CLEMSON -- After having to defend everything from the Gus Malzahn offense in week two against Auburn to a Louisville offense led by reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson in week three, the Tigers will face one of the fastest offenses in the nation in the Syracuse Orange.
Known for his innovative, ultra-fast offense, head coach Dino Babers planted the seeds of Syracuse’s offense in 2016 and the program immediately began reaping the rewards. He commanded an offense that set or tied more than 40 school records, including new program standards for passing attempts (522), pass completions (332) and passing yards (3,855). In addition, Syracuse racked up 5,290 yards of offense, the second-highest total in school history.
The Orange are a dynamic offense able to stress opposing defenses in ways that many teams are not prepared for.
They are led by quarterback Eric Dungey -- who ranks in the top 10 nationally in completions per game (28), passing yards (1,802) and total offense (354.5) -- and wide receivers Steve Ishmael, who leads the nation in receiving yards (729), and Ervin Phillips, who ranks fourth in the nation in receptions per game (8.7).
"This Dungy kid is a good player. He's 6-3. They're confident in what they do,” head coach Dabo Swinney said. “They play fast. If you give them any grass, they take it. They get the ball out quick. If you get in their face quickly, it's catch, cock and throw. They have a 290-pound running back. It's crazy. They do some neat stuff.
“They have every screen known to mankind. They've got it. They're a challenge. They play with great technique. They've got the two best receivers we have played. No. 2 (Ervin Phillips) and No. 8 (Steve Ishmael), they're the real deal. I thought Mike Williams was in San Diego.”
Averaging 21.2 seconds per play this season, while averaging 85 plays a game (second in the nation), the Orange offense is designed to not only stress defenses through the air — averaging 325 yards per game — it also stresses the defense through speed.
"I think they're as fast as we've seen, if not faster. They do a great job of managing it,” defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. “"They've got a great system -- the second year in that system. A quarterback that's very confident -- has got a big arm, is mobile -- and between Phillips and Ishmael, tight ends and backs and a few other guys, they do a great job of distributing the ball and getting the ball out fast. They make a lot of big-time plays and it will be a huge challenge for us."
The offense is not the only opponent that the Tigers will face Friday night. The Tigers will also face a hot, humid Carrier Dome that does not have air conditioning. But that is only a challenge for the Venables-led Tigers if they don’t do their job and get off the field.
"(The weather is) always something this time of the year. I mean, you play in Death Valley, it's awfully hot,” Venables said. “Hopefully, you use year's past as a barometer. Our guys are in good shape and we practice hard and we practice fast. But again, going on the road, playing in an unfamiliar environment -- a little warm, really fast. They will keep going fast as long as you let them."