Is it the Holiday Season yet?
· Unfortunately for the Orange, the visions of joyous times at the end of the year maybe some of the most positive thoughts heading into Week 10. Especially, when Clemson comes to the Dome looking to prove that the first two weeks of the College Football Playoff Rankings are no fluke with the Tigers at #1. Coming off six straight losses is no time for the ‘Cuse to be taking on the leader of the college football land. Or is it? Could this be the week just like with LSU where Syracuse plays a top team very tough until the later portions of the game? This is really hard to determine, because evaluating this game on paper is nothing but a foregone conclusion: a feast on oranges for the powerful felines from South Carolina. If Syracuse can capture some of that early season moxie it displayed, then fans at the Dome will be treated to an unexpectedly competitive game against the current top seed in the playoff standings.
· Last week I questioned the fact that too much offense was coming from Eric Dungey at the quarterback position. But, now with Dungey getting nicked up even more last week at Louisville, and Zack Mahoney finishing the game, will there be another QB controversy heading into facing a top ranked opponent? As long as Eric Dungey is healthy in any way, you can bet he will be starting against Clemson. Regardless of the score at the end of the game, one thing is for sure that SU does not want to be totally embarrassed. Dungey provides the only safety net that they can be competitive in this game. He again controlled all aspects of the offense leading the Orange in passing and rushing: 15-30, 158 yards to go along with 45 yards on 13 carries. However, this game saw no touchdowns from Dungey. He will have to use every aspect of his skill set to keep the Syracuse offense on the field with a chance to put points on the scoreboard.
· One of the more disheartening aspects of watching the Orange play is the lack of options and lack of consistent options that Eric Dungey has. Running backs combined for only 57 yards other than what Dungey could provide. Jordan Fredericks, who is starting to lose his “Ground Jordan” nickname, could only amass 29 yards and Erv Philips followed up with 26 (1 TD). George Morris who has been stout in some games was virtually non-existent with negative three yards. Steven Ishmael did score a late touchdown during “garbage time,” but his numbers just haven’t shown the progress that his preseason outlook commanded. Brisly Estime did have an impressive day in the kicking game with 130 return yards, but he also is inconsistent on offense. Again, this team is young but you can’t score with this production. Off-season workouts and skill training is a must for all on the offensive side of the ball.
The ACC’s SEC Team
· For years Clemson, late season collapses aside, has been considered the one ACC team that could compete very well in the SEC or any of the other Power 5 conferences with little difficulty. This year is no exception, but so far more of a coronation as the Tigers have propelled themselves to the top of national poll rankings and the College Football Playoff seeding. Head Coach Dabo Swinney has really turned his team loose on all competitors and seems to have the Clemson curse of losing out of the minds of all players and fans of Tiger Nation. It is hard to project if they will remain at the head of the class or at minimum be among the final four teams playing for a championship. Something seems special about this team, and their resiliency throughout the season. They have obliterated some opponents, but have won the much needed close games against the likes of #4 Notre Dame (24-22), NC State (56-41) and Florida State (23-13). Sometimes just getting the win is the most important result.
Heisman, Long Shot
· Quarterback Deshaun Watson is considered #8 in ESPN’s most recent Heisman Trophy rankings, but he is among two other players with their teams in the top four, as well as three others whose teams are in the top 10. Watson will most likely not make the trip to New York City, but he is the play caller on the current #1 team in the land and no player on the list can say that. He has already thrown for over 2,000 yards (2,233), completed 69.7% of his passes to go along with 21 touchdowns. Those aren’t numbers to ignore, and irrespective of the amount of snaps he plays this weekend Syracuse is still facing one of the top players in the country. We know how that has fared for the Orange this year.
What remains for orange teams?
· Clemson has a soft schedule to end the regular season (SYR, WAKE, SC), but a feisty North Carolina team is looking to finish out the Coastal Division as the victors. This could be an elimination game of sorts for the Tigers if they were to reach the ACC Title game. This conference championship would be “regional final” of sorts and a loss could eliminate Clemson from the College Football Playoff looking ahead. Syracuse would have to win-out to be bowl eligible, but unless a miracle happens this weekend it is highly doubtful that such a scenario will happen. However, NC State and Boston College do present the possibility to win one or both games. If SU can get one more win to end the season it would be nice ending to at least tease us for next year. Ultimately though, the coaching staff and players are all officially on the hot seat as to what decisions will be made in a matter of weeks or months.
GAME PREDICTION: #1 Clemson Tigers 45 Syracuse Orange 17