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CFB: We examine Clemson vs. Miami Using High Impact Play Differential

We have not performed a High Impact Play Rate Analysis for college football since week two. The primary reason is that CFB scheduling and competitive matchups have been lacking intrigue during the pandemic. In two weeks, the Big Ten opens the season, and that is when the college football season will begin to take more shape.

Today we will take a look at the HIP differential for both Miami and Clemson and see if we can draw any conclusions on who we think will win the game and by what margin.

What is High Impact Play Differential?

High Impact Play Rate accounts for big in-game moments such as sacks, turnovers, TFL's, and explosive plays. Our High Impact Play Rate analysis works as a diagnostic tool created to identify the critical areas of focus when performing an every play film review. Once compiled, we compare every team's offensive and defensive High Impact Plays to get a High Impact Play differential. (i.e., offensive sacks allowed 3 - total defensive sacks 3, provide us with a 0 differential).

Miami High Impact Play Differential

2020 Record (3-0)

Average Point Margin- 24 (7th)

Third Down Stop Differential- +8 (11th)

Turnover Differential- +3 (14th)

Sack Differential- +7 (*6th)

Tackle For Loss Differential- +12 (6th)

Explosive Play Differential- +2 (26th)

Total High Impact Play Rate Differential- +32 (7th)

Clemson High Impact Play Differential

2020 Record (3-0)

Average Point Margin- 30.3 (5th)

Third Down Stop Differential- +15 (1st)

Turnover Differential- +1 (27th)

Sack Differential- +7 (*6th)

Tackle For Loss Differential- +13 (3rd)

Explosive Play Differential- +8 (8th)

Total High Impact Play Rate Differential- +44 (2nd)

Comparing High Impact Play Rate Year Over Year

The top High Impact Play over the last two seasons in CFB ad the NFL is third-down stops. Third, down stops carry the highest weight among the five High Impact Plays. In 2019, the top four teams in CFB in third-down stop differential were The Ohio State, LSU, Clemson, and Alabama. The four teams combined for a season-long average third-down stop differential of 56.2, winning 93% of their games by an average margin of 27 pts.

The Importance of Third Down Stops

Getting a team to third down and off of the field on a third-down will often involve one of the other core five High Impact Plays, (i.e., TFL's, sacks, preventing explosive plays, or creating a turnover. Both Clemson and Miami rank in the top ten in sack differential and TFL differential, with Clemson getting the edge in explosive play rate differential, which is the High Impact stat to keep an eye on during this game. Clemson has done a good job defensively at preventing explosive plays allowing 12 (*11th), while their offense has hit on 20 plays of 20+ yds so far this season (*7th). Miami has allowed 15 plays of 20+ yds or longer on defense (*15th), versus their offense, which has created 17 explosive 20+ yards or longer plays (10th).

Clemson's Aggressive Multiple Defense Under Brent Venables

We know that the Clemson defense loves to be aggressive. Brent Venables defensive philosophy involves a lot of different coverage combinations with blitz packages mixed in. I wrote about Clemson's defensive approach in their matchup against Ohio State in the 2019 CFB playoff semi-final. Clemson ranked 2nd in High Impact Play Rate defense in 2019, and against Ohio State, they proved that their defense was for real creating 4 sacks, 9 TFL's, and 2 INT's.

Justin Fields entered this game with one INT on the entire season, but Clemson found a way to disguise their coverage/pressure combinations, confusing Fields enough to make him tentative and late on a few throws. Clemson also did a great job limiting Ohio States' explosive offense from finishing drives in the red zone. Ohio State reached the Red Zone 3 times and came away with only 3 FG's. The Tigers held the Buckeyes under their season average of 7.0 yds per play, allowing them to gain 6.1 yds per play.

All of the factors I mentioned above regarding the game against Ohio State last season correlates to this game vs. Miami. The Clemson defense will work to confuse D'eriq King by showing different coverage looks and simulated pressures.


Based on the numbers, Clemson's per game High Impact Play differential (+14.7) vs. Miami's (+10.7) leads you to believe that the High Impact Play differential indicates a close matchup. That is where watching the film and studying other variables such as average recruiting rankings, coaching styles, and pedigree becomes a factor. Vegas odds have Clemson at -15 and the game line at 59 pts.

There is a talent gap between these two programs. Miami is on the rise, but nowhere near the level that Clemson has risen. According to the 247 composite team rankings, Clemson is the 3rd most talented team in the nation vs. Miami, ranked 16th. Miami is working to close the talent gap, but as of tonight, talent will take over in this game. Expect Clemson to cover the -15 at home. The game might be close for about two QTR's before Clemson takes over. The X factor might be Clemson's run game with Travis Ettiene, regardless, the Tigers have the projected number one overall pick Trevor Lawrence who can take over a game.

Visit this page after the game for a final High Impact Play Rate review.

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