As we countdown to kickoff in August, we’re going to be doing a team-by-team preview each week over the summer. SU will continue its 2018 ACC schedule when it plays the Clemson Tigers on Sept. 29.
FAVORITES AGAIN: There are few teams in the NCAA that could lose 14 starters from 2017 and still be considered one of the favorites to play again in the College Football Playoff–but Clemson is one of those teams. Expectations are high again after a season when the Tigers went 12-2 with a disappointing 24-6 loss to Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Part of the reason is because coach Dabo Swinney scored a major coup in the offseason, keeping three elite defensive linemen in Christian Wilkins, Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant. All flirted with declaring early for the NFL Draft, but all wound up returning, which means that the D-line could be considered NFL-quality. Another reason is a dearth of rising talent and a recruiting class that brought in a stud freshman quarterback.
WHO TO WATCH FOR: The main question surrounding Clemson this offseason is who will line up under center in the fall. In the spring depth chart, incumbent Kelly Bryant was listed at the top. But elite freshman Trevor Lawrence wowed in spring practice, and quickly rose to No. 2, aided by the defection of former five-star QB Hunter Johnson to Northwestern. Whoever starts at quarterback will have plenty of talent, though unproven, to throw to. Junior Diondre Overton and sophomore Tee Higgins combined for roughly 500 yards in 2017, but they’re at the top of the depth chart now and will have plenty of chances to haul in major yardage. On defense, besides the aforementioned monster D-line, the linebacker core is headlined by senior Kendall Joseph and junior Tre Lamar.
PREDICTION: Syracuse was able to play a perfect game at home against Clemson in upsetting the then-No. 2 team in the country in one of the biggest upsets in program history. The Tigers host this year, and don’t expect them to let up off the gas pedal with last year’s loss still fresh on their minds. SYRACUSE 21, CLEMSON 49.