The most impressive number for the Clemson Tigers over the past four seasons is 53, which astoundingly represents the number of victories the school has won on the football field. That’s compared to just four losses during that span, none of which have taken place during the 2018 campaign.
As they take their spot on this year’s Notre Dame football schedule for their Cotton Bowl matchup, there are other numbers that help derive a clearer understanding about how the Tigers reached this season’s college football playoffs. Without attaining these specific ones, it’s likely that they would have been on the outside looking in for the first time since 2014.
Note: we also took a look at 5 stats that explain why Notre Dame is a playoff team earlier this week too.
These numbers for Clemson include:
Rushing Offense: 3,377 yards
Having a solid ground game can help eat up plenty of clock and thereby keep the ball out of an opponent’s hands. The Tigers more than succeeded with that approach by averaging 260 yards a game through the run, earning them a spot in the Top 10 in this category. They averaged 6.75 yards per carry, with four different ball carriers managing to gain over 400 yards this season and the entire running corps collecting 46 touchdowns.
That quartet was led by sophomore Travis Etienne, who exploded for 1,463 yards and managed to rack up 8.3 yards per carry while scoring 21 yards. Yet Lyn-J Dixon and Adam Choice were no slouches, averaging 9.57 and 7.44 every time they toted the ball. Rounding out the group is Tavien Feaster, who gained 409 on 71 carries.
That number ranks second among all major college football teams, with only the Miami Hurricanes collecting more with 126. However, Clemson has made sure these stops behind the line have an impact, with the average yardage loss being 4.53 yards, which is a full yard more than Miami’s effort.
This particular statistics encompasses both quarterback sacks and stopping runners short of the line, which means that it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Tigers also rank right near the top in sacks with 46 on the year. Clelin Ferrell leads a defensive line with no weaknesses, picking up 17 tackles-for-loss, including a team-high 10 sacks. Yet Christian Wilkins is a dangerous threat when it comes to short-circuiting running plays, with his 13 tackles-for-loss amassed with 8.5 stops of runners before they get past the line.
Interceptions Thrown: 4
In reality, Clemson has thrown eight picks this season. However, only half of those were thrown by the signal caller that the Irish have to worry about, Trevor Lawrence. Ordinarily, a true freshman experiences growing pains that are often focused on interceptions because of their inexperience in reading collegiate defenses.
That’s not been the case with Lawrence, who’s managed to complete 65 percent of his 326 throws this season and only made those four mistakes. Along the way, he’s tossed 24 touchdown passes and racked up over 2,600 yards through the air. A strong pass rush has been one constant on the Notre Dame football schedule this year and will have to be at peak level to force Lawrence into such miscues.
Scoring Defense: 13.7 points allowed per game
The most basic football statistic when it comes to winning is scoring more points than the opponent, which means keeping those foes off the scoreboard. Clemson has done that virtually all year long, ranking second in the country by holding eight of their opponents to 10 points or less. Combining that with an offense that’s averaged over 45 points per contest has meant plenty of easy wins.
Solving the riddle of putting points on the board is a necessity for the Irish to advance, yet it can be done. Texas A&M put up 23 of their 26 points in the second half of a game in which Clemson escaped with a 28-26 win. In that game, the Tiger pass defense was shredded for 430 yards, while in the 56-35 victory against South Carolina, the Clemson pass defense allowed 510 through the air.
Third Down Conversion Defense: 28.2 percent
Stopping opposing offenses on third down is integral to a team’s success, with Clemson’s ranking in this category the best among the four playoff contenders. Their opponents have been in this position 209 times this season and only succeeded 59 times, which has subsequently put the ball back in the hands of the Tigers’ high-powered offense.
In only three games this season has Clemson allowed that percentage to go above 35 percent, with two of those contests being the aforementioned Tiger defensive struggles against Texas A&M and South Carolina. Giving those contests a closer look may help the Notre Dame offense find a way to crack this mysterious code.