Clemson excelling in key stats to winning college football

The Clemson Sports Blog

Clemsson right tackle Gifford Timothy celebrates a touchdown by running back Roderick McDowell near quarterback Tajh Boyd during the second quarter at the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta.

Photo by Ken Ruinard

Clemsson right tackle Gifford Timothy celebrates a touchdown by running back Roderick McDowell near quarterback Tajh Boyd during the second quarter at the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta.

What does it take, statistically, to win in college football?

Seldom Used Reserve identified six stats, that if you’re on the right side of them, the chances of winning are 70 percent or better, and it’s no surprise, Clemson won five of the six categories against Auburn last Saturday.

The Tigers-with-the-lake edged the one without most in rushing yards (320-180), yards per play (6.1 to 5.8) and rushing attempts (52-37) – more narrowly in total yards (468-374) and yards per rush (6.2-4.9).

Auburn hit bigger plays in the passing game, compiling a 7.2 yards per pass average to Clemson’s 5.9.

It’s important to note that these stats are vital defensively too. Holding a team to lower yards per rush will likely result in less run attempts per game, and increased pressure on the opposing passing game, which the defense can in turn focus on.

Category Clemson Auburn
Yards Per Pass 5.9 7.2
Yards Per Play 6.1 5.8
Total Yards 468 374
Rushing Yards 320 180
Yards Per Rush 6.2 4.9
Rushes 52 37

Looking at the opener as the example, Auburn rushed right on its average for the game in the second half (4.9 yards per carry), but Clemson contained the pass to only 4.7 yards per attempt with 11 incompletions (out of 17 throws) and a sack.

Offensively, the closing two scoring drives which put Clemson up 26-19 in the fourth quarter, featured a heavy dose of the run (16 out of 21 plays) and averaged 8.4 yards on them.

Against lighter competition in coming weeks, the statistical advantage in these spots should only go up, but if Chad Morris’ offense doesn’t execute on that level, the games could be closer than they should.

Looking Back

Last year, Clemson sports information kept track of the Clemson offense versus Morris’ first-year Tulsa offense, where we added some of our own analysis too.

In year one, he turned the Tigers’ attack into the top-10 nationally most improved in points (9.97 more per game), passing offense (86.69 yards more per game) and total offense (106.17 yards more per game).

Tajh on calling plays on the field

Tajh Boyd set 22 different Clemson records last season himself, ranging from most total offensive yards on the season and most touchdown passes in a game.

Measuring against last season, even against a better opponent in week one (Troy versus Auburn), they’re well on their way to another record-breaking season.

The 2012 Tigers bested the ’11 Tigers after week one in total offense (528-468), yards per rush (6.2-5.2), rushing yards (320-197), starter completion percentage (70.6-66.7) and plays (87-69).

The points came a little easier last season in Death Valley (43-26) and yards per pass (8.8-5.9) and passing yards period (264-208) were higher.

Category '12 Clemson '11 Clemson
Yard Per Carry 6.2 5.2
Passing Yards 208 264
Starter Cmp. Pct. Boyd: 70.6 Boyd: 66.7
Yards Per Pass 5.9 8.8
Total Offense 528 yards 468 yards
Scoring Offense 26 43
Plays per Game 87 69

Individually, Andre Ellington’s 228 rushing yard game obviously has him on track for a number of awards and records – needing to average more than 112.1 yards per game, top 1,117 rushing yards for the single-season and 1,386 for career Clemson marks. They’re all held by former Tiger Raymond Priester, who rushed for 1,345 yards and a 112.1 per game average in 1996 with 3,966 career rushing yards.

At receiver, DeAndre Hopkins is well on his way to challenging Sammy Watkins’ records set last season in receiving yards (1,219) and touchdowns (12) and Aaron Kelly 2007 marks at 6.77 receptions per game (13 last Saturday) and 88 total in a season.

Hopkins was targeted 14 times with three explosive plays (12 yards or more) and the one drop according to Seldom Used Reserve.

Going Fast

Speed. Pace. Tempo. Plays per game.

They’re what Morris and the Tigers want more of each game, and it showed in the opener.

In game-time, Clemson ran a play every 21.9 seconds, compared to one per every 24.2 secs against Troy last season.

On scoring drives, they operated at 22.2 seconds per play, but two of their best came in the second half, at 21.3 per on the lead-changing drive ending in Hopkins’ four-yard touchdown catch and 18 per on the third-quarter field goal drive which helped Clemson regain the lead.

Tigers wanted to push pace against Auburn

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Taking over with 1:24 to go in the second half, they moved it 8.4 seconds per play 47 yards, but that’s skewed by three timeouts, ending in a wide-left 55-yard field goal attempt from Spencer Benton.

It’s not a perfect stat with timeouts and stoppages for first downs factored in, but it’ll be interesting to track compared to last season if there’s a substantial increase in tempo in year two.

Misc.

* You’ll hear it a bunch this week, but expect plays on plays on plays Saturday afternoon in Memorial Stadium. Ball State was tied for the second-most nationally with Oregon at 96 in their 37-26 win over Eastern Michigan, and along with Clemson, was one of six teams with 300 yards rushing and 200 yards passing last week (329 and 267). The record for most plays combined in a Clemson game came against Maryland in 1992, with 184, according to Clemson sports information.

Venables on what he learned about his team

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* Facing Brent Venables’ Oklahoma defense, Pete Lembo’s Ball State offense ran 71 plays last season, with a season-worst 95 passing yards and 214 total offensive yards in a 62-6 loss. Running back Jahwan Edwards, who rushed for 200 yards last week, was bottled-up to 3.3 yards per carry and 53 overall, and quarterback Keith Wenning was 12-for-31 on pass attempts for 84 yards and three interceptions.

* If you’re curious on the 2012 Clemson defensive opener v. 2011 defensive opener numbers, Venables’ unit bettered Steele’s in passing yards (194-258), total offense (374-423), and completion percentage (40.7-57.1), while surrendering more yards per rush (4.9-4.6), yards per pass (7.2-6.1) and rushing yards (180-165). Both Alabama teams were held to 19 points.

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Comments » 3

MatthewBlackstone writes:

I appreciate the look at stats, as that goes into how I look at potential, and understanding success and failure. I get...perturbed...with talk of "swagger" and other imaginary subjects.

That said, a couple of points:

1. There is a problem with covariance in the stats he uses. He should either use YP Pass and YP Rush (incidentally YP Pass Attempt provides the best correlation) or just YP Play. Also, I think there's something wrong with the numbers. YP Play can't be higher than YP Pass and YP Rush both.

2. Rushes and total rushing yards generally have causation issues. While I certainly concede that in this game, and with GT, rushing yards caused the win, it's also a sign of squatting on a lead. Teams already in the lead rush more.

As an alternative, I'd borrow from the much maligned Kevin Steele and check out % of drives ending in 3 or 6 and out.

Football Outsiders with F+ and FEI have done some good work. Always an opportunity for innovation though.

BrandonRink writes:

in response to MatthewBlackstone:

I appreciate the look at stats, as that goes into how I look at potential, and understanding success and failure. I get...perturbed...with talk of "swagger" and other imaginary subjects.

That said, a couple of points:

1. There is a problem with covariance in the stats he uses. He should either use YP Pass and YP Rush (incidentally YP Pass Attempt provides the best correlation) or just YP Play. Also, I think there's something wrong with the numbers. YP Play can't be higher than YP Pass and YP Rush both.

2. Rushes and total rushing yards generally have causation issues. While I certainly concede that in this game, and with GT, rushing yards caused the win, it's also a sign of squatting on a lead. Teams already in the lead rush more.

As an alternative, I'd borrow from the much maligned Kevin Steele and check out % of drives ending in 3 or 6 and out.

Football Outsiders with F+ and FEI have done some good work. Always an opportunity for innovation though.

You're correct - I had typos on the YP play/YP pass. They're corrected now, thanks!

I've used Football Outsiders stuff before - always good stuff. And I'll check out the 3/6 & out stat as well.

seldomusedreserve#284867 writes:

in response to MatthewBlackstone:

I appreciate the look at stats, as that goes into how I look at potential, and understanding success and failure. I get...perturbed...with talk of "swagger" and other imaginary subjects.

That said, a couple of points:

1. There is a problem with covariance in the stats he uses. He should either use YP Pass and YP Rush (incidentally YP Pass Attempt provides the best correlation) or just YP Play. Also, I think there's something wrong with the numbers. YP Play can't be higher than YP Pass and YP Rush both.

2. Rushes and total rushing yards generally have causation issues. While I certainly concede that in this game, and with GT, rushing yards caused the win, it's also a sign of squatting on a lead. Teams already in the lead rush more.

As an alternative, I'd borrow from the much maligned Kevin Steele and check out % of drives ending in 3 or 6 and out.

Football Outsiders with F+ and FEI have done some good work. Always an opportunity for innovation though.

Matthew,

You are correct in that the percentages are independent of one another there is some causation among the numbers.

I should have included that note and will do so next time.

I agree YPP has the highest correlation and that surprises most fans who believe it's rushing.

I track about 15 categories and the intent was to show these are the ones that correlate to winning at the highest rate and not some of the ones fans tend to believe (i.e. turnover margin or time of possession, for example).

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