Don’t adjust your TV sets this weekend, the orange you see is supposed to be there.
Both Clemson and South Carolina will play programs with orange as their primary color in their final games before their shared open date. Of course the Tigers also have orange in their color scheme, while wearing the road whites.
We’ll go in chronological order this week, starting with Clemson:
Clemson (-22.5) at Syracuse, Friday 7PM ESPN
First off, an editorial comment.
I know Dabo, Korn and everyone this week have made a big deal about how the tradition of High School Football Friday nights is sullied by College Football’s invasion on what is supposed to be “High School’s” night.
There’s a perfectly justifiable explanation for teams like Boston College, Syracuse and others to take a standalone night and get a home, nationally-televised game unopposed on ESPN. Simply put, High School football does not move the meter in the northeast like it does in the Palmetto State. This is an exposure opportunity for Syracuse that they wouldn’t get normally to try and market their program, especially if they have a representative showing.
Clemson AD Dan Radakovich told SportsTalk this week that anyone in the league is eligible to host one of these contests, but from the chatter this week, it seems like it will be a cold day in hell before a Friday night game in Death Valley.
As for the game, the Kelly Bryant question was repeatedly, if not deftly, answered by Dabo Swinney this week. The Tigers will have their top signal-caller Friday night, and look for him to go up against a defense that Syracuse radio voice Matt Park told us is the most improved unit on this team. They have limited the big play all season, but they haven’t seen a deep threat connection like Kelly Bryant to Deon Cain. Look for Clemson to try and score quick and early like they did against Wake Forest to try and set the tone.
Syracuse runs a high-tempo, air raid style of offense with inspiration coming from a traditional Big 12 look. Brent Venables told me Tuesday, not all spread offenses are created equal, and the Orange know how to sling it. Much like the Clemson aerial arsenal, the ‘Cuse has not seen a defensive unit as loose as the Tigers. Expect to see more of Dorian O’Daniel in coverage like we saw against Wake Forest, and also more play out of Trayvon Mullen, who Pro Football Focus recognizes has allowed the lowest opposing QB rating when he’s targeted.
This game might feel a lot like Wake Forest and Boston College, lacking the cosmetic nature and style points Clemson fans want to see to impress the College Football Playoff committee. I see no way Syracuse will win, though, too many weapons on the Clemson side of both units. Make no mistake however, this is one of those teams that’s working hard to close the gap between Clemson and the rest of the ACC Atlantic.
Pick: Clemson 38, Syracuse 14
South Carolina (+3.5) at Tennessee Saturday, Noon ESPN
I have no idea why South Carolina isn’t favored in this game.
I know it takes a lot to be a home underdog in College Football, but what evidence have you seen to prove that Tennessee football right now is anything other than a massive dumpster fire?
Add in the fact that Butch Jones has played presumably the last card in his pile, starting Jarrett Guarantano over Quinton Dormady in what can only be characterized as a last gasp of desperation.
Moreover, South Carolina is a team that comes off the best game they’ve played all season, scoring three defensive touchdowns, and showing some of the offensive burst we were promised to see in the preseason.
AND Will Muschamp hasn’t lost to the Volunteers as a Head Coach at Florida and USC.
What does Vegas know that we don’t?
This is a major “prove it” week for South Carolina. They need to show they have the consistency to be able to put back-to-back weeks together and show they’re not just feasting on wounded animals. Jake Bentley will see yet another vulnerable defense at Neyland Stadium Saturday, and USC shouldn’t be afraid to take their deep shots when available.
One thing I am sure of, however, this defense is legitimate.
Whatever you think of Arkansas, and believe me, the opinions are vast, any time you hold a team that averages more than 200 yards rushing to half that margin, you’re doing more than a few things right. You need a little bit of luck to score three defensive touchdowns (almost four if you count the one refuted by replay), but the Gamecocks created advantageous opportunities to allow their playmakers to flourish.
Having already been gashed by a mobile quarterback in Kellen Mond, South Carolina NEEDS to employ a spy on Guarantano and limit anything he might try to do with his legs. The Gamecocks need to throw the kitchen sink at the Vols on passing downs, and do anything to keep Guarantano out of his comfort zone. The X-Factor for Tennessee is RB John Kelly, who might be the best back in this conference. South Carolina needs to avoid lapses like they had against Kentucky, and get off the field on third down.
This is game where the home crowd could turn very fast, and as I’ve mentioned, I’ve been in that building when Tennessee fans openly rooted against their team in hopes it creates the demise of their own Head Coach.
Expect it to be a little weird at Rocky Top
Pick: South Carolina 35, Tennessee 10
Now it’s your turn, leave your predictions and thoughts in the comments below: