1. Clemson 27, Syracuse 23
Just get out, survey the damage, and move on.
Of all weeks for Trevor Lawrence to get hurt, this obviously wasn’t it. Kelly Bryant wasn’t there to take over, but Chase Brice made the one throw he had to come up with on fourth down to keep the game alive, and offensive line did the rest.
For all of the talk about the great Clemson defensive front, once Lawrence got knocked out of the game, it was the Tiger offensive front five that made things happen, wearing down the Syracuse defensive line and paving the way for a massive 203-yard, three score day from Travis Etienne. In all, when the Tigers had to have it, they ran for almost 300 yards.
But this was, obviously, way too tough a game to get past. Syracuse is good, but this didn’t look or play like a national championship-caliber Tiger squad.
NC State is a dangerous game in a few weeks. Going to Boston College won’t be easy, and South Carolina and Duke are going to be games, but that’s not the point.
Is this playing like a national championship team? It didn’t look like it against the Orange, but at some point, Lawrence needs to be right for this to happen. Lawrence had to be the call to keep up in the offensive arms race with Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, Penn State and Oklahoma.
Clemson can win the ACC title with Chase Brice. It can’t win the national championship without a superstar at quarterback, and that’s what Lawrence can be if he’s healthy.
But give Syracuse some credit for almost pulling this off on the road.
It settled for field goals instead of getting touchdowns early, and that was it. The Orange couldn’t put the game all but out of reach when it had the chance, the door was open for Etienne and the ground game, and now it’s time to regroup with a show at big things still there with winnable games with Pitt and North Carolina up next.
And now Clemson has to see what kind of shape Lawrence is in. Can Bryant come back? He’s still enrolled in school. Is Brice good enough to win with after completing 7-of-13 passes for 83 yards and a pick?
After last week, the drama isn’t stopping.