Amari Rodgers is leading the ACC in rating when targeted and bests the team in catch rate. (USA TODAY Sports-Glenn Bell)
Amari Rodgers is leading the ACC in rating when targeted and bests the team in catch rate. (USA TODAY Sports-Glenn Bell)

Advanced outlook: Tigers pacing nation on offense, defense; Clemson-UofL projections

by - Staff Writer -

If ever there’s a week where the mantra of “It’s about Clemson and not an opponent” is true: it’s this one.

Because the opponent in Louisville is not good and Clemson is arguably playing like the best team in the country.

Dabo Swinney’s Tigers are hovering around a 40-point favorite for the noon kickoff with Louisville. Statistically, the Cardinals’ only saving grace is a top-25 special teams unit around offensive and defensive efficiencies in the triple digits nationally on average. Only three Power 5 teams are rated worse than Louisville in ESPN's Football Power Index (93rd) and they are by far the worst FBS team on the Tigers' schedule (Georgia Southern next at No. 73).

The Cardinals defense has rated in the single-digits in efficiency in three games this season - one versus Alabama (8 percent) but another most recently versus Wake Forest at home (6 percent; the Demon Deacons scored three points on Clemson and rank 59th in offensive efficiency).

With Clemson rated in the top-15 in offensive and defensive efficiency on ESPN and Football Outsiders, the projected scores follow the Vegas line.

One Football Outsiders metric with the FEI picks Clemson 56-0 and another with the S&P+ takes the Tigers, 45-11. ESPN-affiliated metrics with TeamRankings (51-10) and numberFire (52-10) are on the same track with big spreads.

Check out the team profiles and some more notes on the Tigers below:

Advanced metrics profile


ESPN efficiency rank: Offense – 11. Defense – 1. Special teams – 107.

Football Outsiders efficiency rank (S&P+): Offense – 13. Defense – 2. Special teams – 67.

Success rate*: Offense – 10 (49.4). Defense – 1 (30.1).


ESPN efficiency rank: Offense – 108. Defense – 108. Special teams – 6.

Football outsiders efficiency rank (S&P+): Offense – 99. Defense – 99. Special teams – 30.

Success rate: Offense – 92 (40.5). Defense – 121 (48.3).


Advanced stats of note through eight games for the Tigers:

* While Clemson is the only team in the top-10 in yards per game on offense and defense, they are also just joined by Alabama (1st on offense; 5th on defense) in terms of top-10 rankings in success rate (10th on offense; 1st on defense). In terms of the S&P+ metric, Clemson is the only team with offensive and defensive rankings in the top-15 (13th on offense; 2nd on defense). The Tigers’ special teams ranking is more mediocre (67th) but has risen in recent weeks. The only team with a top-25 efficiency ranking on offense (6th), defense (22nd) and special teams (14th) is Georgia.

* Want an idea of just how good this team is on offense and defense? Here are Clemson's top-5-ranked stats according to SB Nation for Clemson through eight games: success rate defense (1), rushing S&P+ defense (1), opportunity rate** on defense (1), passing downs# line yards per carry defense (1), standard downs S&P+ defense (1), standard downs efficiency defense (1), standard downs line yards per carry defense (1), average third down distance for opponents (1), backed up turnover rate (1), inside the 10 turnover rate (1), DL havoc rate^ (1), points per scoring opportunity defense (2), S&P+ overall (2), defense S&P+ (2), blitz down big-play rate (2), standard downs success rate defense (2), resume S&P+ (2), rushing efficiency defense (2), overall havoc rate (3), kickoff efficiency (4), stuff rate on defense (4), standard downs explosiveness allowed (4), passing downs S&P+ offense (4), passing downs S&P+ defense (4), havoc rate allowed (4), passing S&P+ defense (5), blitz down sack rate on defense (5), defensive success rate (own 21-30 yard line; 5),

* Amari Rodgers and Tee Higgins showing out in Tallahassee was just an indication of the kind of season the two are having. Pro Football Focus has Rodgers leading the ACC (140) and Tee Higgins third-best (130.9) in highest passer rating when targeted. They accomplish that in different ways. Rodgers has posted a team-high 83.3 catch rate with 30 receptions in 36 targets and three touchdowns. Higgins has logged a team-high 52 targets with 32 catches for 488 yards and a team-best six touchdowns.

Metrics outlook: Clemson-Louisville

S&P+: Clemson 45-11

FEI: Clemson 56-0

TeamRankings: Clemson 51-10

numberFire: Clemson 52-10

(S&P+ is a SB Nation/Football Outsiders metric that combines ratings for the five factors of efficiency, explosiveness, field position, finishing drives and turnovers.

* Success rate is determined by gaining 50 percent of the necessary yardage on first down, 70 percent on second down and 100 percent on third and fourth down.

** Percentage of carries where an O-line executes and produces at least five yards of rushing for the ballcarrier.

# 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.

^ Percentage of plays where a defense tallied a tackle for loss, forced a fumble or defensed a pass.)

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