Bailey: With help from Syracuse, Clemson has chance to reset opposing scoring record
“However bad we can beat a team, that’s what we’re going to try and do. We’re going to try and run the score up because that’s what offense is for.” – Sammy Watkins, Clemson wide receiver
That statement doesn’t bode well for the Syracuse record book.
The most points Syracuse has allowed in the modern era is 63 to Nebraska in 1983. Second is a Michael Vick-led 62-0 embarrassment in 1999. However, an unusual combination of factors in the Carrier Dome on Saturday could allow Clemson to reset the mark. Its omnipotent offense will inevitably thrash Syracuse’s substandard secondary, but it’s as much the Orange’s successful up-tempo approach that gives the Tigers a reasonable chance to drop 60-plus.
Tajh Boyd and Co. were on pace for 67 points against Wake Forest last week when Dabo Swinney called the dogs off at 42-7 with 6:41 left in the third quarter. But Syracuse’s scoring drives in its last game, a 52-7 blowout of Tulane on Sept. 21, were even more torrid.
With 7:53 remaining in the third quarter, the Orange had already scored seven touchdowns. 17 seconds per play. 1:34.7 per scoring drive.
It’s those speedy possessions that injected hope into Syracuse fans — and rightfully so — but they’ll also give Clemson extra scoring chances.
“It’s two teams that like to go fast,” SU head coach Scott Shafer said. “You just never know how many plays can be in a game. From a defensive point of view, hopefully not too many, but it is what it is.”
Terrel Hunt said that if the offense can “keep it quick,” Syracuse would have a chance to win. That might be a stretch, but SU has proven it can score at least a couple of times against the Tigers.
The Orange annihilated Wagner and Tulane for 79 combined first-half points. Sure, Clemson’s defense is better. It ranks 25th in the country in points allowed and has forced nine turnovers. But the Orange offense is capable of at least hanging around until halftime — long enough for Swinney to keep his first team racing down the field for all four quarters.
Exactly the opportunity Watkins wants.
“We want to put up 70 points a game,” Watkins said, “get a lot of yards and be that dominant, flashy offense that everyone likes to see.”
It’s been a few weeks since their last real test, but the Orange defensive backs haven’t exactly done well with flashy offenses this year.
Against Penn State, Allen Robinson grabbed seven passes for 133 yards and a touchdown playing only the second half, almost single-handedly delivering the Nittany Lions a season-opening victory.
Against Northwestern, the Wildcats scored on six of their first seven drives, racked up 48 total points and 581 yards and made Drew Allen the loneliest man on campus.
Now look at Clemson.
Boyd is a legitimate Heisman contender without an interception through four games. Watkins is the best wide receiver in the country, and the surrounding stars are dangerous enough to prevent SU from safely double-teaming him.
It’s a team SU head coach Scott Shafer said is as potent on offense as any he has ever gone against in 24 years of playing and coaching. One he’d just like to “trip up” a little bit.
A little bit?
That sounds like a coach who knows his team will need to score to compete on Saturday — especially with starting cornerback Brandon Reddish being questionable.
“There’s a lot to it,” Shafer admitted.
Nine touchdowns. That’s all Clemson needs to threaten Syracuse’s points allowed record.
The Tigers dropped 62 on North Carolina State last year and haven’t gotten a chance to keep the starters in for four quarters this season since a 38-35 win over then-No. 5 Georgia on Aug. 31.
They finished with 56 against Wake Forest, and scored 38 in the first half against South Carolina State on Sept. 7.
But Saturday presents the perfect storm. If Syracuse maintains its up-tempo offense and Shafer is unable to spread his hay fever to the Clemson playmakers, the Tigers could very well leave the Dome with more than just a ‘W.’
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