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Syracuse offensive line faces major challenges vs. Clemson

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Syracuse.com did a deep dive on some O-line numbers yesterday

NCAA Football: Clemson at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange’s offensive line has struggled. You know this, but it bears repeating. SU is inexperienced and injured, and adapting to a new scheme with said inexperience and injuries. It’s the reason the running game is among the worst in the country, and Eric Dungey is under pressure every week, too.

Related to the latter note, Syracuse.com’s Stephen Bailey dove into some of Pro Football Focus’s offensive line statistics yesterday -- showing just how much better Dungey (and his numbers) could be with better protection. As Bailey cites in the article, Dungey’s been pressured 96 times on the year, and 70 of those can be chalked up to the O-line. Of those 70 pressure, 34 occurred in the past two weeks. While Syracuse has gone 2-1 in that stretch, we’ve also seen an increase in the hits Dungey’s taken in those contests.

They managed to hold up well against a blitzing team like Boston College (seven pressures), but not as much against Virginia Tech (19 pressures). Teams are attacking center Colin Byrne, while avoiding guard Aaron Roberts, as Bailey also points out.

All of this could spell trouble when the Orange line up against the Clemson Tigers’ defensive front this Saturday. Clemson is tied for second in the nation in sacks, with 31 on the year (just one behind national leader Alabama). SU’s allowed 22 sacks, which is among the 30-worst figures in the country. You could chalk some of that up to the pure number of dropbacks (Syracuse has the third-most pass attempts in the country). But Dungey’s still getting hit quite a bit, as Dino Babers mentioned during the ACC coaches teleconference on Wednesday:

That’s had a poor effect on Dungey’s numbers, as Bailey makes clear in his piece. He’s completing just 34.5 percent of passes while under pressure. That’s a stark contrast from his overall numbers (64.7 percent on the year). It’s also a complete 180-degree turn from his numbers in 2015, which favored him being under pressure.

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It’s far from the only thing Syracuse will need to do if they have any shot in this game. But for Dungey to continue completing passes at the clip he has, it’s all about getting protection. Babers acknowledges that’s a key for this team above. Hopefully we see the sophomore QB upright more often than not against Clemson and its bevy of capable pass-rushers. While the team is near the top of the country in total sacks, 10 different players have contributed more than one QB take-down, and no player has more than 4.5 (Carlos Watkins being the leader there).