Jeff Sims’s fumble on 2nd and goal from the UCF 9 in the middle of the first quarter. -4.87 EPA.
  4. Jeff Sims’s 2nd interception on 1st and 10 from the GT 25, returned to the GT 20 in the fourth quarter. -4.85 EPA
  5. Dillon Gabriel 48 yd pass toJaylon Robinson on 2nd and 11 from the UCF 21 in the middle of the second quarter. -3.75 EPA.

Tracking Season Goals

I set these goals for the 2020 season in some of my offseason preview work. We will be tracking them as we go this year.

Season Goals Week 2

Metric Season Goal This Week Season Long
Metric Season Goal This Week Season Long
Offensive Passing Success Rate >40% 44.40% 53%
Offensive Power Success Rate >70% 100% 100%
Defensive Power Success Rate <70% 100% 100%
Defensive Stuff Rate >20% 14% 15%
Defensive Havoc Rate >21% 15% 18%

Passing success and offensive power success continue to show dramatic improvement from 2019. There is much to be excited about on the offense, despite the rash of turnovers and inability to finish drives.

On the other side of the ball, we are not seeing the hoped for improvements. We have not stopped a single power running play in either game; we are not creating run stuffs or havoc at the hoped for levels of improvement.

Takeaways

  1. Turnovers changed this from a competitive game to a blowout.
  2. Jeff Sims made some wonderful throws in this game but really struggled getting the ball down the field. Jahmyr Gibbs showed the explosiveness we’ve been hoping to see.
  3. On the flip side, Dillon Gabriel exploited the GT secondary time after time. The lack of ability to stop big passing plays combined with the inability to stop short yardage power runs is concerning. UCF is the first or second best offense we will play this year, but we did not acquit ourselves well this week.

There’s plenty of room for improvement. We face a much easier opponent next Saturday, and the Syracuse game will be another helpful benchmark to gauge improvement from 2019. I look forward to previewing that matchup with Syracuse on Thursday.