(3) Clemson (4-0) at Syracuse (2-2)|
Saturday, October 5, 3:30 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Nicholas DeLorenzo, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The third-ranked Clemson Tigers put their unblemished mark on the
line once again, as they take on the Syracuse Orange this Saturday in an
Atlantic Coast Conference clash at the Carrier Dome.
Clemson had high expectations coming into the season, as it was ranked No. 8
in the preseason poll, but an outstanding 4-0 start has allowed the team to
climb all the way to No. 3, and its opening night win over Georgia solidified
it as a legitimate national title contender. The Tigers have begun their slate
of ACC tilts at 2-0, dismissing NC State on the road (26-14), and making easy
work of Wake Forest at home (56-7).
"Our team is growing and improving," Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. "We
played outstanding in all three aspects of the game (against Wake Forest). I'm
really pleased with the growth, and it was just a great day for our football
team. We're 4-0 and we know how to win."
Syracuse's season got off on the wrong foot, as it lost a pair of difficult
games against Big Ten foes Penn State (23-17) and Northwestern (48-27), both
away from home. Since then, however, the Orange have been able to beat up on
lesser competition, kicking off its current three-game homestand with blowout
wins over Wagner (54-0) and Tulane (52-17) to even out at 2-2. The victory
versus the Green Wave was the program's 700th all-time, making it just the
16th in FBS history to reach that mark.
"It means a lot," head coach Scott Shafer said following the historic win on
Sept. 21. "We have such a storied tradition here. It's one of the most
underrated traditions in the country in my opinion."
These newly-minted ACC rivals have met just once before, with Syracuse winning
the 1996 Gator Bowl, 41-0.
Clemson's offense has been high-powered through the first four games, as it
ranks third in the conference in both scoring (43.0 ppg) and yardage (491.8
ypg). The unit is one of the most efficient in the nation, converting more
than 50 percent of its third-down attempts and committing just two turnovers.
Tahj Boyd has been nothing short of outstanding under center. The Heisman
hopeful has completed 64 percent of his passes for 994 yards, rushed for
another 159 yards, and has accounted for 13 total touchdowns without throwing
Roderick McDowell spearheads a strong rushing attack with 253 yards, but he
has yet to find the end zone. He is listed as probable for this bout with an
ankle injury, but in the event he can't go, D.J. Howard (104 yards, TD), Zac
Brooks (92 yards, TD) and C.J. Davidson (88 yards, two TDs) would all be in
line for larger workloads.
Sammy Watkins is Boyd's preferred target in the passing game, racking up 355
yards on 25 receptions while scoring a pair of touchdowns. In all, 19 players
have caught a pass this season.
The Tigers are far from a one-dimensional team, however, as their defense has
stepped up this season in limiting opponents to 17.3 ppg, and Swinney knows
that the unit's success will be key in whether or not it can contend for a
"Our defense has improved greatly, starting with the second half of last
season and it has carried over to now," Swinney said. "They are playing sound,
fundamental football. Our defense is giving our offense the ball. They're
doing a tremendous job."
The defense is led by Stephone Anthony, who has 44 tackles, 3.5 TFL, a sack, a
forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Vic Beasley is a great pass rusher,
tallying 6.0 sacks this season.
Syracuse has scored a total of 106 points in its first two home games to up
its season average to 37.5 ppg. The club racks up 423.5 ppg while converting
third downs at an impressive 46 percent clip.
After Drew Allen began the season as the starter and proved to be ineffective
(.575, two TDs, six INTs), he was replaced by Terrel Hunt, and the results of
the change could not have gone any better for the Orange. Hunt has completed
nearly 78 percent of his passes (33-of-43) for 468 yards with seven touchdowns
and no interceptions.
Jerome Smith (217 yards) earns the most work out of the backfield, and while
he averages a modest 4.3 yards per carry, he has a nose for the end zone with
Ashton Broyld (155 yards) has a team-high 19 catches, doing most of his work
between the 20s, while Chris Clark (202 yards, three TDs) and Jarrod West (211
yards, TD) are more viable down field threats.
The Syracuse defense has performed well, allowing 22.0 ppg and 337.8 ypg, but
surprisingly, in an league filled with great defenses, both numbers rank in
the bottom half of the standings.
Cameron Lynch has team-best 22 tackles to go along with 3.5 TFL, a sack, an
interception and three pass breakups. Jay Bromley has made his mark behind the
line of scrimmage with 5.0 TFL, 3.0 sacks and two forced fumbles.
With Syracuse playing well, especially at the Carrier Dome, this could turn
out to be a trap game for Clemson if it turns an eye to other, seemingly more
difficult contests with Florida State and Maryland. Don't expect the Tigers to
come out flat, however, as Swinney has proven time and time again that he is
capable of getting his guys up for these important conference bouts.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Clemson 35, Syracuse 21
10/02 10:37:00 ET