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Georgia Tech Football: Advanced Stats Review - GT vs. KSU

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Georgia Tech Dominates on the strength of Jordan Yates and Jordan Domineck

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 11 Kennesaw State at Georgia Tech Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Final Score: GT 45-17

Model Prediction: N/A, but we predicted GT 45-21. Not too shabby.

Projected EPA (Offense and Defense) Margin of Victory: GT by 28.8

GT Win Probability (Based on Success Rate, Yards Per Play, and EPA): 98%

Georgia Tech responded to last Saturday’s disappointment in resounding fashion. This was a dominant victory, exceeding Vegas and computer model expectations. Jordan Yates used his first career start to make a case to keep the job. Garbage time started with 12:19 left in the third, although KSU did cut things to 21 in the 4th and temporarily get us back to non-garbage time. It wasn’t perfect, as GT struggled to run block for most of the day, but it was the kind of win that Coach Collins needed. Let’s dig in.

Success Rate Comparisons

GT vs. KSU Success Rates

Success Rate O GT Offense D Opp Offense National Avg
Success Rate O GT Offense D Opp Offense National Avg
Down 1 57.10% 1 15.40%
2 41.70% 2 41.70%
3 71.40% 3 42.90%
4 4
Qtr 1 55.60% 1 36.80%
2 42.90% 2 23.10%
3 66.70% 3
4 100.00% 4
Pass P 68.40% P 40.00% 41%
Rush R 42.90% R 27.30% 42%
Overall 55.00% 31.30% 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.

The success rate margins show us just how dominant this was for GT. I can’t remember GT posting a number as good as the 28% margin on passing plays. After allowing The Citadel a 39% success rate back in 2019, the GT defense was much better today, holding KSU to 31% overall and 27% on rushing plays. The big plays that KSU hit late were well into garbage time and shouldn’t be predictive going forward.

Let’s turn now to the full advanced box score to see where the game was won.

Advanced Stats Comparison and Positional Breakdowns

GT vs. KSU Advanced Box Score

Adv Box Score GT Offense Opp Offense National Avg
Adv Box Score GT Offense Opp Offense National Avg
Snap Count 41 32 71.5
# Pass Plays Called 19 10 31
Avg Starting FP 60.6 75 70.5
YPP 6.5 3.49 5.7
YPA (incl. sacks, scrambles) 9.16 6.8 7.39
% of Passes on 1st Down 48% 15% 40.17%
% of runs on 2nd and long 60% 43% 39.80%
Avg EPA/play 0.45 -0.31 -0.01
Avg EPA/pass 0.77 0.36 0
Total EPA 18.57 -10.24 -0.96
Avg Air Yards / Completion 8.67 8 6.14
Air Yards / Attempt 10.38 10.38 8.89
CP 75.00% 50.00% 62.54%
CPOE 15.43% -7.75% 1.90%
Line Yards per Carry 3.26 2.75 2.55
Opportunity Rate 47.62% 50.00% 42.42%
Power Success Rate 100.00% 0.00% 68.60%
Stuff Rate (Offense) 4.76% 27.27% 19.17%
Havoc Rate 10% 9% 21.00%
Pressure Rate 30% 26% 27.00%
Keep in mind that none of these stats include garbage time plays

Quarterback

GT Qb vs. KSU

Player Success Rate EPA/play EPA/pass CP CPOE CPOE10+ CPOE20+ EPAwPressure EPAnoPressure
Player Success Rate EPA/play EPA/pass CP CPOE CPOE10+ CPOE20+ EPAwPressure EPAnoPressure
13 0.55 0.46 0.77 0.75 0.15 0.28 0.36 0.79 0.76

So much focus this week, and rightfully so, was on the quarterback position for GT. The official word today was that Jeff Sims was available in an emergency situation, but Jordan Yates got the start and played all but one snap, after his helmet came off.

Mr. Yates earned himself another start. His passing EPA was worth almost 20 points in total for GT. He threw efficiently and accurately at all levels of the field. A couple of numbers just pop: his EPA while facing pressure was almost 0.8. He was able to step up in the pocket and make his progressions even in the face of pressure. On passes more than 10 yards past the line of scrimmage, he completed 28% more than expected. I wouldn’t have been surprised for Yates to put up strong passing numbers close to the line, but his downfield passing made the day for GT. Kennesaw State does not have a good defense, but Jordan Yates played like a good quarterback plays against bad defenses.

Rushing

GT Rushing vs. KSU

Runner Carries Rushing Success Rate Highlight Yards
Runner Carries Rushing Success Rate Highlight Yards
1 8 0.22 30
4 6 0.56 49.5
6 2 0.2 2.5
27 5 0.17 0

The running game, on the other hand, was a relative disappointment. Look at the success rates for Gibbs and Mason. That’s about a third of what they put up last Saturday. The middle of GT’s line couldn’t get a push or open up lanes most of the time against an undersized Owl front. Gibbs and Smith were able to make some guys miss and put up some solid highlight yards, but this was not the kind of running game that is going to be able to do much in Death Valley. Watch out for more carries for Smith going forward. He really popped in this game, and he’s showing up in the top ten nationally on PFF’s running back grades currently.

Receiving

GT Receiving vs. KSU

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
2 0.71 8.43 7 12.04% 51
7 1 12.5 2 5.10% 15
12 0 10 1 2.04% 0
1 0.33 1 3 0.61% 41
5 1 20 2 8.16% -4
8 1 -2 1 -0.41% 8

All offseason, we talked by Kyric McGowan as the guy for the GT passing game this season. Saturday, he showed what we were talking about. He posted a 71% success rate on 7 targets and racked up 51 yards after the catch. The chemistry between Yates and McGowan looked great, and McGowan was special in the open field. Gibbs added an explosive reception, Kalani Norris had a touchdown on a great seam ball from Yates, and Malachi Carter was solid on a lower number of targets.

Offensive Line

GT OL vs. KSU

Player # of FLOPS
Player # of FLOPS
54 2
55 1
64 4
70 1
77 1

Remember when I tried to talk you off of the ledge about the OL performance from last week? Get back to the ledge! Saturday showed how far this unit still has to go. They allowed a 26% pressure rate on passing plays and helped the rushing game put up only an average success rate on rushing plays against a bad FCS defense. The late onslaught by Dontae Smith also made the overall rushing numbers look a lot better than they did earlier in the game. The main cause for concern shows up in those success rates from Gibbs and Mason that we mentioned earlier. It was all on the RBs to get anything going today, and that doesn’t bode well for blocking ACC fronts. The right tackle position was particularly bad today, and I’d like to see Kenneth Kirby get a shot to take over there.

Defensive Disruption

GT Disruption vs. KSU

Player Defending Havoc Plays # of Pressures # of Run Stuffs
Player Defending Havoc Plays # of Pressures # of Run Stuffs
0 0 3 0
1 2 0 2
4 1 3 0
5 1 1 0
10 1 0 1
15 2 2 0
25 3 0 1
42 3 0 1
97 2 0 1
One note: I included garbage time individual stats, so the individual havoc numbers won’t match up with the non-garbage team havoc rate above

This table has a lot more jagged lines that it did last week. The sequence where Charlie Thomas had a punishing TFL followed by an interception put an exclamation point on the defensive performance that GT had today. Charlie wasn’t alone though. Quez Jackson was a monster - a tackle for loss and three pressures. Juanyeh Thomas had two run stuffs and two havoc plays.

And oh yea, this writer’s favorite defensive end showed up on Lamar Jackson’s twitter timeline.

Pass Coverage

GT Coverage vs. KSU

Player in Primary Coverage Targets CPOE Allowed YAC Allowed
Player in Primary Coverage Targets CPOE Allowed YAC Allowed
1 3 52.00% 7
3 1 5
8 3 -57.50% 1
14 3 34.00% 7
21 1 24
24 1 0
25 3 0

Playing its backup quarterback and facing a large deficit, KSU threw the ball more than expected. GT gave up too many efficient completions, but the most explosive passing play that the Owls hit came in garbage time. Tobias Oliver was particularly good though, giving up only one completion on three targets that came his way. Zamari Walton missed the game; he will be badly needed the next two Saturdays.

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.

The EPA totals for this game leave us with a 28 point projected win for GT, which matches up perfectly with the actual game margin. As you will see below, almost 40% of that margin came from one memorable play. As always, we’ll take a look at the most helpful and hurtful plays for GT.

Most Helpful Plays

  1. Number 1 with an exclamation point was the 70 yard scoop and score by Jordan Domineck. He caused the fumble, recovered the fumble, and took it to the house. 10.95 EPA.
  2. Jordan Yates’s 30 yard completion to Malachi Carter on 3rd and 8 that set up GT’s 1st touchdown. 2.91 EPA.
  3. Jordan Yates’s 16 yard touchdown pass to Kalani Norris. 2.77 EPA .
  4. Jordan Yates’s 6 yard touchdown pass to Jordan Mason 1st and Goal. 2.48 EPA.

(GT’s 2nd-4th best EPA plays were in garbage time, so they aren’t included here here)

It sure is fun to have this list populated so heavily with passing plays.

Most Hurtful Plays

(The three worst plays of the game for GT were all in garbage time, so we won’t be including those here)

  1. KSU’s 22 yard pass completion to convert a third down and eventually lead to a field goal. -2.80 EPA
  2. KSU’s 14 yard pass completion to convert a third down on its opening drive. -2.46 EPA
  3. KSU’s 14 run to convert a third down on its second drive. -2.36 EPA

Georgia Tech did not have a single play on a meaningful snap that resulted in 3 EPA for KSU. That showed excellent discipline on defense, solid special teams execution, and the avoidance of disaster plays on offense.

Tracking Season Goals

*I set these goals for the 2021 season in some of my offseason preview work. We will be tracking them as we go this year.

Season Long Goals after KSU

Metric Season Goal This Week Season Long
Metric Season Goal This Week Season Long
GT CPOE >= 2% 15% 5%
Pressure Rate Allowed <=26% 26% 22%
Pass Rate on 1st Down >=50% 48% 44%
Defensive Passing EPA/plau <= -0.06 0.36 0.46
Defensive Havoc Rate >=21% 10% 7%
Defensive Pressure Rate >= 27% 30% 25%

The passing game came roaring back, and the defensive front was able to consistently get pressure on the KSU quarterback. Otherwise, there’s still work to do. The passing defense is a particular cause for concern, allowing 0.46 EPA/play.

Takeaways

  1. Jordan Yates is the starting quarterback until further notice. Bad opponent or not, he played like a P5 starting caliber signal caller. His EPA and CPOE numbers were off the charts, and GT exercised its will in the passing game.
  2. The offensive line has not arrived. If GT could not physically dominate the Owl front, it’s not going to happen all year. The elite playmaking by Gibbs and Smith helped cover up shortcomings, and the passing game was electric. The offensive line, however, did them no favors.
  3. The pass defense is still vulnerable. Even in obvious passing situations early in the game, GT gave up some easy completions. The 0.36 EPA/pass allowed does not bode well when facing Uiagelelei and Howell over the next two Saturdays.

Georgia Tech did what it needed to do against an overmatched opponent, and Jordan Yates showed a touch on the ball that GT fans haven’t seen since the days of George Godsey. But the vulnerabilities up front on offense and in the back-end on defense should keep the expectations of GT fans tempered.