Last week’s results
No. 3 Clemson (4-0, 2-0 ACC) beat Wake Forest 56-7.
Syracuse (2-2, 0-0 ACC) beat Tulane 52-17 Sept. 21; off last week.
Can Clemson handle the Carrier Dome?
Clemson’s recent forays to the ACC’s northern outposts have been less than smooth. Two years ago, the Tigers trailed Maryland 35-17 in the third quarter before rallying for a 56-45 win. Last fall, they trailed Boston College 21-17 late in the first half before pulling away for a hard-fought 45-31 victory.
Together, those teams combined for four wins, two over FBS teams.
So there is reason for concern regarding the Tigers’ first-ever trip to Syracuse, who plays in the 49,000-seat Carrier Dome, one of two domed stadiums in the FBS. Clemson played in the Georgia Dome twice last season, so most players on its roster are familiar with the logistics of playing indoors.
“Wherever we play, kick off, we just go play, no excuses,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “We don’t make any excuses or give our guys any excuses. I think our guys will be excited about it. It’s a new place.”
However, the Carrier Dome, with its lack of air conditioning and stands set very close to the playing surface, can be a hostile place for opposing teams. Swinney said he will take his team on a Friday walk-through of the stadium, something he doesn’t normally do on road trips.
“It’s just a field,” Swinney said. “It’s still football, all the same. The noise will be a little more compact. Defense will be very quiet for our guys. Our defense plays with tremendous noise at home. It’s loud, so we don’t huddle on defense, and there’s no way we can practice any faster than what we practice from a defensive standpoint. Going on the road, we can actually talk to each other on defense. Offense will be the challenge.”
Will Syracuse’s pressure affect Clemson?
Syracuse likes to send constant pressure with full-house and zero blitzes, sending one more man than an opposing offense can block. That puts the impetus on opposing quarterbacks to get rid of the ball quickly, but can also create one-on-one matchups in the secondary. Last week, Clemson and Tajh Boyd took advantage of an early one-on-one opportunity with standout wide receiver Sammy Watkins, and Boyd found him for a 64-yard touchdown on the game’s third play.
Boyd is a fifth-year senior quarterback in his third season as a starter. He is used to overcoming pressure. The opportunities to exploit the blitz will be there. Can he take advantage of them?
“With that defense, it’s risk-reward,” he said. “The offense has to go and make the plays that are there.”
Can Syracuse’s offense keep its mojo against Clemson?
Syracuse enters Saturday on a hot streak: following season-opening losses to Penn State and Northwestern, the Orange has scored a combined 106 points in its last two games. A disclaimer: those games came against FCS foe Wagner and Tulane. Sophomore quarterback Terrel Hunt will make his second career start, but the Tigers’ strong defensive line led by junior end Vic Beasley (six sacks on the season) should provide a much starker test than the Seahawks or Green Wave.
Saturday will be Syracuse’s first ACC game and, naturally, Hunt’s first ACC start. Clemson’s ferocious attacking line hopes to give him an unfriendly welcome to the league.
Time: 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday
Place: Carrier Dome, Syracuse, N.Y.
TV: ABC/ESPN2 split-national broadcast
Radio: Clemson and Syracuse radio networks (regional)
Spread: Clemson -13.5 via VegasInsider.com
Note: Unless noted, all quotes in this article were obtained directly by the author.
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