Season Report Card: Clemson
Offense is all about scoring points and that’s just what the Tigers did in 2013. Led by star quarterback Tajh Boyd, Clemson’s offense finished No. 9 in the country in points per game, scoring an impressive 40.2 per contest. Boyd was great this season, throwing for 3,851 yards and 34 touchdowns. His favorite target was NFL-bound receiver, Sammy Watkins. The Tigers’ top deep-threat had an astonishing 101 receptions for 1,464 yards, not to mention his 12 touchdowns. Watkins’ most impressive performance came against No. 7 Ohio State in the Orange Bowl, where he racked up 227 yards on 16 receptions, adding two scores. The Tigers were deadly through the air, finishing No. 9 overall in passing yards with 333.1 a game. Clemson was hard to stop on the ground as well: Senior running back Roderick McDowell rushed for 1,025 yards on the season, averaging 5.4 per carry. The unit simply had weapons all across the field, and you can sum it up in one word: dangerous.
With an offense that can score 40 points a game, the defense simply needs to be good, not great. However, the Tigers were exceptional at keeping teams out of the end zone. Opposing teams only averaged 22.2 points a game versus this Clemson defense, which ranked 24th in the nation (third in the ACC). Defensive coordinator Brent Venables had his unit playing inspired this season, but no player produced more than first-team All-American defensive end Vic Beasley. Of the 38 sacks that the Tigers tallied this season, 13 can be credited to Beasley, which ranked No. 3 in the country. If this defense could have avoided a mid-season meltdown to Heisman-winning quarterback Jameis Winston and Florida State, we could have possibly seen them in the national championship. But like most defenses, the unit struggled against a talented quarterback. Jameis Winston and South Carolina’s Connor Shaw had a combined total of 596 yards and four touchdowns against the Tigers’ defense, both resulted for the team’s only two losses of the season.
Clemson went 2-2 versus top-10 teams this season. The fact that it faced four teams ranked that high is quite impressive. With wins against No. 5 Georgia (38-35) and No. 7 Ohio State (40-35), head coach Dabo Swinney and his team should get national recognition. The Tigers simply took care of business and beat the teams they were supposed to beat. I believe the first BCS victory in school history should ease the pain of the ugly losses against Florida State and rival South Carolina.