Tuesday Update: Concerns at kicker, substitutions and Syracuse
|Tuesday, October 10, 2017, 7:01 AM- -|
The injury to quarterback Kelly Bryant and the student ticket situation have dominated the message boards and headlines since Saturday’s win over Wake Forest. Lost in all that is the fact the after Friday night’s game at Syracuse, seven of the 12 regular season games will have been played.
Where did the season go?
I always look forward to the trip to Syracuse, simply because it’s a different part of the country. It’s not the Triangle area or Wake Forest – nothing really interesting at UNC, N.C. State, Duke or Wake – and it’s a chance to perhaps get into a little cooler weather.
Walking into the Carrier Dome is also different – you have to walk through an airlock to get inside. Every time I walk in, however, my initial reaction centers on how small the place actually is. Of course, the Tigers have had good success against the Orange since they joined the league for the 2013 season.
In the four games they have played as Atlantic Division rivals, Clemson has averaged 533 yards per game, including 179 rushing and 354 passing. Clemson quarterbacks Tajh Boyd, Cole Stoudt and Deshaun Watson were a combined 96-132 for 1214 yards, 10 touchdowns and five interceptions. That is a completion percentage of 72.7 percent and a passing efficiency figure of 178.76. Clemson has averaged 82 plays per game and 26 first downs. The Tigers have won the four games by a combined score of 156-47, an average final score of 39-12.
The Tigers are 21-point favorites Friday night.
Clemson is 2-0 in the Carrier Dome in football and 1-2 in basketball. Two years ago Clemson defeated a Syracuse team that went to the Final Four on January 5, 2016. The Tigers will return to the Carrier Dome for basketball next March as the Tigers will be the opponent for the Orange on the Syracuse Senior Day.
The game could be – with a win – a milestone for head coach Dabo Swinney. Swinney has a 95-28 record as the Tigers head coach. Swinney is currently third in total victories among Clemson head coaches, but he trails Danny Ford by just one win. Ford was 96-29-4 between 1978-89.
*When Friday's game is over, Clemson will have completed seven games. Their next opponent – Georgia Tech – will have played just four times. The Yellow Jackets had one game canceled for a hurricane and they’ve already had an open date. It will be interesting to see where the Jackets stand when they enter Death Valley at the end of October.
Paul Johnson’s crew is 3-1, with a loss to Tennessee and wins over Jacksonville St., Pitt and UNC. In other words, they haven’t played a team with any sort of pulse all season. But they get a test this weekend when they travel to Florida to take on Miami. That’s an early-season ACC Coastal showdown that could go a long way towards determining the Coastal champ. Next week, they host Wake Forest.
Next up for the Tigers is championship November, and it gets started with a road trip to Raleigh. The Wolfpack are riding high after beating Louisville last Thursday night, and they have a very winnable game at Pitt this weekend. They have an open week, and then they travel to Notre Dame.
*I had one fan send me a message late Saturday complaining about Clemson’s substitution patterns. If you’ve noticed, the Tigers are usually substituting fairly freely on the offensive line and the skill positions by the third drive each game, and defensive coordinator Brent Venables sprinkles in reserves throughout the game. The fan said that he didn’t want to see any reserves “until the game is over.” I asked Swinney about that on the Sunday night media teleconference, and he had the response I expected.
“My thought process is that I’m not trying to please the fans. I’m trying to win,” Swinney said. “I’m trying to have a great program. If they get bored with winning, that’s their problem. I’m playing the guys that deserve to play. I’m not worried about all of that other stuff. I’m just trying to win the game.”
Here’s my take: Before Clemson played Alabama last year for the title, many experts wondered how Alabama would stand up to Clemson’s up-tempo style. Bama head coach Nick Saban didn’t play a lot of his reserves on defense last season, and that lack of depth showed up when Clemson ran 99 plays.
*Finally, if there is one legitimate concern I have right now it’s at kicker. Greg Huegel was just 2-for-4 before suffering his torn ACL, and backup Alex Spence is now just 1-for-3. That’s 3-for-7 on the season, which is good (or bad) for 119th out of 130 teams nationally.
Clemson is one of 18 teams nationally to have just three successful field goals, seven teams have just two and six have made just one. At some point, someone is going to have to make a big kick.