August 3, 2015

Clemson Schedule: Easiest to Toughest (Part II, 6-1)

Artavis Scott runs for a 68-yard touchdown pass at Wake Forest

In part two of the series Seldom Used Reserve’s editor Marty Coleman and Recruiting Editor/Contributor Chris Cox rank the Tigers games from easiest to most difficult.  The work was done independently without knowledge of how the other ranked these games.  Today we feature games 6-1.  Games 12-7 can be found here.

6
CC – Miami: Kyle Parker finding Jacoby Ford across the middle to seal a victory over #10 Miami still resonates fresh in my memory.  Since that game The U has put together a 39-30 record. Way to go KP. Al Golden’s seat is hotter than a August noon kickoff in Death Valley, which may be part of the reason his sweat destroys dress shirts like it’s going out of style. Brad Kayaa quietly put together one of the best freshmen campaigns of the 2014 season and I expect him to produce again this year.  If Joseph Yearby can find a way to fill the size 20 shoes that Duke Johnson left, then the Canes will be tough to slow down.  The crowd shouldn’t be too much of a factor unless Miami starts paying fans to come to the games.

Clemson's Shaq Lawson plays against South Carolina during the third quarter at Memorial Stadium in Clemson.

Clemson’s Shaq Lawson plays against South Carolina during the third quarter at Memorial Stadium in Clemson. Courtesy OrangeandWhite.com

MC – Miami:  I’m not as sold as others are.  The Hurricanes seem to be the Clemson of the past – good recruiting, lots of preseason hype, several very good players, 5 or 6 losses.  It’s in Miami, so the “crowd” is not something to worry about, but perhaps the silence will be.

5
MC – South Carolina:  This is a tough one.  The OBC is on edge, the quarterback is new and the schedule is tough.  Not sure what happens with the Gamecocks this season, but the track record indicates it won’t be easy and the game is in Columbia.  Despite Spurrier’s protestations the Gamecocks don’t appear to have the talent of past seasons.  How well they hold up through a tough SEC season and their frame of mind on the last Saturday in November will be the question. Whatever confidence they gained in the 5 preceding games, ended in fireworks at Death Valley last November.

CC – South Carolina: Steve Spurrier. Williams-Brice Stadium. 2001. Sandstorm. High school smoke machines. Need I say more?  The staff claims not to have put an emphasis on this game, but we’re no fools.  The Tigers finally got the monkey off their back last year with a lob-sided victory at home.  Clemson hasn’t won in Columbia since 2007, but to me this game is pretty simple: the Tigers are just better.  Last year the Tigers put up 35 points with a one-legged quarterback. Can you imagine what they will do if he has two? Goodness.  Unless Spurrier finds another Connor Shaw, it will be a long season in Columbia.  The enemies are knocking on the door and Steve is scared.

4
CC – Georgia Tech: NEWSFLASH: Clemson does not perform well in Bobby Dodd Stadium.  Well it’s a good thing that the Ramblin’ Wreck have to make the trip up I-85 to come to Death Valley this year.  When they roll into town you can be sure that they will bore you to death with Paul Johnson’s triple option and that knees will be targeted.  Returning at QB is the ACC’s premier athlete in Justin Thomas who is the best signal caller PJ has ever had.  The Yellow Jackets do have to replace 3 players from their backfield, but returning 4 offensive linemen, who are now black belts in chop blocking, should help their cause.  Tech returns several playmakers on defense, but the story of this game will likely be which offense outperforms the other.  Clemson’s air “Raid” attack makes me feel better about exterminating the Yellow Jackets.

MC – Notre Dame: 19 returning starters, 10 on defense and a dynamic offense, puts the Irish at #4.  Might be close to the top if game was in South Bend.  Perhaps the name on the jersey is getting too much credit (shocked, shocked I say), because this team has been 8-5 in 3 of 5 years under Brian Kelley.

3
MC – Louisville: The Cardinals return less starters than Clemson and only 4 on defense, but Bobby Petrino is confident (go figure).  It’ll be a short week, Thursday night game in Papa Johns – all the ingredients for an upset and the Tigers are only a three point favorite at the moment. Louisville opens with Auburn, so that’ll tell us something.

Clemson Football - Artavis Scott runs 70-yards for a touchdown in the third quarter against South Carolina

Clemson Football – Artavis Scott runs 70-yards for a touchdown in the third quarter against South Carolina. Courtesy OrangeandWhite.com

CC – Louisville: The first true test of the season will come when the Tigers make the trek up to Papa John’s Stadium on a Thursday night.  Clemson has never played at Louisville and word around the water cooler is they sell beer in their stadium meaning you don’t have to go back to your tailgate at halftime. Talk about convenient.  Back to football, Petrino will have to find his QB out of the four that are all competing for the No.1 spot.  On the other side of the ball, Todd Grantham’s band of misfits will have the potential to be pretty good if they can stay out of the local police department.  A name to keep an eye on here will be former Big 12 Defensive POY Devonte Fields, who could be matched up against true freshman OT Mitch Hyatt.  Thursday night, on the road, and a hostile environment (with beer) is a daunting task for the Tigers.  If they can find a way to squeak out a win here then watch out.

2
CC: – Notre Dame: The Irish coming to Clemson will mark the first ever “Bourett Bowl.” You can be sure that Notre Dame grad Tim Bourett, aka Clemson Google, will have some ridiculous stats ready to fire off during game week.  Sophomore QB Malik Zaire looked impressive in his limited action last season and should be one of the nation’s better signal callers by season’s end.  At his disposal he will have an elite talent at WR in Will Fuller who exploded for 15 TDs in his sophomore season.  The Irish defense really struggled down the stretch of 2014 as they ended up allowing over 400 YPG and 29 PPG.  If both teams come in unscathed the College Gameday crew will likely be in attendance, which probably means they will have to scramble to find another guest picker who has nothing to do with Clemson at all.

MC – Florida State: The King of The ACC Hill. Think things were chaotic with Jameis on campus?  It’s been an offseason full of off field issues for Jimbo and the Seminoles, including the suspension of star running back Dalvin Cook.  Yet, talent abounds in Tallahassee, there’s no doubt about that.  Is that enough to overcome the loss of Cook (perhaps) and an inexperienced quarterback in Death Valley against a dynamic Clemson offense?  The game is not until the first Saturday in November and both teams have room to trip up prior, but it could be a magical night in the Valley.Boulware B

1
MC – Georgia Tech: The Jackets return only 5 offensive starters, but they are perhaps 5 of the most important on the team – quarterback Justin Thomas and 4 offensive linemen.  8 Georgia Tech defensive starters return, but let’s face it, with Deshaun Watson at the helm the offense will have a different look than in Atlanta last season.  Clemson is rebuilding the nation’s top defense, but remember defense wasn’t the problem in this game last year – 2 pick sixes were.  That won’t happen in 2015.  Still, the Jackets are the most dangerous team on the schedule sitting here in early August.

CC – Florida State: The Seminoles have broken the Tigers hearts’ the past two years and they remain Clemson’s primary obstacle in the way of an ACC Championship berth.  The Seminoles have plenty to replace on both sides of the ball with Jameis  “Crab-Legs” Winston being the primary departure.  Sean Maguire faired okay in his start against Clemson last year, but it’s a foregone conclusion that ND transfer Everett Golson will take over the reins sooner rather than later. Criminole RB Dalvin Cook is also currently suspended and if he is ruled out for the season the Jimbo’s may be in serious trouble.  The defense is lacking experience on the line, but preseason All-American CB Jalen Ramsey marking Williams or Scott should be a fun matchup to watch. There are too many question marks to know what kind of team FSU will bring to Death Valley this Fall, but at this point who cares.  Just win baby.

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Figure The Odds: Georgia Tech

Venables

Editor’s Note:  The probabilities below are derived from an algorithm developed over the last several years that includes a database of over 2,800 college football games over 4 seasons and takes into account the teams relative strengths and weaknesses and on field performance.  While in its infancy, the algorithm acquitted itself well head to head with the ESPN FPI measure during last year’s bowl season.

The second of a two week stretch of two huge home games brings Georgia Tech to Clemson and this could be one of the more difficult match ups for Clemson in 2015.

Tech brings back only 5 offensive starters but, as I’ve written in other space on this site, they are perhaps 5 of the most important players on the offense – quarterback Justin Thomas and 4 of 5 offensive linemen.

The Jacket’s also return 8 defensive starters, but that unit gave up over 400 yards per game in 2014 and doesn’t exactly strike fear in opponents hearts.  Sure, they shut down Clemson with Cole Stoudt at the helm, but this year’s game is in Death Valley with #4 running the ship.

CLEMvsGTThe caveat here is that the Clemson defense loses a ton up front.  There’s talent, but is it talent at the level of Jarrett, Beasley and company?  We should know by the time this game rolls around on October 10.

As Dabo Swinney and Brent Venables like to point out this is a game where you just need to do your job.  Not someone else’s job, your job.  Don’t be a hero, be the guy that does his job.

Tech will get their yards and points.  They always do, but the Clemson offense will get plenty of both, too.  Unless Mike Leach is playing Navy, it’s tough to find two offenses more diametrically opposed to each other as the Tigers and Yellow Jackets, but the results are often the same – plenty of yards and points.

As with last years game, turnovers will play a key role.  That 8.8% advantage in win probability disappears if the Jackets win the turnover battle (each turnover changes the win probability about 8.9%)

The expected point chart published in April indicates a 31-26 score in the Tigers favor.

The probabilities listed above will change prior to the game being played as both teams will have played multiple games adding additional information to their profile.

Other 2015 Win Probabilities for Clemson

Wofford   Appalachian State  Louisville  Notre Dame

Clemson’s Schedule from Easiest to Toughest (Part I)

Dabo Swinney

In the first of a two part series Seldom Used Reserve’s editor Marty Coleman and Recruiting Editor/Contributor Chris Cox rank the Tigers games from easiest to most difficult.  The work was done independently without knowledge of how the other ranked these games.  Today we feature games 12-7.

12
MC – Wofford: Once upon a time Wofford gave eventual 2011 ACC champion Clemson all they wanted. The teams have moved in different directions since that day and the 2015 Tigers are more talented up and down the roster than the 2011 group – which is saying something for a team that included Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins, Martavis Bryant and Andre Ellington to name a few.

CC – Wofford: The Terriers are coming off back to back disappointing seasons, which saw them finish 5-6 (2013) and 6-5 (2014).  The last time the Terriers ventured into Death Valley they gave the Tigers quite the scare.  Back in 2011 Wofford actually led an uber-talented Clemson squad by a score of 24-21 in the 3rd quarter before the Tigers added two touchdowns on their way to a hard pressed 35-27 victory.  You can be sure that Wofford will find some holes with the triple option against a new-look Clemson defense, but this is a game that the Tigers should light the scoreboard up.  Outside of winning, the best thing that could come out of this game would be a clean medical bill.D.J. Reader closes in on an S.C. State runner

11
CC – Appalachian State: The first thought that pops into the minds’ of Tiger fans is the colossal upset App State pulled off in the Big House.  Believe it or not, that game took place nearly a decade ago, 8 years to be exact, and they don’t pose near the threat that they used to. During their first season as an FBS school the Mountaineers did compile a 7-5 record, which included a season ending 6-game win streak.  One player to watch in this matchup is Junior RB Marcus Cox, who has compiled over 2600 yards in just two seasons for the Mountaineers.  The Tigers will also have to be cautious not to look ahead to their first big test of the season at Louisville, which awaits just 5 days after this one.

MC – Appalachian State: I debated flip flopping 10 and 11, but ultimately left the Mountaineers at 11.  App State won their last 6 of 2014 and will likely be on a 7 game winning streak when they enter Death Valley.  But this ain’t the Sun Belt or the Big House circa 2007.

10
MC – Wake Forest: This game is scheduled the week before South Carolina for a reason, just like the Citadel was in previous seasons.  The Deacons did give the Tigers a battle last season, but that was on the road, on a Thursday with the atmosphere of GrovWayne Gallman runs for a 30-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter at Wake Forestes Stadium.

CC – Wake Forest: Dave Clawson struggled during his first season in Winston-Salem, but I think anyone would have considering how bare the cupboard was.  The Demon Deacons were forced to throw a freshman QB into the fire last season and he was protected by the nation’s worst offensive line, which allowed 48 total sacks.  Given better protection, now sophomore QB John Wolford should have some success this season. He will likely be another one of those Wake Forest quarterbacks who never seem to graduate like Riley Skinner and Tanner Price, who each started all 4 years.  Note: Cole Stoudt compiled 282 yards passing and 3 TDs against the Deacons who must replace 84 starts from their departing corners.  Oh, and in case you didn’t know Clemson has Deshaun Watson, Mike Williams, and Tay Scott. While Clemson did struggle last year on the road in front of a raucous Demon Deacon fan base I see this year’s game going quite smoothly for the fighting Dabo’s.

 

9
CC – Syracuse: “Soft-nosed” Scott Schaffer and his mighty Orangemen are coming off of yet another disappointing season. But at least they played Clemson close last year right? Moral victories! Shaffer will have his work cut out for him as the Orange have yet to find a proven playmaker on offense and the defense must find a way to replace 8 starters.  Furthering the bad news, the beef between Dabo and Shaffer that has been well documented among the media has likely not been forgotten by the Clemson coaching staff.  You can be assured that, if given the chance, the Tigers squeeze all the juice out of the Orange.  The only hiccup could surround how the Tigers respond from the week before after having played FSU.  Even if the Tigers drink all the beer in Clemson following the FSU game, they still have enough talent to sweat out a win in the non air-conditioned Carrier Dome.

MC – Syracuse:  The Orange in the ACC for basketball is great.  In football? Ugly.  The Tigers will survive another trip to the loudest venue (hat tip Jimbo Fisher) in the ACC and Scott Shaffer’s “How to win friends and influence people” antics.

8
MC – Boston College – Boston College’s style of play lends itself to closer games, in general and if this was in Beantown it would be several notches higher.  Clemson’s losses up front on defense could mean a big running day for the Eagles, but how do they keep up with the Tiger offense and the crowd in Death Valley?  The answer is they don’t.

CC – Boston College – In just 2 seasons, Steve “Be A Dude” Addazio has reestablished the Eagles as the gritty, hard-nosed program they’ve been known for.  (I’m a big Addazio fan FYI) Last season he used his ground and pound attack to bolster over 250 yards per game on the ground.  Mack A 2Now for the bad news…gone is offensive coordinator Ryan Day, QB Tyler Murphy, and all 5 starting offensive lineman.  While the Eagles return last season’s leading rusher Jon Hillman (860 yards, 13 TDs), he will have to rely on a completely new line to open up holes for him.  However, if there’s anything we’ve learned about Boston College over the years is that: 1. They grow lineman on trees and 2. They always give Clemson fits.  With that said, on paper Clemson is the far superior team and Deshaun Watson will get his first crack at them this year at home.  At least the Eagles will get to fly into some warmer weather.

7
CC: – N.C. State – After a 41-0 drubbing at the hands of Clemson last season I’m not sure anyone from Raleigh wants to play the Tigers any time soon.  The good news for the Pack is that Clemson will have to replace the majority of a defense that held them to a mere 154 total yards of offense and no points. Now for the bad, Deshaun Watson is back after totaling 4 touchdowns in the first 20 minutes of last year’s contest.  The Wolfpack do return a solid one-two punch in QB Jacoby Brissett and RB Shadrach Thornton. Brissett’s name has been tossed around as a dark-horse ACC POY candidate, but he’s going to have to fair better than the 4 of 18 performance he displayed against Clemson if he wants to do so.  Carter-Finley stadium has been a house of nightmares for the Tigers over the years, but this game isn’t on a Thursday so I feel much better.

MC: – N.C. State – The Pack is here by default and because this game is in Raleigh and the talent of the teams above them.  Others think more of the Pack than I, but I can’t get the memory of Jacoby Brissett’s 4/18 day last year in Death Valley out of my mind.  Brissett will be better, because it’s hard to be worse and the Clemson defense will take a half step back.  The Pack appears to be improving, but there’s a gap between Florida State, Clemson and the rest of the Atlantic.

The easiest 6 games of the season were the same for both, but I wouldn’t count on that happening in part 2.

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Figure The Odds: Irish back in the Valley, but probability of winning is…

DW Super

Editor’s Note:  The probabilities below are derived from an algorithm developed over the last several years that includes a database of over 2,800 college football games over 4 seasons and takes into account the teams relative strengths and weaknesses and on field performance.  While in its infancy, the algorithm acquitted itself well head to head with the ESPN FPI measure during last year’s bowl season.

A philosophical question: Is it a good thing to have almost everyone coming back from a defense that wasn’t very good?

That might be the question at Notre Dame as the Irish return 10 starters from a defense that gave up over 400 yards a game in 2014 and faces Clemson in Death Valley the first weekend of October.

At this point the Tigers will have 3 games behind them, including perhaps a tough road contest at Louisville, will be coming off 16 days of rest and the Tigers and the sellout crowd will be ready for one of the most anticipated games in recent memory.

The Notre Dame offense (9 starters return from unit that averaged 444 yards per game) will present some problems for a rebuilding Clemson defense and I would expect a nip and tuck game till the end.

In the end, however, Clemson’s defensive strength (DBs) will be too much for the Notre Dame offensive strength (passing game). Then there’s the Clemson offense against that Notre Dame defense we mentioned above.
CLEMvsND5

We’ll know a good bit about the Irish before they reach Clemson – they open with Texas at home, travel to Virginia and then host Georgia Tech in week 3 (and Massachusetts in week 4) before the trip south.

The ESPN FPI has this game as the second lowest probability for a win for the Tigers at 54.8%, which I have to admit surprises me a bit, but may be related to the 19 returning starters for the Irish.

Historically, 3.5 point favorites at home have won 53.7% of the time and covered only 46.3% of the time. That spread means Vegas thinks these teams are close to being even, with Clemson getting something for being at home.

From the expected points table we can give an early number of 31-25 in Clemson’s favor.

The probabilities listed above will change prior to the game being played as both teams play the previous week adding additional information to their profile.

Other 2015 Win Probabilities for Clemson

Wofford
Appalachian State
Louisville

Figure The Odds: Will Louisville be Clemson’s first real test of 2015?

Jarrett vs Louisville

Editor’s Note:  The probabilities below are derived from an algorithm developed over the last several years that includes a database of over 2,800 college football games over 4 seasons and takes into account the teams relative strengths and weaknesses and on field performance.  While in its infancy, the algorithm acquitted itself well head to head with the ESPN FPI measure during last year’s bowl season.

There aren’t many teams below Clemson on the list for returning starters in 2015, but Louisville is one, even if you count Isaiah Battle’s departure.

I underestimated Louisville last season, or perhaps I should say I underestimated the Cardinals defense.

It’s difficult to look at the number of starters lost and decide whether a team, or unit, will be better. Look no further than the Clemson starting quarterback position for evidence. The guy replacing the starter may be better than the “starter” from last season.

However, when there’s an elite player or, in Louisville’s case, an elite defensive unit, you’re generally in safe territory to expect some drop off when only 4 starters return. I also expect some drop off from Clemson’s defense for similar reasons. The question is how much?

None of Lousiville’s 4 returning defensive starters are members of the defensive backfield, which doesn’t bode well for the Cardinals if Deshaun Watson is upright.
CLEMvLOU
The ESPN FPI measure gives the Tigers at 62.8% probability of winning.

Theoretically, Louisville has the short week, home game on Thursday night advantage. That’s even dubious as I pointed out a couple years back (dated info, but…) and quite overblown, in general. There’s an old adage that the best team usually wins and I think that’s the case here.

Looking at the expected points chart published back in April leads us to a 24-21 score in the Tigers favor and Clemson was tabbed an early three point favorite in Vegas.

As you can imagine, the odds the Tigers cover are much lower at 56.5%. If that 3 point spread stands, we’re likely looking at a tight game which brings all kinds of field goal kicking questions to mind.

Clemson has a good chance of entering a 16 day window without a game at 3-0 as they prepare for Notre Dame’s visit to the Valley on October 3.

The probabilities listed above will change prior to the game being played as both teams play the previous week adding additional information to their profile.

Other 2015 Win Probabilities for Clemson

Wofford
Appalachian State

Figure The Odds: Mountaineers attempt to scale Mount Clemson

Random Numbers

Editor’s Note:  The probabilities below are derived from an algorithm developed over the last several years that includes a database of over 2,800 college football games over 4 seasons and takes into account the teams relative strengths and weaknesses and on field performance.  While in its infancy, the algorithm acquitted itself well head to head with the ESPN FPI measure during last year’s bowl season.

On September 12th Appalachian State saunters into Death Valley to take on Clemson in game 2 of the 2015 season.

The Mountaineers, who will most likely be on 7 game winning streak, return 20 starters (most in FBS) and both kicker and punter from a 7-5 team that now competes in the Sun Belt Conference and will complete the move from FCS to FBS with the second year of a mandated reclassification process.

This is the program (notice I didn’t say team) that famously took down Michigan at the Big House back in 2007.  Never mind that a few crazy things had to come together for it to happen, it happened, so there’s always a chance, right?

Not really, at least not much of one.

CLEMvAPPSTThe ESPN FPI measure gives the Tigers an 86.2% chance of winning, which roughly translates to 3 wins in 20 games for App State.  I don’t see it happening this year or 3 times in 20 games.

My numbers give Clemson a 94.7% probability of winning, which means about 1 victory in 20 games for Appalachian State.

History indicates that teams with Clemson’s expected statistical advantages cover the spread 74.3% of the time.

The probabilities listed above will change prior to the game being played as both teams play the previous week adding additional information to their profile.

 

Other Clemson Win Probabilities to Date

Wofford

Figure The Odds – The probability that Clemson beats Wofford is…

Random Numbers

Editor’s Note:  The probabilities below are derived from an algorithm developed over the last several years that includes a database of over 2,800 college football games over 4 seasons and takes into account the teams relative strengths and weaknesses and on field performance.  While in its infancy, the algorithm acquitted itself well head to head with the ESPN FPI measure during last year’s bowl season.

Clemson opens the season with FCS Wofford on September 5 in Death Valley.  Typically, I wouldn’t include FCS teams in a win/loss probability analysis because they are not part of the 2,800 game database used to derive these probabilities.

However, certain adjustments can be made by looking at historical games to determine what 366 yards per game against an FCS schedule is likely to translate to when playing a FBS team the caliber of Clemson.  Similar adjustments were made to the defensive side for Wofford.

The Terriers gave the Tigers all they wanted in game 2 of the Chad Morris era back in 2011, when the Tigers eventually roared to an 8-0 start.  But this is a different Clemson team and, perhaps more importantly, a different Wofford team, one that hasn’t had the same success in recent seasons.

CLEMvWOFF

For what it’s worth the ESPN FPI measure gives Clemson a 99.7% chance of winning and the reality is with a healthy Deshaun Watson there’s no question who wins, but rather what the final score will be.  The expected points per yard gained chart published back in April suggests a score of 38-18, but again this was calculated using historical data of two FBS teams and may not exactly correlate in an FBS vs. FCS matchup.  To double check myself to an extent I also applied the 2014 Clemson yards gained per point scored and yards given up per points given up and came up with….38-18.  Many will scoff at the score (and many will be unhappy it is even close to correct), but remember a team with Sammy Watkins, Andre Ellington, Tajh Boyd and other NFLers led Wofford a mere 28-27 before scoring on the second play of the 4th quarter in a 35-27 win.

I don’t take myself too seriously with these probabilities and you shouldn’t either.  For me the fun is in adjusting the algorithm and “compete” (very loose term) with the ESPN FPI measure and the resources of the World Wide Leader.

It’s fun to discuss in late July, but I wouldn’t bet the house (or a nickel) on it.

One position no one is talking about

Clemson defensive back Cordrea Tankersley (25) tackles North Carolina State quarterback Jacoby Brissett (12)
Clemson defensive back Cordrea Tankersley (25) during the annual Spring game at Memorial Stadium in Clemson.

Clemson defensive back Cordrea Tankersley (25) during the annual Spring game at Memorial Stadium in Clemson.

With the focus of the Clemson Nation and media on the Tigers replacing Vic Beasley, Stephone Anthony and Grady Jarrett, there’s very little talk about the corner position opposite Mackenzie Alexander being a huge, gaping unknown.

Gary Peters didn’t get the accolades of Beasley, Anthony or Jarrett, but his play, both in numbers and through the eye ball test, tell the story of an unsung mainstay of the top defense in the land.

After sitting out the Georgia game due to a suspension, Peters started the remaining 12 games, seeing 691 snaps on the field while accumulating 45 tackles, 7 assists, 8 tackles for loss including 2 sacks, 15 passes broken up (next closest was 6), 2 quarterback pressures and an interception.

Peters also led the defense in stopping opponents (chart on right) from gaining first downs on 3rd and 4th downs in 2014, being involved in 15 such stops and edging Jarrett in that category.

Tim Bourret did a good job of detailing how opponents shied away from Alexander in 2014, which means Peters was often the target.

The summer depth chart listed seldom used reserve Cordrea Tankersley (158 snaps in 2 seasons) ahead of sophomore Ryan Carter who has a grand total 3 snaps of experience.  Popular thought has 4 star true freshman Mark Fields (10th rated cornerback, 113 player overall per Rivals.com) contending for playing time here.

Tankersley saw a 2014 season high 36 snaps with Peters suspended against Georgia, but never topped 24 for the rest of the season and had 6 games where his only participation was on special teams, where he totaled 7 tackles.

Whether its Tankersley, Fields or someone else that ultimately fills this void we can confidently surmise teams will avoid Alexander’s area with regularity, putting pressure on the corner position where Peters quietly performed game in and game out without fanfare.

 

Film Review: Tony Elliott’s first game calling plays

Clemson's Tony Elliott communicates at the Florida State game during the first quarter at Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, Florida.

Editor’s Note: The analysis below details the first 72 offensive plays from the Russell Athletic Bowl between Clemson and Oklahoma. Subsequent plays are not detailed due to an obvious change in offensive philosophy once the score reached 40-0.

Tony Elliott’s first play call at Clemson was a good one. With Clemson down to one healthy tight end for the Russell Athletic Bowl, Elliott dialed up a formation that included no tight ends and 4 wide receivers – 2 on each side of the field, one stacked behind the other.  Stacked formations have inherent advantages, especially for a receiver with short area quickness.  One obvious advantage is the receiver has a blocker out front at the time of the reception and even if the defender was playing tighter he would have to go around (or through) the blocker to get to the ball carrier.

First Play 1On the wide side of the field Artavis Scott lined up behind Charone Peake, took a half step back at the snap as Peake moved forward to block. Cole Stoudt took the snap, looked to his left and fired to Scott as Peake engaged a defender. Scott made the catch, but still faced 3 Oklahoma defenders converging on 1 blocker (Peake) and Scott as seen below. Peake made the block, one defender over ran the play, another took a bad angle and Scott had a 65 yard touchdown with running back Wayne Gallman 60 yards downfield throwing the final block.

The right handed Stoudt also had an open Mike Williams on the short (top of the screen) side of the field with Adam Humphries leading him and no Oklahoma defender within 8 yards.

First Play 2

We would see this formation 5 more times in the first 41 plays called by Elliott, with none being anywhere near as successful as the first. The 6 times that formation appeared (all on first or second down) totaled 81 yards, with 10 of those yards coming on designed runs by Wayne Gallman, who struggled for yardage all night (more on that below).

The four wide out theme continued throughout the night, as the Tigers went to some variation of the set on 46 plays (63.8%) and gained the vast majority of their yardage with this formation.
Personell

                                                              Note: 10 Personnel is 1 RB and 0 TE, 11 Personnel is 1 RB and 1 TE, etc.

Sam Cooper was the Tigers only tight end available (Rod Byers made a few appearances in goal line/short yardage situations) and Cooper was on the field for 22 plays that netted 40 yards. With Cooper on the field (without Byers) the Tigers had little success rushing (17 carries for 37 yards) or passing (2/4/12 yards, 1 sack) and actually had more success running out of the 0 tight end, 4 wide sets (13 rushes for 49 yards).

Personell Details

The Tigers had 9 rushes of greater than 4 yards and only 2 of them happened with a tight end (or two) in the formation and one of those was a wildcat run by Artavis Scott.

The four wide receiver set was a success, though the 3 sacks in 33 drop backs has to be a concern, especially considering the recent loss of Isaiah Battle and insertion of true freshman Mitch Hyatt at left tackle. On the other hand, the 11 personnel formation gave up a sack in 5 pass plays and only averaged 1.8 yards per play.

A subset of the 4 wide look and the most popular set we saw that night from the Tigers was 3 wide receivers to the field (wide) side of the field and 1 on the boundary (short), which was used 12 times.

No matter the formation, time and time again (51.4%) Clemson ran plays to the boundary, or short, side of the field and went to the wide side infrequently (19.4%).Side of Field

A couple of other notes:

  • Wayne Gallman was the only running back on the field until the score was 34-0, playing every down except the wild cat run.
  • Clemson gave up 4 sacks, 3 on 3rd down (and 3 in OU territory). For the plays reviewed the Tigers called 13 third down passes and gave up 3 sacks, including on the first two of the game.
  • Adam Humphries came across the formation in motion twice and both times he cut up and out to catch a short pass for minimal gains, but it was easy pitch and catch.
  • Elliott stayed true to the Chad Morris Book on 3rd and 1. Twice the Tigers faced a third and 1 and both times it was a designed run (one successful, one not).

Scott vs OUWhat does it mean moving forward? Probably not a lot. As mentioned, the Tigers were forced into the four wide to some degree and wouldn’t have used it as much with a healthy Jordan Leggett, a much better receiving option than Cooper. Tight ends (counting Byers) saw 882 snaps in 2014 and if you estimate two tight ends were used on 10 percent (probably much less) of those that means the Tigers had 1 tight end on the field around at least 90% of the time.

Yet this game was a tantalizing display of the possibilities when you have a wealth of taMike Williamslent at the wide receiver position – there were simply too many receivers that were too good for Oklahoma to cover effectively. Clemson didn’t need a running game, at least a traditional one, and instead “handed off” short passes to its best athletes and let them do their thing.

One game doesn’t make a trend and it should be noted that Oklahoma took bad angles, missed tackles, was out of position often and probably gave up at some point.

That doesn’t change the fact that Clemson has a talented and deep wide receiver corps and the thought of 4 of them on the field simultaneously with Deshaun Watson throwing the passes is an intriguing concept and shouldn’t be relegated to “emergency” situations.

Why I’d rather be a 3 point favorite on the road instead of at home

Random Numbers

Swinney Citrus 2Much like being the boss’s favorite at work, being the favored team in football has its plusses and minuses.

You may get more pats on the back for successes of questionable importance, but you’re also likely to be watched closely for any sign of wrongdoing or malfeasance and are most likely the subject of unfair rumors and water cooler scuttlebutt.

In general, there are pitfalls, but it’s a good thing to be favored and the more you’re favored the better. While underdogs and upsets are repeatedly featured and promoted, giving the impression that upsets occur “all the time”, the truth is that favorites win. A lot. Like 78% of the time over the last four years.

Not all favorites are created equal though and that 78% number is skewed by the huge favorites (19-21 points) that win at over a 95% rate.

A couple of weeks ago we learned that Clemson, at least by one sports book, is favored in every game, so logic would seem to infer that the Tigers should go 12-0 as things stand right now, correct?

No.

While it seems like a good thing to be favored, the Tigers are only a 3 point home favorite against Georgia Tech and a 2 point favorite when hosting Florida State and herein lays the issue.

WinPctBySpread11-14

The guys that make these lines know what they’re doing and have more riding on the outcome than you or I or any single bettor. They have millions of reasons for getting it right.

mgm_sports_bookWhile it’s not clear exactly how the home field is figured into the spread (for example, do you give Clemson and Duke the same home field advantage?), it’s generally accepted that around 3 points are added to the home team. (Hat tip to Brandon Rink of OrangeandWhite.com for reminding me to factor this in).

Looking at these games with this additional information would mean that on a neutral field Clemson would be a Pick ’em against Tech and a 1 point underdog to Florida State. Historical trends lend credence to this theory. Three point home favorites have won 48.9% of the time over the last 4 seasons and 2 point home favorites even less – 40%.

As it stands today, with limited information, history says Clemson would have less than a 50% probability of winning the Georgia Tech and Florida State games and also less than a 50% chance of covering against Notre Dame.

Clemson 6 Fav

On the flip side, being a 3 point favorite at Louisville (and South Carolina) is in reality saying that Clemson is 6 points better than these teams and corresponds to a much higher win (and cover) probability.

It’s important to remember that the probabilities above were calculated on the spread and home/away factors only – no other variables were considered.

Also, many or all of the spreads may change prior to the actual game being played as the season plays out and games, stats, and injuries are factored into the equation.

One important takeaway (at least for me) is that being a 3 point favorite on the road is much better, probabilistically speaking, than being a 3 point favorite at home which at first seems counterintuitive, but makes perfect sense given the data of the last four seasons.