It is an important weekend for the Clemson Tigers (4-0, 2-0) as Dabo Swinney takes the Tajh Boyd show on the road against the Syracuse Orange (2-2. 0-0) on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ABC/ESPN2).
On paper and in the stats book, it is easy to take a look at this one as just another College Football win in the ACC for the Tigers, but it is far from a cake walk. In fact, it might be one of the more interesting games Clemson will play in 2013 as the Orange want to make a statement in their first ever ACC Football game.
“They really play well at home,” Swinney said in Tuesday press conference. “They only lost one game at home all last year. Teddy Bridgewater has been there and got beat with a top-10 team. Geno Smith has been there with a top-10 team and gotten beat over the last two years.”
Syracuse does have some bite and consistency when it comes to Swinney’s comments as first year Head Coach Scott Shafer served as the Orange’s defensive coordinator since 2009 meaning Syracuse has maintained his philosophy of putting heavy pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
“They bring pressure from everywhere,” Swinney added. “They’ll overload you from the outside; they’ll ‘Gut X’ it on the inside; they’ll bring secondary pressure. They play a lot of Cover 0 (no deep safeties). We haven’t seen much of that. They will run a house blitz and bring one more than you can block no matter what you do with your protections. So, you’ve got to win matchups when people do that, and you’ve got to know who the free guy is. That’s the challenge from a protection standpoint, and the quarterback has got to be dialed in.”
The Clemson staff has zeroed in on this element of the game Saturday because starting right tackle Gifford Timothy is questionable due to lingering effects of a concussion. Add him to the other nicks and bruises of the offensive line along with the solid track record of the Orange in the stuffy, non-air conditioned Carrier Dome and you can see why Swinney has concerns.
But either way, the Tigers are ready for it and none more than Boyd.
“I love playing on the road – not as much as playing at home, but just the competitive nature comes out even that much more,” Boyd said. “It’s always a hostile environment, especially somewhere that you’ve never been. It’s going to be a challenge. It’s their homecoming, their first ACC game, so their crowd is going to be pumped up.”