It’s no secret that just about everyone on the Orange roster is going to have to play the game of his life Saturday if Syracuse is going to beat Clemson in the Carrier Dome. The Tigers are bigger, faster, and the reigning national champs. SU has to be on its A-game, but Clemson will probably have to make a mistake or two as well for Syracuse to be in it down the stretch. But as you might have guessed, it’s hard to find holes in a team which has lost two games in the last three seasons.
Dabo Swinney lost Deshaun Watson to the NFL after last season, but the Clemson offense hasn’t missed a beat under new signal-caller Kelly Bryant. Bryant is on paper, the same quarterback Watson was for the Tigers. He can run through a defense with both his arm and legs, with just under 1300 passing yards and over 400 rushing yards through six games this season. When he isn’t taking the run himself, Bryant can hand off to Tavien Feaster, Travis Etienne, Adam Choice or CJ Fuller, all of whom are pulling over 4.5 yards per carry on the season.
Auburn came the closest to shutting down Bryant, when Gus Malzahn’s squad shutout Clemson in the first half. The arm wasn’t getting Bryant into the end zone, so he took off for two scores on the ground in the second half in a 14-6 win. It’s that balance that makes Clemson’s offense scary. Boston College held Clemson to just 140 passing yards, but the Tigers ran for almost 350. If you stop one part of the Clemson offense, be ready for Swinney to attack at another angle.
The most points any team has scored against Clemson this season is 21 (Louisville), but teams have had some success moving the ball against the Tigers. Virginia Tech threw for over 250 yards two weeks ago, but turned the ball over three times. Last week, Wake Forest lost by 14 despite outgaining Clemson. Moving the ball on Clemson hasn’t always been the problem — getting into the end zone is the real struggle.
Syracuse needs just short of a miracle to pull off an upset of Clemson this weekend. The Tigers have it all figured out, while the Orange is trying to climb its way out of the bottom of the ACC. The good news is that Clemson’s last loss came in a 43-42 shootout to Pitt in 2016, which is the most likely way for the Orange to get a win. Clemson has allowed over 200 passing yards each of the last two weeks, and Eric Dungey has looked better under center for the Orange as the season has gone on. If Dungey gets very hot and the Orange defense can do better than 53 points allowed, SU has a shot.
Posted: Nathan Dickinson