Breaking down this week's matchup with a few predictions...
While everybody knows Tajh Boyd, Syracuse has a pretty good No. 10 of their own at QB.
Sophomore Terrel Hunt took over the job by game three, after incumbent starter Drew Allen had already thrown six interceptions on the young season, and he's gone 2-0.
Hunt has completed 77 percent of his passes (second only to Cole Stoudt in the ACC, min. 30 attempts) at 10.7 yards an attempt with seven touchdowns and zero interceptions. He hasn’t qualified quite yet, but his 220.7 QB rating would lead the ACC. The New York native is also a dual-threat who’s pulled it down for seven yards per carry with a pair of scores.
He has a solid 1-2 punch behind him in senior tailbacks Jerome Smith (217 yards/6 TDs) and Prince-Tyson Gulley (2 TDs).
His top targets so far have been H-back Ashton Broyld, who he’s hit for 19 passes and nine for first downs. Big junior target Jarrod West has averaged 19.2 yards per catch (11 for 211).
On the defensive side, pressure is the name of the game for the Orange, who rank in the top-25 nationally in sacks (2.75 per game) and tackles for loss (7.3). They also excel in getting teams off the field – No. 14 in third down ‘D’ (27.4 percent conversion rate allowed).
Carrier Dome, 'Cuse a new experience for Tigers
The competition they’ve put up the bulk of those positive numbers against were Wagner (FCS) and Tulane (Conference USA), who are a combined 3-6 this season.
In losses to Penn State (neutral site) and Northwestern (on the road), the Syracuse run game averaged 2.9 yards a carry, and through the air, the Orange were picked off six times.
The Syracuse offense ranks 75th nationally in adjusted efficiency, which ranks eighth in the ACC.
Defensively, they gave up 467 yards per against the two Big Ten schools – 581 alone on the trip to Northwestern, surrendering 7.2 yards per the 81 plays the Wildcats ran.
Maybe not bad, but definitely good for the Orange, was losing senior placekicker Ross Krautman earlier this season (hip). Sophomore Ryan Norton is 3-for-4 on attempts so far, but none of them have come from more than 40 yards out.
Syracuse hopes to spring the trap on the No. 3 Tigers, but Clemson’s track record of late lends to that not happening here.
They have won 12-straight games by double-digits over unranked opponents, which only No. 1 Alabama can claim better (21), and as a double-digit road favorite the last three seasons, Dabo Swinney’s crew has won by 24 points per game.
Will a close-to-sellout crowd be a factor? Maybe, but will the intensity be anything these Tigers aren't used to? Unlikely.
Syracuse’s ‘O’ will have to hit big plays early and often, and in year two under Brent Venables, Clemson has been able to slowly limit those. The Tigers pull away comfortably in the second half en route to the 5-0 start.
Three Predictions & a Pick
1. Clemson gives Syracuse’s Hunt his first career interception.
2. Sophomore Tigers running back Zac Brooks tops his best rushing effort this season (so far, 31 yards) with a touchdown.
3. Sammy Watkins puts together back-to-back 100 yard receiving games for the first time since midseason 2011 (10/8 versus BC, 152 yards; 10/15 v. Maryland, 105 yards, TDs).
Final Score: Clemson 45-24
(4-0 overall; 3-1 ATS)