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Clemson at Syracuse: 5 Things to Watch For

Storylines to follow as Clemson gets set for a Friday night ACC matchup with Syracuse in the Carrier Dome.

Coming off a bye week, the Tigers are hoping that a week off will help pump some life into a struggling offense.

A well-rested Clemson (3-2, 2-1) team is set to face off with Syracuse (3-3, 0-2) in a Friday night ACC showdown in the Carrier Dome. 

While the Tigers currently have the ACC's least productive offense, they did start to show signs of life two weeks ago in a 19-13 win over Boston College. The Orange come in with their own issues, having lost two straight, with each contest being decided on the final play of the game.

5 Things to Watch

1. Starting Five: In the win over BC, Hunter Rayburn got his first start at center, with Matt Bockhorst moving over to RG in place of the injured Will Putnam and Paul Tchio starting at LG. It was a move that paid off as the Tigers rushed for 231 yards and averaged close to six yards per carry. It will be interesting to see who starts and where against Syracuse, and Dabo Swinney isn't tipping his hand as the depth chart is full of players listed as co-starters.

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2. ACC's Top Rushing Attack vs Second Best Run D: The Orange are tops in the ACC when it comes to running the ball, averaging 243 yards per game. The Tigers have the league's second-best rush defense, allowing just 101 yards per game, but are without both starting defensive tackles. How this game turns out will largely ride on how well Tre Williams and Ruke Orhorhoro hold up against the run-heavy Syracuse offense. Not only does Orange running back Sean Tucker lead the ACC in rushing with 132 yards per game, but quarterback Garrett Schrader also ranks ninth, averaging 69 yards per game. In last week's loss to Wake Forest, the two combined for 331 yards on the ground. 

3. 3rd Downs: Converting third downs on offense, and getting off the field on third down on defense will be key. Syracuse wants to run the ball and control the clock and the Tigers can not let that happen. Forcing the Orange into third and long could be crucial, as Schrader has struggled to throw the ball down the field. He is just 3-20 on passes of 20-plus yards this year with two interceptions, per Pro Football Focus. Syracuse is also without its top receiver in Taj Harris, who entered the transfer portal last week. The offense needs to do its part as well by converting on third down and not leaving the defense hanging out to dry. 

4. Refreshed Uiagalelei: The argument can be made that no one needed the week off more than Clemson's starting quarterback. The sophomore has struggled immensely to start the season and was probably in dire need of a few days away from the game. The Tigers are still very much alive for a seventh consecutive trip to the ACC Championship Game and need their starting quarterback to start playing at the level he did in two starts as a freshman. 

5. Covering the Number: In all five of its previous games, Clemson was favored and has opened as a double-digit favorite over every opponent except Georgia. The Tigers have yet to cover a spread, though. Once again, Clemson is a double-digit favorite (13.5). Is this the week they finally cover the number?

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