Is there a task that you must do, say at work, that comes with the job, and represents a small percentage of what you do, but you just hate doing it and you cringe when you know it must be done, and you just have a profound sense of relief when it’s over, because you don’t have to do it again for a while? That is how I feel when Clemson plays at Syracuse on a Friday night. The experience was bad enough the first time, and I wonder who was bribed into making it happen again and how much $$ did it take? Because we might want to start a Go Fund Me to make sure it never happens again.
That aside, I feel it is safe to say Syracuse is a better team than I thought they were in the pre-season, and yet are still not a very good team. I honestly thought Dino Babers would be out of a job by now, but the ‘Cuse has actually managed to find their way to a 3-3 record. The Orange is led on the field by quarterback Garrett Schrader, from Charlotte Christian High School in Charlotte via Mississippi State. The highlight of their season thus far is a home victory against Liberty. That might not sound impressive on the surface, but Liberty defeated Syracuse last season, and Coach Hugh Freeze has the Flames playing good football right now.
The Tiger coaches and players do sound like they are taking Syracuse seriously, which is a very smart way to look at every team this season. Clemson fans still have confidence in the team and their efforts, but outside Tiger Nation, opponents smell blood. Think about when Clemson men’s basketball gets an opportunity against a Duke or North Carolina team that isn’t having their normal outstanding season, and you sense that if you will ever have a chance at a victory, this might be it. It really doesn’t matter to opponents whether Clemson is having a great season or a down season: the target is on the Tigers because of what they represent to ACC opponents, and it might be even larger now that they see a chance to beat Clemson.
I am optimistic that we will continue to see steps forward by the Clemson offense. I have no idea how reliable depth charts supplied by the team are these days, as they usually just reflect the line up from the previous game, but this week the chart indicates Hunter Rayburn likely starts at center and Matt Bockhorst starts at guard, with Paul Tchio or Marcus Tate at the other guard position. The chart does list Will Putnam as an alternate starter at guard, but I don’t think we have confirmation if he has recovered from his injury or not. I think sticking with the primary line-up from the Boston College game is the best option for the line, and I am hopeful with a good performance, the rest of the offense can find their groove. I think Clemson has found enough blocking to allow Kobe Pace and Phil Mafah to find some holes to break out big plays. If Clemson can force Syracuse to dedicate more defenders to the run, then DJU will have his chance to break out in the passing game. If that does happen, and DJU doesn’t take advantage of that opportunity, then we are likely getting much closer to seeing Taisun Phommachanh, and it might even happen Friday.
I am also optimistic about the defense, which has been dealing with several absences, particularly at the defensive tackle position. As I guessed, the deep defensive end unit did step up and start putting a ton of pressure on BC’s quarterback, but this was only possible because players like Ruke Orhorhoro and Tre Williams have held their own in the middle, which is very exciting. It is clear Clemson’s defensive backfield benefits from the havoc the Tigers wreak up front, and they had multiple turnovers against the Eagles. Despite this, QB Dennis Grosel was able to find soft spots in the defense and put together some good drives, so Jimmy Greenbeans and the rest of the defensive staff will need to be ready since Syracuse isn’t afraid to take shots down the field if their opponent loads up against the run.
Ugh…I guess we have to do this. Alright, let’s get it over with.