Alabama vs Clemson By the Numbers

We’ve been away for a while tending to the bulbs in the Lighthouse but this week the lights are on and somebody is finally home!  Later on this week we’ll post a couple of articles about the upcoming game against Clemson in an effort to give you a preview of the upcoming showdown so stay tuned…

But first, we offer you a number of statistical comparisons between Clemson and Alabama.  Here are the offensive rankings and stats for both teams:

Alabama Clemson
Stat Rank Stat Rank Stat
Total Offense 51 423.8 11 512.0
Scoring Offense 33 34.4 16 38.4
Passing Offense 68 219.4 26 283.4
Rushing Offense 29 204.4 16 228.6
3rd Down % 96 0.362 13 0.477 Note Clemson’s 3rd down D below
Sacks Allowed 31 1.43 13 1.14

The first thing you should notice is that Clemson’s offense ranks much higher than Alabama in every statistical category – even rushing.  Deshaun Watson plays a huge role in their running game but the guy who really has transformed their offense is Wayne Gallman.  The unheralded Gallman leads the Tigers in rushing with 1,482 and averages 5.5 yards per carry.  Watson also averages 5.5 yards per carry and his 1,032 rushing yards gives the Tigers two 1,000 yard rushers this season.  Both Watson and Gallman display excellent vision and patience and they have an uncanny ability to break free of tackles, so they earn what they get on the ground.

Meanwhile, everyone is pretty familiar with Derrick Henry’s accomplishments this season but, for a comparison, you should know that he averaged 5.7 yards per carry and has 2,061 yards rushing on the season.  Oh, and he has that sweet stiff-arming statue to commemorate his unbelievable season.  And, according to the stats below, Henry should be called upon to carry the load Monday night.

Other things to notice in the chart above – look at how few sacks Clemson has given up this season.  In the chart below, you’ll see that Alabama is ranked #1 in sacking the QB so something will have to give between Clemson’s OL and Alabama’s beasties.  Also, compare Alabama’s 3rd down % listed above to Clemson’s 3rd down defense shown below.  Ugly.   Lastly, for all the love and hype of the Clemson offense (all of it has been earned and is deserved), Alabama’s offense generates just four fewer points per game.

Now to the defensive side of the ball

Bama Rank  Stat Clemson Rank  Stat
Total Defense 2 256.8 6 301.6
Scoring Defense 1 13.4 16 20.0
Passing Defense 18 186.0 9 177.2
Rushing Defense 1 70.8 18 124.4
3rd Down % 5 0.277 2 0.257
Sacks 1 3.57 8 3.07

Ok, so it’s not surprising to see Alabama’s defense ranked atop a number of categories but…wow.  Scoring, Total Defense, Rushing Defense and Sacks – Bama is ranked first or second in the entire country.  Pretty impressive.  But, then if you look across at Clemson’s rankings, they are quite impressive as well!  They are in the top 10 in Total Defense, Passing Defense, Third Down Defense and Sacks – that’s probably not what you were expecting to see if you are an Alabama fan.  Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables employs a hyper aggressive “downhill” attack designed to disrupt and confuse the offensive line and he’s obviously been very successful this season.  Clemson’s defense has some fantastic athletes who are certainly SEC caliber defenders so they are legit – but we’ll talk more about this in the coming days.  Your takeaway should be “wow, I didn’t know Clemson’s defense was that good!”

Ok, so their rankings are good but I know you skeptics are going to ask “who have the Clemson Tigers played?”  I mean, they play in the woeful ACC so that’s going to skew their stats, right?  Hmm.  Let’s see…

Here are the top 30 Scoring Offenses that Alabama and Clemson have faced this season:

Alabama:  Ole Miss (8), Arkansas (27) and Tennessee (29)

Clemson:  Oklahoma (4) and North Carolina (9)

Here are the bottom 30 Scoring Offenses Alabama and Clemson have faced:

Alabama:  Florida (100)

Clemson:  South Carolina (110), Wake Forest (119) and Boston College (120)      *Note:  South Carolina scored 32 points against Clemson.

Ok, so that shows the really good offenses and the really bad offenses that Alabama and Clemson have faced this season but what about the overall strength of schedule?  Doesn’t the overall schedule impact these statistical rankings and strongly favor the Crimson Tide?

Well, as you probably know, Alabama’s strength of schedule is ranked #1 in the country.  Alabama has faced 12 bowl teams this season.  Clemson’s strength of schedule is actually quite impressive as their strength of schedule is ranked #8 in the country and they have played 8 bowl teams this season.  So, this is a long way of saying that the stats that we’ve posted in this article should not be dismissed as each team has played quality opponents.  In particular, Clemson’s defensive rankings should not be taken for granted.

Moving along, here are the special teams stats and some intangibles that you might be interested in seeing….

Bama   Clemson
Stat Rank Stat Rank Stat
Net Punting 82 36.71 64 37.29
Punt Returns 20 12.72 126 1.64
Kickoff Returns 109 18.97 52 21.54
Kickoff Return D 19 18.71 107 23.76

With the punt returns and kick return defense strongly favoring the Tide, Alabama appears to have a decided advantage here.  This could play a large role in the game.

Lastly, here are some key intangible stats to keep in mind…

Bama Clemson
Stat Rank Stat Rank Stat
Fewest Penalties 68 6.21 48 5.71
Turnover Margin 22 0.64 74 -0.07

Perhaps the most important stat in this entire article is turnover margin.  Alabama ranks 22nd in the country in turnover margin and, if you remove the FIVE turnovers against Ole Miss, then Alabama would rank 8th in the country.  Meanwhile, Dabo has lamented that the Tigers have lost the turnover battle in several games this season.  The fact that they have a negative margin (that’s per game) and are still playing in the championship game is a credit to the amount of talent and the quality coaching staff that the Tigers have.  Typically, when you are losing the turnover battle you are losing football games so protecting the football should be of paramount importance for both teams Monday night.

So, that’s a look at these two teams by the numbers.  Again, your takeaway (if you are a Bama fan) is that you probably didn’t know Clemson was ranked so highly on both sides of the ball.  Phil Savage stated that Clemson was by far the best team that Alabama has faced in any of their championship games and he went on to say that there are probably 16 Clemson players that would easily make the Alabama squad (and with Alabama’s embarrassment of riches on the roster, this is a strong statement) so look for this game to be a hotly contested game Monday night.

Tune in on Friday (hopefully) as we provide our usual W2W4 for this epic matchup!

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