And through 6 games, I'd say things have played out that way thus far...and then some.
The Clemson offense once again had a dominant performance this past Saturday against Georgia Tech, rolling up 600 yards of total offense and 47 points. The offensive output this past weekend helped shut the door on the Al Groh era as Wramblin' Wreck Defensive Coordinator.
Amazingly enough, given the output, Clemson was not at it's offensive best in this game--a lot of points were left on the field, mostly in the red zone.
|Category||Top 25 Goal||Top 15 Goal||GT||2012 Season||Rank|
|Red Zone TD%||66.7%||69.2%||50.0%||69.0%||36|
At times, especially in the first half, Tajh Boyd was not as efficient and accurate as he has been for most of the season--he was getting pressured and missing high on several throws. However, he showed how much he's grown over the past year, as he settled down and played a much better 2nd half. The beauty of his game this season, which has been much discussed, is his ability to pick up first downs with his legs--especially important when struggling with accuracy, as drives can be sustained whereas last year they may have stalled out.
Clearly, DeAndre Hopkins has to be mentioned again for another incredible performance. Roderick McDowell also deserves some praise--he's provided a boost when subbing for Andre Ellington so far this season and has been a very pleasant surprise after being buried on the depth chart in past campaigns--he's made a play in every big game so far this season.
Coming into the game, Clemson had been scoring a TD on over 70% of their red zone drives, but this Saturday saw the offense bog down inside the 20 on 3 different occasions. The silver lining is that all 6 red zone drives resulted in points, but settling for 3 instead of 7 was one of the reasons this game was still in doubt late.
In addition to the pre-season benchmarks, this week I've included Clemson's rank in each category at this stage in the season. Third down conversion rate is the highest ranking at #7, but sacks per game is now ranked 64th. While that ranking is inflated due to number of plays and more specifically pass attempts, it is a stat that bears watching for the rest of the season--the offensive line has outperformed expectations in general so far this season, but 6 games in, we should be seeing continued improvement out of this group as they gain experience--this team needs Tajh back there chucking the ball to Nuk and Sammy, along with opening some creases for #23, so the o-line continues to be key to putting up 40 points a game in the 2nd half of the season.
|Category||2012 Top 40||2012 Top 20||GT||2012||Rank|
Sigh...most of Saturday was another frustrating day to watch when Tech had the ball. Those rankings are tough to stomach--we knew the defense would struggle at times this season, but 104th in rushing defense? 98th in total yardage? 96th in sacks? 73rd in scoring?
The main redeeming quality of the defense continues to be in getting off the field on 3rd downs, although against Georgia Tech they did not fair quite so well. However, Tech went 0-2 on 4th down conversions, which was absolutely huge in the outcome of the game. GT is 7th in the country in 4th down conversions attempted and had converted 7 of 13 coming into the game, so again, those stops were very important.
This is 2 straight weeks where 31 points were given up, so the scoring average continues to climb and is approaching 30 for the season--however, in the past 2 games, the defense has played much better 2nd halves, holding Boston College and Georgia Tech to 10 points each...and against Tech the D scored 2 on the safety, so the net score was only 8!
Brent Venables and crew have to find a way to build on this going forward--hopefully seeing Logan Thomas (maybe more importantly, Mike O'Cain up in the booth) come to the Valley after a week off will be just what this defense needs to build some confidence for the rest of the season. I, like many others, would like to see some additional rotation on D--two weeks in a row we see a new player come off the bench and make a difference in a game. It's time to get guys off the field if they are under performing and continue to give other guys shots to go in and make plays. I mean, this defense is currently ranked 117th in the country in yards per play (6.56 y/play)...117th!! Can't go much lower than that.