Clemson-Syracuse Betting Preview: So Many Betting Angles, but Which Matter?
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Dabo Swinney
- Clemson claims it's not out for revenge against Syracuse, which handed the Tigers their only regular-season loss last season.
- Freshman Trevor Lawrence takes over as the starting quarterback for Clemson.
- Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey didn't make it through the game two years ago in a 54-0 loss in Death Valley.
There are a ton of situations to make sense of when breaking down Saturday’s game between a pair of undefeateds in Syracuse and No. 3 Clemson.
This is a classic revenge scenario for the Tigers, who suffered their only regular-season loss a year ago in the Carrier Dome, 27-24.
Yet Clemson coach Dabo Swinney isn’t preaching that message to his players.
“We want to win this game, not because we lost last year, not to get revenge,” Swinney said. “We want to win this game because it’s a division game and we want to win the division. (Revenge) is not the motivating factor.”
Then there’s the quarterback situation. In that fateful 2017 meeting, Kelly Bryant played on an injured foot before leaving the game with a concussion.
Clemson’s offense couldn’t do enough to stay on the field late, and Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey ran out the clock with a 12-play, six-minute drive in the fourth quarter.
This week, Bryant isn’t even with the team anymore. He announced his intention Wednesday to transfer four games into the season and just days after freshman Trevor Lawrence was named the starting quarterback.
How will the Tigers respond to this distraction and adversity? Bryant was a very popular player in that locker room and a major leader.
Clemson got worse with his departure, the fourth by a Clemson quarterback this calendar year, and now depth at the most important spot on the field is an issue.
Lawrence’s talent isn’t an issue, but what if the young man struggles with the pressure of being “the guy” now? Maybe it takes him a game or two to get used to not having Bryant able to step in when a couple of drives don’t go well.
Then again, what if the 5-star recruit takes off? I already wrote about reasons why Clemson’s offense is better off with Lawrence at the helm, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he hung 50 points on a Syracuse defense ranked 130th in rushing explosiveness and 108th in passing explosiveness.
Clemson’s offense is ninth and 12th, respectively, in those categories.
Syracuse is looking for a better showing than two years ago in Death Valley, where Dungey got hurt and the Tigers rolled, 54-0.
Syracuse, which is looking to become the third team in the last 20 years to knock off a top-3 team in consecutive seasons, would have to do it as back-to-back underdog of more than three touchdowns.
A line that opened at Clemson -20 raced to -25.5 and could still go higher before kickoff.
Syracuse won’t have the same luck of facing a banged-up quarterback this time, either.
Dungey doesn’t have the same two speedy threats on the outside that gave Clemson fits a year ago, nor should Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables get outfoxed in back-to-back seasons by the same offense.
The Orange do have the tempo that wears teams down, and Dino Babers has his team high on confidence.
Clemson doesn’t want to spoil the first start of the Lawrence era with anything other than a statement that the team is over Bryant’s sudden and unexpected departure.
Ultimately, Syracuse might have one of the few offenses that does give Clemson some fits, even if it comes during garbage time. And maybe Lawrence doesn’t come out on fire the he did at Georgia Tech.
It just feels like a few too many points for the home team.
Prediction: Clemson 41, Syracuse 21
Brad Senkiw is a contributor to The Action Network and hosts The Press Box weekdays, 9 a.m.-noon ET on WCCP 105.5 The Roar.