If you haven’t heard, Syracuse is 4-0 for the first time since 1991. Joking aside, you probably haven’t heard what happened in the fifth game of that ’91 season: a 46-14 loss to No. 1 Florida State at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee. Fittingly, SU faces another college football Goliath in its latest quest to start a season 5-0. For entertainment purposes, we hope things go slightly better for the Orange this time around.
Matchup: Syracuse (4-0, 1-0) vs. #3 Clemson (4-0, 1-0)
Time: 12:00 p.m.
Location: Clemson Memorial Stadium
Television: ABC (Channel 9, WSYR-TV Syracuse)
Orange Fizz will be at the game providing extensive coverage on OrangeFizz.net and on Twitter (@OrangeFizz). We’ll take you inside the stadium, locker room and even the craziest tailgates surrounding the stadium. Check back this weekend for coverage from South Carolina.
At first, this looked like average Saturday afternoon matchup between two ACC foes. That has changed in a hurry. With Trevor Lawrence making his first career start and Kelly Bryant no longer with the team, there are plenty of layers to Syracuse’s date with Clemson on Saturday.
In July, this game was circled on every Clemson and Syracuse fan’s calendar as “the rematch.” Fast forward to late September and that is at best the third most talked about topic ahead of the game. Not only is Syracuse 4-0, but Clemson is making a major shift at quarterback. And as if that wasn’t enough…
— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) September 26, 2018
It will be interesting to see how Lawrence responds to his first true moment in the spotlight. Sure, he’s plenty of meaningful snaps this year, but he’s always had Bryant to protect him. On Saturday, it’s sink or swim time. How does Syracuse plan to slow the five-star recruit down? We’ll have to wait and see. However, if Lawrence for some reason has to leave the game, don’t get too excited. Clemson’s new backup Chase Brice is more than qualified to see the field against the Orange, reminding us of just how big of a football factory Clemson has become.
On the Syracuse side, how do they move the ball against what’s regarded as one of the best defensive lines ever. With first round draft picks across the board, the Tigers present a challenge that SU hasn’t come close to facing so far this year. Yes, the offensive line is much improved, but is it ready for a challenge as big as this one? If not, that will push Eric Dungey out of the pocket, increasing his chance of getting knocked out of the game.
Gimme That Stat
- 90%. That’s Lawrence’s completion percentage during his first drive of each Clemson game this season. The lone incompletion came on his first pass against Furman earlier in the season. Since then, he’s 9-9 with 167 yards and two touchdowns (woah).
Keys to the Game
- Getting pressure on Lawrence: this one’s so simple, yet so true. If the Orange want to have any chance in this game, they have to make Lawrence uncomfortable. If the reports are true, this kid is phased by basically nothing. The best way to throw off a young quarterback is to put him on the turf. With the talent that Clemson has on the offensive line, that won’t be easy. SU needs to be creative with its blitz packages in order to make an early statement.
- Special teams magic: So far, this has been a strength for the Orange. Sean Riley looks as good as he ever has, while the kicking and punting units continue to do their jobs. That must continue on Saturday. Every punt has to be perfect. Every field goal and extra point has to go in. If that happens, Syracuse could be a few big plays away from pulling off the upset (*see LSU last year*).
- Enjoy the moment: In talking to the players this week, you can tell they’re not trying to hype this game up too much. If the Orange enjoys its time in Clemson, that will lead to a more relaxed style of football. Sticking to the basics will give SU a shot to stun one of the best crowds in the country.
Many think a close loss against Clemson could propel Syracuse inside the AP Top-25. I’m not so sure. Regardless, I don’t see the Orange in shouting distance in the fourth quarter to begin with. The game stays close in the first half, but the Tigers pull away in the third quarter. Final Score: Clemson 38, Syracuse 21