Week 8 college football picks: Clemson vs. Syracuse
When: Sat., Oct. 22
Time: 12 p.m. Eastern
TV: ABC network
Stream: fuboTV (Start your free trial)
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Odds courtesy of SI Sportsbook
Line: Clemson -13.5
Moneyline: SYR +400, CLEM -654
FPI pick: Clemson 83.5%
Related: Clemson vs. Syracuse picks, predictions: Week 8 college football odds, spread, lines
1. De facto division title game? It's a little early to sort out the Atlantic Division chase right now, but this game will no doubt go a long way in doing that. If Clemson wins, it would still need to take down Miami or Louisville in the next few weeks to take the division. But it means more for the Orange, who still have trips to Pittsburgh and Wake Forest. Syracuse comes in at 6-0 overall and 3-0 in ACC play, compared to Clemson's 7-0 overall mark and a 5-0 record in conference. Winning the head-to-head here is vital.
2. Clemson up front. Coming into last week, Clemson boasted the 4th stingiest rushing defense in college football, but Florida State ran through it for over 200 yards, a number the Tigers had allowed on the ground just four times in the last six years. Dabo Swinney said his team missed 26 tackles in that game, being out of position, slow at the point of attack, or missing their angles of pursuit. That issue has to be corrected as Clemson lines up against Syracuse's 1-2 punch on offense.
3. Shrader and Tucker. Orange quarterback Garrett Shrader is a legitimate threat moving the ball in the air, averaging 171 yards per game with 12 TDs and three picks while completing almost 70% of his attempts. He'll have opportunities against Clemson's secondary, which allows almost 256 passing yards per game. Tucker had 157 yards rushing in this game last season and is hitting over 5 ypc this year with 6 of Syracuse's 12 rushing scores. Shrader has five of those other TDs while adding 300 yards on the ground. This duo can challenge Clemson's front seven, one of the nation's best making plays behind the line.
+ Clemson and Syracuse are 2 of 9 undefeated teams left in FBS
+ Syracuse has start 6-0 two other times since World War II, and finished undefeated both times (1959, 1987)
+ Clemson has won 37 straight games at home
+ Syracuse is 26 of 28 (.929) in the red zone this season
+ 5 of Clemson's last 7 teams to start 8-0 went on to play for the national championship
+ Orange are 5th nationally allowing 13.2 points per game
+ Clemson is 135-8 when leading at halftime under Dabo Swinney and 15-25 when trailing
+ Syracuse has punted 16 times, 9th fewest nationally
+ Clemson is 140-5 when leading after three quarters under Swinney and 12-27 when not
+ Syracuse is 62-8 when leading at halftime under Dino Babers and 8-50 when trailing
+ Clemson has scored 30 points in 7 straight games and 13 of the last 14
+ Syracuse is 0-24 under Babers scoring under 20 points and 60-15 when scoring 30-plus
+ Clemson is 29-6 under Swinney in games where it enters ranked lower than it did the previous week
+ Orange are 59-12 when allowing 29 or fewer points under Babers and 14-47 when allowing 30-plus
Syracuse has the variety to run on Clemson better than most teams on its schedule thanks to the pairing of Shrader and Tucker, and coming off a close fought, 3-point loss in this game last season.
It's a pairing that can help the Orange control the clock, sustain longer scoring possessions, and keep DJ Uiagalelei and company off the field.
Clemson has taken important steps improving its offensive output after last season's subpar outing, but it's still not the caliber of those elite star-studded teams that took the program to College Football Playoff prominence.
By testing Clemson's secondary early, Syracuse can help open things up in close range to establish its rushing capacity. But that's a tough ask when trying to ward off the Tigers' physical front seven.
College Football HQ Prediction: Clemson 30, Syracuse 20
According to AP top 25 poll
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