Wow, what a season so far for these two teams! Clemson is sitting at 7-0 and Syracuse 6-0. I am not sure why, but ABC has suddenly become enamored with the Tigers. So much so that for the 5th week in a row, the Tigers are on ABC. Unlike the last 3 games, however, this one will not be primetime. The game is slated for high noon, and to top it off, it's Homecoming in the Valley. What better stage could there be for Homecoming than two undefeated teams? And, amazingly, this is the first time ever that two 6-0 teams or better will meet in Death Valley! Clemson was pretty much expected to be where it’s ranked. Syracuse is a different story. Dino Babers was definitely on the hot seat coming into the season, but it's safe to say that seat is pretty cool now, and rightfully so. If you didn't know any better, you’d think it’s basketball season with all the excitement around the Cuse. Clemson owns the nation's longest win streak and home win streak since the College Football Playoff began, at 36 consecutive games. Syracuse was the last unranked team to beat a top 5 Clemson team way back in 2017 on Friday the 13th. But this time, Clemson has a starting QB, and Syracuse isn’t unranked. The Orange come in ranked No.14 and 6-0 for the first time since 1987. The stage is set, so let's get into what I think should happen on Saturday.
If there is one thing I have learned this season, it's that you can't judge a book by its cover. I guess I got caught up in the hype that is Cade Klubnik, and that his Clemson debut on that final drive against Georgia Tech didn't do anything to diminish it. Given the season that DJ had last year, the look into the future was understandable. What a difference a year makes, though! DJ might be the turnaround story in all of college football. He’s gone from 9 TD’s and 10 INT’s in 2021 to 21 total TD’s and just 2 INT’s this season. Some of the pinpoint, NFL level throws he’s made on 3rd down this season have been as clutch as it gets. The offense has shown the ability to be both explosive and methodical. Brandon Streeter has, for the most part, done a masterful job calling the plays, and the Tigers have scored at least 30 points in all 7 games for just the 3rd time ever. And the defense, hampered by injuries all season, has stepped up when it needed to. Case in point, the “middle 8” at FSU—the end of the first half and beginning of the second—saw the Tigers go from a tie score to a 31-14 lead. The Tigers have dominated the middle 8 over the last 3 games, and although the final score was close last week, the Tigers have really only had one close game all season.
Syracuse offensively starts with Shrader at QB. In 6 games, he has thrown for 1,434 yards, 12 TD’s and only 3 INT’s. When you add in Tucker’s 644 rush yards, averaging 5.2 yards per carry with 5 TD’s, he is one of the most dangerous dual-threat quarterbacks in the country. He has a dynamic playmaker in WR Oronde Gadsden, who has 507 yards at a whopping 16.4 yards per catch. In the end, Syracuse goes as RB Sean Tucker goes. He was their whole offense last year, and they have done a good job of rounding out the offense around him this year, but he still has to be the priority for any defense. He hasn’t put up the huge numbers he did last season so far, but he’s still one of the best backs in the nation and can take over a game. He specializes in breaking tackles, so the Tigers have to be sound in wrapping him up!
Defensively, Syracuse is led by Mikel Jones, a linebacker who has 3 sacks this season. DE Caleb Okechukwu leads the team with 3.5 sacks. Statistically, Syracuse is one of the best defenses in the nation, ranked No.6 in scoring defense and allowing just 13.2 points per game. Bear in mind that they played NC State without QB Devin Leary last week, and State’s backup QB is completely incapable of passing. They’ve also played UConn, Virginia and Wagner, so not the greatest offenses. Their two best wins are Purdue and Louisville. They did do a surprisingly impressive job against the latter, holding the dynamic, dual-threat QB Malik Cunningham and the Cardinals to just 7 points in the season opener. That result shocked everyone around the ACC, and here is Syracuse now sitting at 6-0. This will be just their second road game of the season, though, and the other was at UConn. A far cry from Death Valley!
What To Expect Saturday
It's a noon game. It's homecoming. There will be no light show in the dark, and we all know that the crowd at noon is just waking up. It's a recipe for an upset with many programs. Syracuse is coming in riding a wave of confidence from their 6-0 start, and they have confidence that they can play with the Tigers because it was close last year. It was even close in Death Valley in 2018, and Cuse upset the No.2 Tigers in 2017. However, that is probably a false confidence because this is not the same Clemson team it was early last season—especially offensively—and the Tigers had no starting QB in the other close games. Regardless of what time the game is, no team should ever come into the Valley and feel comfortable. The Tigers are undefeated and looking for a playoff berth. It seems that everyone around the country is sitting back, waiting for the home winning streak to come to an end. It will eventually end at some point. We all know that all good things come to an end.
Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that Syracuse is going to be the team to end the streak. 36 teams have tried so far and have been unsuccessful. This Saturday, noon game or not, we can go ahead and say make it 37. Everyone gets a shot, and Shrader said earlier this week that Syracuse has the team to get it done. As I stated above, yes at some point in time it will come to an end. And, who knows, maybe Dino will knock off Dabo again someday. However, it will not be this Homecoming Day!
Clemson 41 Syracuse 17
To continue reading, you must be a CUTigers subscriber.See Subscription Benefits
Never miss the latest news from CUTigers!
Join our free email list