May 19, 2019

Best Teams & Coaches as Favorites

One measure of the strength of a program is if the team wins when it should win, meaning when they are favored.

Not all favorites are the same, of course.  Being a field goal favorite is not the same as being a 21 point favorite, nor is a being a home favorite always the same as being a road favorite.

In the tables below, which looks at games between FBS teams from 2011 to 2016, these distinctions are not made – the data includes all favorites, whether they were 1 point or 21 point favorites. There’s all kinds of rabbit holes you can examine in this type of exercise, but I chose to stay at the top level in this instance.

The results are generally what was expected, specifically near the top, though I admit Kansas State at the apex surprised me a bit.

When you think about the best coaches in college football the names of Snyder, Swinney, Saban, Fisher, Petersen and Meyer are among the first off the tongue.

If we look specifically at coaches (at current/last school) the order would be:

The winning percentage as a whole was 77.3%, so the cutoff was Tennessee – everyone below that is below average.

One team stands out in a negative way.  Virginia Tech has lost 18 times as a favorite in the last 6 seasons, an average of 3 times per season.  Most of that obviously, was during the waning years of the Beamer era, but the Hokies did lose twice as favorites in 2016 (substantial favorites at that) despite winning the ACC Coastal.

5 in 59: Fiesta Bowl Edition

5 plays in 59 seconds from Clemson’s thrashing of Ohio State Saturday in Glendale, Arizona.

The Aftermath: Clemson-31 Ohio State-0

Deshaun Watson paced Clemson in their win over Ohio State with 3 total touchdowns (Photo via: redditCFB)


The SUR Crew of Marty Coleman, Matt Wilczewski, & Chris Cox weigh in on Clemson’s throttling of #3 Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl & look ahead to the rematch with Alabama.

For starters, we’ve spent a lot of time reading and writing about Clemson over the course of the year, but even in your wildest dreams did you think this sort of result in favor of the Tigers was possible?

MW: Definitely not. Even with the Tigers up 17-0, I felt as though Ohio State would eventually hit a big play to spark their team and it would be another tight fourth quarter finish. Because, to be honest, this Clemson team has had issues putting teams away throughout the entire season, so it only felt like that would be the case once again.

MC: No, because traditionally the defense has given up some yards and points later in games, the most recent example being the ACC Championship Game. The amazing part is there were plenty of points left on the field for Clemson (and a few for Ohio State). It could well have been 45-6ish.

CC: Truth be told it never really crossed my mind that Clemson could win in blowout fashion. I envisioned a best possible scenario where Clemson could pull away and win by about two touchdowns, but no one saw the shutout coming. The more I think about it the more impressed I am. That’s a damn good football team that Clemson just manhandled. The Tigers dominated all 3 phases of the game and held up at times when past Tiger teams would have wilted away. Easily the most impressive win of Dabo Swinney’s career.

Let’s cut right to the chase here. Was that the most dominant defensive performance from a Clemson team…ever? Just for reference Ohio State hadn’t been shutout since 1993 and that was the first time an Urban Meyer led team has ever been held scoreless.

MW: That I’ve seen yes, but that’s acknowledging that I didn’t heavily follow Clemson football until I became interested in going to school there(‘07/’08). Venables had his guys ready, and more than anything else, they played disciplined football which prevented Ohio State from garnering any real momentum offensively.

MC: I’m older than you guys and saw a defense of a different era, which the Buckeye offense seemed to be playing in. For this era, yeah, I mean the Buckeyes had 3 first downs at the half and 9 for the game and 2 of those were by penalty. The Clemson defense gave up 1 huge play, but other than that? Zilch.

CC: Many of you guys know I didn’t have the privilege to watch the Clemson teams in the 80s and early 90s (born in ‘91), but that defensive performance last night would be tough to top. The Buckeyes averaged 42 PPG and 258 rushing YPG. Clemson kept them off the scoreboard and only allowed 88 yards rushing despite the game being well in hand virtually the entire 4th quarter. That’s domination. Reminder this defense has had 11 players taken in the NFL Draft the last 2 years as well. Brent Venables deserves every penny of that salary, if not more.

Tony Elliott seemed to be dialed in with his play calling and was unpredictable (in a good way) all night. What do you expect out of him against Alabama?

MW: Like Chris mentioned, Elliott realized that Clemson couldn’t line up and run straight into the teeth of the Ohio State defense. So he did little things, an abundance of off tackle runs, jet sweeps, and play action to keep the defense guessing. With Alabama, their strength will also be in trenches with their defense line, so I would expect a continuation of the horizontal run game and quick passing game to try and negate that line. Much of Clemson’s success on the outside came from fantastic blocking out of the tight ends and receivers, and that’ll need to happen again to be successful next week.

MC: This is the billion dollar question. I’d like to see more Artavis, but I always do. I think they need to find Leggett more often than they did in the Fiesta. The running by Scott and McCloud were a nice touch, a subtle difference from the touch pass. Not sure what to expect, but Elliott needs to be as unpredictable as he was against Ohio State.

CC: One thing that stood out to me from an offensive play calling perspective was the decision to run outside the tackles once Ohio State proved they could stop the inside run. We saw Clemson implement several swing passes, jet sweeps, and QB counter runs. This spread the Buckeye defense out and served as an extension to a traditional running game. 31 points was the most Ohio State had surrendered all season and it should have been more. Credit to Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott who seem to have this team clicking on all cylinders down the stretch.

Is there a better coordinator in college football than Brent Venables?

MW: Not that I would rather have right now. His passion, tenacity, work ethic, and ability to have his guys prepared week in and week out is simply amazing. He deserves every single penny that Clemson is paying him, and hopefully will receive even more after this season. He’s lost several key components to the NFL in recent years and still finds ways to be even better than before. Unbelievable.

MC: Nope. Wouldn’t trade him for any other DC. Often talked about amongst Clemson fans is that out of the Chad Morris/Brent Venables hires which was better. Short term, Morris. Long term Venables.

CC: Considering he’s fresh off of winning the Broyles Award for top assistant coach in the country I’d have to say no. While there are certainly some other guys who belong in the conversation you’d have a tough time putting someone on a tier above Venables. His passion for the game of football is contagious and you can see it resonate through his unit’s play.

I (Marty) was laughed at back in August for suggesting Mike Williams would make the difference in this years team potentially winning the Natty. Thoughts on how much better this team is with Williams and what he brings that was missing last year?

MW: Clemson didn’t have that big, rangy, go up and get it receiving threat in the playoffs last season. And it’s reasonable to believe that if Watson is tossing up one of the deep balls to Williams rather than say, Scott, in the title game last year that the result may have been different. He’s nearly impossible to cover 1 on 1, and thus requires the safety to provide help as well. When you’re forced to honor Williams as the threat that he is, you expose yourself in other areas across the field.

MC: The point was that they scored 40, offense was not the problem. True to an extent, but earlier in the game there was more than once the Tigers had the ball and the lead, but couldn’t extend the lead to two scores. That may have been different if Williams was on the field.

CC: Not sure who all was laughing, because with Mike Williams, and Deon Cain, in the fold last year it’s reasonable to believe Clemson could have added at least another TD to their 40 point output against Alabama. That’s irrelevant now, and what it means for this year is that the other WRs will likely enjoy more favorable matchups due to the attention Williams will get in the boundary. I’d anticipate Saban game planning specifically for #7, which could leave the middle of the field open for guys like Scott, Leggett, and Renfrow.

Initial take. Can Clemson beat Alabama and if so, why?

MW: Yes, they can. The leadership is there, the desire for redemption is there, and the talent is there. Will they? I certainly don’t know, because this Alabama team has the best defense in the nation along with one of the best coaching staffs. Saban will absolutely have his team prepared and will find even the smallest weaknesses in Clemson’s game to expose. The Tigers will have to find ways to move the ball, eliminate turnovers, and play sound, disciplined defense.

MC: Yes, because of leadership. Will they win? That’s a hell of an Alabama team, but Clemson is capable. An offense that can “run” the ball by throwing short passes, has an intermediate receiver (Renfrow) that is clutch, multiple deep threats, plus a defense that has seems to be on a mission.

CC: They gave Alabama a heck of a game a year ago, and if not for special teams blunders Clemson would have hoisted the trophy a year ago. Almost all the pieces are back from an offense that compiled 550 yards against the Tide. Although, I don’t think the pickings will come as easy this year considering this may be Saban’s best defense ever. One last thing, Clemson fans have to like the fact they have Deshaun Watson in a matchup versus a true freshman QB.

Players of the Game (Offense & Defense)

MW: Deshaun Watson, Clelin Ferrell

MC: Deshaun Watson, Clelin Ferrell

CC: Deshaun Watson, Clelin Ferrell (Andy Teasdall if ST got a vote)

Play of the Game:

MW: I’ll go with Clelin Ferrell’s TFL on JT Barrett in a short yardage situation early in the game. Ohio State had a golden opportunity to seize early momentum after the interception, but everything flipped following Ferrell’s play and the missed field goal.

MC: Clelin Ferrell dropping J.T. Barrett for a 6 yard loss on 3rd & 1 from the Clemson 24 on the series after the first Watson interception. That made it a 47 yard field attempt and set the tone for the rest of the night.

CC: Clelin Ferrell 3rd Quarter sack that pinned Ohio State at their own 8 yard line. This play resulted in Clemson receiving great field position and set up a score to put the game out of reach at 24-0.

Advanced Metrics: Clemson 31 Ohio State 0

Tigers advance to National Championship vs. Alabama.

Game Day Guide: Clemson vs. Ohio State

Get prepared for tonight’s game by diving inside the numbers, film and opinions.

Preview and Prediction

Film Preview

Win Probabilities (SUR, ESPN, SB Nation, Character34)

Opponent Success Rates & What It May Mean in Playoff

Best Offense in Clemson history?

3rd Down Defense Detail

DW4 Metrics Under Pressure

Short Yardage Woes

DW4 by Distance – 13 Games

Clemson Rushing Metrics – 13 Games

Clemson Receiver Metrics – 13 Games

Win Probabilities – Clemson/Ohio State & Alabama/Washington

I am a man on an island. At least as far as the win probabilities below for the Fiesta Bowl, mine is the lone computer that spit out orange.  But it was close.

The reality is though that a 51% win probability is a pick’em game that can turn on any play.  My friend Chris Scully over at doesn’t see it being quite as close and Bill C. at SB Nation is predicting a 29.4 to 24.5 (to be precise) Ohio State victory.

For what it’s worth, I’m 11-2 on the season on Clemson games, losing Louisville (49.5% win probability, another one play game) and Pittsburgh (everyone in the world was wrong on this one).  Also, as evidenced by my pick in the Louisville game, my computer doesn’t always spit out Clemson.

In the other semi it’s a clean sweep, again with my numbers closer to ESPNs, while SB Nation and Character34 are predicting an easier time for the Tide.

In general, my win probabilities are more conservative than any of the other 3, so I find it “interesting” that I ended up with Clemson while the others chose Ohio State, two of them at over 60%.

Depth Stars: Clemson vs. Ohio State

A look at how recruiting rankings reflect in the starting lineups (Source Photo: Steve Mitchell/USA Today)


In this segment we’ll take a look at the former recruiting rankings for both teams’ starting lineups. With only the starters listed, this is by no means a comprehensive comparison of overall team talent. Instead, this allows you to simply take a peak into how recruiting rankings represent the key contributors on the field. In this series we’ll be basing the “star” ratings on the 247 Composite rankings, which factors in evaluations from various recruiting services.



**As always you can head over to the free SUR message boards to discuss this and much more with one of the tightest online Tiger communities on the web.**



Guest Shots: Adam Hayes Predicts College Football Playoff Semifinals

Editor’s Note: Adam Hayes is a principal at the USS Sports Machine, where he and the team write about sports of every shape, size and type.  We thank Adam for his contributions. If you are a writer interested in contributing to Seldom Used Reserve, feel free to contact us at

Peach Bowl

In the Peach Bowl (Atlanta, GA on Dec. 31), SEC Champion #1 Alabama (13-0) plays Pac-12 Champion #4 Washington (12-1).The defending champs, the Crimson Tide are poised to be a huge thorn in Washington’s championship dreams.

Alabama’s juggernaut offense capabilities will on full show in the game due to the Huskies missing their lead pass rusher Joe Mathis, and lead tackler Azeem Victor. However, despite both players absence on the defensive end, Washington’s offensive inspires hope with the combo of Pac 12 offensive player of the year Jake Browning at the quarterback position and John Ross’s at Wide Receiver. If probabilities are any indication of success, many statistics sites believe Alabama’s offense will have a field day; FiveThirtyEight gives Alabama over a 64% chance of making the title game. I can’t see anything stopping the Tide in this one.

Prediction: Alabama 31 Washington 17

Fiesta Bowl

#3 Ohio State (11-1) plays ACC Champion #2 Clemson (12-1) in the Fiesta Bowl (Tempe, AZ on Dec. 31). Coming into the game, the Tigers have demonstrated that they have a very consistent offensive over the course of the season by averaging 500+ YPG, 40 PPG and converting on 85% of red zone visits. The Tigers offensive ability comes in contrast to the Buckeyes who had an excellent defensive season by allowing only 276 YPG, 14 PPG and most importantly a lot of turnovers. The battle between good offense and great defense will be difficult for both teams. However, Good defensive teams can be tough to defeat which is something Ohio State showed the world by winning the CFP in 2014.

While both teams sport a loss, like Alabama both have spent nearly the entire season firmly in the playoff discussion. Ohio State’s victory in perhaps the game of the season against Michigan earned them a spot despite not winning the Big 10 conference championship, while Clemson dominated the ACC even after a shock upset to Pitt. Deshaun Watson has been fantastic throughout the season using both his passing and running capabilities and will need a massive performance against the Buckeyes. I’m giving the Tigers the edge.

Prediction: Clemson 24 Ohio State 20


Vegas Confidential: Clemson vs. Ohio State Edition

Notes from the desert on Clemson and Ohio State.

Clemson-Ohio State Preview & Prediction


Will 2017 start off with a bang for the Tigers? Clemson’s quest to redeem their national title loss from a year ago has nearly come full circle. Now the only hurdle between the Tigers and a shot at redemption is perennial powerhouse Ohio State. This colossal matchup between the Buckeyes and Tigers features two premier head coaches as well as two of the best QB’s in the country. Read below to get caught up on everything you need to know before Saturday’s 7pm kickoff…