Using a hurry-up offense in college football is no longer unique, but few teams are moving at the speed of Syracuse.
Dino Babers’ squad leads the nation in plays with 516, one of two teams with more than 500, and is moving as fast as anyone in the country.
“They’re lightning fast. We like to go at a good tempo, and then we’ve got to kind of pick our spots where we might speed it up a little more or slow it down. But they’re blazing,” Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said. “They’re just a fast, aggressive, do what they do offense. It’s different.”
The results have been positive for the Orange this season.
Syracuse is averaging 466.8 yards and 32 points per game in 2017 after putting up 440.8 yards and 25.7 points last season.
The Orange also gave N.C. State and LSU competitive games and have yet to lose by double digits. All eight of Syracuse’s losses in 2016 were by two touchdowns or more.
In order to keep that trend going on Friday against Clemson, Syracuse will need to stay on the field against the Tigers’ stout defense.
Clemson is in the top 15 nationally in third down defense, allowing opponents to convert only 27.8 percent of the time. If Syracuse cannot convert on third down and stay on the field, it could end up with a tired defense as the game goes along.
“You want to get stops. Hopefully, they are hurrying up and getting off the field and putting our offense back out there,” Swinney said. “I think that frustrates a tempo offense more than anything, when they can’t really get in a rhythm. So now you are playing really fast to punt and that’d be a great thing. If they are going to play fast, we have to play fast. We have to match the precision, match the intensity, match the alignment, match the communication. Everything’s just kind of ramped up.”
Clemson’s depth could cause the Orange trouble. The Tigers have been committed to playing a lot of guys and have four running backs, nine receivers and eight offensive linemen that receive regular snaps.
The Tigers also routinely sub on defense in an effort to stay fresh late in games.
If Syracuse is able to stay on the field on third down and snap the ball before Clemson gets lined up, the Orange could have an advantage. But if the Tigers are able to get off the field on third down and eventually wear Syracuse down, it could be a long night for the home team in the Carrier Dome.
“I don’t think there’s any question whether it’s a tempo offense or any offense, you want a three-and-out. You don’t want to allow any rhythm. You don’t want to allow them to get any type of balance in what they are doing,” Swinney said. “You want to keep them off balance from controlling the line of scrimmage, especially stopping any type of run game. Just don’t let that exist. That’s our goal every week, regardless of whether they are up-tempo or not. The biggest challenge with this type of offense is that everything is ramped up. Your sense of urgency from signal, alignment, communication from up top to the sideline, it’s a lot faster.”