The last team to hand Clemson an ACC loss heads to Death Valley as the Tigers host Syracuse. Way back in 2017, the Orange beat Clemson in the Carrier Dome 27-24. They even had a chance to pick up a victory in 2018, but a late drive by Chase Brice (who now starts at Duke) prevented the home loss for Clemson. This year though, the Tigers are a massive favorite as they continue their quest for another ACC title and College Football Playoff appearance.
Syracuse is 1-4 on the year after getting blasted at home 38-21 by Liberty, who was the road favorite and picked up their first victory over a Power 5 program. The Orange surrendered more than 500 yards of offense including 338 on the ground. The Cuse sputtered with their offense and didn't have much success running the ball, averaging just 3.6 yards per carry. It was an ugly effort all the way around.
Clemson moved to 5-0 after a 73-7 demolition of Georgia Tech down in Atlanta. Trevor Lawrence threw for 404 yards and five touchdowns before exiting the game early. The Tigers racked up 671 yards of offense overall and held the Yellow Jackets to 204. The one downside was two turnovers, but thanks to the defense's three takeaways, Clemson also won that battle.
Syracuse at Clemson
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 24 at 12 p.m. ET
TV: ACC Network
Spread: Clemson -46
When Syracuse Has the Ball
Tommy DeVito is done for the season so it's Rex Culpepper's offense for the rest of the season unless head coach Dino Babers turns to one of the freshmen behind him in the depth chart. Culpepper was 19-for-40 for 211 yards with three touchdowns and an interception last week against Liberty. Taj Harris continued to be the top target with nine receptions for just under 100 yards and a touchdown. Anthony Queeley chipped in with 77 yards and a touchdown in the loss. Sean Tucker ran for more than 100 yards even though he was at less than 100 percent due to injury. The offensive line has been pretty brutal (24 sacks allowed) and with allowing the number of injuries, it probably won't get much better, especially against Clemson.
The Tigers lost a ton of talent from their defense but seemingly haven't missed a beat. Sixteen different players have accounted for 22 sacks as Brent Venables' unit continues to beat up on opponents. Nolan Turner has two of the team's six interceptions. With the depth and athletic talent Clemson has, I fear for Culpepper and whoever else ends up at quarterback for the Orange on Saturday.
When Clemson Has the Ball
The biggest question is how long will Trevor Lawrence and the rest of the starters play? The Heisman Trophy contender is completing 73 percent of his passes with 15 touchdowns to just one interception, which happened last week as he was nearing an ACC record for consecutive passes without a pick (record is 379 held by Russell Wilson; Lawrence's streak ended at 366). Amari Rodgers looks like the next stud wide receiver to come out of the school, as he averages 17.2 yards per reception to go with five touchdowns. Of course, Travis Etienne is making a case for the Heisman himself with 710 yards of total offense and six total touchdowns. Four different quarterbacks have taken snaps this season, including the heralded D.J. Uiagalelei, who figures to see action against Syracuse if the game goes as everyone expects it will.
There aren't a lot of positives with the Orange defense that has produced just 10 sacks on the season. Their defensive line last year graduated two guys who went on to the NFL, so it's not a total surprise that this group has struggled thus far. The secondary is solid but the loss of All-American safety Andre Cisco has definitely been felt. He was injured in pregame warmups a couple of weeks ago and then announced he was opting out to focus on next year's draft. Trill Williams is a very good cornerback who is likely to see a lot of Rodgers in coverage.
Plain and simple, Clemson can name their score and will be playing backups by the fourth quarter, if not earlier.
Prediction: Clemson 61, Syracuse 10
Podcast: Week 8 Preview and Predictions
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Josephs prefers non-Power 5 college football and may be the only one wagering on the Sun Belt. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.