The Syracuse Orange hope to throw another monkey wrench in the slumping season of the Clemson Tigers on Friday night. Another heartbreaking loss last week now has the Orange sitting at an even 3-3 coming in against a Tigers team fresh off a bye week. Syracuse has lost by three points in back-to-back games with Wake Forest and Florida State. Now, they face the challenge of trying to survive as double-digit underdogs against the visiting Tigers.
Can the Tigers be trusted?Quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei believes the Clemson offense is on the verge of a breakout performance. Never mind the fact that they have the worst scoring offense in the ACC a year after leading the conference in points. Let’s just forget that their rushing offense is sputtering at every turn. Oh yeah, and the passing attack has basically been grounded since Trevor Lawrence said his goodbyes and went off to join the Jacksonville Jaguars in the NFL.
Syracuse’s record isn’t impressive, but they are far from a bad football team.
Granted, their offense is a mess as well, unless we’re talking about them running the football. But Clemson’s defense is only allowing an average of 107.2 rushing yards per game. They have the beef up front to win in the trenches and keep Syracuse’s rushing attack in check. No, the backend of the defense isn’t perfect, but they have more interceptions than touchdowns allowed.
They’re also coming away with a lot of takeaways. Make no mistake, the real questions for the Tigers revolves around the offense. Can they move the ball against a Syracuse team with the third-ranked total defense in the conference? Not to mention the Orange are only allowing 3.10 yards per carry.
You typically won’t get far against them before getting slammed to the dirt.
The biggest problem, however, could be Syracuse’s pass defense. They rank second only to the same Boston College team that held Uiagalelei to 46.4 percent passing for 207 yards and no touchdowns.
As far as injuries are concerned, Clemson wideout Justyn Ross is dealing with a head injury, but he's still expected to suit up and play against the Orange.
Heartbreak hotel for the OrangeBeing a Syracuse fan is like staying at a heartbreak hotel.
They gave Wake Forest all they could handle and were on the verge of handing the Demon Deacons their first loss of the season, but they failed to get the job done in overtime. That game followed the team losing a nail-biter on the road to Florida State.
With a little more luck, the Orange could be 2-0 in conference play with a victory over a top-25 opponent in Wake Forest.
As the saying goes, football is a game of inches.
We’ll see if the luck creeps towards Syracuse’s side in Friday’s head-to-head showdown with the Tigers. The days of Clemson instilling fear in opposing teams are long gone. They’re going through a bit of an identity crisis right now, and the Orange hope to make that struggle even worse for them in this ACC meeting.
Not only does Syracuse have the run defense to stifle any attempt at running the football for the Tigers, but they have the secondary to continue adding to all of the problems facing D.J. Uiagalelei in his first full season as a starter. They currently lead the conference with 22 total sacks, and their secondary has dominated on the backend. It’s going to be a long night for Uiagalelei with defensive lineman Cody Roscoe in his face all night. Through the first six games of the season, he’s tied for second in the nation with 6.5 sacks.
No one is questioning the Orange’s defense.
The offense, on the other hand, is a different story entirely. They’ll turn into a bully if they’re allowed to just line up and pound the ball on the ground. However, if they fall behind or the opposing defense shuts down the ground game, it’s time to hit the panic button.
Quarterback Garrett Shrader, along with running back Sean Tucker, have done a tremendous job of piling up the ground yards, but they’ll be running into a Clemson defense that has only allowed one rushing touchdown so far this season. It’s going to take more than just their legs to upset the Tigers in this game.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
There’s no beating around the fact that Syracuse has consistently failed at closing out games, but they’ve always kept them close. It took No. 19 Wake Forest 40 points and a whole extra quarter to put the Orange away last week. That bodes well considering every game, aside from a run-in with a South Carolina State team that only has one win, has been a dogfight for the Tigers.
Syracuse has a ton of questions surrounding their offense that leans so heavily on the run game. But that defense is legit.
The secondary in particular is only allowing an average of 194.2 passing yards per game. They’re second only to Boston College, and we all saw what the Eagles did to Clemson’s offense nearly two weeks ago. The run game ended up leading to Boston College’s undoing, but the Orange’s defensive front is limiting ball carriers to less yards on average. They’re also making opposing quarterbacks run for their lives.
It’s going to be a long night for Tigers quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei trying to throw under pressure. He has struggled enough against lesser defenses, and now, he’ll be facing a ferocious group that leads the ACC with an average 3.7 sacks per game. There is still room to grow for Uiagalelei and company, but as of right now, this is nothing like the Clemson offense we saw a year ago.
Give me the points.
Full-Game Total Pick
Despite all of their offensive struggles, Clemson’s defense ranks second in the nation behind Georgia in least points allowed (12.2). So it’s going to be difficult for a one-dimensional team like the Orange to consistently move the ball on the ground against a Tigers defense allowing an average 2.73 yards per carry. That’s the lowest average rushing allowance in the entire conference. But don’t expect the Orange to just roll over, either. They have a tendency of making games closer than they should be and that’ll continue to be the case in Saturday’s game against the Tigers. I’m taking the under in this one.