No. 1 Clemson looks to build on fast start against Syracuse
As a 46-point underdog, Syracuse coach Dino Babers knows his team may be strolling into a, well, Death Valley on Saturday at high noon.
But he would expect nothing less — No. 1 Clemson has been ranked among the top three teams in the country entering each of their last six games.
“You get an opportunity to play the No. 1-ranked team in the country,” Babers said. “Whether you are injury free or not, whether you are playing with all seniors or all freshmen, you get an opportunity to compete.
“No one expects you to win outside the family, and to be able to compete in a situation like that, to measure up and see where you’re at, we’ll see.”
The disparity appears to be greater this year than any other.
The Tigers are the top team in the nation, undefeated (5-0, 4-0 in ACC) and coming off a 73-7 victory at Georgia Tech.
Syracuse is 1-4, including 1-3 in the ACC, and is coming off a 38-21 home loss to Liberty.
Clemson has won 26 consecutive conference games, with the last defeat coming at Syracuse in 2017 by a 27-24 score.
The Tigers are led by quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who is 29-1 as a starter, and running back Travis Etienne, who has been named ACC Player of the Year each of the previous two seasons.
Lawrence has completed passes at a 73 percent clip and has 15 touchdown passes against one interception this season.
Etienne enters Saturday’s game needing 129 yards to break the ACC’s career rushing yardage record of 4,602, held by former N.C. State standout Ted Brown since 1978.
The Tigers, who are bidding for a sixth consecutive ACC title and a sixth straight berth in the College Football Playoff, rank third nationally both in scoring at 48.2 points per game and in total defense, surrendering only 264.6 yards per game.
“Based off of those guys winning the national championship two out of the last four years and the facilities that they have compared to everybody else in the conference, I think the entire country is chasing Clemson — Alabama is chasing Clemson, everybody’s chasing Clemson,” Babers said. “And I think it’s fortunate for us that every year we get an opportunity to play them. I don’t look at that as something that’s bad, I look at that as something that’s good.”
Syracuse has been riddled with injuries this season, which explains why the Orange will start three freshmen on offense and four on defense on Saturday.
Both starting quarterback Tommy DeVito and starting All-ACC safety Andre Cisco are lost for the season with injures. Senior Rex Culpepper will get the nod at quarterback against Clemson.
“One thing about Syracuse and Dino — the ball’s going down the field, so if there’s not at least 10 plays of 40 yards or more as far as the ball being thrown 40 yards or more, I’ll be shocked,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “That’s their mindset and how they play. Rex can push it down the field. He’s a big, strong kid and they’ve always had some skill outside. It’ll be a big challenge for our cornerbacks.”
–Field Level Media