The header is catchy enough.
“This might be the best offense in the country.”
That’s Football Study Hall’s assessment of opener opponent Georgia, here, 80-some days to the 8 p.m. ABC televised kickoff in Death Valley.
The stats-geared site had the Bulldogs with a top-five offense in two of their adjusted 2012 rankings, fourth in F/+ and first in offense S&P+. Essentially, they were one of the best in attacking – taking out first-half clock-kills and garbage-time yards and scores, while efficiently moving the ball and scoring against weighted national averages.
Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo was (more) much-maligned up to last season, where a pair of the nation’s best tailbacks arrived on campus – Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley.
“Gurley was a strong every-down power back with some explosiveness,” Bill Connelly writes, “while Marshall was a homerun hitter with a little bit of power. They are basically the entire show this year -- the Nos. 3-5 running backs are gone, so if Gurley or Marshall gets hurt, more true freshmen are getting carries -- but what a show that is.”
Gurley, who Clemson was in the running to the end with recruiting, posted 1,385 yards with 17 scores, while Marshall rushed for 759 yards and eight touchdowns.
With less carries than his teammate (105), Marshall made the most of it – averaging 9.7 “highlight” yards per carry, or when an o-line blocks enough to go at least five yards and the tailback does the rest (Gurley averaged 6.5 in the category).
Per FSH’s numbers, Georgia ran the ball 57 percent of the time on standard downs, 37.8 on passing downs and 57.7 in the red zone.
August 31st will be a battle of tempo though – matching one of the fastest explosive offenses (Clemson) against one of the slowest explosive offenses (Georgia). In 2012, they ran an “extremely slow pace” of 37.8 percent tempo from FSH's stats. From partner Seldom Used Reserve, the Tigers ran a tempo rate of 114.14 of the national average (eighth) to Georgia’s 92.37 (99th out of 120).
Whatever the pace, it didn’t change the mirror-image stats of the two rising senior quarterbacks.
Both Aaron Murray and Tajh Boyd averaged 9.1 yards per pass attempt with three yards, and one extra game for the Bulldogs, separating their final totals (Murray: 3,893; Boyd: 3,896).
The efficiency edge slightly goes to Murray based on last season, averaging a touchdown every 10.7 attempts and an interception every 38.6. Clemson’s signal-caller was about an attempt behind on touchdowns (11.9) and six higher on picks (32.8).
Losing its top target (Tavarres King, 68/950 yards), Georgia has a trio of junior receivers to watch.
Malcolm Mitchell caught 76.9 percent of the balls thrown his way last season, for 572 yards at 11 yards per target. Michael Bennett also owns an impressive 70-plus catch rate (70.6), averaging 10.1 yards per target. Chris Conley rounds out the group, who showed his speed in the bowl game against Nebraska – taking a screen pass and going 87 yards up the middle for the score to put the game away.
On the o-line, the Bulldogs return five with 14-plus starts and still have quite the competition there anyway.
They finished 65th in sacks allowed and 99th in passing downs sack rate (9.2 percent). In other advanced stats, they tested better (Adjusted line yards – 16th; standard downs line yards per carry – 19th; power success rate – 19th).
Combined with Seldom Used Reserve, we’ll dive into a more player-by-player assessment of the Clemson offense starting Friday, so stay tuned.