Clemson and Syracuse meet in what might be one of the biggest trap games of the ACC football season on Friday, October 13, 2017.
The Tigers come into this matchup beat up at the quarterback position. Starter Kelly Bryant sustained an ankle injury last Saturday against Wake Forest. While coach Dabo Swinney is encouraged Bryant might play, Clemson will have to prepare its backup quarterbacks as well.
Syracuse is coming off a major victory against Pitt, which put the Orange back at the .500 mark. Quarterback Eric Dungey has accumulated more than 2,000 yards of offense, including 1,802 passing yards and 9 touchdowns versus 4 interceptions.
Find the score and live updates below.
Clemson-Syracuse football score, live updates
Clemson-Syracuse football preview, picks
Pick: Clemson 48.9-13.6 (from the OddsShark computer)
Odds: Clemson -21.5
Clemson-Syracuse preview, keys to the game
The status of Bryant is the biggest storyline heading into this Week 7 matchup. He took a helmet to the knee against Wake Forest, but his ankle is the big question mark.
Bryant hasn’t been Deshaun Watson, but he’s kept the Tigers offense humming early this year. The junior quarterback has completed 67.3 percent of his passes for 1,259 yards, 11 total touchdowns, including 7 on the ground, and 4 interceptions. He’s also chipped in 401 rushing yards.
If Bryant is unable to play, Clemson will be forced to turn to a pair of freshman behind center – Hunter Johnson and Zerrick Cooper. Johnson will likely receive the first crack to play after his strong relief performance Saturday. He went 5 for 5 with 42 yards and a touchdown coming on for Bryant versus Wake Forest. Cooper also played, going 2 of 6 for 16 yards.
Regardless of who plays quarterback, Syracuse will have to deal with the most difficult ACC defense. Clemson has allowed just 11.3 points per game, which is fifth-best in the entire country. The Tigers are also ranked eighth in the nation with 264.3 yards allowed per contest.
It will largely be up to Dungey and the Syracuse passing attack to move the ball against the Tigers. Syracuse averages 325.0 passing yards per game, which is second in the ACC only to Louisville. The Orange are only 10th in the conference in rushing yards per game.
But the below average running game isn’t Syracuse’s biggest offensive problem. That would be the team’s redzone offense. Syracuse has moved inside the opposition’s 20-yard line 30 times this year, which is second-most in the ACC only to Louisville, yet they have only scored 15 touchdowns. Their 50.0 percent redzone touchdown percentage is tied for third-worst in the conference.
Clemson largely avoids those types of mistakes, as the Tigers have scored touchdowns on 17 of their 20 redzone possessions (85.0 percent).
If Syracuse is going to pull off the upset, the Orange must take advantage of every opportunity they receive, and that includes cashing in close to the goal line with touchdowns instead of field goals.
But not many are going to give Syracuse a chance in this one and for good reason. Not only are the Tigers much more efficient in the redzone than the Orange, the Clemson defensive line is one of, if not, the very best in the country. The Tigers have 22.0 sacks, 14.5 of which have come from the defensive line, in the first six games.
Meanwhile, Syracuse has allowed 15.0 sacks – the fourth-most in the conference this year. It could be a long night for Dungey and the Orange offensive line.
One could argue that this game is actually more important for the Orange, as they are looking for their first bowl bid since 2013 and need three more victories to get there. But should Clemson win, the Tigers will move to 7-0 for the third straight year.
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