One way to define offensive efficiency in football is yards gained per play and, perhaps surprisingly, it’s an area where Clemson can improve.
Yards are important because, statistically speaking, yards gained correlate very highly to points scored and through the first two weeks of the season the team with more total yards has won over 80% of the time.
Some may be surprised that the Tigers aren’t highly ranked in this category with the past and present playmakers at Chad Morris’ disposal. However, as I wrote last week, Clemson runs a high percentage of passes at or near the line of scrimmage and while these plays are generally successful, they tend to gain less yards than downfield passes.
The Tigers finished 24th in efficiency for the 2012 season and are far below that through the first two games of 2013. As a matter of fact Clemson is even below the “average” for all FBS teams heading into week 4, coming in at 5.73 yards per play while the average is 5.90.
The data below shows this metric for the first 3 weeks of the 2013 season. The column labeled “Efficiency” equals yards per play and the “Adj Efficiency” is the rating where 100.00 is “average”. As you can see from this table, Clemson is currently slightly below average and ranked 65th of 123 teams.
Clemson offense efficiency (through week three)
Two games is a small sample size and the starters played less than half of the South Carolina State game, perhaps negatively affecting this statistic. The other side of that coin is that there were times where the second team was more effective than the starters against South Carolina State and offensive efficiency is a trend that spans both 2012 (somewhat less of an issue) and the first two games of this season.
The solution is for the Tigers to run more plays (tempo), a category where the Tigers are in the top 5, and it’s why Chad Morris and Dabo Swinney want to push the number of plays into the upper 80s or more.
A couple of weeks back I explained why the number of plays is more important for Clemson than most teams and there was some debate about the value of the statistic. It was also around that time that Chad Morris set the goal for 2013 at 92 plays and Dabo mentioned a goal of scoring every 14 or 15 plays, confirming the importance of the statistic in my mind.
With the added knowledge that the Tigers aren’t as efficient as some other offenses the importance of the number of plays the Tigers run on offense is increased.
Besides the obvious – points – the number of plays is the statistic that I follow closely when Clemson plays, more so than even yards gained. Clemson is 14-0 under Morris when running 80 or more plays and 9-6 when under 80 plays.
Running 80 plays doesn’t guarantee a Clemson victory, however the odds heavily favor the Tigers when the magic number of 80 is reached.
You can find additional analysis of offensive tempo and efficiency here.