SYRACUSE, N.Y. (SU ATHLETICS) – No. 14 Syracuse faces its toughest test yet this season when it takes on No. 5 Clemson in Death Valley on Saturday.
Both teams are undefeated thus far in 2022, a claim that can only be made by seven other FBS schools and it marks the first time in Memorial Stadium history that two unbeaten squads will face off this late in the year.
“I was explaining it to the players on Sunday and I said it’s really rare,” head coach Dino Babers said. “I have been in it for a little bit and this is only, I want to say this is only the third team that’s got to 6-0. Now, I haven’t been at some of those schools that you guys read about in the paper all the time, but I’ve been at good schools. And this is the third time that we have been this deep in over three decades. So, it is rare. You should cherish it, you should understand this moment and not let it just go past you. You might want to slow down and make sure you get it. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the cards you know this Sunday, but right now it’s something that you should look at and you should be proud of.”
The Orange are off to their best start since 1987 and are 6-0 for just the third time since 1931. The Tigers enter Saturday’s game with the longest winning streak (13) and home winning streak (38) in the nation. While the challenge of playing the six-time College Football Playoff participant on its home field is a daunting task, the Orange look forward to the challenge.
“We are playing a fine Clemson team,” Babers said. “Coach Swinney does a fantastic job. There is no doubt about it, they have some of the finest athletes in the conference and in the country and not only do they have fantastic individuals, they’re a good football team. They have an amazing streak going on down there and we’re going to play them at their place which is a very, very difficult task. But our guys are in good spirits and we’re looking forward to the opportunity.
“It’s going to be fun. This is what all these young men come in to play for this opportunity. You’re going into Death Valley with this University. I have gone to two of them and they’re both impressive places to play. I have not had any success but there are a lot of coaches that haven’t had success at those places when they’re going in there to play. But we’re looking forward to the opportunity.”
Clemson is expecting a large crowd Saturday as it celebrates Homecoming. For the Orange, Saturday’s game is their first road game in more than a month as they will play four of their last six games away from the JMA Wireless Dome. Babers expects the hostile crowd to force a role reversal with his offensive and defensive units.
“It’s exactly the reverse, that’s the tough thing because we’re loud when their offense is out there, and our defense is cool operating like that,” Babers said. “When we’re out there in the JMA we really don’t want any noise so our offense can operate without the noise so this will be the first opportunity for our offense to operate the way other people’s offense operate in the JMA.”
Syracuse’s offense will once again face one of the toughest defenses in the country against the run. The Tigers rank fourth in the nation, allowing 82.7 yards on the ground per game. Clemson is allowing 19.7 points per game. The Orange defensive unit heads into the game as the ACC’s top-ranked defensive unit in both scoring ant total defense.
The Orange defense has not allowed a touchdown in their last two games and rank No. 6 in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 13.2 points per game. Overall, the Orange are allowing 268.8 yards per game, which is good for eighth nationally. The unit will be charged with stopping running back Will Shipley and quarterback DJ Uiagalelei. Shipley ranks third in the ACC and 22nd in the nation in total touchdowns with eight. He is the Tigers’ leading rusher with 567 yards on 96 carries.
Saturday’s game not only has national implications, but will play a part in deciding which team wins the ACC Atlantic Division. Clemson is 5-0 in league play this season, while Syracuse is 3-0. The winner of the Atlantic Division will face the Coastal Division winner in the ACC Championship game in December.