Moving the chains and scoring points – one leads to the other, and enough of each leads to wins, which Clemson is familiar with, and what NC State seeks to stop Saturday – like they have all season.
Clemson is converting third downs at a 53.2 percent rate, which ranks third nationally, on pace for setting a 34-year old record (51.6) and 14 percent up from where the Tigers finished 2010 before Chad Morris came to town (finished 67th nationally).
NC State counters by cutting that third down percentage on defense by more than half (25.3), at third in the nation – holding Wake Forest to 2-of-17 last week with 12 punts in a 37-6 win.
Brent Venables’ defense is also proficient in third down ‘D,’ making the Tigers one of three teams in the top-15 on offense and defense in the category (Texas A&M and Oregon the others).
What sets Clemson apart in 2012 from years’ past is punching in scores in the red zone, and defensively – limiting damage.
They also rank in the top-15 in red zone offense and defense – scoring touchdowns 73 percent of the time, while keeping opponents to a field goal or nothing 48.4 percent of the time (any scores at 71 percent).
State again counters with a top-20 red zone defense, allowing touchdowns at a 50 percent clip and any scores at 73.3 percent. Offensively, the Wolfpack ranks 56th from 20-yards in, with a 60.6 touchdown rate.
Touchdown Percentages Up with Watkins Back
It’s obvious, but Clemson is an elite offense with Sammy Watkins back in the game – shaking off the rust from the suspension and battling injuries.
Seldom Used Reserve (SUR) has kept track of Boyd’s numbers in distance and area of the field, where as his offensive coordinator noted this week, he is accurate deep and still spreading it around.
But to the left, middle and right on the field – touchdown percentages are all on the upswing with Watkins’ resurgence midseason, jumping from 5.62 to 8 percent to the left, 7.89 to 10.9 up the middle and 8.1 to 9.2 on the right in the last four games. In the same span, Watkins improved his yards per catch from 7.25 to 17.1 per with two touchdowns as opposed to the zero at midseason.
Through 10 games, Boyd has racked up 1,157 passing yards to the right and 1,160 to the left – averaging the most yards per attempt up the middle (9.75) with 624.
Deep (21-plus yards), the junior gunslinger is 28-for-51 (54.9 percent) for 1,047 yards, 12 touchdowns and four picks (20.5 yards per attempt), and just to the right, hitting 65.2 percent of passes for 22.1 yards per with four touchdowns (one interception).
Morris said Monday Boyd is right in his ideal completion rate of 68-72 (68), and he’s averaging 9.5 yards per pass with an ACC-leading 172 pass efficiency rating.
2012 Clemson offense v. 2011 Clemson offense (10 games)
|Category||'12 Clemson||'11 Clemson|
|Scoring Offense||42.9 PPG||35.9 PPG|
|Total Yards||513.8 YPG||471.5 YPG|
|Cmp. Pct. (Tajh Boyd)||68||61.9|
|Yards Per Pass (Tajh Boyd)||9.52||8.3|
|Passing Efficiency (Tajh Boyd)||172||151.2|
|Plays per game||80.1||76.2|
|Plays of 20+ per game||6.7||5.5|
|3rd Down Pct.||53.5||49|
|Yards Per Carry||4.3||4.3|
|Yards Per Play||6.4||6.2|
The phrase “record-breaking” has been used at a record-breaking pace with year two under Morris’ watch offensively.
Overall, Clemson is three touchdowns from breaking the school mark set last season (58), and gunning multiple single-season record averages in plays (80.1-78.8)), total offense (513.8-440.8), points (42.9-37), third down conversions (53.5-51.6), first downs (25.7-23.5), completion percentage (67.7-65.8), pass efficiency (167.9-148.2), passing offense (322.6-283.6) and touchdown passes (2.8-2.36).
At quarterback, Boyd is six short of his own touchdown pass record (33) – approaching his marks in passing offense (2,941 – 3,828 the record) and total offense (3,304 – 4,046 the record).
At receiver, DeAndre Hopkins is 23 yards short of a Clemson career receiving record (2,733) in three seasons, which was set by Aaron Kelly in four.
At tight end, Brandon Ford is challenging Dwayne Allen’s tight-end touchdown record of eight, with six after hauling in a 22-yard score last Saturday.
Clemson with Ninth-Most Effective Offense: SUR unveiled a new measure for offenses in college football, adjusting for tempo where Clemson ranks 7th, but coupled with efficiency (22nd), comes in ninth behind FSU. The next two opponents check in at 56th (NC State) and 89th (South Carolina).
Tigers Move Up in FEI, SC Still Ahead in Ranks: Speaking of efficiency, Football Outsiders’ FEI ranks have Clemson at 19th, with the No. 12 offense, No. 58 defense, No. 8 special teams and at No. 15 in field position advantage. With South Carolina at 14th (OE: 46; DE: 10), the Tigers are projected 1.3 FBS wins, while the Gamecocks are given a 50-50 shot at winning in Death Valley at 0.5 with only Clemson left on the FBS slate. The Wolfpack are 49th, with a 66th-ranked ‘O’ and 32nd-best ‘D.’
Going Fast: Clemson had its third-highest seconds per snap, in game-time, against Maryland (22.1), but much of that was due to the runaway win. The Tigers averaged 15.4 seconds per play on its first five scoring drives, but salting the game away late, the last touchdown drive was 16 plays and 76 yards in 6:38 (24.9 secs per play). On the season, Morris’ no-huddle scheme is hitting 21.3 seconds per snap – a full second ahead of this point last season (22.4).
Tale of Two Halves: In the last three games, the Tigers have scored 37.3 points per with 380 yards of total offense and 17 first downs on average – the first time in school history scoring at least 35 in the first half in three-straight, per Clemson sports info. Overall, they’ve averaged a 28-12 advantage through two quarters, and racked up 250 yards in nine of 10 games. With those leads, the Tiger defense has teed off on opponents in the second half – allowing 6.5 points and 148 yards per in the last six games and only four touchdowns.
Stats to Win: SUR updated their group of stats to win, to win, in college football, which adds the turnover margin to our weekly table. Maryland couldn’t get anything going in the passing game, which allowed Clemson to key in on the run and hold them to 3.3 yards per play (a season-best for the Tigers, previously 4 yards per against Wake Forest).
Stats to win in college football, week 10
|Category ('12 Win pct. through 10 weeks in CFB)||Clemson||Maryland|
|Yards Per Pass (76.6)||8.9||3.4|
|Yards Per Play (76.6)||5.7||3.3|
|Total Yards (74.4)||436||180|
|Rushing Yards (75.6)||135||139|
|Yards Per Rush (73.9)||3.2||3.2|