Tigers needed their offense to be elite, too
You hear the old adage all the time in football. “Defense wins championships. Offense sells tickets.”
Maybe back in the day that meaning had more substance, but in this day and age of football that is not the case. The truth of the matter is both equally mean the same.
It is hard for a football team to win a championship with out a great offense and a great defense working together at the same time. For proof, you do not need to look any further than the Clemson Football program.
In the early years of his program at Clemson, Dabo Swinney had same darn good offenses. Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins, Deandre Hopkins, Dwayne Allen, Andre Ellington, the list can go on and on. From 2011 through the 2013 season, Clemson’s offenses were some of the best in the country, as they set school records for points and yards and just about anything else you can think of.
Those were really good Clemson teams. They brought back the school its first ACC Championship in 20 years in 2011, as well as produce the first 10-win team for the program in 21 seasons. They followed up that year with back-to-back 11-2 seasons and top 10 rankings in 2012 and 2013.
However, Swinney repeatedly said his program will take the next step and become a national title contender when it can consistently start producing top 10 defenses, as well.
First Swinney hired Brent Venables to be his new defensive coordinator in 2012 and by 2014, Clemson led the nation in total yards allowed (260.8) and were second in points allowed (16.4).
It is no coincidence the next year the Tigers made their first national title run.
In the last five years, Clemson has ranked in the top 15 in total offense and total defense every season but one (2017) and in the top 16 in scoring offense and scoring defense three times. During this time, Clemson has made the College Football Playoff five times, played for the national championship four times, and holds the nation’s best overall record at 69-5.
In the four years the Tigers have played for the national title, they have ranked in the top 16 all four seasons in total and scoring offense and three times in the top 10 in both total and scoring defense.
In the 2016 National Championship season, the Tigers ranked eighth nationally in total yards allowed (311.5) and 10th in scoring defense (18.0). On the offensive side, they ranked 12th in total offense (503.7) and 14th in scoring (39.2).
During the program’s undefeated national championship run in 2018, Clemson led the nation in scoring defense (13.1) and was fifth in total defense (285.9). The offense complemented the defense greatly. Led by Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne, the Tigers finished third in total offense (527.2) and fourth in scoring offense (44.3).
This past year, Clemson’s defense once again was one of the nation’s best, with a No. 6 ranking in yards allowed (288.3) and No. 3 in points allowed (13.5). The offense was also had a top 5 unit, finishing No. 4 in scoring offense (43.9) and No. 5 in total offense (528.7).
In 1981 Clemson’s defense paved the way to a national championship while the offense did not mess things up. However, those days have changed. No longer can a team just be good on one side of the ball and win a championship.
Generally, most teams that can compete and produce impressive numbers on both sides of the football, have the best chance to play for a national championship every year.
I think the Clemson program has proved it.
Clemson’s top 16 offensive and defensive units since 2015
Total offense: 514.5, 11th
Scoring offense: 38.5, 16th
Total defense: 313.0, 10th
Total offense: 503.7, 12th
Scoring offense: 39.2, 14th
Total defense: 311.5, 8th
Scoring defense: 18.0, 10th
Total defense: 276.7, 4th
Scoring defense: 13.6, 2nd
Total offense: 527.2, 3rd
Scoring offense: 44.3, 4th
Total defense: 289.5, 5th
Scoring defense: 13.1, 1st
Total offense: 528.7, 5th
Scoring offense: 43.9, 4th
Total defense: 288.3, 6th
Scoring defense: 13.5, 3rd
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