SYRACUSE, N.Y. — After opening the 2019 season with two victories at Memorial Stadium, No. 1 Clemson makes its road debut tonight when it faces Syracuse at The Dome at 7:30.
The teams played one of college football’s most compelling games a season ago, when Clemson overcame a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit for a 27-23 victory. Backup quarterback Chase Brice, who had entered the week as the team’s third-string quarterback, etched his name in Clemson lore after entering the contest in relief of an injured Trevor Lawrence and guiding Clemson on its 13-play, 94-yard game-winning drive.
Of course, the last time the Tigers visited Syracuse was the last time they lost a regular season game. Two years ago, the Orange knocked out then starting quarterback Kelly Bryant and then carried the momentum of an inspired performance from former quarterback Eric Dungey to hand then No. 2 Clemson a 27-24 loss.
The Tigers have since won 19 consecutive regular season games and 14 straight wins over ACC competition.
The victory against Syracuse last year represented the fifth win of Clemson’s active 17-game winning streak, which is presently tied for the school record set previously across the 2014-15 campaigns. The current group will attempt to earn the record outright with an 18th straight victory, which would also put Clemson in sole possession of the second-longest streak in ACC history.
Who has the edge in this year’s contest?
Clemson’s O-Line vs. Syracuse’s defensive front: One of the big storylines in this year’s game will be the Tigers’ ability to protect quarterback Trevor Lawrence the entire game. In each of the last three years, Syracuse has knocked out the Tigers’ starting quarterback. Clemson has managed to win two of those three games, but the one loss came at Syracuse. In the last two years, Syracuse has sacked the Tigers 8 times, two more times than anyone else they have played. The Orange enters today’s game with 9 sacks already this season, which is tied for second in the ACC. However, Clemson is tied for third in the conference with just two sacks allowed. The biggest match up will be left tackle Jackson Carman and right tackle Tremayne Anchrum going against Syracuse defensive ends Alton Robinson and Kendell Coleman, who are considered two of the ACC’s best pass rushers. It doesn’t help the Tigers that Carman is making his first road start and is going up against two All-ACC caliber defensive ends. Advantage: Syracuse
Clemson’s D-Line vs. Syracuse’s offensive line: One of the areas of concern to start this season was how Clemson’s young and inexperienced defensive front would do. Through the first two games, so far so good. The Tigers held Texas A&M to just 53 yards rushing and 1.96 yards per carry a week ago. They also got after the quarterback the entire game and disrupted the rhythm of the A&M offense. They will have to do the same thing tonight. Through the first two game, Syracuse has struggled to run the football with any consistency, including just 70 rushing yards in last week’s loss at Maryland. The offense has also allowed six sacks in two games, which bodes well for a Clemson defensive front that so far has placed a lot of pressure on the quarterback and is yielding just 2.9 yards per carry. Advantage: Clemson
Syracuse’s QB Tommy DeVito vs. Clemson’s secondary: DeVito’s first two games as the Orange’s starting quarterback have come with mixed reviews. He struggled in his team’s opening win at Liberty, just completing just 17 of 35 passes for 176 yards and was intercepted twice with no touchdowns. He did play better in last week’s loss at Maryland. However, most of his production came after the Orange had already fallen way behind. He completed 28 of 39 throws for 330 yards and 3 touchdowns with another interception. He will have to play much better if he wants to give his team a shot to upset the Tigers this year. In two games, the Tigers’ secondary has played really well, especially in last week’s win over Texas A&M. The Tigers’ limited Kellen Mond to 24 of 42 passing for just 236 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. Is was a nice bounce back performance by the secondary after Mond threw for 430 yards on Clemson in the 2018 matchup. Clemson used exotic coverages to confuse Mond, look for defensive coordinator Brent Venables to do similar things tonight to try and confuse the inexperienced DeVito. Advantage: Clemson
Travis Etienne vs. Syracuse’s rushing defense: Syracuse’s defense looked really good in Week 1 when it held Liberty to just minus-4 yards rushing on 34 carries. However last week, Maryland went for 354 yards on the ground, as three different players rushed for 75 or more yards in the game. Travis Etienne, who rushed for 203 yards in last year’s game against the Orange, is second in the ACC in rushing yards (258) and average per game (129.0) but is first in yards per carry (9.2). Look for Clemson to try and will its rushing attack on Syracuse again this year and try to play off what Maryland was able to do to the Orange’s defense a week ago. Advantage: Clemson
Trevor Lawrence vs. Syracuse’s secondary: So far this year, Lawrence has played well overall, but he has not played up to the level many people expected he would through the first two games. He bounced back from a so-so performance against Georgia Tech to play much better against Texas A&M. However, Lawrence admitted he left a few throws on the field that he felt stopped the Tigers from scoring more points. So, look for the Tigers’ signal-caller to continue to improve as the season goes along. Like Lawrence, the Syracuse secondary has been a little up and down. After a very good performance against Liberty in the first week, it struggled to stop Maryland’s Josh Jackson last week. Jackson threw for nearly 300 yards, 296 to be exact, and 3 touchdowns. He completed 21 of 38 throws and was intercepted once. Advantage: Clemson
Bottom Line: Syracuse will come out and play much better than it did in its loss to Maryland. However, Clemson is looking to continue its “Leave No Doubt” tour as it tries to build momentum for another run at the College Football Playoff. The Tigers have a ton of respect for Syracuse head coach Dino Babers and his program. With that, the Orange’s element of surprise will not be there this year as it was the last time the Tigers played at The Dome. Clemson knows what to expect from the Orange. They know Syracuse believes it can play with Clemson and will be a confident ball team. However, if the Tigers can take care of the football—that will be the biggest challenge considering they have turned it over 3 times in each of the last two meetings—their talent will shine through tonight.
Prediction: Clemson 41, Syracuse 17
—Clemson Athletic Communications contributed to this story
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