We’re not going to be as “advanced” as usual around here this week. Unfortunately, whenever an FCS team shows up on the schedule, the amount of data available to us is greatly diminished. But we’ll do our best to preview a game that is turning into quite the Anxiety Bowl (h/t Steven Godfrey) for Georgia Tech fans.
None of us are happy with how Saturday went. The past four days, rightfully I think, have held a lot of doom and gloom. But I don’t think we should be so quick to assess this coming game with that framework in mind. This will be Kennesaw State’s first ever meeting with a Power 5 opponent. They are not used to the level of athleticism they will face from GT on Saturday.
This may not mean much to you right now, but Georgia Tech should beat Kennesaw State.
Kennesaw State played five games in the shortened 2020(2021?) FCS spring season, finishing 4-1 with an average scoring margin of 11.4. However, they won only two conference games, one out of conference game against a brand new FCS team, and one game against a Division II opponent. They averaged a relatively low 4.7 YPC for a spread option offense. They did average a massive 12.3 YPA, and the Georgia Tech secondary must keep good eye discipline to prevent these explosive passing plays. Their defensive YPP of 4.7 is quite good but must be adjusted for competition level.
One interesting strategic note: the Owls went for it on 4th down almost 3 times a game and converted 62%. GT must be prepared to defend for four downs, not just three. They were also very good in the red zone at converting touchdowns. We all know how easily frustrating this offense can be. But, there’s plenty of reason to believe they aren’t operating at peak efficiency right now.
Last week, Kennesaw State knocked off NAIA Reinhardt in a relatively tight 35-25 contest. They held the ball for 38 minutes but were actually out-gained on a per play basis, 6.1-5.3. Reinhardt turned it over twice and had 80 yards in penalties. The Owls were largely outplayed by a team that is allowed to give out 24 scholarships.
Coach Brian Bohannon sounded a lot like our beloved CPJ after last week: “The amount of missed assignments were off the charts. We were all over the place. Because we have not been able to get a unit together, especially offensively, and even, in some places, defensively, we have not been in good enough shape to navigate four quarters. That showed up in the game. There were a lot of things that need to be better, and I think our kids understand that. Now, can they go out and practice the right way? The way we practice here, to go fix some things? That’s the challenge right now.”
Beyond that, the Owls are dealing with some illness and injury issues. As the Marietta Daily Journal notes, more than 20 players missed the game against Reinhardt, and Bohannon said the outlook did not seem to be much better heading into Saturday’s game. Most significantly, the starting quarterback Jordan Murphy missed practice early this week and is day-to day. Expect to see Xavier Shepherd get at least some of the naps on Saturday.
We lost. It was awful. But the underlying numbers weren’t so bad for GT. I know that isn’t a consolation for the loss, but it is meaningful for predicting future performance. Tech held advantages over NIU in the all-important categories of EPA/play, success rate, and yards per play. The outlook for GT’s total wins this season dimmed, but the team’s statistical profile wasn’t damaged very much by the opening game.
As I mentioned last week, I’ve built a model that can project every game this college football season featuring FBS teams. Kennesaw State is not an FBS team, so I don’t have a rating for them to share this week.
I do want to note that we’ll be offering a weekly update of my new power rating on FTRS. For your advanced stats fix for this week, go check it out.
Thankfully, Bill Connelly has started running SP+ on FCS (as well as the lower divisions); his projection comes in at GT 34-18, which works out to an 81% win probability. That’s lower probability than Vegas projected last week for GT against NIU, but it would still be a comfortable win.
Given the injury concerns for KSU and last week’s performance against Reinhardt, I see things slightly rosier for the GT offense. Let’s call it 45-21.
Vegas: GT by 21.5
My Pick: GT by 24
The Binion Index: N/A
Year to Date Against the Spread: 27-22-2
Average Absolute Error: 11.4 points per game.