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Wednesday's Thoughts

Another road game at night, another tough test

Through the first six weeks of the season, second-ranked Clemson has traveled to Louisville for a night game where ESPN’s College GameDay Show was on the scene. It was a blackout game for the Cardinals and the atmosphere was pretty intense.

Two weeks later, the Tigers were back on the road again for a prime time game, this time at Virginia Tech, and once again the GameDay crew was on hand, fans wore maroon T-shirts and the atmosphere was electric.

Well, guess what? Clemson hits the road for a third time Friday night and again the game will be played in prime time. I’m not exactly sure what Syracuse has planned as far as its color scheme goes, but it is sure to be something where the atmosphere will seem challenging, again.

However, there is no GameDay Show on hand this week as the Tigers face a Syracuse team that is 3-3 through the first six weeks of the season and 1-1 in the ACC. But don’t think that means this will be an easy road trip for Clemson.

“It seems that every time we go on the road, it’s some night game with an electric crowd…I know it’ll be a great crowd,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “That’s a good environment, and we really had a tough time up there a couple of years ago. They had a bunch of big plays on us, and we were fortunate to get out of there.”

The Tigers (6-0, 4-0) will be fortunate if they can leave the Carrier Dome with their 13th straight road win on Friday. The Orange will give Clemson a more difficult challenge then most expect, especially on the offensive side of the football.

The Orange is averaging 466.8 yards and 32 points per game. They are also averaging 84 plays a game.  Quarterback Eric Dungey is second in the conference in passing, averaging 300.3 yards per outing, while completing 64.4 percent of his passes.

“They have a great system,” Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. “This is the second year within that system and a quarterback that is very confident. He has a big arm and he his mobile… They are doing a great job distributing the ball.

“They get the ball out fast and they make a lot of big-time plays. It is going to be a huge challenge for us.”

Wide receiver Steve Ishmael leads the ACC with 729 yards and three touchdowns. He is averaging 121.5 yards per game. His teammate Ervin Phillips is third with 452 yards and is averaging 79.2 yards per game.

“They play very fast. If you watch them at all, you’ll understand their system,” Swinney said. “If you give them any grass at all, they’re going to take it. They get the ball out quickly, and it’s really hard to get to him. If you press him, it’s catch, cock and throw. The ball is going downfield in a hurry, so there’s a lot of 50-50 balls and a lot of competitive plays.

“Their spread sweep gets the ball on the perimeter as fast as you can get it, and by the way, they’ve got a 280-pound running back this year, which is crazy. And they actually do hand the ball to him some, so they do some neat stuff.”

In other words, it’s going to be another tough road game for the Tigers, but what else is new. And oh, by the way, it does not get any easier. The Tigers last two road games of the season are at No. 20 NC State (Nov. 4) and at rival South Carolina (Nov. 25) in the regular season finale.

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