Can Clemson win National Championship in 2018? Yes, but offense has to improve


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Kelly Bryant struggles for yards against Alabama
Kelly Bryant struggles for yards against Alabama

The optimism that surrounds the Clemson football program is high, and it should be. Clemson, which returns 15 starters from last year’s College Football Playoff team, will likely start the 2018 season in the top five and the schedule is as kind as it could be.

The Tigers will be the overwhelming favorites to win the ACC Atlantic Division and when the media votes in July at the ACC Kickoff, Clemson will edge Miami as the favorites to win the ACC and make a return to the ACC Championship Game and perhaps the College Football Playoff.

Brent Venables’ returns more than enough pieces to have the NCAA’s staunchest defense, including all four starters from last year’s defensive line. The offense returns three starters on the offensive line, starting quarterback Kelly Bryant, plenty of depth at tight end, the top two running backs in Travis Etienne and Tavien Feaster and plenty of playmakers at wide receiver.

Add in the 2018 recruiting class – including kicker B.T. Potter – and Dabo Swinney will have all the pieces to contend for the National Championship. In fact, this might need to be the year to chase a second title in the Swinney area – the Tigers will lose anywhere from 20-25 or more top-notch players after the season, including many in the front seven on defense.

So what has to happen for Clemson to move past the playoff semifinal and return to the title game and even bring home a win? Sure, the punting game has to improve, and some consistency needs to be found on field goals, whether that is the return of Greg Huegel, the emergence of Alex Spence or the addition of Potter. Potter, at the very least, should avoid a redshirt and become the kickoff specialist.

For Clemson to take that step forward, however, the offense has to improve. You know it. I know it. The opponents know it. The coaches know it.

It starts with the offensive line, which drew criticism after the bowl loss to Alabama. The offensive line wasn’t just bad in that game, it was terrible except for a few bright spots. However, I can almost call that Alabama game an outlier – the Crimson Tide came with something to prove, played angry and was dominant. For the season, however, the stats say that Clemson’s offensive line was way above average.

One of my favorite stat pages is at Football Outsiders, and their offensive line page shows that Clemson was third-best nationally in adjusted line yards, which separates the ability of the running back from the ability of the offensive line. The line’s pass blocking stats and power success rate are all above average, so the line was probably better than most people thought in 2017.

The offense itself, however, wasn’t as explosive as it has been in the in the past few seasons. There are several factors to consider – Clemson had the lead in most of their games and the offense went ultra-conservative when given a lead is probably the biggest – but the 2017 team lacked consistent explosiveness.

In looking at yards per play, Clemson averaged 5.74 yards per play, which was 54th nationally (and, ironically, tied with Georgia Tech). Clemson averaged 6.19 yards per play in 2016 and 6.39 yards per play in 2015. In fact, the only two times Clemson has averaged less than six yards per play came in the two worst offensive years in recent memory – 5.36 yards per play in 2014 and 5.03 yards per play in 2010.

Against more athletic defenses last season, Clemson averaged 4.19 yards per play against Auburn, 4.61 yards per play against FSU, 4.41 yards per play against Miami and 2.69 yards per play against Alabama. However, as we’ve mentioned before, Clemson had the lead in all of the games except against Alabama and the offense went into protect mode.

So I took it a step further and looked at the number of explosive plays by the passing offense in 2017. The Tigers ranked number three nationally in passing plays of 20 yards or more (73) during 2016 season and ranked tenth nationally (68) in 2015. In 2017, the offense had just 39 passing plays of 20 yards or more.

It will be interesting to note what happens with the offense during spring practice and fall camp. I don’t see the offense of last season – which too often ground to a halt in the third and fourth quarters – winning a championship. First down numbers were down (just 309 last season opposed to 403 in 2016 and 393 in 2015).

Will the offense be more of the ground and pound with limited shots down the field, letting the defense control the game while putting enough points on the board to win? Alabama has used that formula for years, and it hasn’t done them any harm. But Alabama hasn’t had to play another elite defense in the postseason very often (except for Clemson in 2016). If Clemson is going to win another title, it will probably have to go through Alabama, again, and the offense has to be better than it was in 2017.

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Subject (Replies: 122) Author
spacer New Story: Can Clemson win National Championship in 2018? Yes, but offense has to improve
TigerNet News
spacer A lot of talk and some stats but the
UtilTiger
spacer Re: A lot of talk and some stats but the
Tiger Michael
spacer Re: A lot of talk and some stats but the
Bareftn
spacer Re: A lot of talk and some stats but the
dgcannon39
spacer Re: A lot of talk and some stats but the
armsb
spacer Re: A lot of talk and some stats but the
dgcannon39
spacer Re: A lot of talk and some stats but the
dgcannon39
spacer Re: A lot of talk and some stats but the
tigerinkvillenc
spacer Re: A lot of talk and some stats but the
allorangeallthetime52®
spacer Re: A lot of talk and some stats but the
ZeeGantt®
spacer Re: A lot of talk and some stats but the
jstone D329
spacer Re: A lot of talk and some stats but the
dgcannon39
spacer Re: A lot of talk and some stats but the
armsb
spacer Re: A lot of talk and some stats but the
jstone D329
spacer Re: A lot of talk and some stats but the
HunterClemsonTigers
spacer Re: A lot of talk and some stats but the
jstone D329
spacer Re: A lot of talk and some stats but the
footballmanager
spacer Re: A lot of talk and some stats but the
armsb
spacer Re: A lot of talk and some stats but the
HunterClemsonTigers
spacer Re: A lot of talk and some stats but the
Bigredofbelton
spacer Re: A lot of talk and some stats but the
Dugatiger®
spacer Re: A lot of talk and some stats but the
allorangeallthetime52®
spacer Re: A lot of talk and some stats but the
dgcannon39
spacer Re: A lot of talk and some stats but the
armsb
spacer Re: A lot of talk and some stats but the
allorangeallthetime52®
spacer Re: A lot of talk and some stats but the
dgcannon39
spacer Re: A lot of talk and some stats but the
armsb
spacer It almost seems a good overview and road map to future
deadsolidperfect®
spacer Re: It almost seems a good overview and road map to future
ZeeGantt®
spacer DSP takes break from the funny to lay down serious insight!
ninetytwotiger®
spacer LOL, dsp 'funny'. Just lol.***
PGTiger
spacer Maybe if you're a good boy & really nice this year...
deadsolidperfect®
spacer Santa needn't bother.
PGTiger
spacer hate must be bob's pet name, right?***
deadsolidperfect®
spacer Wow, you're really creepy.***
PGTiger
spacer Re: Wow, you're really creepy.***
deadsolidperfect®
spacer Re: It almost seems a good overview and road map to future
allorangeallthetime52®
spacer Re: It almost seems a good overview and road map to future
dgcannon39
spacer Re: It almost seems a good overview and road map to future
dgcannon39
spacer Re: It almost seems a good overview and road map to future
dgcannon39
spacer We did lose DW and MW, they were gone in the first 12 picks of the draft***
RC Tiger
spacer Re: We did lose DW and MW, they were gone in the first 12 picks of the draft***
kerigantoo®
spacer Re: We did lose DW and MW, they were gone in the first 12 picks of the draft***
dgcannon39
spacer Re: A lot of talk and some stats but the
ZeeGantt®
spacer Re: A lot of talk and some stats but the
clydedeglyde
spacer Re: A lot of talk and some stats but the
allorangeallthetime52®
spacer Re: A lot of talk and some stats but the
mcraft07®
spacer Re: A lot of talk and some stats but the
dgcannon39
spacer Re: A lot of talk and some stats but the
dgcannon39
spacer Re: A lot of talk and some stats but the
clemputt
spacer Re: A lot of talk and some stats but the
dgcannon39
spacer Re: A lot of talk and some stats but the
lextiger551
spacer Re: A lot of talk and some stats but the
dgcannon39
spacer Re: A lot of talk and some stats but the
tigerinaiken®
spacer Re: A lot of talk and some stats but the
jeancooper®
spacer What part of “offense went ultra-conservative with a lead”
Tiger5
spacer Play-makers have to make plays ...
apextiger®
spacer Yes, play calling was awful in that game, one downfield pass
tigeron®
spacer Re: Yes, play calling was awful in that game, one downfield pass
apextiger®
spacer Wasn't that a medium over the middle pass?***
tigeron®
spacer No ... it was a jump ball far downfield and on the sideline.
apextiger®
spacer Re: A lot of talk and some stats but the
Dugatiger®
spacer Re: A lot of talk and some stats but the
dgcannon39
spacer Spot on.***
Smiling Tiger®
spacer Bama was th game where we needed to stop the RPO plays and
Gwood Tiger
spacer Protect mode...........
Tiger1Dad
spacer Yes, 1000%
Ucel74
spacer Re: Yes, 1000%
jstone D329
spacer Re: Yes, 1000%
allorangeallthetime52®
spacer Re: Yes, 1000%
Tiger1Dad
spacer 2 games we lost was largely due to conservative play calling***
tigeron®
spacer Re: Yes, 1000%
ddclemson
spacer Re: Bama was th game where we needed to stop the RPO plays and
mpercy®
spacer Re: Bama was th game where we needed to stop the RPO plays and
ddclemson
spacer This. Teams that dominate the trenches win games. Period.***
WolfMan2
spacer Re: New Story: Can Clemson win National Championship in 2018? Yes, but offense has to improve
kpttiger
spacer Re: New Story: Can Clemson win National Championship in 2018? Yes, but offense has to improve
A912®
spacer Re: New Story: Can Clemson win National Championship in 2018? Yes, but offense has to improve
kelley21®
spacer Re: New Story: Can Clemson win National Championship in 2018? Yes, but offense has to improve
ddclemson
spacer Simple answer is Yes of Course
RoosterSlayer777
spacer Re: Simple answer is Yes of Course
ddclemson
spacer Re: Simple answer is Yes of Course
dgcannon39
spacer Re: New Story: Can Clemson win National Championship in 2018? Yes, but offense has to improve
SillyDaddy
spacer Re: New Story: Can Clemson win National Championship in 2018? Yes, but offense has to improve
Ucel74
spacer Re: New Story: Can Clemson win National Championship in 2018? Yes, but offense has to improve
lextiger551
spacer Re: New Story: Can Clemson win National Championship in 2018? Yes, but offense has to improve
ddclemson
spacer We had no Mike WIlliams or Jordan Leggett.
Completely Solid Orange
spacer Yes ... exactly.
apextiger®
spacer You are right, I should have definitely included that.***
Completely Solid Orange
spacer Re: Yes ... exactly.
ddclemson
spacer To me, that's the game in a nutshell ...
apextiger®
spacer Re: To me, that's the game in a nutshell ...
ddclemson
spacer Re: We had no Mike WIlliams or Jordan Leggett.
dgcannon39
spacer Re: We had no Mike WIlliams or Jordan Leggett.
ddclemson
spacer Kelly Bryant is not the passer that Deshaun Watson was.
apextiger®
spacer Re: Kelly Bryant is not the passer that Deshaun Watson was.
ddclemson
spacer Interesting photo you used with your story...
Uncle Bill®
spacer Does the "depth at tight end" include Bryant moving there?***
saluda tiger
spacer +1 for referencing adjusted line yards***
TigersAndCubs
spacer Re: New Story: Can Clemson win National Championship in 2018? Yes, but offense has to improve
MackDaddy®
spacer Re: New Story: Can Clemson win National Championship in 2018? Yes, but offense has to improve
dgcannon39
spacer Re: New Story: Can Clemson win National Championship in 2018? Yes, but offense has to improve
robbensdale®
spacer What if HJ plays quarterback? You know that other 5-star
TigersAndCubs
spacer This is the narrative that will cause a lot of problems.
Completely Solid Orange
spacer Re: This is the narrative that will cause a lot of problems.
dgcannon39
spacer Re: This is the narrative that will cause a lot of problems.
dgcannon39
spacer You have no idea how good he is as a college QB.
Completely Solid Orange
spacer Re: This is the narrative that will cause a lot of problems.
jeancooper®
spacer Re: New Story: Can Clemson win National Championship in 2018? Yes, but offense has to improve
dgcannon39
spacer Re: New Story: Can Clemson win National Championship in 2018? Yes, but offense has to improve
dgcannon39
spacer Re: New Story: Can Clemson win National Championship in 2018? Yes, but offense has to improve
jeancooper®
spacer Re: problems in retrospect
clemvol
spacer Re: problems in retrospect
dgcannon39
spacer Why is this on the football bored ? This is about Bball,
Rocky the Tiger®
spacer Re: Why is this on the football bored ? This is about Bball,
dgcannon39
spacer In my humble opinion, it is very simple why the
WS Tiger®
spacer Our QB was less than average
Tigerdrafted
spacer Re: Our QB was less than average
armsb
spacer We didn't "pay" our best QB ... Freudian slip?
apextiger®
spacer WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH CU ADMISSIONS?
Mighty Zep®
spacer Re: New Story: Can Clemson win National Championship in 2018? Yes, but offense has to improve
jeancooper®
spacer Re: New Story: Can Clemson win National Championship in 2018? Yes, but offense has to improve
clemputt
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