|by David Hood|
The Orange faithful have been saying that they are going to sell out the Carrier Dome and help will their team to victory, and they have a history of knocking off ranked teams within the friendly confines of the Dome. They also have a six-game winning streak in the Dome.
They beat Wagner and Tulane this season by an average of 35 points, posting back-to-back 50-point games for the first time since 1997.
However, this Clemson team might be the best they’ve faced in quite a while, and a first-ever ACC victory might have to wait a week.
The Tigers didn’t exactly struggle on the road two weeks ago at N.C. State, but they weren’t crisp either. Quarterback Tajh Boyd saw a variety of blitz packages and alignments, and he didn’t start clicking with his receivers until midway through the fourth quarter. In that game, it was actually the Clemson defense that came up with the tide-turning play, a sack of N.C. State quarterback Pete Thomas by Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley that later turned into a Clemson touchdown.
Will the Tigers need the defense to once again make a game-changing play? Can the Orange knock off a top five team in the Dome to usher in their ACC era?
No one knows for sure, but it promises to be fun.
WHAT: No. 3 Clemson (4-0) at Syracuse (2-2)
WHERE: Carrier Dome (49,262) – Syracuse, NY
WHEN: Saturday, October 5, 3:30 p.m.
SPREAD: Clemson -13
WHEN CLEMSON HAS THE BALL
The one opponent Syracuse has played that has a pulse offensively was Northwestern. Those teams played back on Sept. 7th, and the Wildcats shredded the Orange defense for 48 points and 581 total yards. Northwestern threw for 375 yards and rushed for 206 more. The good news for Syracuse is that game was on the road and they get the Tigers at home. The bad news is that Clemson is better offensively than Northwestern. The Orange like to bring pressure from all over the field, and will try and get in Boyd’s face from the outset. Syracuse ranks 32nd nationally in total defense and is averaging seven 3-and-outs per game, tied for third among FBS teams, and has 11 sacks or 2.75 per game, fourth in the nation. They will bring pressure from off the edge and up the middle and try and disrupt Clemson’s timing passing game. However, Tiger running back Rod McDowell and backups D.J. Howard, Zac Brooks and C.J. Davidson all have the capability of hitting the big play, and the chances will be there if Clemson can catch Syracuse in a blitz. However, the big matchup in this one is Boyd and Clemson’s receivers against the Syracuse secondary. The Orange rank 63rd nationally against the pass, and their corners will be tested early and often by Boyd, Sammy Watkins, Martavis Bryant and company. Wake Forest tried to press Boyd early last week, and he hit Watkins on a big touchdown in a 1-on-1 opportunity on the game’s third play. The Cuse pressure might cause a few 3-and-outs, but Boyd and company should have success moving the ball. Syracuse defensive tackle Jay Bromley leads the team with 14 totals tackles, five tackles for loss, and two forced fumbles so the center of Clemson’s offensive line will have to get off the ball quickly to keep Bromley from getting up field.
WHEN SYRACUSE HAS THE BALL
Cuse quarterback Terrel Hunt is the player to watch on the Syracuse offense. The sophomore has completed 33-of-43 passes for 468 yards and seven TDs with no interceptions, and he's also rushed 12 times for 91 yards and two scores. Yep, Hunt has managed to put up some pretty good numbers, but he has also only faced Wagner and Tulane. Saturday will be a different story as he has to face defensive tackle Grady Jarrett and defensive end Vic Beasley. H-back Ashton Broyld is Syracuse’s leading receiver with 19 receptions. Wide receiver Christopher Clark has 15 receptions for 202 yards and three touchdowns. In the running game, junior Jerome Smith is the Orange’s leading rusher with 51 carries for 217 yards and six touchdowns. Up front, Syracuse is led by center Macky MacPherson, the grandson of longtime Syracuse coach Don MacPherson. Hunt is a versatile athlete who can beat you with his legs or his arm, but if I’m Syracuse I try to run the football with the running backs, hit the H-back in the flat and on crossing routes (which Clemson has had issues defending) and then allow Hunt to be creative on third down. Beasley and Corey Crawford will have opportunities to pin their ears back and go after Hunt, but gap integrity and staying home will be crucial. A big unknown at this point is if the Syracuse receivers can have any kind of impact against Clemson’s secondary.
Clemson’s special teams have been solid all season, and the leader is senior kicker Chandler Catanzaro, who is now Clemson’s all-time scoring leader. Punter and kickoff specialist Bradley Pinion has been solid, and there were glimpses of a return game last week. For Syracuse, Riley Dixon handles the punting duties and has averaged 45.1 yards per punt over the last three games. Place kicker Ryan Norton is handling kicking duties for only his second game, but he has made 3-of-4 field goals with a long of 34 yards and has connected 14-of-15 extra points. Norton also handles kickoffs, but has zero touchbacks on the season.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN
The third-ranked Tigers are the highest-ranked team to come into the Carrier Dome since No. 1 Miami in 2002. The Orange have had success in the Carrier Dome against ranked teams, upsetting top-ranked Nebraska 17-9 in 1984, beating No. 11 West Virginia 49-23 two years ago and No. 11 Louisville 45-26 in 2012. The Syracuse fans have promised to come out in force for this one, and they have a player on the rise in Hunt. Expect the Orange to come out and ride the early emotion as long as possible, and they might even hang around into the third quarter. However, as long as Clemson comes out and plays like they are capable of playing, talent and the depth chart should begin to show midway through the third quarter and Clemson begins to pull away.
FINAL SCORE: CLEMSON 38, SYRACUSE 22
|Game||Actual||David Hood||Mickey Plyler||Tony Crumpton||Nikki Steele||Lawton Swann||Pigskin Prophet||Butt-Head||Georgia||38-35 CU||37-34 CU||31-28 CU||31-28 CU||34-31 CU||37-31 CU||39-34 CU||48-31CU||SC State||52-13 CU||55-13 CU||56-10 CU||63-17 CU||56-16 CU||57-10 CU||60-13 CU||63-21 CU||NC State||26-14 CU||37-13 CU||41-20 CU||63-17 CU||37-17 CU||45-20 CU||-||34-17 CU||Wake Forest||56-7 CU||41-13 CU||41-17 CU||41-14 CU||38-13 CU||52-13 CU||45-17 CU||45-17 CU||Points||-||8||4||4||4||6||3||6|
* Points: 3 pts for best prediction of the week (tiebreaker is Clemson score), 1pt for picking the correct winner
David Hood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org