Syracuse hosts No. 2 Clemson eyeing an upset

Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant (2) evades a tackle from Wake Forest defensive lineman Zeek Rodney (93) during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017, in Clemson, S.C. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)

Rainier Ehrhardt, Associated Press

SYRACUSE — Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey was helpless last October as he watched Clemson dismantle the Orange in convincing fashion, a 54-0 beatdown just another step on the way to a national championship.

Dungey was knocked out of that game in the first quarter after a hit to the helmet and missed the rest of the season. Healthy again, he’s anxious to show what he and the Orange offense can do when the second-ranked Tigers (6-0, 4-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) visit the Carrier Dome on Friday night.

“I’m looking forward to having Clemson come into the dome,” Dungey said. “It’s not much fun watching from the sidelines. I’m happy with the team and the confidence the team has been getting.”

Syracuse (3-3, 1-1) is coming off a home win over Pittsburgh. That was a big step toward gaining bowl eligibility and boosted confidence that had sagged after an unexpected home setback to Middle Tennessee and consecutive road losses to LSU and North Carolina State.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has taken note as he ponders a Friday the 13th matchup.

“They’re very capable of beating us, no question about it,” Swinney said. “They’re a much improved football team from last year. We just jumped on them last year and got up. Their quarterback got hurt, and the game got away pretty quickly, but we expect a hard-fought, four-quarter battle going up there.

“They’ll be excited for this matchup, at night, at home versus Clemson.”

Syracuse has relied heavily on Dungey and his receivers to move the ball, and they’ll have to continue to excel if the Orange hope to pull off an upset. Steve Ishmael has 56 catches for 729 yards to lead the nation in both categories, sidekick Ervin Philips has 52 receptions for 475 yards, and Dungey has thrown for nine touchdowns and rushed for eight more.

“He’s a playmaker, man,” Clemson linebacker Kendall Joseph said of Dungey. “When he has space he can really make something happen.”

The game will mark the ninth time since the inception of the Associated Press poll in 1936 that the Orange have played the defending national champion, and they’ve only won twice — Penn State in 1987 and Michigan in 1998.

Clemson is on an 11-game winning streak, the longest active streak in the nation, has won a school-record 12 straight on an opponent’s home field, and is 4-0 against the Orange since Syracuse joined the ACC.

“The odds are against us, but we’ll be there Friday night,” Orange coach Dino Babers said. “We’ll see what happens.”

Clemson QB Kelly Bryant sprained his left ankle last week against Wake Forest, left the game in the third quarter, and was limited in practice early this week. Swinney said Bryant likely will start, but backups Zerrick Cooper, a redshirt freshman, and freshman Hunter Johnson are ready if needed.

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