Syracuse confident with No. 3 Clemson on deck

Give Durell Eskridge credit. Even as No. 3 Clemson prepares to
make a trip to Syracuse, the Orange free safety is unfazed.

And he believes his teammates aren’t either.

”It’s confidence,” Eskridge said. ”We always come in
confident. We don’t lay down against nobody, no matter who it is.
Once you come in the (Carrier) Dome and you think it’s going to be
a walk in the park, we’re going to show you otherwise.”

Even if the Tigers stroll in on the arm of star quarterback Tajh
Boyd.

Clemson (4-0, 2-0 ACC) is tied for fifth nationally in turnover
margin with a plus-1.8 mark on the strength of five interceptions
and four fumble recoveries by its stalwart defense and only two
turnovers – two lost fumbles and zero interceptions – by the
Tigers’ offense.

A lot of that, of course, has to do with Boyd. So, in their ACC
debut, the Orange (2-2) will be tested, regardless of how much
confidence they have.

The Syracuse defense likes to blitz and has matched Clemson with
five picks and four fumble recoveries, but the Orange offense has
committed seven turnovers (six interceptions and one lost fumble).
On the plus side for Syracuse, though, is no turnovers in its last
two games – convincing victories over Wagner (54-0) and Tulane
(52-17) that have righted a season that started badly.

”Syracuse plays extremely hard,” Clemson offensive coordinator
Chad Morris said. ”This team loves to pressure. They love to bring
one more than you got. If they could blitz 12, they’d blitz 12.
They’re very confident in their system.

”Their main objective is to try and disrupt the quarterback
from bringing pressure from every angle. This is probably the
biggest pressure team that we’ve faced. So we’ve got to have a
great plan for that.”

Versatile Clemson offensive lineman Brandon Thomas figures it’s
going to be fun trying to counter the Orange assault.

”Just the challenge,” Thomas said. ”If you bring pressure, it
obviously means we’re doing something good for you to bring
pressure. That’s a challenge for us that we as offensive linemen
look forward to. I think that will help us along the way seeing
(teams) like that later on.”

Boyd presents a challenge that few quarterbacks in America can
match. A full-time player for less than three seasons, he has
produced 9,971 yards and is fourth on the ACC’s career list, behind
only North Carolina State’s Philip Rivers, Georgia Tech’s Joe
Hamilton, and Duke’s Thaddeus Lewis. Boyd is 73 of 114 for 994
yards and nine touchdowns with no interceptions this season. He’s
also rushed for 159 yards on 49 carries with four more scores.

”They’re taking it as a challenge,” Syracuse coach Scott
Shafer. ”Big games take care of themselves. They’ll be as ready as
they can be. You always try to keep a balance. The kids will be
fired up.”

The Tigers are just the 11th Top 5 team to visit the Carrier
Dome since it opened in 1980 and the highest-ranked team to visit
since No. 1 Miami in 2002. That one didn’t turn out so well for the
Orange – a 49-7 loss.

At the bottom of Division I when Doug Marrone took over four
years ago and hired Shafer as his defensive coordinator, Syracuse
has made the climb back to respectability, winning two bowls in the
past three years. And in the past two seasons, the Orange gave a
pair of highly ranked teams with star quarterbacks sound beatings.
They beat Geno Smith and No. 11 West Virginia 49-23 in 2011, and
Teddy Bridgewater and No. 11 Louisville 45-26 last November.

For the Tigers, it’s just another game on the way to what they
hope are greater things. For the Orange, it’s a chance that doesn’t
come along very often, and they don’t want to flop on national
television.

”You always want to amp it up when competition’s around,”
Syracuse quarterback Terrel Hunt said. ”Even though (Boyd) is one
of the great quarterbacks up for the Heisman, you want to beat him,
lead the team to victory. It’s not about the quarterback, it’s
about beating the No. 3 team in the nation right now.”

AP Sports Writer Pete Iacobelli in Columbia, S.C. contributed to
this report.

Reach Kekis on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/Greek1947