June 30, 2016

Craziest stat of Clemson’s run to National Championship Game

Of all the stats that I track and find interesting, one stands out from Clemson’s run to the national championship game last season: 6 times the Tigers won, sometimes by large margins, when minus 2 in turnovers.

After beginning the season -2 in a rout of Wofford, the Tigers were actually +3 in turnovers through 4 games after it rained on Notre Dame’s side of the field during the epic battle in Death Valley last October.

Beginning with Georgia Tech the next week Clemson had a remarkable run of 5 of 7 games in which they were -2 in turnovers yet won each game. Close games, blowouts and everywhere in between.

Its obvious context and timing matters with turnovers. Win/loss-wise turnovers don’t mean a lot when you’re up 49-10 against Wofford, but become a different issue when on the verge of blowing Syracuse out a fumble changes momentum.

Yet we know in the big picture teams with less turnovers win (58.7% of the time since 2011). We also know that if you are minus 2 in turnovers your odds of winning is right at 20%* (165-659) in that same time span. (*Includes FBS vs. FBS only, from 2011-2015)

In over 700 FBS vs. FBS games in the 2015 season only 33 times did teams minus 2 in turnovers win and 5 of those were by Clemson (for this calculation Wofford is a FCS team and is not counted). My shaky math says that works out to a 1 in 3,125 chance of a team winning 5 times while -2 in turnovers (if turnovers were the only variable), which translates to .00032%. Statisticians are welcome to correct my math, if necessary.

Last season Clemson committed 27 turnovers in 15 games (1.8 per) after committing 18 in 13 games (1.4) in 2014. Both of those averages are above the average for winning teams in each respective season.

Maybe the most important number is the number of turnovers the Tigers had when Florida State came into Death Valley: 0.

Aggregates can paint the big picture of college football: Turnovers matter. However, not all turnovers are equal and context and detail also matter and should be used to paint the smaller picture of a specific team.

Make no mistake though, if Clemson goes minus 2 in turnovers 6 times this season the Tigers are likely to lose at least once and probably more.

It’s a matter of time until the dice come up snake eyes.

Featured image courtesy gwinndavisphotos.com.

Comparing SUR Win Probabilities with the big leagues

Last week I posted the win probabilities derived from the algorithm I’ve developed over the last 5 seasons. After some back and forth on the free Seldom Used Reserve message boards a poster (shouts to RunningDownTheHill25) came back with the comparison chart below that compares my win probabilities, ESPNs FPI and Bill Connelly from SBNation.  After reviewing the chart, I had several observations.WP Comps
First, my numbers are almost always “conservative”and lower than the others.  Secondly, for the most part, my numbers are closer to Bill’s than to the FPI, which makes me feel better for some reason.

However, there are several instances that I feel an explanation may be necessary, so here they are:

  1. My algorithm actually came out as 100% for S.C. State, but I manually changed it to “>99%” because there’s always a chance, right?  Bill says no, and I defer to him.
  2. Georgia Tech.  My algorithm relies heavily on total yards gained and yards per play.  Tech may roll up 500 or they may get 300.  I’m betting they’ll get some yards on Clemson this season.
  3. Louisville.  A team that has lost by 2 and 3 points to Clemson the last 2 seasons and returns 18 starters.  Not sure how the others got to 81 and 78% respectively.
  4. N.C. State. This team scored 41 on the Tigers last season, though they did lose their quarterback, so I would defer to the other projections and yet feel 92 and 88% are too high.
  5. Florida Sate.  36.5%? What the heck is ESPN thinking?
  6. Pittsburgh is a great unknown for me and my number is probably too low.
  7. South Carolina.  Got some push back on this one, but lets remember that it was a one score game going into the 4th quarter last season.  I’m not talking about the touchdown with 1 second to go, I’m talking about 28-25 early in the 4th before Deshaun Watson hit Trevion Thompson on a critical pass.  The point is, it wasn’t a blowout that would lead me to a 90+% win probability.

Here are my results for last season:WP Results 2015 2

In the end the others have more resources and are infinitely smarter than I and are generally a better resource for this type of thing. Yet, as the numbers above reflect, there is some value to what I’m doing.  How much depends on your point of view.

We’re actively discussing this and other topics on the FREE Seldom Used Reserve message boards. Join us for this and other conversations around our beloved Clemson Tigers.

Featured image courtesy gwinndavisphotos.com

This Week on SUR

Check out our audio recap of this week on SUR below. Simply hit the right pointing arrow button next to the “Thumbs Up” icon below. You can find all of the articles/videos discussed right here and be sure to check out our Facebook page.

2016 Clemson Win Probabilities for all 12 games

The win probabilities below are based on metrics of 3,580 college football games and projected metrics for each team and are subject to change prior to game taking place.

Throwback Thursday – The start of 63-17

On this Thursday we look back to the first touchdown in Clemson’s 63-17 crushing of South Carolina in 2003. The scoring began with a Charlie Whitehurst bomb to Derrick Hamilton and the rout was on.

Check more Throwback Thursday and other video clips on our Facebook page or Video Vault page.

Featured image courtesy thestate.com.

Commitment Profile: Chase Brice


4-star Clemson QB commit Chase Brice (Photo: Dallas Jackson/Vype)


Name: Chase Brice
Location: Loganville, GA (Grayson)
Position: Quarterback
Height: 6’2″
Weight: 202lbs
40 Time: 4.9 seconds
Honors: The Opening Regional QB MVP (Atlanta), Elite 11 Finals participant

247: ★★★ #10 PRO, #313 Overall
Rivals:★★★★ #10 PRO, #172 Overall
ESPN:★★★★ #11 PRO, #191 Overall

Film Room

Audible at the line leads to touchdown


Spin move in the pocket, resets feet, delivers strike downfield


Pocket awareness showcased once again & accurate throw made on the run across his body


Read option executed to perfection


Pops hips around, quick release for a touchdown


Prospect Outlook
While Chase Brice may not even be the most talked about quarterback in his own recruiting class, there’s several factors pointing in his favor. First off, he’s already considered to be a great leader with ties all over this region. Being the quarterback at one of the nation’s premier high school programs certainly calls for the ability to handle pressure and he handles it well. Brice also has excellent touch on his passes. He may not blow you out of the water with arm strength, but he’s still a young guy who’s still developing. And depending on your preference, a more polished passer coming out of high school is easier to develop than a guy with raw arm strength. Perhaps the biggest trait that jumps out on film is Brice’s pocket awareness. He certainly won’t be mistaken for a dual-threat guy, but there’s something to be said about QBs that can extend the play while moving in the pocket. I hate to throw around these kinds of lofty comparisons, but when you see him constantly bounce off defenders in the pocket you can’t help but think of Big Ben up in Pittsburgh. One last takeaway from Brice’s film is his ability to make throws on the move. He has great body control and is able to keep his touch when making off balanced throws downfield. Looking ahead, Brice will have an early opportunity to prove his worth when he squares off against several other talented players in what will be a much anticipated positional battle.

**Make sure you head over to the SUR Recruiting Forums for the latest up to date Clemson recruiting info and discussion**

Geek Speak: Simple formula for winning 97% of the time

Last week I posted some numbers on how important total yards is as a metric, specifically the importance of gaining more than your opponent. There is one metric that is more important (but it’s close) than total yards: Yards per play. Most coaches track “explosive” plays or “chunk” plays (nod to Dabo) because they are not only momentum changers, they actually often make the difference between winning and losing.

There’s no arguing that since (at least) 2011 there’s a very simple 3 pronged formula for winning (and it’s not “score more points”):

  1. Gain more yards than you allow, and the more the better.  Teams that do this win 78% of the time;
  2. Average more yards per play than your opponent.  Teams that do both 1 and 2 win 86% of the time;
  3. Turn the ball over less than your opponent.  Teams that have done 1, 2 and 3 in the same game have won 97% of the time.

Obviously, winning all three categories is easier said than done, but having a prolific offense gives Clemson a better shot than most at winning and if the Tigers avoid the turnovers that plagued the 2015 squad they will be extremely difficult to beat.

Clemson Points Per Drive by field position in 2015 (with Watson at QB)

The data below was taken from the drive charts on clemsontigers.com, includes on drives where Deshaun Watson was the sole quarterback and, with a couple of exceptions, shows what you would expect: Starting field position effects the frequency of scores and quantity of points scored.DW4

Beginning with the longest distance, the 2.4 points per drive when starting inside the 10 is remarkable.  The Tigers scored 41 points (5 TDs, 2 field goals) on 17 drives started inside their own 10.  There is a caveat however: 4 of the touchdowns game against South Carolina, North Carolina (2) and Oklahoma.

PPD With Watson 2015

On the other hand, a 98 yard drive against the number 1 defense in the nation (Boston College) along with 532 total yards stands out.

More than who they came against is when they occurred – 4 of the last 5 90+ yard drives came in games 12-14.  Some of that is out of the Tigers control as they had 0 chances for 90 yard drives until Notre Dame in game 4.Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney works the sideline. The Clemson Tigers played host to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Memorial Stadium in Clemson Saturday, October 10, 2015. GWINN DAVIS / FOR POST AND COURIER

More perplexing is the low points per drive for drives that started between the opponents 39-30.  I’ll chalk this up to a small sample size (4), but it does show an area where there is room for improvement.  Clemson scored twice (TD, FG) from this distance, but came up empty on two other possessions.  Both failures were against Notre Dame (it rained on Clemson’s side, too) where the Tigers failed to score after taking over at the Notre Dame 35 twice in the second half (punt, missed FG).  That missed field goal was Greg Huegel’s last before he went on a long streak.

The overall point is field position matters – even for an offense as potent as Clemson’s.

Featured image courtesy gwinndavisphotos.com.

Commitment Profile: Logan Rudolph


2017 Clemson commitment Logan Rudolph (Photo: @Logan4Rudolph)


Name: Logan Rudolph
Location: Rock Hill, SC (Northwestern)
Position: LB/WDE
Height: 6’3″
Weight: 230lbs
40 Time: 4.7
Bench: 315lbs
Squat: 410lbs

247: ★★★ #22 WDE, #354 overall
Rivals:★★★ #15 SDE
ESPN:★★★ #39 DE

Film Room

Rudolph gets a late start, but shows off some strength and acceleration en route to the QB


Fights through the RT then uses his hands to displace the RB before recording a sack 


Another great example of Rudolph’s strength and ability to use his hands. (watch the helmet)


Rudolph shows off his violent field presence


Prospect Outlook
Rudolph didn’t have much interest in Clemson for the better part of his recruitment, but a few months ago his former high school coach Kyle Richardson was hired into an offensive analyst role which seemingly shifted momentum squarely in Clemson’s favor. Shortly after his hiring, Rudolph earned an offer during a visit and he made an epic video announcing his commitment nearly a month later. Rudolph is listed as a defensive end by recruiting services, but the staff will try him outside at linebacker to see if he may be a better fit there. I’d deem him as a defensive athlete, because he’ll have the ability to play as a rush end as well depending on how his body develops. It will be worth watching to see if he spends some time at linebacker during his senior season after playing strictly as a DE/TE as a junior. No matter where he end up, Clemson is getting a kid who plays with his hair on fire, which, along with his athleticism, is an outstanding combination.

**Make sure you head over to the SUR Recruiting Forums for the latest up to date Clemson recruiting info and discussion**

What was and what will be…Watson to Williams for a TD

On this throwback Thursday we look back to Mike Williams laying out for a pass from Deshaun Watson in 2014 and look forward to the 2016 version coming to a stadium near you.

Featured image courtesy gwinndavisphotos.com.