The no. 1 Clemson Tigers will put their 17-game winning streak on the line Saturday night when they visit the Syracuse Orange. Kickoff is set for 7:30 EST on Saturday, September 14 at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York. The game will be nationally televised on ABC.
Based on our Week 3 odds, the Tigers are favored by 27.5 points on the road. The over/under for the game is listed at 59.5 points.
Through two games, Clemson hasn’t given us any reason to doubt that they are the best team in the country. They steamrolled rival Georgia Tech 52-14 in their season opener. The Tigers followed that up with a 24-10 win last week against a tricky Texas A&M team. Despite failing to cover the spread with the Aggies scoring a touchdown with six seconds left in the game, it was a convincing win for Dabo Swinney’s team. Of course, the Tigers now begin ACC play and hit the road for the first time this season.
As for Syracuse, we’ve seen two different Orange teams in the first two games. The Orange dominated Liberty 24-0 on the road to open the season. But they got worked last week, losing 63-20 to Maryland on the road, causing Syracuse to drop out of the top-25. After winning 10 games last season, most expected the Orange to head into their showdown with Clemson 2-0. But now Syracuse is staring down the barrel of a 1-2 start to the season if they can’t pull off the upset.
Of course, Syracuse is the last team not named Alabama to beat Clemson, knocking off the Tigers on their last trip to the Carrier Dome in 2017. The Orange also came the closest to beating Clemson last year, as they led the Tigers in Death Valley heading to the fourth quarter, only to see Clemson storm back late to win 27-23. Based on those two games, Syracuse will know that they can play with Clemson, although the Tigers will know that the Orange is not a team they can take lightly.
I won’t debate that Clemson is the better team or that there are some concerns about Syracuse after last week’s loss to Maryland. But I still think the oddsmakers overreacted to the Orange’s lopsided loss last week when coming up with this spread. I’m not going to predict a Syracuse upset, but I do think the Orange will beat the spread.
As mentioned, the Syracuse defense has been Jekyll and Hyde this year. They dominated Liberty in their opener, shutting out a team with a veteran quarterback and an NFL-caliber wide receiver. However, they stumbled last week against Maryland. If we revert back to the start of the season, some thought the Orange had the best defensive line in the ACC, even better than the Clemson defensive line. Syracuse also has several potential NFL players in the secondary.
With that in mind, I have to think the Syracuse defense will have a bounce-back effort this week. In their defense, they weren’t all that familiar with how the Maryland offense was going to attack them. This week, the Orange will have a better idea of what to expect from the Clemson offense, as well as the personnel the Tigers have. They will also have a sold-out Carrier Dome to help out, which should make a difference.
Of course, I’m not going to discount the talent that Clemson has on offense. Trevor Lawrence is one of the best quarterbacks in the country, and the receiving duo of Justyn Ross and Tee Higgins is a big help. Running back Travis Etienne will also pose a huge challenge for a Syracuse defense that had a lot of missed tackles last week. Etienne shredded the Orange for 203 yards and three touchdowns last year, so the Orange defense has to worry about giving up the big play.
Meanwhile, the X-factor in this game could be the Syracuse offense. The Orange have plenty of speed, and the offense was built to play inside a dome, which they have yet to do this season. Sophomore quarterback Tommy DeVito is still finding his way in his first season as a starter. But he’s flashed plenty of potential during the first two games and has the receivers to create big plays if he gets time in the pocket.
Whether that happens could come down to the Clemson defense. The Tigers lost a lot of talent on that side of the ball, especially on the defensive line. There’s still plenty of talent on that side of the ball. But this will be the first game this year that they don’t have the home crowd behind them. If the Tigers expect to cover, they’ll have to come close to keeping a shutout, and I’m not sure the Clemson defense is up for it.
Ultimately, I have a hard time believing that Syracuse will lose by four touchdowns at home. The Orange defense should have a bounce-back game at home and keep Syracuse within striking distance. Even if they don’t pull off the upset, Syracuse will be the spread.