Clemson travels to upstate New York this weekend for a matchup with Syracuse in its first road game of the young season. Weeks before the season even started, ESPN had this one pegged as a Game Day hopeful, and scheduled it in the primetime slot. It would have been the shows first ever visit to the Carrier Dome, and all they had to do was get by Liberty and Maryland in the seasons first two weeks. The Terps had other plans however, blasting the Orange in College Park last weekend 63-20.
Maryland rolled up 650 yards, with more than 350 coming on the ground. They averaged just under 8 yards per carry, and had 29 1st downs. 16 through the air and 13 on the ground. Not the best showing for a team whose defense was supposed to be its strength. Now they get to look forward to Travis Etienne and Lyn J Dixon coming to town and playing on that fast track. What ESPN had hoped to be a primetime showdown now has the makings of a primetime dud.
Dino Babers on the loss to the Terps,
“This definitely humble pie. I don’t know what it tastes like, but it probably tastes just like the way I feel right now.”
“Obviously we’re not as good as the first game, and I would like to think we’re not as bad as the second game, that we’re somewhere in the middle.”
Everyone remembers the Tigers last two meetings with the Orange. No need to rehash those matchups and how close they were, other than to say this was a huge reason why last season.
And this was a huge reason why the year before, although not the only one,
Two consecutive seasons the Tigers have lost their starting quarterbacks in the second quarter of close games. That is something this team, the offensive line in particular, have not forgotten. It is safe to assume that this offensive line comes into this one with a chip on its shoulders and looking to make a point.
The question is how will the Orange choose to defend the Tigers. As Trevor Lawrence said to the media after the 24-10 win over Texas A&M, teams have to decide if they want to die quickly or take the route of a slow death. Do they key on stopping the run game by bringing extra defenders into the box, or do they play to slow down the Tigers potent aerial attack, which in turn leaves the backs more room to run.
The Aggies chose to focus their attention on not letting Travis Etienne beat them, consistently stacking the box and allowing Lawrence and a stud group of receivers to attack down the field. Clemson also used the backs in the screen game to help open things up, something we haven’t seen a lot of in this offense. Syracuse does have a couple of guys who can get after the QB, so it will interesting to see how they choose to go about defending this Tiger offense.
The sign of a great team is how well they go and perform on the road. Something Dabo Swinney is fully aware of as he told his team Saturday night,
“I told them that great teams get better and great teams win on the road. And we’ve got an opportunity to do both next week.”
The Tigers opened as 24.5 point favorites, but Syracuse is still the last ACC team to defeat Clemson. The Carrier Dome will be sold out for a football game for the first time in over two decades so it is safe to say the atmosphere will be an electric one. Those fans will be hoping that last week was an anomaly and that the Orange can once again find some of that magic they have used three times in the last four seasons in games where they have given the Tigers all they could handle. Or maybe it turns out they are all out of magic and this ACC showdown turns into another ACC snoozefest.