After surviving the first true test of the season and defeating the NC State Wolfpack 24-9, Syracuse travels to South Carolina to take on the #5 Clemson Tigers in Death Valley.
SU caught some lucky breaks in the previous game such as NC State star QB Devin Leary missing the contest, and getting a couple of beneficial calls in the fourth quarter. To beat the Tigers, they’ll need to play their best and most disciplined game of the year. Here’s what to watch for Saturday.
- Teams: Syracuse Orange (6-0, 3-0 ACC) v. Clemson Tigers (7-0, 5-0 ACC)
- Date: Saturday, Oct. 22
- Game Time: 12:00 p.m. ET
- Venue: Memorial Stadium (Clemson, SC)
- Network: ABC
Fearless Prediction: Clemson 30, Syracuse 17
The Juice Online Season Record: 6-0
DJ Going To Be A Handful
Junior quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei has been fantastic for the Tigers, throwing for 17 touchdowns against only two interceptions and completing 64.0 percent of his throws in seven games so far this year. He’s taken a massive step up from last year when, in 13 games, completed only 55.6 percent of his passes for 9 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Sound familiar?
Like SU’s own Garrett Shrader who’s made massive leaps in his development this year, Uiagalelei is a dual-threat QB, as he’s rushed for four touchdowns his previous two years and has four rushing scores on the year already, to go with 337 rushing yards. The Syracuse front seven will definitely have their hands full, and bet on cornerbacks Garrett Williams and Duce Chestnut to be tested coming down off of their receivers to make run stops in the flat.
SU Receivers Need To Step Up
As great as Oronde Gadsden II has played this year, SU’s leading receiver cannot be a tight end in this game. While it could be argued that Gadsden isn’t a tight end to begin with, the real point is that Syracuse needs to have a wide receiver step up in this game to help give Shrader somewhere else to go with the ball.
Clemson has the 95th ranked pass defense in the country giving up 255.7 yards per game and will certainly focus on double-teaming Gadsden, who currently has 35.5 percent of Shrader’s total passing yards. This is going to create opportunities for Damien Alford, Courtney Jackson, and Devaugn Cooper to be in single coverage and they need to win those match ups.
Sean Tucker has been a reliable outlet for Shrader this year, with 23 catches already on the season. Tucker’s previous season high was 20 catches last year in 12 games. If the WRs aren’t able to win their match ups and Gadsden is double-covered all game, expect Tucker to have a big day catching check-downs.
Disciplined Football Is Required To Win
One aspect of Syracuse’s success that hasn’t been covered much is how their ability to get big plays has helped mask some serious deficiencies in procedure. Syracuse currently sits second to last in the country (130th) in penalties per game with 9.5.
False starts and holds have been a common problem along the offensive line, and we all remember SU’s ability to even get lined up correctly in the first game of the year as they struggled to get used to Robert Anae’s new offensive system. The good news is that it’s gotten better as the year has progressed, but the unbeaten record can certainly thank the quality of competition SU has faced as they haven’t been punished by the other team for their own costly mistakes.
Clemson will have no problem taking free yards and wiping SU touchdowns off the board should the Orange commit more of those mistakes. Winning as two-touchdown (13.5) road underdogs to a team like the Tigers will take a near perfect effort from Syracuse’s players in the execution department.
As for my prediction, I haven’t seen Syracuse play a clean game yet and I’ve watched them win despite it. While not exactly an offensive powerhouse (61st in the nation at 417.4 yards per game), Clemson has a stout defense that bends but doesn’t break and holds teams to under 20 points per game (19.71). Syracuse has overcome sloppy play with improbable chunk plays at just the right time, which is a formula that’s hard to replicate for seven straight games, much less against a well-coached team like the Tigers.