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5 Storylines for Clemson Heading into Syracuse Week

Following a week to rest and watch this wild and crazy college football season, the Clemson Tigers hit the road for a 7 p.m. showdown Friday with the Syracuse Orange.

Following a week of rest, little news, same old topics and watching everybody else play in this wild and crazy college football season, it's time to get back at it. 

Clemson hits the road this week to face Syracuse on Friday at 7 p.m. The Orange are coming off a 40-37 overtime loss to undefeated Wake Forest, so they're looking for their first ACC victory of the season. Meanwhile, the Tigers are aiming for their first conference road win. 

Here are five storylines heading into the showdown in the Carrier Dome:

1. Injury report: The last time we saw Clemson, it was as banged up as any Dabo Swinney squad in the last decade. The Tigers will already be without defensive tackles Bryan Bresee and Tyler Davis, running back Will Shipley, safety Lannden Zanders and quarterback/punt returner Will Taylor. All but Davis and Shipley are lost of the season, along with several other depth-chart pieces. 

But we'll find out if tight end Braden Galloway, receivers Justyn Ross, Frank Ladson Jr. and E.J. Williams will return healthy this week. Cornerback Fred Davis has missed the last two contests while safety Joseph Charleston and right guard Will Putnam also missed the last game. We should get clarity on who's ready to help the team on the road this week.

2. Ghosts of Clemson's past: Hey, did you know the Tigers lost in the Dome in 2017? Or that they got bailed out by former quarterback Chase Brice the next year against the Orange? Well if you didn't, you're in luck. You're going to hear an awful lot about those two games from Swinney and the coaches. 

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A few players, like James Skalski and Nolan Turner, were around for those close contests as well, and they'll tell you that for some reason, Syracuse coach Dino Babers had Clemson's number for a couple of seasons. However, he's lost by a combined 61 points the last two meetings. That comes with a caveat for Clemson: Trevor Lawrence played in those games. 

3. Offensive turnaround: Clemson showed signs of getting out of this offensive slump against BC, finding a real run game behind a revamped offensive line and rushers Kobe Pace and Phil Mafah. But this unit still ranks 117th in total offense and 112th in points per game. Nobody saw this kind of struggle coming, but a week off and some newfound confidence could be the spark quarterback D.J. Uiagaelei and this offense need. 

However, defense is Syracuse's calling card this season. The Orange rank 22nd in the nation in total defense and use an aggressive front that's produced the fourth-most sacks in FBS this season. The Tigers will have to protect Uiagalelei and execute at a high level to get enough points this week. 

4. Stepping up: All of those injuries Clemson's faced have put some unexpected players in prime positions to help. Pace and Mafah did a tremendous job last time out, but they're going to have to prove as young players they can consistently get the job done. Tre Williams has been battling through injury to be a force up front and Ruke Orohororo has played at a high level, but the Tigers need more from their defensive tackle depth. 

They can't solely rely on Xavier Thomas, Myles Murphy and James Skalski to make every play. On the back end of the defense, safety Nolan Turner is coming off his best game of the season, and R.J. Mickens has come up big with two interceptions this year, but the depth will be tested again. Somebody not named Ross is going to have to step up at receiver if the Tigers want to avoid another ACC loss. 

5. Needing help: Not only did Clemson get the week off, but so did the NC State Wolfpack, who own the tiebreaker over the Tigers and are in second place in the ACC Atlantic. Wake Forest is sitting atop the division at 4-0 on league play. So if the third-place Tigers are going to retain their reign over the conference, they're going to need some help.

Every week, they'll keep an eye on other games for the first time in what seems like a lifetime. NC State goes to Boston College this week while Wake Forest gets Saturday off before it steps out of conference to play at Army on Oct. 23. The Tigers still get the Demon Deacons at Memorial Stadium on Nov. 20, the week after Wake hosts the Wolfpack. So you're saying there's a chance? Yes, there certainly is. 

Updated:
Original:

5 Storylines for Clemson Heading into Syracuse Week

Following a week to rest and watch this wild and crazy college football season, the Clemson Tigers hit the road for a 7 p.m. showdown Friday with the Syracuse Orange.

Following a week of rest, little news, same old topics and watching everybody else play in this wild and crazy college football season, it's time to get back at it. 

Clemson hits the road this week to face Syracuse on Friday at 7 p.m. The Orange are coming off a 40-37 overtime loss to undefeated Wake Forest, so they're looking for their first ACC victory of the season. Meanwhile, the Tigers are aiming for their first conference road win. 

Here are five storylines heading into the showdown in the Carrier Dome:

1. Injury report: The last time we saw Clemson, it was as banged up as any Dabo Swinney squad in the last decade. The Tigers will already be without defensive tackles Bryan Bresee and Tyler Davis, running back Will Shipley, safety Lannden Zanders and quarterback/punt returner Will Taylor. All but Davis and Shipley are lost of the season, along with several other depth-chart pieces. 

But we'll find out if tight end Braden Galloway, receivers Justyn Ross, Frank Ladson Jr. and E.J. Williams will return healthy this week. Cornerback Fred Davis has missed the last two contests while safety Joseph Charleston and right guard Will Putnam also missed the last game. We should get clarity on who's ready to help the team on the road this week.

2. Ghosts of Clemson's past: Hey, did you know the Tigers lost in the Dome in 2017? Or that they got bailed out by former quarterback Chase Brice the next year against the Orange? Well if you didn't, you're in luck. You're going to hear an awful lot about those two games from Swinney and the coaches. 

A few players, like James Skalski and Nolan Turner, were around for those close contests as well, and they'll tell you that for some reason, Syracuse coach Dino Babers had Clemson's number for a couple of seasons. However, he's lost by a combined 61 points the last two meetings. That comes with a caveat for Clemson: Trevor Lawrence played in those games. 

3. Offensive turnaround: Clemson showed signs of getting out of this offensive slump against BC, finding a real run game behind a revamped offensive line and rushers Kobe Pace and Phil Mafah. But this unit still ranks 117th in total offense and 112th in points per game. Nobody saw this kind of struggle coming, but a week off and some newfound confidence could be the spark quarterback D.J. Uiagaelei and this offense need. 

However, defense is Syracuse's calling card this season. The Orange rank 22nd in the nation in total defense and use an aggressive front that's produced the fourth-most sacks in FBS this season. The Tigers will have to protect Uiagalelei and execute at a high level to get enough points this week. 

4. Stepping up: All of those injuries Clemson's faced have put some unexpected players in prime positions to help. Pace and Mafah did a tremendous job last time out, but they're going to have to prove as young players they can consistently get the job done. Tre Williams has been battling through injury to be a force up front and Ruke Orohororo has played at a high level, but the Tigers need more from their defensive tackle depth. 

They can't solely rely on Xavier Thomas, Myles Murphy and James Skalski to make every play. On the back end of the defense, safety Nolan Turner is coming off his best game of the season, and R.J. Mickens has come up big with two interceptions this year, but the depth will be tested again. Somebody not named Ross is going to have to step up at receiver if the Tigers want to avoid another ACC loss. 

5. Needing help: Not only did Clemson get the week off, but so did the NC State Wolfpack, who own the tiebreaker over the Tigers and are in second place in the ACC Atlantic. Wake Forest is sitting atop the division at 4-0 on league play. So if the third-place Tigers are going to retain their reign over the conference, they're going to need some help.

Every week, they'll keep an eye on other games for the first time in what seems like a lifetime. NC State goes to Boston College this week while Wake Forest gets Saturday off before it steps out of conference to play at Army on Oct. 23. The Tigers still get the Demon Deacons at Memorial Stadium on Nov. 20, the week after Wake hosts the Wolfpack. So you're saying there's a chance? Yes, there certainly is.