November 25, 2015

Third Down Defense

A total of 23 different players have been involved in stopping opponents on third downs in some fashion.

2015 11 3rd Down Stops Indi

Below is the breakdown by yards to go.

2015 11 3rd Down D by Dis

Podcast: Clemson-Carolina

I’m joined by Brandon Rink and Brad Senkiw of to talk Clemson – South Carolina.  This week we look back at Wake, discuss red zone issues for Clemson, tour the ACC and give our score and prediction for Clemson/South Carolina.

Thanks to Brandon and Brad for their time. It’s always a great time to talk Clemson football with Stanford Brandon and Miami Brad.

You can download and subscribe via iTunes here or at the bottom of this page for iTunes or Android, play in this window or play in a new window.

Podcast artwork courtesy Eargle Design.


Rushing Metrics – 11 Games

Complete through 11 games.

Rushing metrics do not include sacks.

Successful rush:

  1. First down – 50% of yards needed for first down or touchdown.
  2. Second down – 70% of yards needed for first down or touchdown.
  3. Third and fourth down – First down or touchdown.

Explosive rushes are rushes of 12 or more yards.

2015 11 Rush Mets


Tempo Check – 11 Games

For the 5th consecutive game Clemson tops the 80 play mark and for 3 consecutive games the tempo has been consistently considerably below last season’s mark.

2015 11 Tempo

Clemson-South Carolina Preview & Prediction

South Carolina Preview & Prediction

 Who: #1 Clemson Tigers 11-0 (8-0) vs. South Carolina Gamecocks 3-8 (1-7)

What: American Football

When: 12:00pm, Saturday November 28th

Where: Williams Brice Stadium (80,250) Columbia, SC

Line: Clemson -17.5


Series: Clemson leads 66-45-2

Last Matchup: Clemson-35 South Carolina-17

Previous Game: Clemson def. Wake Forest 33-13, Citadel def. South Carolina 23-22

2014 Records: Clemson 10-3 (6-2), South Carolina 7-6 (3-5)


They Said It:

“Don’t you worry, I’ll be standing at the gate next week to welcome them (Clemson) to Williams Brice and our team will be there as well!”-South Carolina interim HC Shawn Elliott

“I think sometimes our fans want it as much as we do. You walk around town before last year and no one was very happy with you because you hadn’t beaten South Carolina in a few years. It’s like a hatred. It’s something that’s hard to describe because I’ve never seen two groups of people hate each other so much over a football game. There are some people that will be upset until next year if we don’t win this game. I really want to do it for them”-Clemson center Jay Guillermo on the Palmetto Bowl rivalry


Key Players:

#10 QB Perry Orth: 130-233 1710 yards 9 TD 8 INT, 45 att 102 yards 2 TD

#22 RB Brandon Wilds: 120 att 559 yards 3 TD, 17 rec 142 yards

#7 RB Shon Carson: 44 att 245 yards 1 TD, 1 rec 8 yards 1 TD

#11 WR Pharoh Cooper: 62 rec 887 yards 7 TD, 20 att 121 yards 1 TD

#89 TE Jerrell Adams: 28 rec 421 yards 3 TD

#92 DT Gerald Dixon Jr.: 28 tackles 2 TFL 1 FF

#50 DE Darius English: 25 tackles 6 TFL 4.5 sacks 2 FF

#8 DE Marquavius Lewis: 40 tackles 4.5 TFL 3 sacks

#10 LB Skai Moore: 98 tackles 6.5 TFL 2 sacks 4 INT 1 FF 1 FR

#11 LB TJ Holloman: 54 tackles 2.5 TFL 2 INT 2 FR

#28 LB Jonathan Walton: 40 tackles 5 TFL 1 sack 2 FF

#21 S Isaiah Johnson: 68 tackles 1.5 TFL 1 INT


What to watch on offense?

The 2015 rendition of the Palmetto Bowl features the most lopsided matchup in the history of the rivalry. And if the records aren’t enough evidence, then the near unfathomable statistical differences should be suffice. When Deshaun Watson trots onto the field for the first time Saturday he will be leading the nation’s 14th best offensive attack (498 YPG) against a Gamecock defensive unit that ranks 83rd in the country (425 YPG). Given the profound discrepancy between the two teams, the gameplan is quite simple for the Tigers: don’t turn the ball over. Clemson is 4-0 in games in which they have had a -2 deficit in turnovers. While that speaks to just how talented this team is and their ability to find ways to win, they simply can’t afford to keep playing with fire.

Deshaun Watson should have no trouble facing off against a South Carolina secondary that has struggled to defend receivers for the second straight season. The Gamecocks top playmaker in the secondary is senior free safety Isaiah Johnson. The Kansas transfer ranks second on the team in tackles with 68, and he’s got plenty of experience under his belt after starting all 24 games during his two-year stint as a Jayhawk. Joining Johnson at the opposite safety position is RS junior Jordan Diggs. Rico McWilliams will start at corner and will likely be tasked with guarding the boundary receivers Charone Peake and Deon Cain. We’ve seen the Tigers implement more and more deep shots towards the boundary so it’ll be worth watching to see if McWilliams can keep the speedy wideouts in check. Good luck because no one has been able to contain either of those two lately. The other corner spot is little foggier, but sophomore Chris Lammons will get the start over fellow sophomore Al Harris Jr. Those two have split playing time for the majority of the season and both are vulnerable when in man coverage. It’ll also be worth a look to see if Artavis Scott is able to duplicate his success with the fly sweep for a second straight year. That play single handedly cost Carolina a chance to extend their streak in Death Valley. Clemson’s success with the fly sweep started with the dominant blocking on the outside by receivers matched up with Carolina defensive backs. Saturday will show if they’ve learned their lesson from last year’s thrashing.

After sitting out last week to rest a sore ankle, Clemson sophomore running back Wayne Gallman will return to face one of the worst rush defenses in the nation. The timing of Gallman’s rest seems fitting after the Gamecocks just allowed a mind-boggling 350 yards on the ground to The Citadel. The week off was also much needed to simply give Gallman’s body a break considering he’s carried the ball 90 times over the course of the previous 4 games. All of South Carolina’s defensive woes start in the trenches. The Clowney’s and Ingram’s are long gone, and the guys lining up on the defensive front just haven’t been able to get it done this season. An inferior Citadel line dominated them last weekend, which tells me that Clemson’s offensive line should be able to get back on track this weekend. The Tigers also get another shot in the arm as RG Tyrone Crowder should be back in the fold after missing the last two games due to a turf toe injury. Maverick Morris and Ryan Norton both gained some valuable playing time in his absence that will aid in depth concerns if injuries happen to occur. The biggest threat to Clemson’s 26th ranked rushing attack is 6’3” 327lb nose tackle Gerald Dixon Jr. He is backed by Phillip Dukes who actually leads all interior linemen with 5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Starting next to Dixon Jr. is JUCO transfer Dante Sawyer whose hatred of Clemson became apparent during his time as a South Carolina commitment. He was pictured “5-bombing” former Clemson linebacker Korie Rogers during their commitment ceremonies in 2014.

When it comes to protecting Watson’s blindside, few could have imagined it would go this smoothly for true freshman LT Mitch Hyatt. This weekend he will be tasked with facing junior SDE Marquavius Lewis. The Hutchinson CC transfer was ranked as one of the top JUCO players in the nation by 247sports, but has yet to establish himself as a dominant force at this level. He has the size and speed to create some issues up front, but he’ll have to prove himself against his Hyatt who’s performed exceptionally well all season long. Perhaps the most talented true pass rusher for the Gamecocks is actually a backup. RS Junior WDE Darius English leads the Gamecocks in sacks (5) and his 6’6” frame reminds me of former Gamecock Devin Taylor. Sitting ahead of English on the depth chart is true freshman Boosie Whitlow who is actually one of the promising young talents for the Gamecocks. He’ll be matching up against the much improved RT Joe Gore.


Players to watch on offense:

QB-Deshaun Watson

After leading the Tigers to a comfortable 18-point victory a year ago on one leg, what should we expect from Watson with two legs? Let’s be honest, this is a matchup that could very well result in Watson cementing his place in New York for the Heisman ceremony. He will have to eliminate the turnovers, but all the pieces are in place for Watson to register his third straight +300 yard game through the air. Any damage done on the ground will be a bonus.

RB-Wayne Gallman

I touched on this above, but a well-rested Gallman is not what you want to see if you’re a fan of the Garnet & Black. The Wayne Train posted a career high rushing total (191) against the Gamecocks last season and there’s a good chance he’ll have the opportunity to rival that come Saturday. The severity of Gallman’s ankle injury was never released, but the fact that he dressed against Wake tells me that he was available if needed. In my opinion, the staff was just making sure he was well rested for this one.

WR-Artavis Scott

I would be foolish to not mention the third piece of the freshmen triumvirate that embarrassed Steve Spurrier’s squad last year inside of Death Valley. Scott cemented his place in Clemson lore when he used Gamecock linebacker Skai Moore’s hand as a stepping stone while tip-toeing his way down the sidelines for a score. The Tigers used Scott on the fly sweep multiple times and the Gamecocks had no answer. While the explosive plays have been few and far between this season for Artavis, there is no better place to get back in the groove than Williams-Brice against an ailing defensive unit.


What to watch on defense?

Perhaps the biggest culprit of South Carolina’s demise has been the lack of talent of the offensive side of the ball. The Gamecocks feature a former walk-on starter at QB and three former walk-ons in the two deep rotation at WR. This offense is a one man show with Pharoh Cooper, and the future looks awfully bland if he opts to enter the upcoming NFL Draft.

Who would have ever thought that the once great Steve Spurrier would have let the QB position come to this? Perry Orth, a former 6th string walk-on, has been forced into the starting role due to injuries to Connor Mitch and Lorenzo Nunez. And truth be told I feel that he’s performed fairly well given the circumstances. Part of me feels bad for the situation he’s been thrust into and the criticism he’s been given. Looking objectively at this South Carolina offense and it becomes apparent that Orth has no reliable options outside of the aforementioned Cooper. TE Jerrell Adams has shown flashes, but he can’t seem to find consistency in the offense. Also, the offensive line has been a revolving door by allowing 22 sacks. To put that in comparison, the Tigers have only allowed 14. The matchup this weekend doesn’t bode well for the Gamecocks as Clemson bookends Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd have proven to be an awfully tough out. So far this season the two defensive ends have combined for 30.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks. Lawson will matchup with RS senior Brandon Shell and Dodd will matchup with junior Mason Zandi who missed last weekends suffering with a high ankle sprain. If he’s not able to go again this week then freshman Blake Camper will be thrown into the fire for his 2nd career start.

To my surprise, South Carolina has struggled mightily to effectively move the football on the ground. I went on the record last season saying that Brandon Wilds was the better back between he and Mike Davis last season. That statement looks to have imploded this year, but I still think Wilds poses the biggest threat to the Clemson defense this weekend. He possesses the speed and size you crave as an offensive coordinator. However, over the last 3 games Wilds has averaged a dismal 44 YPG and has posted just 1 touchdown. Backups David Williams and Shon Carson were both supposed to be change of pace backs, but neither has been able to establish themselves this season. Perhaps the biggest threat in the running game likely comes with true freshman QB Lorenzo Nunez. The dual-threat signal caller sat out against the Citadel with a sore shoulder, but he is expected to be available against the Tigers. If he’s able to go you can expect the Gamecocks to pull a page out of Syracuse’s playbook with the shotgun triple option look. I’m honestly a little surprised we haven’t seen South Carolina utilize that formation more this season with Nunez, Wilds, and Cooper. Clemson had no answer for the option in the Carrier Dome due to poor assignment football and lack of gap control. I get the sneaky suspicion that we’ll see an improved plan of attack if Carolina decides to go that route.

In Saturday’s game against the Demon Deacons, Brent Venables’ unit put together an impressive showing, only allowing 152 total yards. You could tell the defense was playing with a little more “giddy up” after delivering such an underwhelming performance at Syracuse the week before. As is the case for just about any team, the success starts up front for Clemson. Lawson, Watkins, Reader, Pagano, Wilkins, and Dodd represent the more talented group in the trenches and they’ll need for it to show on Saturday. WLB Ben Boulware missed the majority of the Wake Forest game due to a shoulder stinger, but he’s going to be ready to roll this weekend. He’ll have to keep his head on a swivel as South Carolina loves utilizing their running backs in the passing game. That means both Boulware and MLB BJ Goodson will need to account for the check downs when the pocket collapses. The Gamecocks will also look to their towering 6’6” TE Jerrell Adams over the middle against Clemson’s linebackers. Backup SLB Dorian O’Daniel has proven he’s worthy of an increase in snaps given his athleticism and nose for the ball. I’d look for him to take some of load off Travis Blanks down the stretch.

The real matchup to watch this weekend is All-SEC wide receiver Pharoh Cooper versus All-ACC corner Mackensie Alexander. Cooper has 34 more receptions than the next closest receiver and he has accounted for 9 total touchdowns. Alexander won the battle in Death Valley last season, holding Cooper to just 45 yards on two catches. The pickings may not be as easy on Saturday due to the fact that South Carolina will line Cooper up all over the field in order to maximize his touches. He’ll be in the slot, wildcat, and in motion. Cooper is the only real game-changer the Gamecocks have and he’s definitely a force to be reckoned with. If Alexander hasn’t fully healed from his knee injury suffered in the Syracuse game then the Tigers will have a tough time stopping him. However, another dominant performance against an elite level wide receiver would all but secure a first round spot for Mackensie in the upcoming NFL Draft.

Players to watch on defense:

DE-Shaq Lawson

It what will likely be his final Palmetto Bowl, I expect Lawson to play like his hair’s on fire. He’s grown up in this state and knows what this rivalry means to the people within its borders. . Shaq has also been around long enough to get a taste of the losing side of this rivalry and don’t think he’s forgotten what that feels like. Lawson currently leads the ACC in tackles for loss and only trails Penn State’s Carl Nassib by 0.5 for the national lead. I’d be stunned if Lawson isn’t the national leader in tackles for loss after this weekend.

DE-Kevin Dodd

Remember the days of Clowney and Taylor wrecking havoc in Death Valley years ago? As painful as that may be, revenge will be sweet this weekend. Given the fact he will be matching up with a less than 100% Mason Zandi or a freshman in Blake Camper, Dodd should have no trouble finding his way into the backfield once again. Dodd has arguably been the biggest surprise of the 2015 season and he’ll look to cap off a monster regular season with a big showing in Williams-Brice.

CB-Mackensie Alexander

This will be Mackensie’s first trip to Columbia as a starter and if you’ve watched him at all during his Clemson career you know he’ll welcome the hostility that Williams-Brice brings. My biggest concern is whether or not he’ll be able to keep his trash talking in check. We’ll see if Cooper is able to get off of Mack Island.



Ending the 5-game losing streak last season was fun, real fun if I’m being honest. But don’t think for one second that a single win has wiped away all the Spurrier jabs, 5-bombs, and embarrassment that those associated with the Clemson program endured during that stretch. During the offseason Steve Spurrier told the Gamecock faithful to circle November 28th on their calendars. I wonder how many of those fans still have that date circled now that Spurrier has quit, their team is 3-8, and Clemson is on top of the college football world? The wheels have completely fallen off in Columbia, and the only thing that can end their misery is triple zeros on the clock at the conclusion of the 4th quarter. Clemson is coming, and their bringing hell with them.

Deshaun Watson is going to celebrate Thanksgiving a couple days late this year as he’ll have to wait until Saturday around noon to start carving up his chicken. I wish I could be a little more objective, but the truth of the matter is that this South Carolina defense is downright awful. The defensive backs give too much cushion and the defensive line has yet to demonstrate an effective pass rush all season. Clemson on the other hand has proven they’re an offense that can beat you in variety of different ways. You step up to take away the screen passes and over the top goes Peake or Cain. You can step back to give them space and it’s Scott, McCloud, or Hopper in the screen game. You stick with Gallman on the zone-read and Watson is off to the races. You give Gallman a hole and he’s going for +5 yards every time. Heaven forbid I mention the run-pass-option to Jordan Leggett. Best of luck defending that.

On the other side of the ball, the Tigers roll into town with the nation’s 5th best defense in terms of yards allowed per game. The Gamecocks will reach deep into their bag of tricks this weekend and will likely show formations that the Tigers haven’t seen yet this season. Sure, they’ll probably win some battles but more times than not the more talented unit finds a way to win the war. Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd should have no trouble getting pressure on Perry Orth and he’s proven susceptible to getting erratic with the football with his 55% completion percentage. Carolina will find ways to get Cooper away from Alexander by lining him up in different positions, but I bet you’ll see Brent Venables base his defensive game plan around shutting him down no matter where he is on the field.

Anything can happen in rivalry games, but when it comes to Clemson vs. South Carolina typically the better team wins. And on Saturday, that arrow points directly to “that team from the Upstate.” I certainly hope the Head Ball Coach decides to make an appearance so he can witness firsthand the beating that is meant for him. I doubt he has the guts to show.

There’s no doubt in my mind that South Carolina will show up ready to play Saturday. Clemson will too. DW4 eclipses 300 yards in 3 quarters of play. Gallman surpasses 100 yards on the ground for the 7th time this season. Artavis Scott goes for an encore to follow up last years dazzling performance. Mackensie Alexander gets his first career interception in Columbia.

Another streak has started. 12-0 couldn’t be any sweeter. See y’all in Charlotte.


South Carolina-20

Receiver Detail – 11 games

Complete through 11 games.

Receiver Detail 2015 11

Deshaun Watson by Distance – Wake Forest and Season

Complete through 11 games.

Watson by Distance Wake 2015Watson by Distance 2015 11

Winning % by Turnover Margin

Clemson is 3-0 vs. FBS opponents when going -2 in turnover margin, while the rest of FBS is 19-100.

Here’s a look at winning percentage by turnover margin in 2015 for FBS vs. FBS teams.

(Mouse over data points for details)

Friday Numerology

Five numbers (plus some bonus) to know about Clemson football.

Clemson vs Wake Forest Win Probability

The only reason the number is less than 100% are the two turnovers predicted for Clemson.  Those turnovers may not hurt the Tigers this week, but if the Tigers continue to turn the ball over at the current rate it could come back to haunt them at some point.

ClemVsWF WP 2015