Tracking Florida State in the SP+ Ratings

First of all, what exactly is the SP+? Good question. Let’s let the creator of this specific ranking system, Bill Connelly of ESPN.com explain.

“What is SP+? In a single sentence, it’s a tempo- and opponent-adjusted measure of college football efficiency. I created the system at Football Outsiders in 2008, and as my experience with both college football and its stats has grown, I have made quite a few tweaks to the system.

SP+ is intended to be predictive and forward-facing. That is important to remember. It is not a résumé ranking that gives credit for big wins or particularly brave scheduling — no good predictive system is. It is simply a measure of the most sustainable and predictable aspects of football. If you’re lucky or unimpressive in a win, your rating will probably fall. If you’re strong and unlucky in a loss, it will probably rise.”

Essentially, it is one of the most objective ranking systems when it comes to college football rankings. It removes human biases like we often see in the weekly top 25 polls giving a clearer picture of how teams around the nation stack up.

With that, let’s jump in and see how Florida State is stacking up against the rest of the country through seven weeks of the 2019 season.

2018 Final:

Overall: 72

Offense: 97

Defense: 37

Special Teams: 96

We all watched last season. None of these numbers should jump out and surprise anyone but it’s a good baseline to track improvement or regression as the 2019 season moves along.

2019 Preseason:

Overall: 35

This number is based on recent history (performance over the last five years), returning production (not just starters) and recent recruiting. It’s clear that FSU’s talent level probably inflates their ranking a bit based on the past few seasons. As the weeks go on, the play on the field will dictate this ranking more and more.

After Week 1:

Overall: 42

Offense: 25

Defense: 84

These numbers seem about as accurate as one could image after Florida State’s loss to Boise State. The offense put up solid numbers while the defense really struggled.

After Week 2:

Overall: 46 (-4)

Offense: 9 (+16)

Defense: 109 (-25)

Special Teams: 18

This is where we see the opponent-adjusted metrics coming into play. Despite winning the game against ULM, it was much closer than it ever should have been.

There are two big positive takeaways here with the offense jumping into the top 10 and the special teams debuting in the top 20. Both units were atrocious a season ago. Clearly, the defense has issues.

After Week 3:

Overall: 42 (+4)

Offense: 13 (-4)

Defense: 93 (+16)

Special Teams: 20 (-2)

Once again, the numbers check out. Florida State played well against a quality team in Virginia (31st in the SP+) which resulted in the ‘Noles jumping four spots despite losing the game.

The offense remains in the top 15, which seems like a minor miracle after what we watched a season ago. The defense played extremely well for three quarters before totally melting down or they may have jumped 25+ spots on that side of the ball. The special teams remain very solid.

After Week 4:

Overall: 57 (-15)

Offense: 19 (-6)

Defense: 98 (-5)

Special Teams: 74 (-54)

Despite playing well for most of the game, Florida State saw some large dips in the SP+ rankings this week. A large part of that is Louisville’s 67th rating overall as of this week. Opponent adjustments are getting heavier and will continue to do so as the weeks go on.

Offensively, the Seminoles played well and we saw little change to their ranking here. If Kendal Briles can keep this offense inside of the top 20 for the season as a whole, it would make for an astonishing 77+ spot jump on that side of the ball from 2018 to 2019.

Defensively, FSU dropped a few spots despite allowing 24 points as they did a week ago against Virginia. They likely jump up a few spots if not for a tipped ball that resulted in a long Louisville touchdown.

On special teams, Ricky Aguayo left nine points on the field missing three kicks which explains the massive drop with this unit.

After Week 5:

Overall: 47 (+10)

Offense: 26 (-6)

Defense: 78 (+20)

Special Teams: 78 (-4)

Overall, Florida State dominated a team that was rated higher than them heading into the week allowing them to jump 10 spots with the big win.

Offensively, the team took a step back as the unit did not seem to operate as smoothly as it has in previous weeks despite a 31 point performance.

Defensively, the ‘Noles came to play and saw a jump of 20 spots. Major kudos to Harlon Barnet and his unit.

The special teams took a slight step back thanks to yet another Ricky Aguayo missed field goal. Aguayo was benched late in the game, something to keep an eye on moving forward.

After Week 6:

Overall: 45 (+2)

Offense: 22 (+4)

Defense: 78 (0)

Special Teams: 74 (+4)

As each week goes on, adjustments for opponents played will continue to play a larger and larger role in these rankings. For that reason, Florida State did see some movement despite not playing over the weekend.

Overall, Florida State saw a small jump up into the top 45.

The offense jumped four spots and will now take a top 25 unit on the road into Death Valley this weekend.

There was no change defensively and the special teams moved up four spots thanks to not having Ricky Aguayo missing multiple field goals.

After Week 7:

Overall: 58 (-13)

Offense 28 (-6)

Defense: 84 (-6)

Special Teams: 93 (-19)

It should come as no surprise to anyone who watched Florida State this past weekend to see the Seminoles take a step back in the SP+ ratings. Remember, these are adjusted for opponents so the Seminoles had more leeway this week as they took on Clemson.

Overall, Florida State dropped 13 spots due to their poor performance in Death Valley.

The offense took a slight step backward as using a two-quarterback system worked about as poorly as possible.

Defensively, the ‘Noles had no chance at stopping Clemson as they slide six spots here.

Overall, it was a terrible weekend for Florida State. The Seminoles will look to get things back on track this weekend as they head to Winston Salem Saturday night. The Demon Deacons enter the game ranked 49th in the SP+ despite boasting a 5-1 overall record. Their offense is a strength (26th) while their defense is a liability (78th) which should excite Kendal Briles.

After Week8:

Overall: 57 (+1)

On the surface, Florida State jumped up one spot this week. Partially due to playing Wake Forest (SP+ #45 overall) close. Partially due to the performance of past opponents.

Offense: 42 (-14)

It should be no surprise to see Florida State drop here as they struggled to put up points on a bad defense. Despite Cam Aker’s heroic performance, the offense never seemed to get things going. It seemed as though Willie Taggart inserted himself more in the offense than before this season and it simply did not pay off.

Defense: 73 (+11)

Florida State’s “bend don’t break” defense gave a valiant performance this weekend but it was all for nothing. Wake moved the ball well for the most part but the ‘Noles shut things down in the red zone.

Special Teams: 105 (-12)

Aguayo’s missed field goal hurt the Seminoles in this one but he never should have been asked to attempt a 50 yarder on a wet field, to begin with. To make matters worse, Taggart used a much-needed timeout that potentially iced his own kicker.

The Seminoles will now host Syracuse this weekend who is ranked 67th overall in the SP+. A game Florida State should and quite frankly must win.

As each week passes and more data is available, the rankings will become more and more accurate.

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