The Clemson Tigers football team, No. 2 in the first College Football Playoff rankings, pulled out a third close win in four games, edging Florida State in Doak Campbell Stadium, and now hosts a solid Syracuse squad.
Who: Clemson (8-0, 5-0 ACC) vs. Syracuse (4-4, 2-2)
When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Memorial Stadium, Clemson. (81,500)
TV: ABC (Dave Pasch, Greg McElroy, Tom Luginbill)
Radio: WZMJ-FM 93.1 FM in Columbia area, Clemson Radio Network
Satellite radio: SiriusXM 84
Series record: Clemson leads 3-1
Line: Clemson by 27
What’s at stake
Clemson just has to stay the course against teams it’s better than, including Syracuse, through the rest of the year and should have a relatively open path to the playoff. Syracuse has already upset a division contender in Virginia Tech and will be looking for another pelt in Dino Babers’ first season in upstate New York.
The teams, by the numbers
Opp. Yds Rush/Game
Opp. Yds Pass/Game
Opp. Total Yds/Game
Three Story lines
1. Letdown town. Clemson just took down FSU for the second year in a row in dramatic fashion. The Tigers have no more top teams ahead until the ACC title game. Dabo Swinney’s team has been great against unranked teams, but we’re still talking about 18- to 20-year-olds.
2. Strength on strength. The Syracuse offense’s effectiveness is overstated by a blistering pace, but Baber’s Baylor-syle offense can be dangerous. Clemson’s defense has been great at keeping offenses from marching downfield, especially considering the units it has faced.
3. Back to the run? The Tigers have thrown more than they passed the past two games and not been particularly effective on the ground. Syracuse’s soft run defense could provide a cure for that, and quarterback Deshaun Watson could carry less of the load after 30 carries in two games.
Three Clemson Players to Watch
1. Quarterback Deshaun Watson still wasn’t hyper efficient against FSU, but he produced, with 378 through the air with two scores and two picks. He’s thrown for 2,328 yards, 22 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, plus 387 yards on the ground.
2. Running back Wayne Gallman returned to action after a concussion with 82 yards and two scores on 20 carries vs. FSU. For the season, he has 578 yards and seven touchdowns on 110 carries, more than four times as many as any other back on the team.
3. Safety Jadar Johnson missed the second half against the Seminoles with a calf strain Swinney said will be re-evaluated this week. He’d be helpful to have around against a pass-heavy offense and has four interceptions, six pass break-ups and 30 tackles on the season.
Three Syracuse Players to Watch
1. Quarterback Eric Dungey has been a solid operator of a high-efficiency, low-explosiveness passing game. He’s thrown for 2,631 yards with 15 scores and six picks, while completing 64.7 percent of his passes. He’s also run for 430 on 100 carries, discounting sacks.
2. Wide receiver Amba Etta-Tawo took a major step forward in this version of the Air Raid offense. With 1,074 yards, he’s nearly quintupled his 2015 total. He’s got 66 catches and seven scores, averaging 16.27 yards per catch.
3. Linebacker Parris Bennett has three tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, one pick and three pass breakups, plus leads the team with 73 tackles.