Clemson’s secondary has been a strength through the first six games of the season, but the Tigers will get their biggest test Friday night in the Carrier Dome.
Syracuse is second in the ACC in passing, averaging 325 yards per game, and has two of the top three leading receivers in the country – Steve Ishmael and Ervin Philips.
Ishmael leads the nation in receptions with 56 and yards with 729, while Philips is third nationally in receptions with 52.
“They’ve got the two best receivers we’ll probably play. Them two cats right there, No. 3 (Philips) and No. 8 (Ishmael), they’re the real deal,” Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said. “That No. 8 catches everything ... He’s going to be a real handful. And then No. 3, he’s all over the place. He’s in the slot. He’s a motion guy. He’s outside … This is a legit group and got an excellent tight end to go along with it.”
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Clemson is second in the ACC in pass defense, holding opponents to 165.5 yards per game, and the Tigers have been impressive despite battling several injuries.
Defensive backs Marcus Edmond, Trayvon Mullen, Mark Fields and Van Smith have missed time with injuries, but the Tigers have continued to play well no matter who is in the game.
Clemson is third in the nation in sacks with 22, and defensive end Austin Bryant believes the secondary deserves some of the credit.
“This entire season they’ve done a great job in the back end holding up and giving us some extra time to get to the quarterback,” Bryant said. “The whole defense takes credit for all those sacks because without those guys, we don’t get to the quarterback before he lets it go.”
Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey and his talented group of receivers will make some plays against Clemson’s defense, as they have against everyone, but the Tigers’ offense will make more plays.
The Orange have struggled on defense and given up a lot of big plays, including 28 of 20 yards or more, which ranks No. 94 nationally.
Clemson will outscore the Orange and roll into the bye week with a 7-0 record.
Prediction: Clemson 42, Syracuse 20