For the second week in a row, Clemson will face an underdog with a disciplined team and an excellent head coach as the Tigers travel to the Carrier Dome to take on Syracuse Friday night.


Syracuse’s second year coach and Hawaiian native Dino Babers comes from the Art Briles “Veer and Shoot” coaching tree – spreading you out to the hash marks in order to use every inch of space on the field. Despite their prolific passing attack, the Orange run 44 percent of the time and have added a unique addition to their running game with a freshman novelty.


A 290-pound defensive tackle and fullback, Chris Elmore is the heaviest player you will see consistently running the ball in a football game. His seventeen carries has earned him a fan club at Syracuse and the envy of Christian Wilkins – Clemson’s own 300 pound defensive tackle and offensive blocker.


While this won’t win Wilkins any carries from the Clemson coaches (example: never used Turtle Package of 2015), Wilkins and the defensive line will face a tough challenge this week by neutralizing the Syracuse offense.


Syracuse’s players, combined with their potent Briles influenced offensive scheme will force Clemson to play disciplined while testing their coverage skills. Since Clemson’s defensive line and defense is arguably the best in the nation, the stress of of defending Syracuse will be easier than it would be for an average ACC opponent.


While not as dedicated to the running game as Art Briles at Baylor or Phil Montgomery at Tulsa, the key to Syracuse winning will be to run the ball. Clemson will probably use three or four linemen to handle the Orange offensive line, winning the battle for the trenches by sheer talent and leaving more players to defend the passing game. If the Orange can’t win up front and are forced to be one dimensional, the game will be firmly in Clemson’s hands and determined by how sharp they play.


It will be hard to stay sharp when Syracuse is one of the fastest teams in the nation who currently is in the lead for total plays at 516, or 86 plays per game.


Quarterback Eric Dungey is an experienced junior who played in 23 games and has the 222-pound body to take the punishment. He has thrown for over 1800 yards and only four picks in six games, while scoring 54 combined career touchdowns to only twelve turnovers. He is also Syracuse’s leading rusher (80 for 325 and eight scores).


When Coach Swinney saw the two receivers at Dungey’s disposal, he joked that “I thought Mike Williams was in San Diego.” Steve Ishmael leads the nation with 56 catches for 729 yards, and his partner in crime Ervin Phillips is third in the nation with 52 catches for 475 yards. According to David Hale, the two upperclassmen have a combined 157 targets, which is more than 47 FBS teams have total attempts.


On defense, senior linebackers Zaire Franklin and Parris Bennett are the stars of the defense. Bennett leads the team with 56 tackles, and Franklin is in second with 40. The third leading tackler is their other senior linebacker, Johnathan Thomas whom has 27 tackles. Their defense is 46th in yards per game and 49th in yards per play, which is a dramatic improvement from last year’s bottom five defense.


Kelly Bryant is starting after he rolled his ankle and left the Wake Forest game, but should he aggravate his injury, Hunter Johnson has moved up to co-backup with Zerrick Cooper. Hopefully Bryant will play the whole game healthily, but if he doesn’t it will be interesting to see the approach the staff takes to handling the game.


While Syracuse will be an ACC second tier contender-sleeper type, it has a-ways to go before reaching that point. As usual, Clemson’s focus and execution will determine the outcome of the game. If Clemson plays to (Best is) the Standard, they should win to provide joy and momentum into the rest period of bye week.


Prediction: Clemson 34 Syracuse 21