The countdown is on to Clemson football first in Athens (Georgia) and then back in TigerTown on Sept. 6 (S.C. State).
We’re counting down the Clemson schedule – by strength of schedule – with a quick profile, team I.D. and prediction.
After taking a share of the Big East on its way out, Syracuse was the best of the rest in the Atlantic Division last season. Making their first trip to Death Valley, what’s next for the Orange?
Clemson Countdown to Kickoff
12) S.C. State
11) Georgia State
10) Wake Forest
9) N.C. State
8) Syracuse Orange
Plays Clemson: at Memorial Stadium, Oct. 25, time TBA.
2013 Record: 7-6 (4-4 ACC, third in the Atlantic).
Coach: Scott Shafer (7-6 career record).
Offense (2013 ranks): Spread (Scoring offense: 99, 22.7 PPG; Yards per play: 102, 5.11; Field position advantage: 64).
Defense (2013 ranks): 4-3 (Def. yards per play: 48, 5.34; Scoring defense: 56, 25.4 PPG; 3rd down defense: 16, 33.5%).
Advanced stats: Success Rate – 92 (39.2%); Points per trip inside the 40 – 80 (4); Adj. line yards – 27 (110.3); Def. Success Rate – 50 (41.2%); Def. points per trip inside the 40 – 81 (4.4); Def. adj. line yards – 32 (109).
Returning starters: Offense – 8; Defense – 7; Kickers – 2;
1. Starts upfront - Syracuse returns a smattering of 2013 skill position contributors, but the strength is on the o-line, where they bring back 4-of-5 starters including senior left tackle Sean Hickey. They lose All-ACC center Macky MacPherson off from a unit that was top-30 in adjusted line yards (27) and 32nd in adjusted sack rate.
2. On the Hunt - The ‘Cuse has to hope junior quarterback Terrel Hunt isn’t having flashbacks come the trip to Death Valley in late October. Hunt came into the schools’ first ACC meeting last year among the nation’s leaders in pass efficiency, but met a rude awakening – 8-of-24 passing for 52 yards, three interceptions, no scores and an early seat on the bench. He finished out the season strong, however, and earned team MVP honors with over 2,000 all-purpose yards (an even 500 rushing) with 17 scores in 11 starts.
3. Attack-attack-attack - There’s probably no team other than Clemson that’s more aggressive than Syracuse, but the results were mixed in Shafer’s move from d-coordinator to head coach last season. They were 17th in tackles for loss (7.15 per game), but 48th in yards per play (5.34) and 56th scoring defense (25.4). The Orange should be right around there this season with their returning talent, making the offense the make-or-break in a much tougher 2014 schedule.
Projected Record: 6-6 (3-5 ACC).
(Way too early) Syracuse pick: 41-17 Tigers.
Analysis: Clemson made Syracuse’s secondary look silly last season as Tajh Boyd fired deep pass after deep pass for a 16.9 yards per attempt average, totaling a school-record 455 yards. The Clemson passing attack will be a little different this season, but you figure Chad Morris will take advantage of Shafer’s aggressiveness defensively. This is more a game of survival for the Orange and escaping to more winnable games without injury.
Next up: 7) Boston College Eagles – BC aims for the next step after giving Clemson and Florida State fits last season.