Clemson football: Perfect so far, Syracuse offers final major test for Tigers in Atlantic
The Clemson Tigers have been on a tour de force through the ACC Atlantic Division’s best teams over the past month, and they have 1 final major test on the schedule coming up this weekend at home.
Undefeated and No. 18 Syracuse will travel to Death Valley on Saturday afternoon to take on the 4th-ranked Tigers, and the winner will have overwhelming control of its own destiny to win the division. And for Clemson, the meeting with the Orange will wrap up a 5-week stretch during which the Tigers will have played their 4 biggest competitors for a trip to Charlotte, N.C.
It started with a 51-45 double-overtime victory Sept. 24 at Wake Forest, by far Clemson’s closest call of the year. The Tigers followed that with a 30-20 win against NC State, the preseason favorite to challenge Clemson, and after a dominant victory over Boston College the Tigers handled business Saturday night against Florida State in Tallahassee.
So now it’s the upstart, somewhat surprising Orange that sits next up on the schedule in a quasi ACC Atlantic Division championship game. Yes, the Tigers still will have Miami and Louisville left on the schedule, but neither the Cardinals nor Hurricanes have shown they have a real chance to beat the Tigers.
But Syracuse has. The Orange has statistically the best defense in the ACC, holding opponents to just 268.8 yards per game and 13.2 points per contest. Syracuse held NC State without a touchdown, and the Orange has yet to allow more than 20 points in an ACC game.
For Clemson, it’s a unique challenge ahead and another opportunity to show it can beat any team, any way. The Tigers won a shootout against high-flying Wake Forest. The very next week they mucked it up and won a slog against defensively stout NC State.
And after a 34-28 victory at Florida State, the Tigers are going to find themselves playing some more old-school football again this weekend against the Orange. But as we’ve seen this year, that’s not a problem for this Clemson team.
The Tigers’ defense in its own regards has been very good. Clemson is 3rd in the ACC in scoring defense and among the top 5 in total defense, and it has played as well as the team has needed to win every game so far.
Offensively, Clemson offers much more than any team Syracuse has faced, and it’s the matchup that finally could expose the Orange. After all, Clemson has done just that to Wake Forest, NC State and Florida State within the past month. Three teams that thought they could compete with the Tigers, and they all came up short.
The Tigers have been the supremacy of the ACC for so long, and after 1 single year of not making it to Charlotte the Tigers look to be fully back. The path to the College Football Playoff once again is fully ahead of the Tigers, but that has to start with winning the ACC for the 7th time in 8 years.
And that journey will take its next step Saturday at Death Valley, as the Tigers will look to turn yet another contender into a pretender in the quest for the final ACC Atlantic Division title.
And Clemson, with its superior roster and wealth of resources, has passed every test so far in 2022.