The Clemson Tigers are 2018 College Football champions. After steamrolling Alabama on Monday night, the Tigers are already looking ahead to what could be another 15-0 season.
Syracuse hosts Clemson in the Carrier Dome this fall. Do they have a shot to beat them? Well, that depends on a few things.
First things first, when are they going to play? Timing will play a significant role in determining the magnitude of the matchup. An early-season tilt would almost guarantee a high-stakes game. On the other hand, a late-season matchup could be meaningless if SU drops a couple of games early in its schedule. In my mind, that would almost guarantee a Clemson win.
Ok, slight correction. It’d have to be Week 3. That’s the open slot right now. SU plays Liberty Week 1 (Aug.31) and Maryland Week 2 (Sept.7) but same idea. Would love to see that be the early ACC game.
— Brent Axe (@BrentAxeMedia) January 8, 2019
There is, however, an opportunity for the teams to meet in September.
The Orange open the 2019 season on the road against Liberty, followed by another road trip to Maryland (two programs with first year head coaches). After that, there’s a week three opening where Syracuse will most likely host a conference foe. A matchup between the two best teams in the Atlantic division from 2018 in that slot would certainly make sense.
A win over the Tigers would put the Orange in the drivers seat to make it to the ACC Championship game. Clemson returns nearly everyone on offense, making that a tall task for Syracuse. I’ve always been the first person to say it could happen again. But after watching the Tigers destroy Nick Saban and the Tide, I’m not so sure.
Clemson is good. Really good. After a slow start to the season, the Tigers cruised past each of their final ten opponents en route to winning it all. On offense, Trevor Lawrence will be back for his sophomore year. Lawrence looks to be the best quarterback in the nation entering next season after his performance against Alabama.
That’s bad news for the Orange, sure, but did you see how the Tigers’ skilled position players performed? Dynamic running back Travis Etienne is back for another year and so is freshman receiver Justyn Ross, who was Clemson’s most valuable player outside of Trevor Lawrence. Ross could be in for a breakout season.
Yeah, they’re graduating some guys defensively, but they’ll have plenty of studs ready to step in. The Tigers’ defense will be just fine.
On the Syracuse side of the ball, the inexperience at linebacker is very concerning. Keep in mind Etienne ran all over the Orange defense in South Carolina last season. Not to mention, Lawrence was relieved by Chase Brice after leaving with an injury. Finally playing a Clemson starting quarterback for the whole game could be a major difference maker.
Beating the Tigers is going to be a very tall task for the Orange next season. Due to turnover for Syracuse at quarterback and on the offensive line, an early-season matchup isn’t ideal.
Right now, it’s hard to see the Orange pulling off the upset for the second time in three years regardless of when the game is played. Clemson was the best team in the ACC last season by a wide margin. That margin is even wider this season.
A trip to the Orange bowl is reasonable, but it doesn’t look like another upset over Clemson is.