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UNC vs. Syracuse: X-Factor

Clemson shared the playbook on stopping the Orange. Can Carolina repeat that?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 23 North Carolina at Pitt Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Heading into their game against Clemson, Syracuse had one of the highest-rated offenses in the country.

Mind you, the Orange played only one P5 team in their first four games. But the offense still has to perform no matter the opponent.

Syracuse was humbled at home in their first conference game of the season versus a .500 Clemson team.

The difference in that game was the Tigers’ defense line.

Here’s what Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney had to say:

We won the line of scrimmage. I mean, we did a heck of a job up front. I think we won the matchups up front and created some disruption and we challenged them. We forced the issue.

In Syracuse’s first three drives of the game, they finished with two fumbles and a punt.

The Orange trailed 21-7 at the half, and the offense continued to struggle after the break.

Out of the 14 total offensive drives of the day, Syracuse had six drives of three plays or less.

Clemson finished the game with five sacks, seven tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, four pass deflections, and one interception.

Syracuse quarterback Garrett Shrader struggled with pressure, and the two feature backs for the Orange were held to 3.7 and 1.6 yards per carry.

All this disruption to the Orange offense started up front.

The North Carolina Tar Heels need to use their strength on the defensive line to cause a similar ruckus Saturday afternoon.

One of the most positive developments on defense this season is the quality depth of the defensive line.

In the last game versus Pitt, the physicality of the Panthers put the UNC defenders on their heels during the first two drives.

The defense settled down and effectively shut down the Pitt offense for the rest of the game.

And a lot of credit goes to the defensive line.

Saturday’s game will be won in the trenches. Let’s see if the Tar Heels can own the line.