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Syracuse vs. Clemson Football Preview: Q&A With Shakin the Southland

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Hey, you remember these guys. We exchange some questions with Clemson today.

Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to week nine! If you hadn't heard already (unlikely) we're facing Clemson -- our odd internet enemies. Or at least they were. Things have changed now, guys. And it seems this year's game week interactions seem to reflect a new page in the Clemson-Syracuse non-rivalry. Instead of nonsensical pre-game shenanigans like we've seen in the past, let's just go with arguing about who's more orange. Sound good? Good.

Below, Brian Lewis (who you should follow on Twitter) from SB Nation's Clemson blog, Shakin the Southland, stops by to chat all about Tigers football. On top of his responses here, you can also check out ours over there to tell Clemson fans everything they need to know about Syracuse.

After several years of offense-first football, Clemson's seemingly playing the exact opposite style this season. What are Tigers fans' thoughts on this defense-focused mentality this season?

For some of us it is great. I've always been a defense first guy and seeing one of the best defenses in the country reside in Clemson is fantastic. But for all that excitement the offense mediocrity we see is painful. Obvioulsy losing Bryant, Watkins, and Boyd was going to hurt, but our OL being this terrible has killed everything. We can't run the ball well and usually don't have enough time to complete passes. The painful part isn't the change to our defense being better, but rather the offense being so inept. I guess it could always be worse, we could be Miami or something.

Cole Stoudt was handed the ball again after Deshaun Watson's hand injury; where does Stoudt fall short compared to Watson, and vice versa?

Stoudt just isn't as good as Watson at any aspect. He doesn't appear to have the arm strength of Watson, the ability to go through progressions, or the ability to handle the blitz. His accuracy isn't awful, but he can't put a ball on the correct shoulder with any consistency. Honestly he'd be a fine MAC quarterback, maybe even do well at a school like Wake Forest or somewhere similar, but he's a noticeable drop off from Deshaun Watson. The biggest difference may be in Stoudt's ability to be a credible running threat. With Watson in the game opposing defenses need to respect the QB run game and that opens up a lot of options for Chad Morris in playcalling. With Stoudt we are limited to screen passes and shots down the field, not exactly a recipe for success. It is frustrating because Stoudt seems like a great kid and has put in his time under Tajh Boyd, but right now Watson seems to be as good as Boyd was last year and he's only a freshman.

Seems you guys have been hit with the injury bug at a similar level to Syracuse this season; which one has been the most damaging?

Easily the loss of the Deshaun Watson is the biggest injury. The FSU, UNC, and NC State games all saw the Clemson offense appear fairly competent if not good. Though we still didn't have a running game Watson gave Clemson the ability to have some real success. After his injury against Louisville we've seen what can only be described as a better version of the Florida offense. While getting some of the other players back would be nice, losing a QB with Watson's ability can kill a team. We've been lucky to win both games since his departure.

Beyond the big names, which Clemson player should Orange fans really keep an eye out for throughout the game?

A name you don't hear as much is Grady Jarrett. He's been getting some more credit on the Clemson DL, but he is hands down the most important player on our defense. As many accolades as Vic Beasley gets, Jarrett should get more. Teams just can't run the ball when he is in and the way he occupies multiple OL makes it easy for guys like Beasley or Stephon Anthony to get to the QB and cause problems. On offense you'll probably hear about Mike Williams, while he isn't as good as Sammy Watkins, he's definitely got some talent and is our big play guy on offense, at least assuming Cole Stoudt can get him the ball. The last name is probably Wayne Gallman. He's the only running back that appears semi-competent, and if you hear his name a lot on Saturday it probably means Syracuse is in for a rough go. Clemson can't run the ball unless we are absolutely destroying a team, such as the NC State game. Gallman has some talent but it is often obscured by an OL that is jealous of the stopping power of a traffic cone.

As fan bases, have we put "FUCK YOU DABO" in the past, or is that still something of a sticking point for Clemson supporters?

Honestly most fans I talk to don't really care. A significant number of them didn't even hear the whole story. More fans were bemused about the whole heat in the Carrier Dome bit before the game. That said, I have no problem if Dabo is able to and tries to run up the score again. I'm always a fan of trying to win by 50 whenever possible and I'll make no apologies for it. Plus you have to admit anytime a coach goes ballistic it is pretty amusing.

Any recommendations on top spots for visiting Syracuse fans to check out near campus this weekend?

Plenty, first head over here for a more comprehensive look, read here, but my personal favorites for first-timers is to hit Esso on Friday. Saturday can be better spent walking around and appreciating the game day atmosphere so I get the meat and three on Friday night and enjoy the live music. On Saturday just walking around and experiencing the campus is the best bet. It is Homecoming so if you head to Bowman Field, front of campus by Tillman, the clock tower, you'll be able to see the homecoming floats. They are usually pretty impressive. If you're interested, Tigerama, which is our homecoming show, is Friday night as well and is some combination of cheesy and fun.

What will be Clemson's biggest challenge when it comes to beating the Orange this Saturday?

It has to be having a functional offense. The last two weeks Clemson has won because of a stingy defense, a bit of luck, and doing just enough on offense to not lose. At some point our defense will struggle a bit and the offense will have to step up.

If Syracuse loses to the Tigers for a second straight season, it will be because (fill in the blank)...

They couldn't overcome the Clemson defense. Outside of Georgia, no team has had a huge amount of success against Clemson's defense. Unlike last year when Syracuse's defense did their best imitation of traffic cones, y'all's defense will have a good chance of stopping the Clemson offense, but to win your offense is going to have to move the ball. If they can't find success then it will be another Clemson victory.

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Thanks again for taking the time out for these, Brian! And again, everyone: Be sure to follow Brian on Twitter and head over to Shakin the Southland (under new management!) for all of the Clemson information you could ask for.