CLEMSON TIGERS (6-0)
at SYRACUSE ORANGE (3-3)
Carrier Dome – Syracuse, NY
Kickoff: Friday, 7:00 p.m. ET
Line: Clemson -21.5, Total: NA
Undefeated #2 Clemson gets the Friday spotlight on the road against Syracuse.
On a weekend where Top 10 teams like Oklahoma and Michigan fell to the likes of Iowa State and Michigan State, the undefeated Clemson Tigers kept on chugging, rising to 6-0 (4-2 ATS) with a 28-14 home win over a solid conference opponent in Wake Forest (WF +21). All was not rosy for the reigning national champs, however, as starting QB Kelly Bryant left the game in the third quarter with an ankle injury and did not return. Signs immediately after the game were that he might miss the Tiger's next contest, with it coming on a short week at Syracuse, but the latest reports say Dabo Swinney believes his signal-caller is likely to start. The Orange, on the other hand, are back at .500 (3-2-1 ATS) after closing out Pittsburgh for a 27-24 home win on Saturday (SYR -3). The triumph comes on the heels of single-digit road losses to NC State and LSU, in which Cuse showed it can hang with teams possessing elite talent. Head coach Dino Baber's Syracuse teams have gone Under the total in 14 of his 18 games there, despite often reaching huge point totals. At Clemson, Swinney is 3-8 ATS as a favorite of 21.5 to 31 points and 6-0 Over against the total as a road favorite of 14.5 or more points.
Bryant (67.3 CMP%, 1,259 yards, 4 TDs, 4 INTs; 97 carries, 401 yards, 7 TDs) has been the engine of the offense both on the ground and through the air for the Tigers. He has been unspectacular as a passer, ranking seventh in the ACC with a passer efficiency rating of 137.1 and 12th in touchdown passes, tied with Wake Forest backup Kendall Hinton. He has been good enough in that respect, though, and has done so without the Mike Williams/Jordan Leggett receiving duo that Deshaun Watson had at his disposal. Bryant leads the team in rushing, and is tied with Lamar Jackson for third in the conference in rushing TDs. Against Wake, he completed 21 of 29 passes for 200 yards, a touchdown and a pick, while also gaining 39 yards on 12 carries. After he left the game, No. 2 QB Zerrick Cooper completed only 2 of 6 passes for 16 yards, while ostensibly the No. 3 QB, freshman Hunter Johnson, was perfect, going 5-for-5 for 42 yards and an insurance touchdown. If Bryant were to sit against the Orange, it's unclear who would get the start. The Tigers continued to use a multi-pronged rushing attack against the Demon Deacons, as RB Travis Etienne (46 carries, 378 yards, 5 TDs) carried 15 times for 67 yards and a TD, and RB Tavien Feaster (59 carries, 332 yards, 2 TDs) got 11 carries for 54 yards. RB Adam Choice (28 carries, 136 yards, 4 TDs) had a four-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. That came on the heels of a 28-yard touchdown reception by WR Deon Cain (17 catches, 244 yards, 2 TDs). Like in the backfield, Bryant's wideouts see pretty equal action as one another, as WRs Ray-Ray McCloud (26 catches, 291 yards, TD) and Hunter Renfrow (29 carries, 282 yards) share similar yardage numbers with Cain.
Like Clemson, Syracuse's offense centers around its quarterback. Unlike Clemson, for whom Bryant is starting for the first time this year, the Orange are relying on a veteran behind center in QB Eric Dungey (64.4 CMP%, 1,802 yards, 9 TDs, 4 INTs; 80 carries, 325 yards, 8 TDs). Dungey has been strong in starting most of the Orange's games over the past two seasons, but he has taken it to another level early halfway through the 2017 campaign: His 1,802 yards are the eighth most in the nation. Now, that number exaggerate his effectiveness a little bit: He has thrown more passes (261) than all but one other player among the country's top 30 passers, and his yards per attempt average (6.9) is lower than all but one other player among the same group. Nonetheless, he's a nationally known player—Athlon had him as their Third Team All-ACC QB going into the season—and he's clearly the leader of a strong Syracuse offense. He completed 33 of 49 passes for 365 yards and two touchdowns against Pitt, and also bruised his way to 48 yards on 12 carries and another touchdown on the ground. Dungey tends to fixate on one or two targets, something reflected obviously in his receivers' stats. Last year, since-departed WR Amba Etto-Tawo was eighth in the country in receiving yards; through six games this year, WR Steve Ishmael (56 catches, 729 yards, 3 TDs) is first. He had five catches for 97 yards and a TD against Pitt. Ishmael is also first nationally in receptions and, remarkably, WR Ervin Philips is third (52 catches, 475 yards, 2 TDs). The Pitt win was Dungey's best game yet in terms of distribution, as WR Devin C. Butler (16 catches, 157 yards, TD) had seven catches for 64 yards and a score, while WR Ravian Pierce (19 carries, 138 yards, 2 TDs) caught nine balls for 99 yards. As much as Cuse throws, they found plenty of opportunities on the ground against the Panthers for RB Dontae Strickland (76 carries, 220 yards, 3 TDs; 9 catches, 62 yards, TD). Strickland, whose previous season-high for carries had been 15, rushed 25 times for 80 yards and also caught two passes for a season-best 32 yards.