There’s not a lot of negative in the numbers below as the Tigers improved almost across the board in the drubbing of Syracuse last Saturday, even stopping the Orange without a point in three red zone possessions and jumping from 114th to a tie for 61st in defensive red zone touchdown percentage.
The one area that seems to be trending downward over the last two weeks is third down conversions, which the Tigers were 4 for 12 against Syracuse and are 12 for 29 (41.38%) over the last two weeks. But even that is above the FBS average on offensive third down conversions.
There has been some discussion of the Tigers being predictable on third and short with Boyd running the ball almost exclusively and perhaps this has been a factor over the last two games and something to watch for moving forward.
Clemson efficiency (through five games)
This week’s opponent, Boston College, is struggling in most statistical areas. The Eagles are 120th in offensive plays per game, 94th in offensive efficiency, 87th in offensive third down conversions, tied for 83rd in offensive red zone touchdown percentage.
On the defensive side the Eagles come in at 80th in our efficiency and tempo rankings (28th in tempo and 103 in efficiency) and 82nd in defensive third down conversions.
The last thing a defense giving up 6.26 yards per play needs to see is Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins and company.
The only area where the Eagles have had some success is in red zone defense, where they are tied for 33rd nationally and 4th in the ACC which is ahead of Clemson.
On paper (and the internet) this is a mismatch, but as the old saying goes they don’t play the games on paper (or the internet). Boston College is a couple of weeks removed from challenging Florida State in Chestnut Hill for a half and the Eagles have scored 82 points in their last two games, but this game is in Clemson and it’s hard to imagine how the Tigers lose this game short of a turnover binge.
Despite the Tigers improved defense there is still a propensity to give up big plays as we saw again last Saturday. In 4 of the Tigers 5 games this year they have given up big plays (20+ yards) for touchdowns. That needs to be fixed sooner rather than later.
I suggested last week that when Clemson has an “average” offensive game and avoids turnovers the Tigers chances of winning approach 100% and that is certainly true again this week (things change next week).
However, some of Clemson’s turnover “luck” ran out Saturday as Tajh Boyd was intercepted twice in the Carrier Dome on plays that could have easily resulted in incomplete passes. That was the type of luck that was bound to change sooner or later and the Tigers are fortunate it happened in a game that was over 10 minutes in.
The same recipe will work for Clemson this week – avoid multiple turnovers and do your thing on offense and the odds of losing are minuscule, especially at home.
Make no mistake the Tigers have plenty of room for improvement. Namely, getting back on track on third downs on offense, avoiding big play touchdowns on defense and continued improvement in red zone defense are three areas that stand out.
The margin of error gets much smaller next week and the recipe may need to be adjusted.
Check out more of Marty's Clemson football analysis on SeldomUsedReserve.com