The ACC Atlantic Division is secured, but there is plenty at stake for the nation’s No. 1 team. That’s good because there are plenty of reasons that Clemson could sleep through this week’s game against Syracuse.
The Tigers will head up to the Carrier Dome after putting away their chief competitor in the Atlantic Division, Florida State. The Orange have lost six straight after winning their first three games of the season. The last two games have been especially bad as Cuse lost to FSU 45-21 and then to Louisville 41-17.
Syracuse joined the ACC in 2013 and has played Clemson just three times with the first coming in 1995. Clemson holds a 2-1 series edge and has won both of the ACC contests.
College Football Podcast: Week 11 Preview
Clemson at Syracuse
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m ET (Saturday)
Spread: Clemson -27.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Defending Deshaun
The Syracuse defense is a middle of the pack rush defense, but they are No. 111 against the pass, giving up 274.2 yards per game. That’s never good, but that’s really bad when Deshaun Watson and his merry band of receivers are coming to town. Watson is completing 69.7 of his passes, which is good for eighth nationally. The last ACC quarterback to finish the season with a higher percentage was Riley Skinner of Wake Forest in 2007. Clemson always wants balance and Wayne Gallman along with Watson will run the ball. But the easiest way through the Syracuse defense is by air so expect Artavis Scott, Jordan Leggett, and the other receivers to see a lot of balls coming their way.
2. The Syracuse Quarterback Situation
Freshman Eric Dungey has had a nice season in upstate New York throwing 11 touchdowns and completing nearly 60 percent of his passes. But he’s also absorbed some big hits and late in the fourth quarter against Louisville, with the game far out of reach, Dungey suffered a head injury after being hit by the Cardinals' James Hearns. Orange head coach Scott Shafer says that Dungey is day-to-day. If the freshman cannot go against the Tigers, walk-on sophomore Zack Mahoney will probably be the starter.
3. The Syracuse Offensive Line Against the Clemson Defensive Front
With either a banged up freshman or a sophomore walk-on starting at quarterback, Syracuse will need to run the ball to have any type of effectiveness on offense. The Orange are not a great running team, but they run better than they throw and if Dungey is not healthy, they will be giving the ball more to running back Jordan Fredericks. Dungey is also the team’s second leading rusher behind Fredericks. So if he is out, the Cuse running game will be affected. The good news is that the Syracuse offensive line is very experienced. The bad news is that they are going to have to try to block Shaq Lawson, Kevin Dodd, and the rest of the nasty Clemson defensive front seven.
It is true that motivation could be an issue for Clemson coming off the huge victory over Florida State, especially since this is a road game against a lesser foe. However, Syracuse has some focus concerns as well. Shafer, who is on one of the hottest seats in America, now has to explain why his starting quarterback was in the game late in the fourth quarter of a blow out. Really though, Syracuse’s biggest problem is that it doesn't have anywhere near the talent of Clemson. It might be wise for Shafer to sit Dungey this week instead of putting him in harm’s way against this defense. Clemson is going to win this game by as many points as they want to.
Prediction: Clemson 52, Syracuse 7
— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.