FSU’s Time of Possession Problem

FSU’s Time of Possession Problem

It has been a tumultuous year for Florida State football. With eleven games in the books and a challenging bout against Florida on deck, Florida State is sitting on a 6-5 record as they limp into bowl eligibility. The Willie Taggart era has come and gone, and with his “lethal simplicity” in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to look back at the results of his contentious tenure.

There are several interesting statistics that can be unpacked to help outline our season. For instance, Florida State is currently dead last in the league in penalties given, bottom 15 in the league in sacks allowed, and the worst team in the ACC when it comes to preventing opponent first downs, allowing an average of 24.5 first downs per game. These are all elements of the game that the team will need to work on this up coming year.

Another broad, more encompassing stat that we can delve into that is affected by all these elements and more is Time of Possession.

There’s been much debate about the relevancy of this stat, as many teams have found success without leading in this category, but it is a great indicator stat that can help you build a more complete picture of a team’s performance. And of course, any statistic is especially interesting when a relevant piece of data exists at one of the extremes of the data set. In that regard we have Florida State, out of 130 FBS football teams, Florida State ranks 127 in Time of Possession. Possessing the ball for an average of 25 minutes and 49 seconds a game, they are the only Power 5 school in the bottom five.

Florida State’s much anticipated hurry-up offense has played a factor in this, but this is more indicative of their inability to stay on the field. Converting 61 3rd downs out of 162 attempts ranks them at 91 out of 130 teams, putting them right above University of Louisiana-Monroe.

For much of the season, Florida State has struggled to drive down the field, relying on big plays to score. Deep passes to deep threat receiver, Tamorrion Terry, have been one of their favorite ways to find the endzone through the air. With an average of 20.27 yards per reception, Scary Terry has established himself as one of the top deep threats in the league. He ranks 1st in the ACC and 15th in the NCAA in yards per reception. Games where the opposing defense succeeds in taking Terry out of the game have been some of Florida State’s greatest struggles this season.

If Florida State could improve on their consistency in the short game, they could start to more reliably drive down the field, raising their Time of Possession and keeping their defense rested off the field. If we learned anything from the Clemson vs North Carolina game earlier this year, it’s that keeping Trevor Lawrence off the field as much as possible can do wonders for you win probability against them.

We started this season with a trend of Florida State’s defense growing tired in the second half and consequentially, giving up the lead. This is strongly correlated with Time of Possession. Florida State improved on this slightly as they slowed down their offense with Hornibrook as the quarterback. So, the hurry-up could be a factor, but they did see success with the hurry-up these past two weeks with Taggart’s absence.

Both games against Boston College and Alabama State University were decisive wins for the offense while they lost the Time of Possession battle. The big difference here was Florida State’s ability to make the most of their short possession times and scoring big. Whether this is an indication of Taggart holding the offense back, or if they just performed decently against two exceptionally weak defenses has yet to be seen. We’ll get a clearer picture next Saturday if the offense can keep up this pace against a robust Gator defense.

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