Clemson comes back home to honor its military heritage as it host Syracuse on Military Appreciation Day at Clemson Memorial Stadium on Saturday. Here are five noteworthy numbers to consider as the Tigers look to go 9-0 on the season.
6.7: Home margin of victory against FBS competition this season for Clemson. If that seems low, it’s because it is, especially during the Dabo Swinney era. Since Swinney took over as permanent head coach prior to 2009, the Tigers are 39-5 against FBS opponents at Memorial Stadium. That includes a perfect 3-0 record thus far in 2016. Coming into this season, in 41 home contests against FBS schools, Clemson’s average point differential was +14.4. Only six of those games were single-digit wins, meaning the Tigers won by double figures at home 30 times over Swinney’s first seven full seasons. After six-point wins over Troy and Louisville and a seven-point win over N.C. State, Clemson is still looking for its first double-digit home victory in 2016.
8.8: Penalties committed per game by Clemson’s opponents this season. Only Arizona and California have benefited more frequently from opposition mistakes. Foes of the Tigers will likely point to dumb luck or questionable officiating as a reason for Clemson’s unbeaten start, but this stat actually makes sense. The Tigers have faced five of the nation’s 30 most-penalized teams already, meaning they aren’t just being flagged when they face Clemson. That group includes three of the nation’s six worst teams in this regard: Troy, Louisville, and N.C. State. Another factor is that Clemson’s frequent line shifts and home venue are conducive to dead ball penalties on the offense, a fact opponents should know all-too-well by now.
22: Sacks allowed by Syracuse this season. That ranks ahead of only Florida State in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The news gets worse for the Orange’s offensive line. Dino Babers’ offense has allowed a league-worst 57 tackles for loss in 2016. That could be a recipe for disaster against a Clemson defense that leads the league with 31 sacks and ranks second with 73 tackles for loss. To provide a broader context, the Tigers are tied for third in both categories nationally on defense, while the Orange rank among the bottom 30 in both on offense. Certainly the pace at which Syracuse plays has something to do with those high numbers, but there is undoubtedly a weakness up front that Clemson can exploit in this matchup.
84: Plays Syracuse has run per game this season. That is the seventh-highest per-game number in the country and tops in the ACC. Babers said in the preseason that his team would play fast no matter what, and the first-year head coach has kept his promise in that regard. In advanced stats parlance, the Orange are ranked sixth with a +10.7 adjusted pace (0.0 is the national average), while Clemson ranks 29th at +4.2. There is no question that the Orange will try to snap the ball quickly, but there are two caveats to the speed at which they play. First, they disrupt the flow of possessions with lengthy snap counts at awkward times so defenses can’t establish any rhythm. Second, while Syracuse may be quick to snap the ball, its offense isn’t exactly efficient. The Orange are in the middle of the pack nationally in points per game and just beneath the midway point in terms of success rate.
134.3: Receiving yards per game for Syracuse wide receiver Amba Etta-Tawo. His numbers are outpacing the rest of the conference by outrageously wide margins. The second-most productive wideout in the league—North Carolina’s Ryan Switzer—is averaging nearly 50 receiving yards less than Etta-Tawo per game. The Maryland transfer is on pace to approach the historic 1998 season posted by NC State’s Torry Holt, who amassed 1,604 receiving yards in only 11 games. He averaged 145.8 yards per game during that record-setting campaign, still a good bit better than Etta-Tawo’s pace to this point. However, given an extra game to play, Etta-Tawo’s current pace would put him at 1,611 yards for the year, making him the ACC’s all-time single season leader in single-season receiving yardage. Clemson will have its hands full with him.