The Final Breakdown

Clemson rides a four-game winning streak into Saturday's matchup with Syracuse.

WHAT: Syracuse at No. 20 Clemson
WHERE: Memorial Stadium - Clemson, S.C. (81,000)
WHEN: Saturday, Oct. 25 (7:00 p.m.)
SPREAD: Clemson by 14
TV: ESPNU (Anish Schroff, Kelly Stouffer)

SYRACUSE RUN GAME VS CLEMSON FRONT SEVEN
Clemson ranks fifth in the country in total defense. (Getty)
Syracuse doesn’t have the same kind of running game that Clemson faced last week against Boston College, but it’s still pretty good at 192 yards per game and 5.2 yards per carry. The Orange are fifth in the conference in rushing offense. Prince-Tyson Gulley leads the Orange with 418 yards on 74 carries, but Syracuse lost a big chunk of its running game when quarterback Terrel Hunt was hurt. He is still the team’s second-leading rusher with 307 yards. Even with a solid ground game, the Orange might find rough going against a Clemson defense that seems to be getting better every week. Boston College was averaging 315 yards per game before getting just 120 last week against Clemson and the Tigers’ defensive front and linebackers, who dominated the entire game. Expect a similar effort Saturday from the Clemson defense, which is quickly climbing the ladder of all-time great Tigers defensive units.

Advantage:

SYRACUSE PASS ATTACK VS CLEMSON PASS RUSH/SECONDARY
Vic Beasley could have a field day Saturday. (Getty)
Hunt had 983 yards passing before missing the past two games, but freshman A.J. Long has played well since stepping into the starting lineup. He has completed 38-of-59 passes for 338 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions (both touchdowns and interceptions came in a 38-20 loss to Florida State in his first start). Long was efficient in the Orange’s win last week at Wake Forest, hitting on 22-of-32 for 171 yards. Jarrod West leads the Syracuse receivers with 29 catches for 421 yards, while Steve Ishmael, Ben Lewis, Brisly Estime, Ashton Broyld, Gulley and Adrian Flemming all have reached double figures in catches. The passing game isn’t great, ranking ninth in the ACC with 214.3 yards per game, but it’s solid. Clemson’s pass defense is even better than that (fourth in the ACC at 179.4 yards per game), starting with a terrific pass rush and featuring an ever-improving secondary. The Orange start three seniors and two juniors on their line, but that group will be severely tested by Vic Beasley, Grady Jarrett and company.

Advantage:

CLEMSON RUN GAME VS. SYRACUSE FRONT SEVEN
Freshman RB Tyshon Dye will make his debut Saturday. (CUTigers)
This will be an interesting matchup to watch. Syracuse’s rush defense is solid, allowing 126.9 yards per game (seventh in the ACC), and Clemson’s ground game has been spotty at best, ranking 12th in the ACC at 137.1 yards per game. Clemson’s attack took another hit last week with a season-ending injury to Adam Choice, but that opens the door for Tyshon Dye’s debut and maybe some chances for him to get some carries. He joins a deep group in the backfield with C.J Davidson, Wayne Gallman and D.J. Howard that needs to continue to improve – along with the offensive line – for the Tigers to keep winning. The Orange have a veteran group up front with five seniors and two juniors in their starting line and linebacker groups, so that should be enough for a slight advantage here.

Advantage:

CLEMSON PASS ATTACK VS. SYRACUSE PASS RUSH/SECONDARY
Artavis Scott continues to pace the Tigers in receptions. (CUTigers)
This is where Clemson should be able to make its offense go Saturday. Cole Stoudt has been solid the past two weeks – and even better than that at times against Boston College – but this matchup offers a chance for Stoudt and his receivers to have a big day. Syracuse’s experience carries over into the back end of its defense with two seniors and two juniors starting, but the Orange are allowing 230.6 yards passing per game (12th in the ACC). Stoudt was much improved last week over the previous week against Louisville, and that should continue, especially if he can continue to find Mike Williams. Stoudt has been efficient with 934 yards passing on 91-of-147 completions with just two interceptions (he only has one touchdown), and Artavis Scott and Williams have become the Tigers’ go-to guys on the outside with 38 and 30 catches, respectively. If Clemson’s receivers can avoid the drops that have slowed things down the past two weeks, look for a big night for that group.

Advantage:

SPECIAL TEAMS
Ammon Lakip is 10-for-11 in field goals in Death Valley. (CUTigers)
Freshman Cole Murphy and junior Ryan Norton have split the kicks for the Orange this season with Murphy hitting 9-of-10 field goals and 6-of-7 extra point tries and Norton hitting 4-of-7 and 9-of-9. Murphy gets the nod as the starter as Norton hasn’t kicked since the third game of the season. Clemson has the advnantage here with the improvement of Ammon Lakip after some early season struggles and the continued strong performances of Bradley Pinion along with a solid return game.

Advantage:

OVERALL
This is only the third time the two programs have met, and both of the previous meetings have been blowouts. Any Clemson fan who went to the Gator Bowl in 1996 will never forget that miserable day. It rained the entire game, and the Tigers were even worse than the weather, losing 41-0 to Donovan McNabb and the Orange. Last year, Clemson returned the favor with a rout of its own, winning 49-14. Saturday’s game likely won’t be close either with Clemson breaking its two-game string of close games.

PREDICTION: Clemson 31, Syracuse 10

Daniel Shirley is the sports editor of The Telegraph in Macon, Ga., and co-host of The Morning Show on FoxSports 1670 AM. Follow him on Twitter at @DM_Shirley and read his blog at macon.com/peachsports.

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