By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
No. 3 Clemson travels to Syracuse Saturday as they look to move to 5-0 on the season and 3-0 in the ACC.
When the Orange have the ball: Quarterback Terrel Hunt came off the bench in the Wagner game and played well, which led to his first career start the next week vs. Tulane. In both games, the Syracuse offense produced more than 400 yards and 50 points. He brings a little more running dimension to their scheme. Hunt is completing 74 percent of his passes. The offensive line is physical and strong. Center Macky McPherson is a Remington Award Candidate, while running backs Jerome Smith and Prince Tyson-Gulley are big backs that run really well. Smith, who is a physical runner, had over 1,100 yards last year and leads the ACC with the seven touchdowns this season.
When the Tigers have the ball: The Syracuse defense is one of the more aggressive defenses Clemson has seen. The Orange likes to blitz in a lot of different situations and from a lot of different directions. They bring a ton of pressure and force the offense to be very sound in what it wants to do. They will not allow quarterback Tajh Boyd to hold the ball long, so he will have to be quick with is read, especially pre-snap. This will leave Clemson with a lot of one-on-one matchups with Sammy Watkins and the rest of the Clemson receivers. Syracuse ranks 12th in the ACC in pass defense and has given up seven touchdowns through the air so far. Defensive tackle Jay Bromley has three sacks and five tackles for loss.
Keep an eye on:
Running back Jerome Smith: Smith is a physical runner who leads the ACC with seven touchdowns so far this season. He rushed for more than 1,100 yards last year.
Clemson has won nine straight ACC games, tied for the third longest winning streak in league play in the nation. Northern Illinois has the longest with 17 in a row, while Stanford has 10 straight wins over Pac 12 teams. Clemson, Ohio State and Oklahoma all have won nine in a row in league play, while Florida State and Utah State have eight apiece.
Clemson’s last ACC loss came at Florida State last year by a 49-37 score. The Tigers have won all nine games by at least 12 points.
Clemson’s nine-game winning streak against ACC foes is the longest for the Clemson program since the Tigers won 20 in a row from 1981-84.
To win, the Orange must…
They have to run the ball: The Orange will be starting a sophomore quarterback in Hunt so they will want to take some of the pressure off him and keep him out of third-and-long situations. To do that they will need running back Jerome Smith to carry the load in the running game as well as Prince Tyson-Gulley. The offensive line is big and physical so they need to try and impose their will on the Clemson defense.
They have to force turnovers: Syracuse has not beaten a top 3 team since 1984 and to beat No. 3 Clemson it will need a few gifts from the Tigers. It is doable, especially with a secondary that has five interceptions this year and a defense that brings a ton of pressure.
Pressure Tajh: It does not matter how good a quarterback is, if you get to him and hit him a lot it will affect his game. Boyd is no different. As crazy as it sounds, this is Syracuse best chance to win this game. If the Orange can get to Boyd more often than not, then they will have a chance. If Clemson picks up the pressures than this game could be over early.
To win, the Tigers must…
Protect Tajh: Clemson struggled protecting Boyd against NC State, especially early on. The Tigers had some confusion up front and there were a few missed assignments. Even Boyd admitted he had trouble calling the protections in that game.
Stop Smith: This, in my opinion, is the key to the whole game. If the Tigers can shut down Smith and the running game then Hunt will be forced to win the game on his own. And though he has played well the last two weeks, Clemson’s defense, with Vic Beasley, Shaq Lawson and Grady Jarrett, is a little bit better than Wagner’s and Tulane’s defense.
Tempo: Syracuse players came out earlier this week and talked about how hot and humid the Carrier Dome was and how they think it might neutralize the playing field with Clemson. So they forgot they are now in the ACC and Clemson is from the South. This isn’t Boston College, West Virginia or even Virginia Tech coming to town like in the old Big East. The heat will not affect Clemson’s game, but it can hurt the Orange, especially if the Tigers tempo is going well on offense. Clemson is built to use the heat to wear down its opponents if the offense is clicking… See LSU, a team from the South that played Clemson in an indoor stadium with air conditioning.