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Advanced Stats Review: GT vs. Syracuse

The prospects for this season have fallen, but we went into this season expecting more growing pains. Let’s hope these pains actually are leading to growth. 

Georgia Tech v Virginia Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images

Final Score: Syracuse 37-20

Projected EPA Margin of Victory: Syracuse by 10.69

GT Win Probability (Based on Success Rate, Yards Per Play, and EPA): 38%

The wheels fell off for Georgia Tech in the Carrier Dome on Saturday afternoon. Through two games, Georgia Tech had shown improvements in offensive efficiency and hoped to build on that progress against a Syracuse team who had been outscored 51-16 in the first two weeks of the season.

Progress was halted as Georgia Tech turned the ball over 5 more times, gave up 2 more long pass plays for touchdowns, had a field goal blocked, and committed 15 penalties. The mistakes in this one were obvious, but of course, the point of this column is to dig deeper and see what we can learn.

Advanced Stats Comparison

GT Syracuse Success Rates

Success Rate O GT Offense D Syracuse Offense National Avg
Success Rate O GT Offense D Syracuse Offense National Avg
Down 1 44.40% 1 47.80%
2 45.80% 2 22.20%
3 37.50% 3 38.50%
4 100.00% 4
Qtr 1 41.20% 1 35.00%
2 48.00% 2 43.80%
3 50.00% 3 41.70%
4 22.20% 4 16.70%
Pass P 40.60% P 35.70%
Rush R 47.70% R 38.50%
Overall 44.20% 37.00% 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.

Once again, GT wins the success rate battle, including both rushing and passing plays. This is reason for some optimism, as all three games have had GT above average in success rate, and in two out of three Gt has held the opponent below average. If I have to pick one metric that gives me some optimism for the rest of the season, it is this one. The running game was quite effective throughout the game; Gibbs was the only runner with below average success rate, but he had a few explosive plays that were huge contributions.

GT vs. Syracuse RB Success Rates

Running Backs Carries Rushing Success Rate
Running Backs Carries Rushing Success Rate
10 4 0.5
21 18 0.39
22 14 0.57
28 8 0.5

*I include sacks and scrambles in passing plays

The running backs were not nearly as successful in the passing game as they were against UCF. Brown finally caught a go route, but no one particularly excelled in this group.

GT vs. Syracuse WR Stats

Receivers Receiving Success Rate Avg Target Air Yards Targets % of Team Air Yards YACatch
Receivers Receiving Success Rate Avg Target Air Yards Targets % of Team Air Yards YACatch
1 0.2 8.2 5 14.34% 10
2 0.33 24.67 3 25.87% 7
11 0.5 5 2 3.50% 0
12 0.5 13.5 4 18.88% 9
15 0.5 11.5 4 16.08% 10
18 0 5 1 1.75% 0
21 0.25 5.75 4 8.04% 2
22 0 -4 1 -1.40% 0
34 1 3 1 1.05% 4

GT vs. Syracuse Advanced Box Score

Adv Box Score GT Opponent National Avg
Adv Box Score GT Opponent National Avg
Snap Count 78 55 71.5
# Pass Attempts 33 28 31
Avg Starting FP 72.29 65.2 70.5
YPP 5.47 5.46 5.7
YPA (incl. sacks, scrambles) 6.85 7.79 7.39
% of Passes on 1st Down 39% 42% 40.17%
Avg EPA/play -0.06 0.1 -0.01
Avg EPA/pass -0.37 0.16 0
Total EPA -4.96 5.73 -0.96
Avg Air Yards / Completion 10.15 9 6.14
Air Yards / Attempt 10.48 11.42 8.89
CP 48.15% 54.17% 62.54%
CPOE -10.74% -4.82% 0.00%
Havoc Rate 11% 16% 21.00%
Pressure Rate 43% 45% 30.70%

Let’s dig into the advanced box score to find out more of what happened. A couple of numbers to highlight: GT’s average EPA/pass was an abysmal -0.37. That means on average, we lost a third of a point every time we dropped back to pass. This number is significant hurt by 4 interceptions, but the failure of the passing game goes deeper. Jeff Sims’s CPOE (completion percentage over expectation was -10.74%). He completed almost 11% of his passes fewer than we would expect based on the depth of the receivers he was targeting. That’s an awful number and is unfortunately in line with his numbers from last week. The offensive line allowed pressures on 45% of his dropbacks, and Sims was not able to adapt. This is the primary issue to watch as the season progresses; how much pressure does the offensive line allow, and how does Sims respond?

On defense, the first number I want to highlight is the 11% havoc rate. Against a team that had given up 15 sacks in two weeks and was averaging less than 3 yards per play, that is an unbelievably bad number. The defense did get 43% pressure, and Jordan Domineck was effective in the pass rush, but overall, the defense was not able to cause near enough trouble for Tommy Devito and the Syracuse offense.

Overall, the GT pass defense did well, but a couple of big plays caused a lot of damage. Devito had a CPOE of -4.82%, but his average air yards/completion was 9.00. That is well above the national average of 6.14 and indicates some significant failures in coverage. Where did those happen?

GT vs. Syracuse Coverage Stats

Player in Primary Coverage Targets CPOE Allowed
Player in Primary Coverage Targets CPOE Allowed
1 3 -7.39%
2 1 35.00%
16 1 70.40%
21 2 -30.50%
22 2 5.40%
25 3 43.97%
39 1 27.67%
92 1 20.00%

The first long touchdown given up by Myles Sims was a dagger; Charlie Thomas gave up two big plays on the three throws where he was targeted. Zamari Walton bounced back well after getting beat deep last week, and Juanyeh Thomas was once again the best player in the secondary, but it wasn’t enough to offset an overall poor showing from a unit that has not lived up to preseason expectation and continues to miss Tre Swilling.

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.

The EPA totals for this game leave us with about a 10 point margin of victory for Syracuse. We’ll dig into the highlights and lowlights to help us see the particular plays that took this from a competitive game to a borderline blowout.

Five Most Helpful Plays

  1. Jeff Sims’s 24 yard touchdown pass to Jaymyr Gibbs on 4th and 8 from the Syracuse 24. 4.20 EPA.
  2. Missed 53 yard field goal by Syracuse. 3.49 EPA.
  3. Jeff Sims’s 40 yard completion to Ahmarean Brown on 2nd and 17 from the Syracuse 43. 3.35 EPA.
  4. Jahmyr Gibbs’s 24 yard run on 3rd and 10 from the GT 8. 2.52 EPA.
  5. Jamious Griffin’s 5 yard run on 3rd and 4 from the Syracuse 8. 2.19 EPA.

This isn’t good enough: not enough explosive plays on offense or havoc from the defense.

Five Most Hurtful Plays

  1. Jeff Sims’s 4th and final interception on 3rd and 13 from the Syracuse 44, returned for a touchdown. -8.70 EPA.
  2. Jeff Sims’s 2nd interception on 2nd and 2 from the Syracuse 18, returned to the GT 37. -7.43 EPA.
  3. Jeff Sims’s 1st interception on 2nd and 4 from the GT 31 returned to the GT 29. -4.83 EPA.
  4. Syracuse 38 yard touchdown run on 3rd and 2 that included a costly missed tackle from Juanyeh Thomas. -4.50 EPA.
  5. Tommy Devito’s 46 yard touchdown pass on 2nd and 9 taking advantage of a coverage failure by Myles Sims. -4.18 EPA

Turnovers and explosive plays turned the game, just like last week.

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 after Game 3

Metric Season Goal This Week Season Long
Metric Season Goal This Week Season Long
Offensive Passing Success Rate >40% 40.60% 49%
Offensive Power Success Rate >70% 75% 88%
Defensive Power Success Rate <70% 75% 92%
Defensive Stuff Rate >20% 24% 18%
Defensive Havoc Rate >21% 11% 13%

Passing success dipped below our goal for the first time in 2020 today. Sims was much less accurate than in previous weeks. The offense was able to convert most of its power (3rd or 4th and 2 or less) opportunities, and the defense had its first above average game in stuff rate (percentage of runs gaining no positive yardage). The main failure among these goals was in defensive havoc rate. As mentioned above, we faced a team struggling mightily on offense and couldn’t put up more than 11% havoc plays on defense.


  1. Despite what we thought after week 1, this team may not have a quarterback. Sims’s accuracy has declined each week, and the persistence of turnovers is alarming. After succeeding against pressure in week 1, Sims has really struggled with that the past two weeks.
  2. The defense has regressed strongly. Key players (especially Tre Swilling) were still missing against Syracuse, but today’s performance was a completely unacceptable showing against an offense that had not looked FBS caliber before today. While facing a struggling offense and while getting Antonneus Clayton back, the defense posted its worst havoc rate of the season.
  3. The number of mental mistakes, which are hard to parse between the coaching staff and the players, destroyed any chance GT had to squeak one out today. This has regressed each week and does not speak well to this staff’s game management.

Tech fans are upset after this game. There was a lot to be upset about. But it’s important to remember that the offense has moved the ball much more effectively than last year, and we are young across the board. The prospects for this season have fallen, but we went into this season expecting more growing pains. Let’s hope these pains actually are leading to growth.