Inside Clemson football: Ball security has Tigers on upswing

Clemson football - Cole Stoudt hands the ball to D.J. Howard

Photo by Mark Crammer

Clemson football - Cole Stoudt hands the ball to D.J. Howard

The Clemson offensive metrics improved across the board against an undermanned Wake Forest defense last Saturday with the exception of third down percentage.

At least on paper, the challenge is a bit stiffer this week, not only on both sides of the ball, but also in location of the game which makes for an interesting dynamic and not your typical ACC game.

Clemson held Wake to 222 yards in 61 plays (3.6 yards per play), but let’s face it - Wake was not a good offensive team entering the contest with a ranking of 107th of 123 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).

Still, there have been times in the past when a Clemson defense has made a less than stellar offense look good, so the solid, consistent four quarter effort was encouraging to see.

Wake Forest ventured into the Clemson red zone only once in 15 possessions, but promptly scored a touchdown on that drive. The Tigers have now given up 6 touchdowns on 7 red zone possessions by their opponents this season.

The one time the Tigers haven’t given up a touchdown in the red zone? The botched field goal by Georgia in a game that the Tigers eventually won by 3. Perhaps a coincidence, perhaps not.

What has set this team apart in the early season is the lack of turnovers committed by Clemson. The Tigers have gone two games without a turnover and have thrown 0 interceptions and lost 0 fumbles by the running backs and wide receivers for the season.

Given that the small number of Clemson turnovers is an outlier at this point of the season there’s at least three ways to view what is likely to happen moving forward: 1) Clemson continues to defy the odds and not turn the ball over, 2) the Tigers regress towards the average turnover number (currently 1.7 per game) for FBS teams, or 3) something else, perhaps more than .5 turnovers, but less than 1.7 per game.

If for no other reason than luck its logical to believe the most likely scenario is either number 2 or 3. After all, Tajh Boyd has thrown at least two passes that should have been intercepted but were dropped in the first four games. Just adding those two as turnovers would have doubled the Tigers turnovers and quickly moved the Tigers to an average of 1.0 per game.

Teams with 0 turnovers have won 72.3% of their games in 2013, regardless of other metrics. But 0 turnovers is tough to accomplish. To date only 28% of the teams have had 0 turnovers in a game in 2013, yet Clemson has managed to accomplish this feat in consecutive games. That pace is difficult, if not impossible, to maintain.

In fact 1 turnover is not necessarily a killer, especially with an offense such as the Tigers have. The combination of 80 plus plays, 492 yards (Clemson’s average) of offense and 0 or 1 turnover is lethal to opponents. So lethal that teams that have gained 492 yards and had 0 or 1 turnover are 14-0 in 2013.

It’s not realistic to believe the Tigers will end up averaging a turnover every two games over the course of an entire season but with the high octane offense and an improving defense that may not be necessary. At the current offensive pace simply avoiding multiple turnover games means the Tigers chances of winning are extremely high.

Check out more on the Tigers' offense here.

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