July 24, 2016

Throwback Thursday – The Commitments

We take a step back in time to look at some of the biggest commitments in recent Clemson history as the Tigers begin to build the program.

Featured image: Miami Herald

Clemson Minute: Defense must contain big plays

Opponents completed only 48.5% of their passes against Clemson during the 2015 season, but 48 of those passes, an average of 3.2 per game, went for 20 or more yards, including 7 in the National Championship Game vs. Alabama.

Listen in below as we detail just how costly those 48 plays were and how losing 3 defensive backs is likely to effect these numbers.

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The Importance of Sacks

Defensive coordinator Brent Venables and Clemson have to somehow replace 32.5 sacks lost to the NFL or the expiration of eligibility from the defense that helped make the run to the national title game in 2015.

How important are sacks? Incredibly important.

It should be intuitive that sacks are more important than a quarterback pressure. By definition, on a sack your opponent loses a down and at least a yard and perhaps many yards (Clemson had multiple 14 yard sacks in 2015). If you’re a quarterback would you rather throw an incompletion under pressure and face second and ten or be sacked and face a second and 16? Exactly. This is also part of the reason that a quarterbacks completion percentage is not the be all and end all of measurables for a quarterback. Getting rid of the ball and taking an incompletion is almost always better than taking a sack. To a defense a sack is more important than a pressure in almost every situation.

While pressuring a quarterback may result in an incompletion, or perhaps an interception and maybe even a touchdown, a sack always results in a loss of yardage, sometimes a fumble and occasionally a defensive touchdown. But those are somewhat rare occurrences. Typically a sack ends in a down and yardage lost making it more difficult for your opponent to gain a first down and ultimately score. I expected the data to show this, but not to the extent it does.

For those wondering, I do track the official “pressures” recorded by a team, but it’s my opinion that this metric is almost completely useless and is awarded subjectively and unevenly across official scorers. A pressure at Boston College may not be considered a pressure at Clemson or vice versa, but everyone knows what a sack is and when it’s recorded. For these reasons, I did not attempt the same exercise with pressures.

Featured image courtesy gwinndavisphotos.com

Projected 2016 Metrics – Wayne Gallman

The numbers below are based on Wayne Gallman’s history at Clemson, the 2016 schedule as we know it and a variety of other factors. While most remember Gallman’s 1,527 yards, fewer remember almost 400 came in games 13-15.

Individual opponents strengths and weaknesses and Clemson’s running back depth are taken into account when deriving the numbers below.

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Finding a Champion (Part 1): The National Champion is in this post

I’m confident your national champion resides somewhere on this page among the 9 teams listed.  There’s not going to be a Coastal Carolina type champion in college football, which may make things less fun, but still interesting and debatable.

In our search for national title contenders I’ll use the odds from VegasInsider.com and lay out the case for (or against) the teams, but first a couple of assumptions:

  1. Only 0 or 1 loss teams make the playoffs.
  2. Schedule matters. LSU may be better than Tennessee head to head, but they won’t necessarily end up with a better record, for example.
  3. I’m not saying the teams I eliminate won’t make the playoffs, they could. The object is to eliminate teams that won’t win the title one by one.

The contenders and odds:

Alabama – 7/1

Clemson – 8/1

Ohio State – 15/2

Michigan – 12/1

LSU – 12/1

Oklahoma – 12/1

Florida State – 16/1

Tennessee – 16/1

Notre Dame – 20/1

First Teams Eliminated

Phil Steele thinks LSU is a great value at 12/1, but I think he’s nuts.  Not because the Bengal Tigers won’t be good, they return 17 starters, but take a peek at the schedule: Wisconsin, at Auburn, at Florida,Ole Miss, Bama, at Arkansas and at Texas A&M.  The ESPN FPI has the Tigers LSUfavored in evePOD-SMALLry game and gives the Tigers a 5.2% chance of winning out.  I’m not buying it, not even 5.2% worth. Despite the presence of Leonard Fournette, a shaky quarterback and questionable coaching will doom LSUs hope for a title.

Clemson fans are getting a kick out of the love for Oklahoma after the last two years Sooner kickings.  Neither of those mean OU won’t be a good team in 2016, but are reasons for caution.  A bigger reason for caution is the schedule: If the Sooners make it through game 1 (Houston, neutral site in Houston), they still face Ohio State, at TCU, Texas (neutral), Baylor (who knows), a tricky trip to West Virginia and Oklahoma State. As with LSU, ESPN FPI favors the Sooners in every game and gives Stoops team a 16.9% chance of winning out, which is important because of no Big 12 Championship Game.  I’m betting the Sooners don’t run the table and if they make the playoff will again be defeated in the first game.

Michigan will likely be 7-0 when they visit East Lansing on October 22. Two weeks after that they travel to Iowa and two weeks after that they travel to Columbus.  The Wolverines won’t win their division and won’t make the playoff.

Tennessee is another team that ESPNs FPI says should win them all, but only gives a 4.5% chance of winning out.  Tennessee’s schedule is light up front, but then there’s a four week stretch of Florida, at Georgia, at TexaTennessees A&M and Alabama (no bye in those four weeks).  Perhaps if there was a bye week in there, but that’s a tough stretch and with an unproven team in the crunch it’s impossible to give the Vols the benefit of the doubt.  And, oh yeah, if they win the East that means they are likely to get a rematch with Bama or meet up with LSU and I’m betting that neither will work out well for Tennessee.

We’ve eliminated 4 teams that have 20/1 or better odds per Vegas.  In part 2, I’ll dig into the final 5 and make the case for a long shot.

Throwback Thursday

In the 2013 opener Tajh Boyd sidearms a pass to Sammy Watkins who promptly bowls over a Georgia defender and goes 77 yards for the score.

Featured image: Cleveland.com

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Clemson Minute

Deshaun Watson is perhaps the best quarterback in the nation, having led Clemson to a 14-1 season and an appearance in the national championship game in 2015.

With Watson on the field the Tigers converted 47% of third downs and Watson completed 58.6% of his third down passes.

How can Watson improve in 2016? Listen in below for details on a number that stands out.

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Deshaun Watson – Projected 2016 Metrics

The numbers below are based on Deshaun Watson’s history, the 2016 schedule as we know it and a variety of other factors. While most remember Watson’s 4,104 yards and 35 touchdowns, fewer remember through 12 games Watson had 3,223 passing yards and 27 passing touchdowns.

Individual opponents strengths and weaknesses are taken into account when deriving the numbers below.

Podcast: Recruiting roundup, week 1 games, Twitter questions + more

The SUR team talks Auburn suspensions or lack thereof, Clemson recruiting, games of the opening week, answers your questions and more.

Time Marks:

00:40 – Matt’s Beer Country Count
01:10 – Auburn 4, no suspensions, no surprises
03:00 – Recruiting Roundup
17:02 – Opening week games
23:26 – Questions from Twitter/Facebook/Message Boards
36:44 – Hot Takes/Tweets of the Week
40:18 – Coming Up on SUR

You can also download and subscribe to the podcast here via iTunes.

Phil Steele, the Natty, Heisman & win totals

Phil Steele was on the “Behind The Bets” podcast with Chad Millman of ESPN last week and had some interesting things to say in regards to national title, Heisman odds and season win totals for several teams.

I regard Steele as a solid prognosticator and thoughtful analyst, resistant of the hyperbole that is rife in the industry. Because of this approach he’s one of the few guys I can still stand to listen to.

Yet, Steele had a few “interesting” leaps in his analysis on this day, as we’ll see below.

FSU LogoFirst up, Steele opined that Florida State at 12:1 and LSU at 15:1 were good “value” (one of the most overused words on the planet) picks for a possible national champion. While Steele blathered on about Brandon Harris (“all he has to do is be a little bit better”) of LSU, Millman interrupted him to say that “Clemson and Alabama are clearly the class of their respective conferences.” It was an awkward exchange that Steele largely ignored and plowed ahead with his praise of Harris.

Steele generally sticks to facts and uses a lot of numbers in his analysis (which I like), but with regards to Harris all that went out the window and he assumes improvement. Harris may improve, but enough to win the title? With that schedule (see below)? Seems like a reach to me (and Millman).

Other Steele “value” picks for the title are Iowa at 100:1 (good chance to go 12-0 again) and TCU at 50:1 (improved defense, Kenny Hill to have big season). Interesting.

The goal is not to pick a national champion necessarily, but to find the best “value”: The team with the longest odds that you think has a chance to win a championship.  Using that logic and a vivid imagination, Iowa and TCU are still stretches in my mind.DW Super

I believe FSU is a good value and the rest are a waste of money. I don’t think FSU wins the title, but playing Clemson at home improves their chances greatly. The other 3? Just filler and perhaps a way to toss your money away.

Iowa may well go 12-0, but will likely lose the Big 12 Championship Game again. Even if they win the Big Ten Championship Game the Hawkeyes aren’t going to beat a good playoff team and certainly not the two it takes to win the title.

tcu (1)LSU? Their schedule includes Wisconsin (neutral), at Auburn, at Florida, Ole Miss, Alabama, at Arkansas and at Texas A&M. Not going to win a title. Period.

TCU’s schedule sets up more favorably, playing Arkansas at home in week 2, but then you have Oklahoma, at West Virginia and at Baylor.  TCU finishes up with a final 3 games of Oklahoma State, at Texas and Kansas State. Not sure I see a lot of value at 50:1, but Steele likes what TCU is offering – a lot (see below).

What’s particularly baffling is Steele’s use of Trevon Boykin’s success last season as a reason the TCU offense will be really good this year.  Did I mention Boykin is now with the Seattle Seahawks (or the San Antonio PD, depending on the day).

Steele picked Deshaun Watson to win the Heisman (9:2), but also believes, because he thinks Florida State has a chance to contend for the national title, Dalvin Cook’s a good value at 10:1. Can’t argue either of those. He also believes Christian McCaffrey (5:1) will suffer in the Heisman race because the Stanford schedule means multiple losses.

Finally, Steele gave these as his best picks on win totals:

Miami – 6.5 – Over

TCU – 8 – Over

Purdue – 4.5 – Under

FIU – 6.5 – Under

As I mPOD-SMALLentioned, I think Steele’s generally solid andit’s hard to argue the win total picks or choosing Watson to win the Heisman (and Cook as a “value”), but saying LSU is a value to win the title at 15:1? That’s out on a limb with a shaky quarterback and the toughest schedule around. I’m also mystified by his love of TCU, though they very well could win 10 games (doesn’t mean they’re a value at 50:1).

Next week I’ll have a two part series on the teams I think have a legitimate shot at the title.  Sneak preview: TCUs not there, another of Steele’s favorites is the first team eliminated and a team no one’s talking about is my long shot pick to contend.

Featured image courtesy gwinndavisphotos.com