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Clemson's Terrible Red Zone Efficiency

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We miss you Deshaun. Please come back soon.
We miss you Deshaun. Please come back soon.
Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

When I sat down to do the stats for this one I decided to change things up. At this point the statement, the defense is amazing and the offense is terrible sums up almost every game. I'm hoping to use the bye week to write some more code so I can do some fancy things with the stats. But that depends on how my good friend beer is treating me.

Today though I want to talk about Clemson's red zone offense and defense. One of the things that really struck me while sitting in the stadium was how everything went wrong once we entered the red zone. We could start at our own 40 or our own 10 and drive the ball down the field, but immediately upon entering the red zone we turned into 2010 Clemson.

And looking at the stats dear lord are we terrible in the red zone. Against FBS opponents we are 124th out of 128 teams in red zone efficiency with 64%. We are better than SMU, Tulane, UCONN, and Kansas. That is just terrible. Yes, we've scored on a lot of big plays this year, especially against NC State and UNC, but to be that terrible when you get so close is inexcusable. As much as we complained about missing field goals against FSU, the real problem was taking 7 trips to the red zone and only coming away with a FG and 2 TDs.

It also doesn't get any better when just looking at our TD conversion rate. There we rise to a lovely 123rd at  36%. For comparison, the top 10 teams are around 70-80%. And yes, schools with a tendency to score on big plays don't have fantastic red zone percentages, but to be so low is truly abysmal. We should have enough talent on this offense to at least be in the 50% range.

The good news is that Clemson is really good at limiting scores on defense. Clemson ranks 5th in the country against FBS opponents with allowing a 66.67% efficiency. The impressive part of it is we have only allowed 15 trips to the red zone this year, tied for 4th in the nation as well. The slight downside to this is that 9 of the 10 scores we have allowed were touchdowns. That percentage is fairly high, but because we are limiting attempts it isn't as worrying as it would be if we were allowing more trips to the red zone. It is interesting though that a defense so talented at forcing 3 and outs seems to forget how to do it when backed up to their own end zone.

Now one of my theories about this, and I'm hoping to write something up next week, is that our playcalling changes drastically when we get in the redzone. For example if we have a drive where it is a 60-40 split of runs to passes, Morris will suddenly start slinging the ball around like Mike Leach. The opposite if we are passing more than running. I'm hoping to split our playcalling up and see what it looks like.

The other possibility is our terrible running game. Because of the compressed space behind the defense the passing game isn't as effective in the red zone. This forces teams to rely on running the ball, something we are decidedly not good at, and that affects our ability to score. Hopefully looking at the playcalling will show us something. Hopefully that something does not involve throwing things at the monitor in anger.