Tracking Florida State’s Progress in the S&P+ Rankings

First of all, what exactly is the S&P+? 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 three 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 S&P+) 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.

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

We will continue to track the trends and dig deeper into what possibly could attribute to the rise or fall in the rankings. Is the addition of Jim Leavitt enough to eventually move the defense into the top 60 or so in the nation? Can Kendal Briles continue to field a near elite-level offense? How big of an impact does the play of James Blackman help or hider that?

Time will tell as we watch this season play out.

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