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Clemson at Syracuse Preview: Q&A with Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician

The Clemson Tigers will travel north this weekend and put their #1 ranking on the line in the Carrier Dome against the Syracuse Orange. John Castillo helps us breakdown the match-up.

Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports
John Cassillo joins us this week from the Syracuse Orange Community Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician to break down the upcoming ACC match-up between Clemson and Syracuse.

STS: Shakin the Southland
TN: Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician

STS: Syracuse is 3-2 this year in the carrier dome with the only losses coming from a hard fought loss to LSU and a field goal as time expired against Pittsburgh. Is there a noticeable difference between Syracuse when playing at home? What can Clemson expect when they travel to the Carrier Dome?

TN: They've played better at home, for sure. But they've also faced easier opponents at home than away (and all of those "easier" opponents were in the first three weeks). Clemson can expect a Syracuse team that has its backs against the wall, but also doesn't have the means to get itself out of that situation just yet.

STS: Syracuse has kept a tight lid on the health of QB Eric Dungey who is expected to be back "soon." Zack Mahoney has gained valuable experience throughout the season against top tier talent. Who do you expect to be under center Saturday afternoon?

TN: Offensive coordinator Tim Lester has said that Mahoney's getting first-team snaps. And that Dungey's day-to-day, so I'd bank on Mahoney getting the ball on Saturday. To be honest, most of us would prefer Dungey hits the bench for the remainder of the season, for his own health's sake. But this coaching staff doesn't seem to agree.

STS: Syracuse has several underclassmen playing quality and significant minutes, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Who are some of the youngsters that we can expect to see make an impact on the Syracuse defense?

TN: I'd argue the most impactful freshman are on the offensive end (Dungey and Jordan Fredericks, particularly). But on the defensive end, sophomore linebacker Zaire Franklin is a captain and has found himself in opposing backfields regularly. The secondary is pretty rough, but young players like Cordell Hudson, Juwan Dowels and Corey Winfield (among others) have shown glimpses of rounding into a formidable group long-term. Right now, however... coverage is going to be spotty back there.

STS: The Orangemen are towards the end of a brutal stretch in their schedule after traveling to both Florida State and Louisville. How have you seen the team grow and what players have excelled after back-to-back games against top-tier talent?

TN: The team has taken several steps back on this road trip, which is highly unfortunate given our current position at 3-6 and highly unlikely to make a bowl game. We've seen the defense force some turnovers, and they've been able to involve sophomore wideout Steve Ishmael more in those games. But beyond that, there haven't been any players that excelled in both (or either) games. As mentioned, the secondary is certainly struggling. The offense, too, has been less consistent of late as it relies almost entirely on big plays to move the ball.

STS: Although the Clemson defense has been playing its best football of late, there have been instances of miscommunication this season from receivers out of the backfield/tight ends. Who on the Syracuse roster should Clemson take special notice of/has a chance to stretch coverage?

TN: If they manage to target him enough (not so much to-date), the aforementioned Ismhael could do some damage in both short- and long-yardage situations. Ervin Philips and Dontae Strickland are also used in creative ways occasionally. The point of this offense was supposed to be getting a lot of speed involved and a lot of misdirection happening, but that is likely to be cut down a bit with Mahoney under center.

STS: Scott Shafer is receiving some heat from the press over his decision to leave Eric Dungey in the Louisville game late in the 4th quarter despite a previous concussion. Is that a decision that has fans calling for Schafer’s job? What is his status on the "hot seat"?

TN: That's the latest decision that has fans calling for Shafer's job, but not THE thing. There's still a portion of the fan base that staunchly defends him and what he's building. But a lot of folks are tired of losing (we're 6-15 since the start of last season) and want change. I'm one of many that was pretty aggravated by Dungey being left in the blowout loss to Louisville, especially after he got injured AND Shafer insisted that we could've come back from 31 down with about four minutes remaining. His hot seat is fairly warm, I'd say.

STS: This week, Dabo Swinney announced that walk-on Jim Brown would be a captain for the game to honor one of the best that ever played, and was upset that players were unfamiliar with former Syracuse star. What is the perception of this move from the Syracuse faithful?

TN: Didn't really register with us, as far as the move goes. But the reaction is the disheartening part. Even with SU football falling on some hard times, football players should probably know who Brown is, and his importance to the sport. Goes to show that retiring the number 44 and turning it into a ghost (instead of a living part of the program) was and remains an error of judgement on the part of Syracuse -- and especially former athletic director Daryl Gross.

STS: What is your prediction for Saturday afternoon and how do you see the game unfolding?

TN: I see the game unfolding very poorly for the blue-clad Orange. Whether Dungey or Mahoney were under center, Clemson would still be able to generate plenty of pressure and force a couple mistakes. And defensively,Syracuse just isn't equipped to stop Deshaun Watson or Wayne Gallman (or anyone else, really). We'll pull this upset off one day. Saturday isn't that day, however. Clemson 56, Syracuse 20.

Special thanks to John Cassillo for taking the time to answer our questions this week. Be sure to give John a follow on Twitter and head over to the Syracuse Orange community to see our answers to his questions.