Turnover battle winning the war for Clemson

The Clemson Sports Blog

Jonathan Meeks intercepts a pass in the second quarter

Photo by Mark Crammer

Jonathan Meeks intercepts a pass in the second quarter

Win the turnover margin. Win the game.

That’s a major part of Dabo Swinney’s “plan to win,” and much more than last season, indeed, leading to victories in college football.

Teams that lost the turnover battle still had a 43.2 winning percentage last season, according to Marty Coleman at Seldom Used Reserve.

In 2012? Taking the turnover margin is yielding a 76.5 winning percentage per his stats, and Clemson is a major part of that trend – tied for 13th nationally in turnover margin and one of 14 teams in the top-20 with one loss or less (only one team with a losing record).

They've won in the turnover category 6-of-8 games, going 2-0 when losing it (Georgia Tech) and tying it (BC), and actually losing the game with the advantage at FSU for the first time since the 2010 Auburn overtime defeat (eventual national-title winner).

Through eight games last season, the Tigers were 12th overall (+1.13) at 8-0, but finished the '11 season 66th (-.07), losing 3-of-5.

After a couple of down weeks, the six important stats in college football were decidedly in Clemson’s favor last week.

Category Clemson Wake Forest
Yards Per Pass 10.8 5.3
Yards Per Play 6.3 4
Total Yards 534 290
Rushing Yards 101 51
Yards Per Rush 2.2 1.8
Rushes 45 28

All six were swept by the Tigers – the most in yards per pass (10.8-5.3), total yards (534-290), rushing yards (101-51) and rush attempts (45-28), along with yards per play (6.3-4) and yards per rush (2.2-1.8).

The previous two games bucked the trends, beating Georgia Tech losing the majority of the categories and the same against Virginia Tech dropping every one of them (the Hokies committing four turnovers).

Clemson v. Clemson

Morris likes where offense is going

Chad Morris said as much this week – year two in the offense has the Tigers on another level offensively.

They’re scoring nearly 10 more points per through 8 games (41-32.5), edging the record-breaking ’11 campaign averages in total yards (498-482.5), plays (80.5-78.3), third down percentage (53-48.5) – Tajh Boyd’s numbers up markedly in completion percentage (67.7-61.9) and slightly more in yards per pass (9-8.6).

Clemson is averaging more runs of 10-plus and catches of 20-plus yards (10.5-9.3), but bettered by last season’s stats in yards per carry (4.1-4.3) and equaled in yards per play (6.2).

The production over the last two seasons has Boyd and his top target this season, DeAndre Hopkins, gunning for a few school records starting this weekend.

The junior signal-caller is two touchdowns shy of surpassing Woody Dantzler’s school mark for TD responsibility (68), and Hopkins needs two touchdowns and 210 receiving yards for career school records in each (currently 20 touchdowns and 2,733 yards).

Category '12 Clemson '11 Clemson
Scoring Offense 41 PPG 32.5 PPG
Total Yards 498 YPG 482.5 YPG
Cmp. Pct. (Tajh Boyd) 67.7 61.9
Yards Per Pass (Tajh Boyd) 9 8.6
Passing Efficiency (Tajh Boyd) 163.9 154.8
Plays per game 80.5 78.3
Runs of 10+/Passes of 20+ 10.5 9.3
3rd Down Pct. 53 48.5
Yards Per Carry 4.1 4.3
Yards Per Play 6.2 6.2

Receiver Showdown

Odds-on, this year’s All-ACC team will feature a Tiger or Blue Devil, but it’s not just the superstar receivers – it’s the depth that sets these two apart.

With the aforementioned Hopkins, and Duke’s Conner Vernon, the two schools have two in the top-15 in the nation in career receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches.

Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, Sammy Watkins is coming into his own as well, with 16 receptions over the last two games, and last week, setting the Clemson single-game record of 202 receiving yards.

Duke receivers Jamison Crowder and Desmond Scott join Vernon and Hopkins in the top-six in the ACC in receptions per game, at 5.9 and 5 respectively.

Duke's top receiver Vernon a threat

None

Crowder has one less catch (53), but the same number of scores (5) as Vernon, including the game-winner against UNC to clinch the Blue Devils’ first bowl since 1994. The sophomore ranks eighth in the ACC in receiving yards per game (71.7).

Scott has made an immediate impact, the senior converting from running back in the offseason, with two games of 10-plus catches and almost as many receiving yards in one game (134) as he had all last season (135).

The catch distribution isn’t quite as diversified for Clemson, but six players had two catches or more and five different Tigers had touchdown receptions in the 42-13 romp over the Deacs.

Misc.

* Going Fast: Scoring on five consecutive drives for the second time this season at Wake Forest, Clemson averaged 18 seconds per play in game-time, and averaged 21.9 per play on the game overall. On the season, they are hitting 21.4 seconds per, compared to 23.3 seconds per last year at this point – with 18 more plays.

* Red Zone Update: Clemson didn’t score on a red zone trip for only the second time this season when Chandler Catanzaro’s field-goal streak was snapped in the third quarter last week. They are third both in red zone offense and red zone touchdown rate (71.8), where 8-0 Louisville (76.3) and 8-0 Alabama (74.3) top the crowd.

* Boyd’s Legs Key to 3rd Down Success: The Tigers rank 8th nationally in third down conversions (53 percent) and SUR has some interesting numbers on how they’re getting that extra set of downs. Taking out sacks, Boyd has rushed for 20 first downs or touchdowns, converting on 69 percent of his 29 runs, and 81.3 percent of the time from third-and-five or less.

© 2012 OrangeAndWhite.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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