Clemson among nation's most efficient offenses, but defense dominates

The Clemson Sports Blog

Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins run a drill at their first bowl game football practice session on Dec. 8th

Photo by Mark Crammer

Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins run a drill at their first bowl game football practice session on Dec. 8th

Offense sells tickets – defense wins championships. That’s the saying, and at least this season in college football, it was certainly the truth.

Using Seldom Used Reserve’s (SUR) adjusted offensive rankings and Football Outsiders’ (FO) defensive efficiency rankings – a grim, but not all that surprising truth about where Clemson and the rest of the ACC stands on the national scene is revealed.

The Tigers rank ninth nationally in SUR’s offensive efficiency numbers (11th in tempo/18th in adjusted efficiency), but fall at 63rd in FO’s defensive FEI.

Clemson was one of eight teams among the best 25 offenses, which also finished in the top-25 of the final BCS rankings.

The number of top-25 defenses in those same standings? 17.

Next level up, 90 percent of the top-10 in the BCS had a top-25 defense, including title game participants Alabama and Notre Dame, while 30 percent had elite offenses.

All in the top-15, Oregon (11-1), Georgia (11-2) and Florida State (11-2) had top-25 units on both sides of the ball.

By conference, FSU was the ACC’s lone representative in FO’s top-25 defensive rankings, while UNC joined the Tigers and ‘Noles among offenses.

Regional foe SEC had three top-tier offenses (Texas A&M, Tennessee and Georgia), while boasting five elite defenses – including Chick-fil-A Bowl opponent LSU at No. 12.

Oddly enough, the Big 10 had the most top defenses (5) and zero top-25 offenses – one maybe leading to the other in some fashion there.

The Big 12 had the most teams with top-25 units, 8-of-10 members having a top ‘O’ (5) or ‘D’ (3), while the PAC-12 had six (three offenses; four defenses).

If anything, the impact of Morris leaving/not leaving has an obvious effect, as the Tigers wouldn’t be top-15 this season without him, but long-term, the development of the defense under Brent Venables looks to be the key to taking the next step as a program.

Efficiency the key this season

SUR totaled their play-by-play percentages for college football this season, which we used to review the Tigers weekly on their stats to win (70 percent or better winning percentage with the advantage in the categories).

The stat tied most to victory was yards per pass (76.2 win percentage – 8.18 to 6.4 per on average), closely followed by yards per play (76.5), rushing yards (75.7), turnover margin (75.3) and total yards (75.1).

Per SUR, winning teams averaged less than two plays more than their opponent, but with almost 100 more yards (94.5) per.

Overall, scoring was up 4.3 percent this season, even losing teams posting at least 20 points.

Winning teams averaged about six more penalty yards (54.16-48.89), but at almost a full turnover less (1.25-2.24).

Category Clemson Winning avg.
Yards Per Pass 9.04 8.18
Yards Per Play 6.5 6.24
Total Yards 518.3 451.79
Rushing Yards 198.8 205.27
Yards Per Carry 4.4 4.78
Rushes 44.8 42.26
Turnovers 1.6 1.25

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