Monday, December 24, 2012

Clemson vs LSU: Clemson’s Biggest Advantage

Determining which matchup creates the best mismatches for Clemson is a lot like playing “Guess Who”. You put all options on the table, begin to ask some key questions, and start eliminating. Questions like: Which unit can create mismatches and exploit the other, offense or defense? For Clemson, keep the offense and eliminate the defense.

We’ll discuss this more fully in a later post, but Clemson’s defense will not be as overpowered as some think. Clemson has been solid against the run, but struggled in the passing game. Meanwhile, LSU loves to pound the football and struggles tossing it around. Also, LSU’s offensive line is young and inexperienced while Clemson’s defensive line is slowly starting to show some promise. And while Clemson’s defense can potentially hold its own, there isn’t a single grouping I trust enough to say they have the biggest advantage.

As such, we turn to the offense. There are four basic options to choose from: Clemson’s O-Line vs LSU’s D-Line, Clemson’s receivers vs LSU’s secondary, Clemson’s tight ends and running backs vs LSU’s linebackers, and Morris/Boyd vs Chavis.

On the line, LSU has two of the best defensive ends in the country in Montgomery & Mingo. After spending a month watching Clowney launch his 2013 Heisman campaign, these two will be looking for Christmas to come twice in a week. These guys can be neutralized, but not without losing something somewhere else. It may require keeping a tight end or back in to max protect, or it may mean solo blocking in the middle. Also, Clemson will be more susceptible to blitzes, especially from the outside. The sheer fact that Clemson will gameplan just for these two shows there is no Clemson advantage. If anything, Clemson needs to hope to just break even – no mismatch or advantage here.

Most folks will look at Nuk, Sammy, Brown, & Peake and say this is the group that can best exploit LSU. And I agree – to an extent. On any given play, Clemson is capable of hitting the homerun and getting an instant 7. And while LSU is known for their D-Line, their secondary is very talented and quite athletic. The two safeties are fantastic (wonder how much better this defense would look with Loston roaming around) and the corners are physical enough to interrupt the rhythm of the receivers. Clemson’s pure talent and athleticism gives them advantage to Clemson, but it’s not as large as most think. Also, the ability for this unit to be successful is based upon Boyd having adequate time to make progressions and finding the open man. The pressure from the LSU D-Line may make finding open receivers tough.

For me, Clemson’s biggest advantage comes from the running backs and tight ends. The receivers are the most talented group and the combination of Boyd & Morris is the smartest. But when it comes to which group has the greatest advantage when compared to their opposition, the tight ends and backs win. And not so much because of what Clemson has, which is fantastic, but because of what LSU doesn’t. Of the major defensive groupings for LSU, the linebackers are the weak spot. Better yet, they’re great, just not like the D-Line and secondary.

This is not to take anything away from Ellington & Ford (this will be a chance to showcase their talents), but between the hashes, Clemson should be able to find success. If they can break the initial line of scrimmage, the linebackers will allow another 4-5 yards before making the tackle. And if Ellington reaches the second level enough, he will make LSU pay.

Also, Clemson should be able to find soft spots in this area for third down conversions. Look for Ellington to be stopped around the line of scrimmage a few times by their D-Line, but also look for him to bust a few through the line which could then turn into 10-15 yarders. Also look for more inside runs from Watkins, trying to get the ball to the second level quickly to slow down the rush and exploit the middle of the LSU defense.

Boyd & Morris have been impressive all year; however, give anyone, especially John Chavis, 5-6 weeks to prepare for your offense, and there will be times when LSU knows what’s coming. Morris will have new wrinkles and will hopefully be more creative than against USC, but LSU will be prepared for the majority of this offense. Once again, Clemson has the advantage, but not significantly. The winner of this battle will be based upon execution and rhythm more so than mismatches.

Overall, when looking at the offense, LSU has the advantage at the line of scrimmage, while Clemson has advantages at receiver vs secondary and backs vs backers. Whether Clemson is able to win this game will depend on how well they do against LSU’s D-Line and whether they can exploit the mismatches in the middle of the field, keeping drives alive and forcing the secondary to tackle. If they can, then Clemson will have a great shot at doing some good things against LSU, scoring some points, and hoping the defense can make a few stops.

If not, the Clemson offense will be watching a ton from the sidelines while the Clemson defense will be getting worn down, hoping to keep LSU close.

8 comments:

  1. we could not hold the coots line, what make you think we can hold a better D-Line? Boyd appeared in-effective in two quarters against FSU and two against the coots. I don't know if it is depth or what but whatever it is, it needs to be solved for Clemson to win. If Dabo can figure out what makes this team tick int he last two quarters like the first two, Clemson will be fine.

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    1. Morris' ego got in the way against USC and I think he realizes there were things we were stubborn about, and because we didn't adapt, we got burned.

      Look for Clemson to keep LSU on their toes. We'll have some success, but so will they. If Clemson can keep LSU in the low 20's, we'll have a shot.

      I also agree Clemson needs some second half momentum. I wonder if some of that is because this team has coasted to large halftime leads and hasn't had to fight for four quarters. I too hope Dabo & Co. can get it figured out.

      Thanks for swinging by! Check back soon as we'll be looking at where Clemson will be at their biggest disadvantage.

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  2. This is ridiculous. Clemson doesn't have an advantage at any position grouping on the field. LSU struggles passing the ball? Mettenberger threw for 300 against BAMA. Clemson can't beat teams with NFL talent on defense. They played two this year, and lost by 2 scores to both. And LSU is better than SCar and FSU. This is the team that was playing in the national championship last year. It's gonna be an SEC Showcase.

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    1. So you don't think Clemson has any advantage at any position in this game? A top 5 group of receivers will be at a disadvantage? A solid group of backs and tight ends going up against 5 freshmen linebackers won't make some plays?

      I agree Clemson is at a disadvantage in the trenches, and that teams that struggle at the line of scrimmage generally struggle overall. However, I'm not willing to quote Denny Green and "crown their ass" just yet.

      Also - remember, Clemson led FSU by 14 in the third quarter and had multiple chances to stretch the lead over USC to two scores in the first half. And even after playing terrible on defense, still had the ball in the 4th quarter with a chance to take the lead.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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    2. One more thought - the reason they threw for nearly 300 yards against Bama is because that is what Bama was giving them. If you look, they rushed nearly 50 times, but for less than 150 yards. Bama focused completely on the run game and forced LSU to throw. To LSU's credit, they were able to move the ball through the air. But in the end, Bama's strategy worked.

      I will take LSU throwing for 300 yards, but rushing for less than 3 yards per every day. If that's what happens, look for Clemson to have a great shot at walking away with a win.

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  3. If Clemson sticks with the run and stays with their misdirection offense, they have an excellent chance. If they get simple, and try to be a passing team only, like Dabo and Morris tend to do in big games, they loose. To use speed to neutralize power a team has to make the other team play "guess who has the ball." If LSU knows where the ball is going, they will win. This is asymmetric warfare but is not complicated. Run and stay with the misdirection runs in big games. Use LSUs speed at the line against them. The day Dabo learns to be run first is the day Clemson returns to greatness. That is why Saban has returned Alabama to greatness, he understands patience, ball control run first philosophy, solid special teams, and great defense. Football really has not changed as much as people think. The most patient teams that trust their line and backs usually win the most in big games consistently.

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    1. Very valid points, and that is how LSU likes to play. Yes, Mettenburger has thrown for bigger chunks of yards, but that was because teams were able to slow down their run game and force them to throw.

      I agree Clemson needs to keep LSU guessing. They are very aggressive and if we can slow that down early, it will pay dividends later.

      Thanks for checking us out!

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    2. I think everyone has some valid points and I don't see where Clemson wins this game but maybe 10-15% of time. However, as a Clemson fan, we just have to make this one of those 10-15% times. I would definitely load the box against LSU; I don't trust mettenburg's arm or decisions and would look to put an extra LB out there since we have some decent depth at this position. I think his game against Bama was a fluke and he will not be able to duplicate that level of accuracy and decisions again.

      I'm not sure there is a lot more that can be said about the offensive strategy but I would like to see a true option read from the Pistol (although Boyd has shown no ability to run it well), some draws, quick throws to AE in the flats to match up on LSU's young LB's. I hope The Chad doesn't panic and start throwing every down when LSU stops the run often, which they will. If the protection holds up (HUGE variable), I would definitely try to hit them deep a few plays. Their secondary will play a little aggressive (cocky) due to the strength of their DL but we have to take some shots deep.

      I don't expect to win but hope this team doesn't fold like a lawn chair like they did against WV, FSU and USuC. They tend to battle hard against teams where we have better talent but don't show the same confidence when playing teams more physical and as athletic.

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