Clemson vs. Syracuse prediction: Can the Orange pull off another upset?


by - Senior Writer -
Clemson vs. Syracuse is at 7:30 pm on ABC
Clemson vs. Syracuse is at 7:30 pm on ABC

A sold-out crowd. Homecoming. First home game of the season. The confidence in knowing they can go toe-to-toe with the Tigers. The Syracuse Orange have a lot of intangibles going their way heading into Saturday night’s showdown against No. 1 Clemson.

But will intangibles be enough?

NO. 1/1 CLEMSON (2-0, 1-0 ACC) at SYRACUSE (1-1, 0-0 ACC)

WHEN: SATURDAY, SEPT. 14, 7:30 P.M. ET

WHERE: THE DOME (49,057), SYRACUSE, N.Y.

TELEVISION: ABC (Sean McDonough, Kirk Herbstreit, Maria Taylor)

RADIO: Clemson Tigers Network (Don Munson, Tim Bourret, Reggie Merriweather)

RADIO: ESPN Radio (Sean Kelley, Barrett Jones, Ian Fitzsimmons)

SATELLITE RADIO: Sirius 108, XM 194, Internet 956

NOTABLE

*This week, Clemson will attempt to set a school record with an 18th straight victory, breaking the mark set across the 2014-15 seasons. It would be the second-longest winning streak by an ACC member in conference history, trailing a 29-game streak by Florida State from 2012-14.

*Clemson was ranked No. 1 in the most recent AP Poll, marking the 62nd consecutive poll in which Clemson has appeared in the Top 10. Clemson's 62-game streak now moves into the Top 10 (and a tie for ninth) for the longest such streak in AP Poll history.

*Clemson has played five turnover-free games since 2018, second-most in the ACC in that time frame. This week, a turnover-free game by Clemson would snap Syracuse's streak of 16 consecutive games with a takeaway, the third-longest streak in the country.

*Clemson is attempting to win its eighth straight true road game and avenge its most recent road loss (2017 at Syracuse). It would be Clemson's fourth road winning streak of eight games or more all-time, joining eight-game streaks from 1947-48 and 1978-79 as well as the school-record 12-game streak from 2015-17. Clemson is seeking its 20th victory in its last 21 true road games and is seeking its 33rd victory in its last 36 games away from home.

*Clemson is attempting to win a 13th consecutive ACC regular-season game for the third time in school history (20 from 1981-84, 14 from 2015-16). Clemson also won 13 straight Southern Conference games from 1938-41 prior to the formation of the ACC. It would be Clemson's 15th straight victory against ACC opponents, including postseason play.

*Clemson is seeking its 100th win since the start of the 2011 season, the year that began Clemson's active eight-year streak of consecutive 10-win seasons. Clemson is 99-15 since 2011.

WHEN CLEMSON HAS THE BALL

Quarterback Trevor Lawrence has been solid so far this season, completing 37 of 58 passes for 436 yards and two scores while also tossing three interceptions. He’s also been just a tad off on the deep ball, but he said this week he feels like he’s getting to where he needs to be. That is scary for a Syracuse defense that was turned sideways last week. I also think he’s getting some third-down help with the return of Amari Rodgers, who suffered a torn ACL but returned to action last week. Add in Justyn Ross and Tee Higgins and Diondre Overton and the Dome turf and the Tigers have the advantage through the air. Even more so because the Orange like to play eight men in the box and leave their corners on an island.

Don’t forget about the ground game – Travis Etienne was neutralized by the same tactics last week against A&M, but was a threat catching the ball out of the backfield. Still, he’s averaging 9.2 yards a carry and has rushed for 258 yards and three scores over 28 attempts this season.

Syracuse defensive ends Alton Robinson and Kendall Coleman combined for 20 sacks last season and many considered the Orange to have the best defensive line in the league this season. They were gashed last week, however, and failed to generate consistent pressure. It doesn’t get any easier against Clemson’s good offensive line this week. The Orange need turnovers if they want to generate the upset.

ADVANTAGE: CLEMSON

WHEN SYRACUSE HAS THE BALL

There’s no denying that former quarterback Eric Dungey was the heart and soul of the Orange attack, and current quarterback Tommy DeVito is still trying to find his way and they are averaging just 22 points per game this season.

DeVito has completed 45 of 74 throws for 506 yards and three scores but has also added three interceptions. Running back Moe Neal has been solid, while receivers Trishton Jackson, Taj Harris and Sean Riley give DeVito plenty of targets.

The problem for the Orange is that they have to go against Clemson’s established secondary and defensive mastermind Brent Venables. Venables concocted a plan last week that had Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond seeing ghosts, and I thought K’Von Wallace should have been the ACC’s Player of the Week after maybe his best performance in a Clemson uniform. The Tigers were mad after giving up over 500 yards to A&M the year before, and now have two years of Syracuse to look back on. They won’t be overlooking this game.

Clemson’s defensive line is a work in progress, but has already recorded six sacks and is holding opponents to just 2.9 yards per rush. The Syracuse offensive line struggled last week against Maryland and take a BIG step up in competition this week.

ADVANTAGE: CLEMSON

SPECIAL TEAMS

Syracuse kicker Andre Szmyt produced a stellar campaign in 2018, hitting 30-of-34 field goal attempts and all 61 of his extra points. He’s hit his only field goal attempt this season but has already missed one extra point. Sterling Hofrichter handles the kickoffs and has touchbacks on 5-of-9 attempts. Hofrichter is also the punter and is averaging a stellar 44.64 yards per punt this season.

Clemson’s B.T. Potter has made 2-of-3 field goals, including a 51-yarder, and has 10 touchbacks in 12 attempts this season. He’s perfect on his 10 extra point attempts. Punter Will Spiers is averaging 41.29 yards per punt this season.

Neither team’s return teams have made an impact.

ADVANTAGE: SLIGHT TO SYRACUSE

WHAT WILL HAPPEN

A lot of people are predicting a shootout and tons of points, but even when the Orange had Dungey and a veteran offensive line, 27 points seemed to be the cap. I don’t expect them to reach those lofty heights this week, not with a struggling offensive line and a quarterback trying to find an identity. Sure, they will have a few new wrinkles and they have the crowd and a lot of the intangibles on their side.

What they don’t have are guys like Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne, Xavier Thomas, Isaiah Simmons, K’Von Wallace, Nolan Turner, and A.J. Terrell.

It’ll be fun early, but Clemson starts to pull away and keeps pulling away.

FINAL SCORE: CLEMSON 40, SYRACUSE 16

Mickey Plyler - 6-9 AM on WCCP 105.5FM - 41-17 Clemson

Tony Crumpton - Associate Editor - 42-13 Clemson

Nikki Hood - Staff writer - 42-17 Clemson

Brandon Rink - Staff writer - 45-13 Clemson

Pigskin Prophet - 37-13 Clemson

Game Actual David Hood Mickey Plyler Tony Crumpton Nikki Hood Brandon Rink Pigskin Prophet
Georgia Tech 52-14 CU 44-13 CU 52-17 CU 45-13 CU 42-17 CU 48-13 47-9
Texas A&M 24-10 CU 41-27 CU 37-20 CU 38-24 CU 38-27 CU 45-27 31-23
Points - 2 4 2 2 2 4

* Points: 3 pts for best prediction of the week (tiebreaker is Clemson score), 2 pts for picking score exactly, 1 pt for picking the correct winner

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