Clemson football has had one of the best offenses in college football pretty consistently over the last decade or so. This year, the Tigers have looked very subpar on that side of the ball through three games.
The Tigers are averaging just 22 points per game, scoring nine total touchdowns. That is bolstered by 49 points against South Carolina State, and FCS club. Against Georgia and Georgia Tech, Clemson scored just 24 total points and two touchdowns, both against the Yellow Jackets.
At 322.7 yards per game, there are only 15 teams in all of FBS football behind Clemson. Only Iowa, Kansas, and Colorado fall in that category among Power Five teams.
Kirk Herbstreit is very familiar with the Tigers program; his son Tye is a wide receiver for Dabo Swinney‘s team. While many have pointed to the disappointing start by D.J. Uiagalelei, the heir to Trevor Lawrence’s job, he says the issues start up front with the offensive line and lack of a rushing attack.
Kirk Herbstreit on Clemson: "There are real issues here with this offensive line. … They cannot run the ball for the second year in a row."
— Matt Connolly (@MattOnClemson) September 25, 2021
Herbstreit discussed the Tigers’ offensive woes during his weekly hit on Saturday morning’s SportsCenter, ahead of College GameDay. He says the Tigers’ inability to punish opposing defenses for playing back in a zone with a consistent rushing attack is the main source of their struggles.
“There are a lot of teams that are using the same system. What they’re doing is they’re sitting back with three defensive backs that are deep, they’re rushing and they’re keeping five underneath and playing a lot more zone and they’re forcing teams like Clemson to prove that they can run the ball. If you don’t have an offensive line that can control the line of scrimmage and a difference-maker in the backfield, then you’re prone to being vulnerable, and that’s where Clemson is currently.
“Teams are not going to allow (Joseph) Ngata and these receivers to make plays downfield. Therefore they’re just going to say ‘Hey, we’re not going to give explosives (plays) up. Can you run the ball?’ And against two FBS opponents — Georgia and Georgia Tech — they’re averaging 80 yards per game on the ground. So everybody wants to talk about Trevor Lawrence not being there. To me, it’s about Travis Etienne not being there, because he was a guy that could make palys happen when they weren’t there.
Herbstreit believes Clemson “will find their way,” but so far the struggles have been glaring. Georgia, which held Clemson to just two rushing yards, can shut down just about everyone in the sport. The same can’t be said for Georgia Tech, whom Clemson did run for 158 yards on, but on just 3.9 yards per carry. They only managed 126 yards through the air that day.
Unless things rebound quickly, we could see Clemson’s College Football Playoff streak, which dates back to 2015, snapped, and the ACC potentially miss the event as a conference for the first time ever.