September 19, 2014

Episode 23: Florida State Preview


Brandon Rink of joins me to discuss the upcoming Florida State game in Tallahassee and what the Tigers can do to give themselves a chance to win.

We also opine on the question on everyone’s mind: Stoudt or Watson.

Note: Podcast recorded minutes prior to Jameis Winston 1st half suspension was announced.

You can also download current and previous episodes and subscribe to the Podcast via iTunes by clicking here.

Thanks to Brandon for participating and Clemson graduate Adam Eargle for the podcast artwork and all SUR graphics.  Need a graphic artist? Check out some of Adam’s work here.

QB Drive Charts Revisited

Clemson vs South Carolina State during the fourth quarter at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C.

The drive charts below have been updated to reflect: (1) Updated rankings of the defenses faced by each, 2) Minor corrections to Explosive Play %.

I believe a couple of columns might have been overlooked on earlier publications of this data.  First, the explosive play % I just mentioned – Watson’s is nearly twice Stoudt’s.  Yes, Watson’s sample size is smaller, but there’s no getting around what he’s done when in the game.

To that end, the other column that hasn’t received a lot of attention is the one on the far right that attempts to calculate the percentage of actual yards gained out of the possible yards gained while each is in the game.   With Stoudt at the helm Clemson has gained just under 40% of the possible yards and with Watson on the field that number is 69.8%.

Many of Watson’s numbers aren’t unsustainable.  No quarterback averages 9.4 yards per play or a touchdown on 71% of series over the course of a season, but Watson’s numbers are dramatically better than Stoudt’s in almost every category tracked.

As good as these numbers look for Watson we should keep in mind that we are talking about 7 drives and 36 plays.  At this point it’s difficult to tell if this is the signal or noise, but that should begin to become clearer Saturday night in Tallahassee.

Cole StoudtStoudt Drive Chart 2.2

Deshaun WatsonWatson Drive Chart 2.2

Success by Down and Distance


Below is the success rate for Clemson in every down and distance situation they’ve faced this season. As with most metrics this early in the season, it’s not clear how much these numbers will change as the Tigers hit the ACC portion of their schedule.  That said, the success rate on 1st and 10 has to be encouraging.  The 1st and goal numbers are not so encouraging.

A successful play is defined as: (1) a touchdown, or (2) 50% of yards needed for a first down on first down, (3) 70% of yards needed for a first down on second down, or (4) a first down on third and fourth downs.
Success by Down & Distance 12 2014 2Success by Down & Distance 34 2014 2

Here is the same information arranged by success rate, high to low.
Success Rate by Pct 1 2014 2Success Rate by Pct 2 2014 2

Defensive 3rd Down Conversions & 3rd Down Stops

Clemson vs S.C. State football - Vic Beasley

Sometimes statistics lie. Or at least they don’t tell the whole story. When you look at the official NCAA rankings for third down defense you’ll find Clemson tied for 16th with an outstanding 25% mark.

The Tigers have held both opponents under 40% – Georgia converted 5 of 13 opportunities while S.C. State’s futility checked in at 2 for 15.

Digging into the numbers a bit it’s obvious that what happens on first and second down gives you a good idea of what’s going to happen on third down. On third and four or less opponents (this would mean Georgia as S.C. State never faced less than 5 to go on third down) have converted 5 of 7 chances. More than 4 yards to go: 2 for 21.

3rd and Short D 2014 2
So yeah, third downs are important, but so is stopping the opponent on first and second to put your defense in a good position on third down.

I realize I’m not splitting the atom here, but simply reinforcing that teams are rarely only good on third down defense. When you’re good on third down, you’re generally good on first and second down, too.

Here’s a look at who makes stops on 3rd downs that stop the opponent from gaining a first down (or touchdown).

3rd Down Stops 2014 2

Explosives For and Against

Clemson vs South Carolina State during the fourth quarter at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C.

Explosive plays have varying definitions depending on who you ask.  For this site explosives are runs of 12 or more yards and passes of 16 or more yards.

Here’s a look at a running tab of explosive plays for and against Clemson through the first two games.

The offensive numbers below equate to this: 62% of Clemson’s yards have come on 14% of their plays.  That equation should give you some idea how important explosives are to the Chad Morris offense, gaining more yards than the opponent and winning games.  Without them (as in Athens) it’s tough to win.  Face it, this is not a grind it out, Smash Mouth Spread type of offense.

A side note is how often D. Watson’s name appears on the list despite relatively few snaps.

Explosives O 2014 2
On the defensive side 66% of the opponents yards have been given up on less than 11% of the plays. Explosive plays (or any other type) weren’t a problem against S.C. State, but they were huge against Georgia, especially on the ground.  To have a shot in Tallahassee the Tigers have to contain the Seminoles on explosives.

To that end, the pass defense has not been challenged through the first two games.  That’s sure to change on the 20th.

Explosives D 2014 2

Receiver Details

Clemson vs S.C. State football - Mike Williams

Early returns suggest the Tigers have two explosive receivers in Mike Williams and Artavis Scott.  We’ll see how that works out on the 20th. Some genius (me) questioned whether or not Williams would be explosive enough to replace Martavis Bryant.  Yes, the sample size is small but the results are encouraging.

Charone Peake has two of the prettiest touchdown receptions I can recall seeing and that’s saying something considering DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant are recent members of the Clemson receiving corps.

As noted on twitter, the dynamics at TE have been interesting.  Jordan Leggett has played 46 more snaps, but has half the targets of Jay Jay McCullough.

Adam Humphries is tied for the team lead in receptions, but has one catch for more than 6 yards.
Receiver Detail 2014 2

Rushing Metrics

Clemson vs S.C. State football - Wayne Gallman

I’m not sure of the value of the numbers below through 2 games because there wasn’t much success vs. Georgia and there wasn’t much resistance vs. S.C. State.  The true test (one of them anyway) comes in about 11 days in Tallahassee.

Note that the columns beginning with “0/NegYards %” and those to the right of it sometimes equal more than 100% because a 30 yard run is also a 20 yard run and a 10 yard run.  However, 0/Neg Yards + 1-4 yards + 5-9 Yards +10+ Yards should always = 100%.

Success % = A touchdown or 50% of yards needed for  first down on first down, a touchdown or 70% on second down and a touchdown or first down on 3rd and 4th downs.
RB Metrics 2014 2

Quarterbacks by Distance

Cole Stoudt

A breakdown of passes by distance for each quarterback that has thrown a pass.
QB by Distance 2

QB Drive Charts

Clemson vs South Carolina State during the fourth quarter at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C.

Complete through 2 games for Stoudt and Watson.

A note on the defensive rankings: FBS teams are given the ranking for “Total Defense” as defined by the NCAA and will change from week to week as their ranking goes up or down. FCS teams are ranked starting at 125 and moving downward, so S.C.State is ranked 206th because they are ranked 82nd in FCS (and there are 124 FBS teams). It’s not perfect, but think of it more as a guide than gospel.

Cole StoudtStoudt Drives 2.1

Deshaun WatsonWatson Drives 2.1

3rd Down Stops

D.J. Reader closes in on an S.C. State runner

Perhaps one of the most over rated stats is tackles. Sure, it’s important to tackle the opponent when they have the ball, but many times defensive backs have a great number of tackles because they’re last in the line of defense. More important is who makes the tackles on third downs that stop the opponent from gaining a first down. Below are the numbers for the Georgia game.

These numbers will not equal the number of times Georgia failed on third down because (a) some passes were incomplete (no tackle) without a pass broken up and (b) a myriad of other reasons (runs out of bounds, falls down, etc).

The intent is to show who makes the tackles that stop drives.

3rd Down Stops