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Gator Bowl: Nebraska vs Clemson - Clemson's Pass Defensive Stats Skewed By Lousy Competition

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Let's face it, Husker fans know next to nothing about Clemson, other than they're orange, they play in the ACC, and they beat us in 1982 to win their only national title. It's hard to get a handle on a team we're playing only the second time in school history, but in the next couple days I'm going to give it the old college try.

The most glaring point about Clemson is their pass defense. They come into the Gator Bowl ranked:

-  9th in the nation at pass efficiency defense
- 9th in scoring defense
- 10th in pass defense

Clemson's defense sounds awesome, like a great match up against a Nebraska offense that will want to get a passing game going. Taking a closer look at Clemson's season tells a different story - that the Tigers didn't face opponents who were capable of throwing the ball

Here's Clemson's 2008 schedule:

Alabama L - 10-34
Citadel (FCS-Div IAA) W - 45-17
N.C. State W - 27-9
South Carolina State (FCS-Div IAA) W 54-0
Maryland L - 20-17
@Wake Forest L - 12-7
Georgia Tech L - 21-17
@Boston College W 27-21
@Florida State L 41-27
Duke W 31-7
Virginia W 13-3
South Carolina W 31-14


Let's look at each team's opponent rankings for total offense and total defense.

 

 

Nebraska - Clemson : Opponent's Positional Rankings
Total Offense Rank Nebraska Opponent Total Defense Rank -- Total Offense Rank Clemson Opponent Total Defense Rank
24 Western Michigan 83 -- 56 Alabama 3
112 San Jose State 21 -- ## Citadel (FCS-Div IAA) ##
63 New Mexico State 75 -- 89 NC State 81
107 Virginia Tech 7 -- ## SC State (FCS-Div IAA) ##
6 Missouri 99 -- 76 Maryland 59
4 Texas Tech 72 -- 101 Wake Forest 19
44 Iowa State 111 -- 47 Georgia Tech 22
49 Baylor 87 -- 94 Boston College 6
3 Oklahoma 65 -- 55 Florida State 14
22 Kansas 93 -- 102 Duke 61
35 Kansas State 117 -- 104 Virginia 41
93 Colorado 79 -- 97 South Carolina 12
46.83 Average 75.75 -- 82.1 Average 31.8

Clemson has played against some pretty awful offensive teams all season. They have played against some decent defenses, however. Is this the case of a whole conference being great at defense (the ACC), or is it that ACC teams just suck at offense?

Let's look at another item that may explain the high numbers they have against the pass - opponent's quarterback rankings and efficiency. In this case, the quarterback ranking is by their rating, not by yards per game.  Per NCAA stats -To qualify, player must have played in 75% of his team's games and have a minimum of 15.0 pass attempts per game played.


Quarterback, Opponent Rating Nat'l Rank
John Parker Wilson, Alabama 123.81 65
Russell Wilson, NC State 134.29 42
Chris Turner, Maryland 118.74 74
Riley Skinner, Wake Forest 126.18 59
Georgia Tech not listed in Top 100 ## ##
Chris Crane, Boston College 104.42 99
Christian Ponder, Florida State 113.03 89
Thaddeus Lewis, Duke 122.96 67
Marc Verica, Virginia 110.59 92
Chris Smelley, South Carolina 115.25 83

Compare to the list of quarterbacks Nebraska faced this season.... the competition is not even close. 

Quarterback, Opponent Rating Nat'l Rank
Tim Hiller, Western Michigan 148.43 17
Kyle Reed, San Jose State 122.24 69
Chase Holbrook, New Mexico State 141.31 28
VT not listed ## ##
Chase Daniel, Mizzou 164.76 7
Graham Harrell, Texas Tech 163.04 9
Austen Arnaud, Iowa State 127.45 56
Robert Griffin, Baylor 142.00 27
Sam Bradford, Oklahoma 186.30 1
Todd Reesing, Kansas 145.65 21
Josh Freeman, Kansas State 136.49 34
Cody Hawkins 118.14 77

Points:

- Clemson hasn't faced an offense like Nebraska's yet this season.  The best offense they faced - Georgia Tech - finished the season ranked dead last in passing, so it's not all that surprising that the Tigers' pass defense is ranked so highly.

- Clemson faced some pretty good defenses, but the efficiency ratings indicate that the ACC sucks at passing.

- Joe Ganz rating is ranked nationally at 14th, with a rating of 156.80.  The Tigers faced no one close to Ganz' abilities.

- Clemson's Cullen Harper is ranked 51st, with a rating of 129.26.

- Comments?