Orange is only Atlantic Division team to beat Clemson the last three years
That’s how all of Clemson felt after last season’s 27-24 loss to Syracuse at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y., on October 13 of last year.
This year, Tigers will be back home to face the Orange in their ACC home opener on Sept. 29 in Death Valley. And you can bet they will be looking to avenge their only regular season loss from a season ago.
Prior to last year’s upset Clemson had won four in a row in the series, including a 54-0 beat down at Death Valley in 2016. To make matters worse, Syracuse did not win another game the rest of 2017, finishing the season 4-8 overall and 2-6 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Mike Lynch was promoted to the role of offensive coordinator for 2018. He is in his seventh season working with head coach Dino Babers and in his third year at Syracuse. Defensive coordinator Brian Ward was a Broyles Award nominee after the Orange moved up 69 spots in the final NCAA statistical rankings from the previous season in third-down defense, finishing 13th nationally at 31.1 percent. They also allowed 6.4 fewer points and 57.1 fewer total yards per game than in 2016.
Coming into this season Syracuse is returning five offensive line players with a full season of starting experience. Airon Servais, Sam Heckel, Evan Adams and Cody Conway started all 12 games a year ago. The Orange are also bringing back Aaron Roberts, who started every game at left guard in 2016, but missed last season due to a knee injury.
They will protect returning starting quarterback Eric Dungey, who was limited in the spring after off-season foot surgery. The senior handled Clemson last season with 339 yards of total offense and three touchdowns.
Unfortunately, for the Orange, they did not do any major signing during the off-season that would drastically help them for this season. Their 2018 signing class did not include a single player regarded as a four-star prospect by Rivals.com, whereas Clemson signed 12 such prospects.
However, Syracuse did sign three-star Mississippi running back Jarveon Howard, who rushed for more than 1,500 yards and 21 touchdowns on 118 carries as a high-school senior.
With that being said, Babers is still confident in his team and their abilities as well as the freshman class coming into Syracuse this year.
“I feel like we know more not only about our opponents, but about ourselves, which is probably the most important thing,” he said. “So based off of that, I think that we’re ahead.
“Now we’re going to still need the freshman class. We’ve got some really good freshmen coming in that we believe are going to be able to get into some of our depth. We’re going to have to see. If that’s the case, we’ll have to reevaluate everything from there. But right now we feel like we have a good grip on what’s going on.”
There were very few teams that were able to keep the Tigers’ talent pass-rushers at bay last season, but Syracuse schemed them almost perfectly, relying on a fast-tempo offense and quick-hitting passes to neutralize rush ends Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant as well as the rest of the defense.
More surprisingly is that Dungey was able to burn Clemson for big plays with a 66-yard pass and 45-yard run on the day. There’s no reason to believe this game will be close given the ultimate talent gap between the two teams. Then again, there was no reason to believe it last season either.
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