Advanced metrics predict Clemson-Louisville


by - Staff Writer -
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Clemson leads the country in sack rate on both standard and passing downs.

The traditional stats, in many ways, provide the storylines for Clemson-Louisville.

Lamar Jackson’s 505 yards of offense a game – Clemson’s zero touchdowns allowed through two contests, but a deeper dive into the numbers makes Saturday’s game that much more intriguing.

ESPN’s Football Power Index projects Louisville having a 32.2 percent chance of protecting its home field versus Clemson. Football Study Hall says the Tigers have a 58 percent chance at coming out of Papa Johns Stadium with a win, just edging the current Vegas line (29-25.5 average score).

By the numbers, one of the bigger showdowns comes when Louisville is forced into lengthy down-and-distance situations.

Per Football Study Hall, Louisville ranks fourth-nationally in success rate per play on passing downs* (53.1), which meets a Clemson defense that leads the country in passing-down sack rate (27.8) and ranks fourth in success rate there (17.1). Clemson also tops the nation in standard-down sack rate (35.3).

As a unit, the SB Nation site lists the Tigers No. 1 nationally in containing opponent big plays and No. 21 in overall defensive success rate.

The sample size is small, but the Cardinals have improved some in keeping Jackson off the turf in passing situations.

Last season, the Cards ranked 101st in adjusted sack rate on passing downs and 126th on standard downs. In road/neutral dates with Purdue and North Carolina so far, they are 39th on passing downs and 45th on standard.

Defensively, Louisville’s struggles are displayed in ranking 110th in success rate on pass defense (46.8), an area where Clemson's aerial attack is top-40 early (36th, 46.9 percent).

The Tiger offense does have room for improvement in maximizing scoring opportunities, coming in at 83rd in points per trip inside the 40 (4.12). Louisville, however, could help there, ranking 118th in average points surrendered in the same area (5.6).

On special teams, kickoffs could be a spot to watch under the lights. It's just a matter of who can capitalize.

The Cardinals rank 107th in kickoff coverage efficiency (58.8), while the Tigers are 115th in kick return success rate (0). Conversely, Clemson leads the country in kickoff coverage success (100 percent) and Louisville is top-20 nationally on returns (19th, 66.7).

(*Passing downs are defined as second down with eight or more yards to go or third or fourth down with five or more yards to go. All other situations are “standard” downs.)

Advanced metrics ranks

Clemson
ESPN efficiency rank: Offense – 30. Defense – 5. Special teams – 107. Overall – 11.
Success rate (Per Football Study Hall): Offense – 44. Defense – 21. Special teams – 77 (S&P+).

Louisville
ESPN efficiency rank: Offense – 17. Defense – 52. Special teams – 59. Overall – 27.
Success rate (Per Football Study Hall): Offense – 22. Defense – 110. Special teams – 37 (S&P+).

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