FanPost

Preview: Clemson's Offense

The big question you'll hear this week is how many points can the Gamecocks hold the Clemson offense to? The Clemson offense is one of the toughest in the nation to judge. The Tigers have been putting up absolutely ridiculous numbers on offense, but those numbers have come against some of the worst defenses in the nation.

I will look at Clemson's past performances to understand just how applicable their past numbers are to this week's game. The table below shows the Tiger's opponents and their ranks on defense. These are from my personal ratings based on weekly play-by-play data. The only two games worth comparing to South Carolina are the Florida State and Virginia Tech games. Even better, the Virginia Tech game was played in Clemson.


Overall

Rush

Pass

Auburn

92

104

75

Ball State

113

113

107

Florida State

18

18

22

Boston College

50

72

72

Georgia Tech

76

94

70

Virginia Tech

11

12

13

Wake Forest

57

41

67

Duke

80

83

76

Maryland

53

21

69

North Carolina State

63

79

58

At first glance, Clemson scored 37 and 38 points against FSU and VT, lending credence to everyone who believes that the Gamecocks must score in the 30s to win. However, Virginia Tech threw three interceptions (including one pick-six) and FSU allowed a garbage time touchdown. Excluding the pick-six and garbage time touchdown, we get 31 points in each game. Additionally, Clemson had short fields against Virginia Tech due to the Hokie's incompetence on offense.

Virginia Tech's defense is the most similar to USC's defense. The Gamecocks are better against the run but worse against the pass. Let's look at each of Clemson's drives against Virginia Tech:

Drive

Starting Yardline

Plays

Yards

Result

1

CU 32

3

-10

Punt

2

CU 25

7

44

Interception

3

CU 18

13

73

Field Goal Good

4

CU 41

3

6

Punt

5

VT 26

6

26

Touchdown

6

VT 43

3

-2

Punt

7

CU 34

3

6

Punt

8

VT 47

3

2

Punt

9

CU 48

7

48

Touchdown

10

VT 47

3

47

Touchdown

11

CU 39

4

-9

Punt

12

CU 25

3

9

Punt

13

VT 41

9

41

Touchdown

So here is your Clemson offense:

  • More than half their drives were 3 and outs (7 out of 13)
  • Every Clemson Touchdown was scored on a short field starting on the Virginia Tech side of the field
  • Clemson had 13(!) drives on offense for 31 points. By comparison, the three comparable offenses the Gamecocks faced, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Georgia, each had 11 drives against USC. Clemson's 31 points on 13 drives is scaled down to 26 points at that rate
  • Clemson averaged 3.0 yards per carry

Looking quickly at the FSU game, Clemson scored two touchdowns on long plays (60 and 52 yards) and one on a short field. Their other 10 out of 13(!) non-garbage time drives led to 10 points. Additionally, Clemson average 3.6 yards per carry

So here are my key takeaways for how the Gamecocks can hold Clemson to under 30 points

  1. Do not give Clemson a short field on offense. This is obvious, but must be said
  2. Limit big plays-Clemson has trouble driving the field when they don't hit a big play
  3. Shut down the run and put Clemson in passing downs-the two good defenses Clemson played already did, and the Gamecocks have a better run defense than either of those two
  4. Set Clowney, Taylor, and Sutton loose on Boyd in passing downs and play coverages that limit big plays--don't give Boyd time to throw those long passes to Watkins and Hopkins, who will get open against the Gamecocks secondary

I will admit that I was initially concerned that Clemson would light up the Gamecocks defense. However, the only team that has been successful against USC has been Tennessee, which has possibly the best OL in the nation. Georgia and Arkansas were much less successful and have OLs that are more comparable to Clemson's OL. Additionally, Clemson has not been quite as successful on offense against the two good defenses that they have played.

If the Gamecocks control the ball on offense, don't turn it over, and hold Clemson to 10-11 drives on offense, they should be able to keep Clemson around 20-24 points.

FanPosts are user-submitted and are not always representative of the Garnet And Black Attack editorial staff.

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