Syracuse and Clemson meet in what could prove to be an important ACC contest for the Orange on Friday, October 13, 2017.
With a victory against Pitt last week, Syracuse moved back to .500 at 3-3, but they need 3 more victories to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2013. With road matchups against Miami, N.C. State, and Florida State coming up, even with Clemson ranked as the No. 2 team in the nation, having them at home on a short week could prove to be one of the three most winnable games left for the Orange.
As for the Tigers, they 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.
Find game time, TV channel and how to watch online information below.
Syracuse-Clemson football TV channel, time, live stream
Date: Friday, October 13
Time: 7 p.m.
TV Channel: ESPN
Online Stream: WatchESPN
Syracuse-Clemson football picks, odds
Pick: Clemson 48.9-13.6 (from the OddsShark computer)
Odds: Clemson -21.5
Syracuse-Clemson preview, keys to the game
Regardless of how the Clemson quarterback situation unfolds, the Orange face, by far, the most difficult matchup offensively of the year. 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 quarterback Eric 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 redzone 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 the Orange are going to pull off the upset, they must take advantage of every opportunity they receive, and that includes cashing in close to the goal line with touchdowns instead of field goals.
It would also help if the offensive line protected Dungey a little bit better. The Orange have allowed 2.5 sacks per game, which is the fourth-most in the conference. The Clemson defensive line ranks third in the country with 22 sacks, so they could give the Orange line fits all night long.
For Clemson, the biggest storyline is whether Bryant will play behind center. 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.
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