Clemson vs. Syracuse: By the Numbers

Has your heart slowed down yet? Are your finger nails starting to grow back? Those are legitimate questions that most Tiger fans ask each other, it seems like, every other week. The game versus Florida State last Saturday night was an instant classic. The Tigers moved the ball well against a very talented Seminole defense. The Tigers racked up 511 yards of offense, went 7-17 on 3rd down, 2 for 2 on 4th down and marched down the field with 3:23 left in the game and scored the go-ahead touchdown, behind the arm of Watson and the receiving prowess of Jordan Leggett. A good friend, and faithful Tiger JO McColl said he was going to need a refill on his nitro glycerin prescription if he was going to finish watching the rest of this season. I may need to borrow a couple myself. As we still glow about the win, there’s another opponent waiting to spoil the Tigers magical season. The Tigers will host the Syracuse Orange at 3:30pm Saturday, November 5th. The game can be seen on ESPN or ABC depending on where you live, and today I’ll cover Clemson vs. Syracuse: By the Numbers.

This will be the 5th time the Tigers and the Orange have met on the grid iron. The very first meeting was disastrous for the Tigers.  It was the 1996 Mazda Gator Bowl in Jacksonville. The Tigers were 8-3 and coming off of an easy 38-17 win against the Gamecocks. The Orangemen, as they were once called, were also 8-3 and they had a couple pretty good players coming south to meet the Tigers. Donovan McNabb and Marvin Harrison torched the Tommy West led Tigers that afternoon to the tune of 41-0. I sat in a rain-soaked Gator Bowl in disbelief as a pretty good Tiger team got blasted. That game however, was the last time Syracuse has beaten the Tigers.

Syracuse joined the ACC in 2013 and Clemson was the very first ACC conference game they ever played. Clemson returned the favor as Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins zipped up and down the

Oct 22, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey (2) looks to throw during the first half of their 28-20 win over Boston College at Alumni Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

field at the Carrier Dome and the Tigers got revenge, albeit 17 years later, by a 49-14 score. Each of the last two games vs the Orange have been Clemson 10 point wins. However, a new Syracuse head coach, a new offensive system and a little bit of confidence will bring the Orange to Death Valley, for Military Appreciation Day. Now that you’re up to speed on the series let’s take a look at how the stats stack up against each other.

Clemson, ranked #2 in the country is riding an 8 game winning streak. The Tigers have not lost to an unranked opponent since November 11, 2011. That’s 44 consecutive wins versus unranked opponents. The Tigers have won 14 straight conference games and 20 of 22 inside the ACC dating back to 2014. This streak of sustained success is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the coaches and players and the entire support staff. It’s also a testament to the stellar recruiting that Clemson has enjoyed as of late. Especially on the defensive line. This is where the game will be won or lost versus the Orange.

The Clemson defensive line has 37.5 tackles for loss this season. That is just the defensive linemen. I left the rest of the defense out of this stat because pressure and disruption starts with those guys along the line. Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins imposed their will against FSU and their quarterback Deondre Francois. If the same amount of pressure can be applied against Syracuse, the Tigers should be able to slow down the very face paced Orange offense. Which, by the way, Coach Swinney said was the fastest, tempo offense he’s seen on film yet this season.

Syracuse is 4-4 on the season. Two consecutive upset wins over Virginia Tech and Boston College have the Orange thinking of going bowling. Offensively Syracuse is averaging 26.6 points per game. Sophomore quarterback Eric Dungey is completing 64% of his passes, and he throws a ton of them. The Orange really like to sling it around the park. Dungey has accumulated 2631 yards, 15 touchdowns and 6 interceptions on the season. He averages 328 yds a game. This is one of those, “something has to give” stats. Clemson’s defense is pretty good against the pass. The Tigers only allow 50% completion rate, and have given up 5 touchdowns and intercepted the ball 12 times on the year. The Tigers only allow 181 yards through the air, per game. The Orange don’t run the ball that well. They average 129 yds per game. That could be one reason you see inflated passing numbers. The Tigers gave up 163 yds to FSU on the ground, but Syracuse doesn’t have a Dalvin Cook. Hardly anyone does. Defensively the Tigers are allowing 136 rushing yards per game. I expect that particular stat to improve for the Tigers after this week. I just don’t see Syracuse running the ball against Clemson’s front seven.

The Tigers, if focused, could have a field day offensively. The Cuse’ is allowing 31.6 points per game. They have given up 31, 45, 62 and 50 points in 4 of their losses this season. The Tigers are scoring 36.6 ppg this season and averaging 6.2 yards per play. All of that coming against some of the best defenses in the country. The Syracuse defense isn’t elite. They give up 6.1 yds per play, and the big stat that I look at, tackles for loss, they hover around four per game. Slightly less than Clemson’s 9.2 TFL’s per contest. Watson should break the 2,500 yard mark for the season, and Gallman, if fed the ball enough, could inch even closer to breaking the 1,000 yard mark. Again, if focused, the Tigers should cover the 26 point spread that Vegas has assigned to the game. Hopefully, the nitro glycerin pills, and fingernails will all be intact about 7pm Saturday evening.

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