Where will Miami finish in the 2016 rankings? Advanced metrics favor Hurricanes

Corn Elder (right), with teammate Malek Young. (Getty Images)

Corn Elder (right), with teammate Malek Young. (Getty Images)

[Richt previews QB battle | Meet the contenders]

[Assistant says Canes have ‘silent commits’ coming]

[Torretta talks Kaaya’s place among UM greats]

[Kaaya turning pro | Teammates react | Yearby gone]

[Njoku declares for draft | His brother’s on the way]

I have an Associated Press poll vote, I haven’t yet decided where I will rank the Hurricanes in our year-end poll (which comes out Tuesday morning). They will crack my top 25, after spending the last five weeks of the year unranked.

Some evidence suggests they should make a significant jump.

Miami played some excellent ball toward the end of the year, closing with a five-game win streak and a win over No. 16 West Virginia in the Russell Athletic Bowl. At their best, the 2016 Hurricanes were quite good.

According to one all-encompassing efficiency metric, Football Outsiders’ “F+” rankings, the Hurricanes are No. 12 nationally. That’s third-best in the ACC, behind only Clemson (No. 2), which plays in the national championship Monday against Alabama, and Florida State (No. 7).

What is “F+”? It is a combination of Bill Connelly’s S&P+ (explainer here) and Brian Fremeau’s FEI (explainer here). I’ve written a little about both before (here and here).

Why is Miami so high in the metrics? I wrote to Connelly, who writes for SB Nation, for an explanation in plain English. He developed the S&P+ rating, so from that side of things, he cited:

Opponent adjustments. Miami played seven teams ranked in the top 30 of the S&P+ rankings. While it lost to four — Florida State, North Carolina, UNC, Virginia Tech and Notre Dame — three of the losses were by one possession, and the three wins — Pitt, N.C. State and West Virginia — were by an average of 18 points. Plus, it beat the 20th-ranked S&P+ team (Pitt) by 23. “The transitive property doesn’t get you very far overall,” Connelly said, “but just thinking in those terms, it would make sense that they ended up [rated] in the teens.”

The defense. Manny Diaz’ group pulled off what Connelly called “a rare combination of being efficient and preventing big plays,” he said. “Don’t bend, don’t break, if you will. They were super aggressive against the run and created tons of negative plays (while allowing a big run here and there), and while the pass defense was less efficient, it was still solid and gave up almost no big plays. That’s a lovely combination that resulted in a No. 13 defensive ranking.”

Special teams. The Hurricanes’ special teams S&P+ rating was 12th nationally, which by Connelly’s calculation boosted them an extra 1.4 points per game. “Place-kicking, punting, and kickoffs were all good to excellent on average,” he said, “and the return game was at least average to above average.” Miami needs to find the next Justin Vogel, though it gets another year of Michael Badgley.

Connelly added that Miami’s offense “had the least to do” with its 12th overall ranking. The Hurricanes were 34th in offensive S&P+, “dragged down by an all-or-nothing run game,” he said. “But defense and special teams were awesome.”

Sometimes stats surprise you, but that mostly backs up what I saw on the field. I doubt Miami will be 12th in the final poll, but sometimes polls surprise you.

Reader Comments 0

0 comments