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Advanced Stat Preview: Syracuse

The QB controversy is finally over and we can move on to football. At least the staff made their decision and we’re going to live or die by Trevor Lawrence. His first game as QB1 is against the fearsome Syracuse Orange. Now that we’re down to one starting quarterback, Clemson’s offensive stats will develop an identity as well. We got the first release of Bill Connelly’s S&P+ stat profiles this week, which we’ll use to assess Syracuse. We’ll pull in FEI as well once that is available.

The ratings are fluctuating wildly, but there are some interesting numbers so far:

For Syracuse, they have:

  • The number 1 defense measured by Success Rate
  • The best starting field position
  • A sack ranking of 10

For Clemson, we have:

  • One of the worst pass defenses in the country, ranked 117th in marginal efficiency
  • An inefficient passing attack, ranking 45th
  • An inefficient rushing attack, ranking 42nd

S&P+ also rates Clemson #3 and Syracuse #50, so don’t get too fired up. The overall rankings will change substantially, and the individual components will change even more so. It does have a point, though. We’re hitting a lot of big plays this season but aren’t moving the ball consistently. Now that we’re hitting big plays and Lawrence has safeties rolling back, look for the offense to become more efficient. Ideally, we want to keep hitting these big plays, but also chip away, taking what the defense gives.

So far this season, Syracuse has been characterized as very aggressive, going after the quarterback (great sack rate), playing close to the line of scrimmage (number 1 in success rate), but getting burned for big plays (129th in IsoPPP and 128th in Marginal Explosiveness). Keep in mind they’ve played Western Michigan, Wagner, Florida State, and Connecticut. S&P+ ranks Florida State 67th and we all know about their offensive line issues. Trevor Lawrence is the QB you want to challenge their defense, assuming he can handle their blitzing. Expect a lot of blitzing and watch how our offensive line and Lawrence handle the pressure.

On the offensive side, QB Eric Dungey can stretch the field and handle pressure (Ranks 15th in Passing Marginal Explosiveness, 3.2% sack rate). It doesn’t like his efficiency as much. We’ll see if Syracuse can slow down our DL enough for downfield passing to open up. WR Jamal Custis is the one to look out for. He’s 6’5”, 213 lbs., and is getting 16.9 yards per catch or 11.5 yards per attempt. Dungey will run, already putting up 387 yards on the season so far. He’s getting 8.1 yards per carry while their starting running back is getting 4.9.

We moved from a 21-point favorite to 23 with the announcement of Lawrence as the starting QB and it’s now moved to 25. Vegas expects Lawrence to make a statement in this game and I agree. This team, just like Dabo, is all about winning. I wouldn’t want to stand in their way.

Statistics

Stats via Bill Connelly

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