Countdown to Kickoff: No. 1 Clemson at Syracuse

Countdown to Kickoff: No. 1 Clemson at Syracuse

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Countdown to Kickoff: No. 1 Clemson at Syracuse

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Top-ranked Clemson returns to The Dome for the first time since it lost to Syracuse there in 2017.

This will be Clemson’s first road game of the season after taking care of business against Georgia Tech in the season opener and then No. 12 Texas A&M in Week 2. Both games were at Death Valley.

It is Syracuse’s first game of the year at home. They opened the season with a 24-0 win at Liberty and then were beat 63-20 at Maryland last week. The win knocked the Orange out of the national rankings.

The Tigers have won 19 of their last 20 true road games, dating back to the start of the 2015 season. The lone defeat came at Syracuse in 2017.

Game Information

Where: The Dome, Syracuse, New York

Records: Clemson 2-0, 1-0 ACC; Syracuse 1-1, 0-0 ACC

When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

TV: ABC (Sean McDonough, Kirk Herbstreit, Maria Taylor)

Radio: Clemson Tigers Network (Don Munson, Tim Bourret, Reggie Merriweather); ESPN Radio (Sean Kelley, Barrett Jones, Ian Fitzsimmons); Sirius 108, XM 194, Internet 956

Latest Line: Clemson minus-27.5

Series History: Clemson leads 5-2

Last meeting: September 29, 2018, Clemson won 27-23 at Death Valley

Three story lines

Clemson returns to the scene of the crime where the Orange knocked off the then second-ranked Tigers, 27-24, two years ago at The Dome. Clemson was heavily favored in that game as well and a Cuse team that finished the year 4-8 just physically outplayed, outcoached and outhustled the Tigers. The Orange did not win another game after that. Clemson has won 19 straight regular season games since that loss on Oct. 13, 2017. The Tigers have won 14 straight games against ACC competition since then and currently own the nation’s longest overall win streak at 17 consecutive wins. A win on Saturday would extend the Tigers’ streak to 18 which would be a new school record.

Can the Tigers keep their starting quarterback safe? In each of the last three seasons, Syracuse has knocked out the Tigers’ starting quarterback. Deshaun Watson injured his shoulder in the second quarter against the Orange in 2016, but they still managed to win the game 54-0 on the way to the national championship. In 2017, Kelly Bryant, who was playing a bummed ankle already, was thrown to the grown hard and suffered a concussion in the second quarter. Clemson lost the game, 27-24. Last year, Trevor Lawrence fell into a tackle and suffered a neck strain in the second quarter against Syracuse, which caused him to leave the game. Chase Brice came off the bench and led the Tigers on two-fourth quarter drives, while running back Travis Etienne rushed for 203 yards and three touchdowns in a, 27-23, come-from-behind win at Death Valley. Etienne scored the winning touchdown with 41 seconds to play and Clemson went on to win a second national championship in three years.

Can the Tigers take care of the football? In each of the last two games against the Orange, Clemson has failed to secure the football in critical moments. They had three turnovers in the loss at Syracuse in 2017 and last year they turned it over three times again, but still found a way to overcome them. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney does not want to see a repeat on Saturday because it will just make life harder in what will be a hostile environment against a team that is hungry and still smarting from last week’s 43-point loss at Maryland.

Syracuse’s three players to watch

Tommy DeVito, QB: The redshirt sophomore completed 71.8 percent of his passes (28-39) for 330 yards in Week 2 at Maryland. It was the first 300-yard passing game of DeVito’s young career and the 11th by a sophomore in team history.

Moe Neal, RB: Neal enters this the weekend 150 yards shy of becoming the 23rd player in program history to amass 2,000 career rushing yards. In 39 games, Neal has run for 1,850 yards on 341 carries. Neal’s average of 5.43 yards per carry is fifth on the SU career list behind Ernie Davis (6.63), Jim Brown (5.79), Robert Drummond (5.51) and Walter Reyes (5.48). Neal l has 90 receiving yards on nine catches this season (fourth-most among FBS running backs in 2019), including a personal-best 54 receiving yards against Liberty on Aug. 31.

Trishton Jackson, WR: Jackson is the latest to take advantage, catching seven passes for 157 yards against Maryland to make him the ninth receiver who has gone for 150-plus yards in 39 games under head coach Dino Babers.

Prediction:

There is no doubt Babers will have his team fired up to play better after last week’s 43-point loss at Syracuse. The Orange will come out ready to play and the announced sellout crowd at The Dome will give the Tigers a hostile environment. But unlike two years ago, when ‘Cuse stunned Clemson, the Tigers will be a focused and prepared for a Syracuse program they have ton of respect for.

Clemson 41, Syracuse 17

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