Odds & Ends || Week 3: Clemson

Bjoern Werner is looking forward to the half-second headstart to be provided by a raucous Doak Campbell Saturday night. Werner is coming. (Melina Vastola-US PRESSWIRE)

I'm forgoing introductory Dabo jokes, Clemson'ing references, Speed Limit: 70, and [expletive]-Clemson platitudes. This is a Top 10 matchup in Doak Campbell Stadium. 8pm. National TV. If Werner doesn't celebrate after wrecking the other team's QB, I'm not messing around, either.

This is our time.

Odds

Most lines started FSU out at as 13-point favorites Saturday night, and the over/under point total at 58. This implies (roughly) a game outcome of FSU over Clemson, 35-or-36 to 22-or-23. Interestingly, the spread has increased to about 14.5-points in favor of FSU while the O/U's have moved down two points to around 56. Large public bets on the favorite team can increase the spread. Hard to know what exactly the reasons are, but the implications are clear with the line movement: FSU 35, Clemson 20-or-21. No change in FSU's predicted score, but that's 2 less points toward Clemson. Is Vegas re-thinking FSU's defense vs. Clemson's offense in favor of the Noles?

Part of the -14.5 line is home field advantage (HFA). The general practice with HFA is that the home team is awarded 3-points in the spread in its favor. I think Doak Campbell is perhaps worth subjectively 4 or so points Saturday night. Why? Because of the benefit to our defense; specifically, the defensive line.

One of the simplest ways for an offense to achieve (any) success is by starting all-together. Your offensive line ought to be taking their first steps in unison. You therefore hike the ball based on 1) numerical cadence, 1a) Timed snap off of a cadence, or 2) direct contact with the center (and relying on the rest of the line to watch and wait for the ball to be snapped). Quarterback hikes using 1) or 1a) can use hard counts to draw defenders offsides, especially by calling a hard hike/sound when the offense has been told to wait for the 2nd hike/sound before coming off the line. Using 2) negates the normal timing advantage an offense normally has, but might be necessary in a supremely loud environment - which Clemson has been preparing for this week.

By being able to respond to a QB's voice, an offensive tackle for instance can focus on the defender in front of him visually. But in a raucous unfriendly environment, that OT may need to actually watch the ball prior to it being snapped so as to know when to start the play. That's only a half-second, but it could be worth a lot. (As I write this, I think I have observed some teams actually leave their OTs "on an island" by telling them to respond to the 1st step of the opposing DE as opposed to watching the center snap the ball. Again: Advantage to the home defense).

This will make for very, very interesting passing downs if Boyd takes more than a 3-step drop. FSU's front 4 should get an extra half-second on snaps tomorrow night.

Ends

Defensive ends, that is. And tackles.

In 2011, 19 of Clemson's 24 sacks came from its first-string defensive line (79%): DE Malliciah Goodman, 2.5 sacks; DT Rennie Moore, 4 sacks; NG. Brandon Thompson, 3 sacks; DE Andre Branch, 9.5 sacks. This configuration averaged 1.4 Sacks/G. Through three games in 2012, Clemson's starting defensive line (DE Malliciah Goodman, DT Grady Jerrett, DT Josh Watson, DE Corey Crawford) has zero sacks of the team's three total sacks. The question is: Are they slow-playing the field, or slow-playing on the field?

In 2011, 37.5 of Clemson's 71 TFLs came from its first-string defensive line (53%): 4.5 TFLs, 9 TFLs, 8 TFLs, and 16 TFLs, respectively. The unit averaged 2.7 TFLs/G. Through three games in 2012, the starting DL has 4.5 TFLs of the team's 16 (28%): 2.5 TFLs, 1.0 TFL, 0.5 TFL, and 0.5 TFL, respectively They are averaging 1.5 TFLs/G. Clemson's starting defensive line is producing negative plays at almost half their 2011 rate of production. Sandbagging, or dirtbagging?

In 2011, 20 of Clemson's 28 QB hurries came from its first-string defensive line (71%): 8 QBHs, 5 QBHs, 2 QBHs, and 5 QBHs, respectively. The unit averaged 1.4 QBHs/G. Through three games in 2012, the starting DL has 2 QBHs of the team's 7 (29%): 0 QBHs, 1 QBH, 1 QBH, and 0 QBHs, respectively. They are averaging 0.67 QBHs/G. Clemson's starting defensive line is producing QB hurries at just over half their 2011 rate of production. Trapping, or crapping?

Clemson's front four is struggling to produce at the level the 2011 front did that featured 2nd & 3rd round draft picks (Branch, Thompson).

Consider that Clemson's defense has allowed 5.5 yards allowed per play, tied with Auburn for 77th nationally. And that to marginal opponents. (And don't buy that Clemson SOS >> FSU SOS. Their FEI SOS ranks? 44th vs. 47th. Whoopty-freaking-do. The FEI SOS that is 47th for FSU right now includes the entire season per BenDNole. So forget I what I said.)

Could be a long day for that back-7.

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