By William Qualkinbush.
Syracuse visits Death Valley Saturday night for an Atlantic Division battle. TCI takes a look at how the game break down By the Number.
8: Consecutive games in which Vic Beasley recorded a sack prior to last week’s game. Prior to last week’s contest, in which Beasley was held to just two tackles, the last time the senior was held sackless in a game was on November 23, 2013, against The Citadel. The eight-game streak was the second-longest in the nation, behind only Washington’s Hau’oli Kikaha—the nation’s leader in sacks with 12.5. Beasley sits in a tie for fourth place nationally with eight sacks, and the Georgia native will have his hands full with future pro Sean Hickey, Syracuse’s left tackle. Hickey is the leader of an offensive line that has only allowed five sacks all season.
19: First quarter points scored by Syracuse. Simply put, this offense has been atrocious at the beginning of games this season. The only first-quarter touchdown the Orange have scored came midway through the first stanza of the season opener against Villanova, when Prince-Tyson Gulley broke away for a 65-yard run. Since then, the only scoring has been produced by four field goals in six games. That’s not a recipe for success against Clemson’s defense, which hasn’t given up more than two yards on an opponent’s opening possession this season and has held its opponents to only 20 points scored in the first quarter—and 14 of those points came in the season opener against Georgia. Put another way, in the past six games, Syracuse’s offense has scored an average of two points in the first quarter, while Clemson’s defense has allowed an average of one point in the first quarter. It seems pretty clear how this game should begin.
22.4: Yards per reception for Mike Williams this season. That per-catch average leads the nation among receivers with 30 or more catches and ranks eighth overall and third in the ACC. Williams was in a groove with Deshaun Watson until the freshman got hurt in the Louisville game. The lanky sophomore had become Watson’s favorite downfield target, averaging 26.0 yards per catch on passes from Watson. But Cole Stoudt has taken advantage of Williams’ capabilities too, finding him eight times against Boston College. For the season, Williams is averaging 18.1 yards per completion on throws from Stoudt. That average should rise if Syracuse continues to (for some reason) play zero coverage against the Tigers’ wideouts as it did last season
38: Average margin of victory in this series. These two teams have only squared off twice, but neither has been particularly enjoyable to watch. Last season’s meeting was obviously a blowout, with Clemson winning 49-14 and basically shutting things down in the third quarter. The first showdown between the schools was on New Year’s Day 1996, when the Orange (then the Orangemen) beat the brakes off the Tigers 41-0 in Jacksonville. Donovan McNabb and Marvin Harrison led that Syracuse team—maybe you’ve heard of them? (That game happens to be the first Clemson bowl game I can remember. It’s a fond first memory, obviously.)
323: Rushing yardage gained by the Orange against the Tigers last season. Granted, much of that yardage came after halftime, but it was a black mark on the Tigers’ defense in 2013. That effort against the rush stands as the third-worst against a Brent Venables defense at Clemson, behind only this year’s Georgia game and the 2012 game against Georgia Tech. Syracuse is similarly capable of running the football in 2014, so this remains a concern for the Tigers. However, Clemson currently ranks 15th nationally against the run and have only given up 395 yards on the ground over the past six games—a remarkable average of only 65.8 yards per game.