Rivalry by the numbers part II

In this two-part series, Gamecock Anthem takes a look at the numbers of the two rivals as they prepare for Saturday's clash in the upstate. Today we take a look at South Carolina's offense against Clemson's defense. Can South Carolina's offense keep pace with Clemson's offense or can Clemson's defense come up with one big stop to get the win?

Today we look at South Carolina's offense against Clemson's defense. This match-up is a complete turnaround from yesterday's match-up of Clemson's high-powered offense against Carolina's tough defense. South Carolina's offense ranks in the bottom half of Clemson's opponents while Clemson's defense is in the bottom third of Carolina's opponents.

Carolina's offense enters the game averaging 366 yards and 32 points. That would rank the Gamecocks ninth in the ACC in total offense, but fifth in scoring offense. Meanwhile, Clemson's defense is giving up 408 yards per game and 28 points. That would rank 11th in the SEC in total defense and ninth in points allowed.

First, let's take a look at Clemson's defense against their opponents. From left to right it will list opponent, offensive yards per game (national rank) and points per game (national rank).

Auburn – 318 yards (112th), 20 points (107th)
Ball State – 481 yards (18th), 35 points (31st)
Florida State – 494 yards (14th), 43 points (7th)
Boston College – 353 yards (98th), 21 points (103rd)
Georgia Tech – 462 yards (28th), 39 points (16th)
Virginia Tech – 400 yards (63rd), 27 points (75th)
Wake Forest – 301 yards (117th), 18 points (114th)
Duke – 380 yards (87th), 30 points (52nd)
Maryland – 274 yards (120th), 18 points (112th)
NC State – 425 yards (46th), 29 points (64th)
South Carolina – 366 yards (93rd), 32 points (41st)

Only four Tiger opponents are averaging fewer yards per game than Carolina, but only three teams are averaging more points than South Carolina's 32. While Carolina has not moved the ball as much as many of Clemson's opponents are averaging, but they are taking advantage of short fields and defensive scores to make up for the lack of production.

Now, we take a look at the ten BCS opponents Clemson has faced and how many yards they gained against the Tigers (+/-) and points they scored (+/-).

Auburn – 374 yards (+56), 19 points (-1)
Ball State – 380 yards (-101), 27 points (-8)
Florida State – 667 yards (+173), 49 points (+6)
Boston College – 420 yards (+67), 31 points (+10)
Georgia Tech – 483 yards (+21), 31 points (-8)
Virginia Tech – 406 yards (+6), 17 points (-10)
Wake Forest – 290 yards (-11), 13 points (-5)
Duke – 342 yards (-38), 20 points (-10)
Maryland – 180 yards (-94), 10 points (-8)
NC State – 597 yards (+172), 48 points (+19)

One thing you notice right away is that Clemson did not "fix" their defense in recent weeks. Well they held three of their last four opponents under the season average in yards and points, it was not by much. You would also notice that the Tigers have a bend but not break defense. With the exception of Ball State and Maryland, who was using a linebacker at quarterback, Clemson has either given up many more yards than their opponent averages for the most part or held them just under their season average. However, Clemson has held most of their opponents under their season average in points. Clemson has given up on average 25 more yards than their opponents, but are holding their opponents to over a point per game. By average of Clemson's defense alone, South Carolina will gain 391 yards of offense, but score just 31 points.

Again, like Clemson's offense against South Carolina's defense, there's another side to that story. South Carolina's offense has faced some great defenses this season.

Vanderbilt – 327 yards (17th), 18 points (16th)
ECU – 398 yards (64th), 28 points (67th)
UAB – 423 yards (81st), 36 points (107th)
Missouri – 367 yards (39th), 26 points (54th)
Kentucky – 385 yards (52nd), 30 points (82nd)
Georgia – 330 yards (20th), 18 points (18th)
LSU – 281 yards (5th), 17 points (12th)
Florida – 281 yards (4th), 12 points (3rd)
Tennessee – 477 (110th), 37 points (111th)
Arkansas – 419 yards (79th), 31 points (91st)
Clemson – 408 yards (69th), 25 points (47th)

The first two things you notice is that in the games they lost and struggled against offensively are both top five defenses in LSU and Florida. Also, fans were worried after the struggles offensively in the season opener, but Vandy has one of the top defenses in the country in both yards and points allowed. You also see that Arkansas, Tennessee, and UAB are the only three teams that give up more yards than Clemson, and six opponents have given up more points. However, only two teams are more than a touchdown worse than Clemson.

Now we look at how South Carolina did against their ten BCS opponents and how many yards they gained (+/-) and points they scored (+/-).

Vanderbilt – 272 yards (-55), 17 points (-1)
ECU – 528 yards (+130), 48 points (+20)
UAB – 501 yards (+78), 49 points (+13)
Missouri – 396 yards (+29), 31 points (+5)
Kentucky – 348 yards (-37), 38 points (+8)
Georgia – 392 yards (+62), 35 points (+17)
LSU – 211 yards (-70), 21 points (+4)
Florida – 191 yards (-90), 11 points (-1)
Tennessee – 510 yards (+33), 38 points (+1)
Arkansas – 383 yards (-36), 38 points (+7)

The first thing that jumps out is that only twice have the Gamecocks scored less than their opponents have given up all season, and each was just one point. Only four times has Carolina gained less than their opponents have given up and they were 2-2 in those games. Also, two of the three teams that are worse than Clemson in yards allowed per game gave up over 500 yards of offense, and two of the three gave up at least a touchdown more than they averaged.

For the season, Carolina has averaged 44 more yards than their opponents and scored and are averaging seven more points than their opponents are giving up. Using South Carolina's averages alone against Clemson's defense, they will gain 436 yards and score 32 points.

When you combine the two together, South Carolina should gain around 415 yards and score 31 points. Yesterday we found out that Clemson would gain around 451 yards and score 35 points so the Tigers would win 35-31 based on stats alone, which was the opening spread on the game.

One must realize that this does not take into account special teams are turnovers. The key stat of the series in recent years is that the last seven teams to win the turnover battle have gone on to win the game. When you have two teams that seem to be so evenly matched, it will often come down to turnover and special team play. Can South Carolina make up those four points in field position and turnovers and win their fourth in a row over their rival?

We'll find out Saturday night.

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