Previewing SU football against the Clemson Tigers

SU football vs Clemson preview

The Orange hope to capitalize on the recent national champions' struggles this season.
Published: October 14, 2021
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Sean Tucker (34) breaks through Clemson's defense in their match up in 2020.

The Clemson Tigers have never been in this position before.

Over Syracuse and Clemson’s nine-game history that began at the 1996 Gator Bowl, the Tigers have never played the Orange as an unranked team.

Since Dino Babers landed the job as SU’s head coach in 2016, the Tigers have led the juvenile ACC series 4-1. On average, Clemson was ranked No. 2 in the country each year they played SU with Babers on SU’s headset.

Neither school will have a number next to its name on Friday night.

The Orange (3-3) host the Tigers (3-2) on ESPN at 7 p.m. Clemson’s last game was two weeks ago. They beat Boston College 19-13 at home before taking their bye week.

Now, without first overall NFL Draft selection Trevor Lawrence under center, Clemson’s head coach Dabo Swinney has turned to sophomore DJ Uiagalelei as quarterback. Uiagalelei has thrown for 793 yards, 3 touchdowns and 3 interceptions in five games.

The Tigers have struggled offensively in conference plays. They only scored 14 points in their Week 3 win over Georgia Tech and scored 21 in their Week 4 loss to NC State. Uiagalelei’s offense has averaged only 18 points per game in ACC play.

Syracuse’s offense, however, appears to be moving in the right direction. Since starting ACC play two weeks ago at Florida State, the Orange have scored at least 30 points or more in each game. They’ve also totaled 903 yards over the last two weeks.

“I feel we’re trending the right way, for sure,” quarterback Garrett Shrader said. “We’re just not finishing the way we should be. We gotta keep getting better. We know we’re going to be in dog fights all throughout the rest of the year.”

Clemson will play without one of their starting defensive tackles entering this season. Bryan Bresee, the number one overall recruit in the 2020 class. He will miss the rest of the 2021 season after he tore his ACL against NC State three weeks ago.

“(Clemson is) a little banged up. They’ve been a little down this year,” Shrader said. “But they still got a really talented squad; one of the most talented teams in the conference.”

The Orange are still 3 wins away from qualifying for bowl season. After dropping back-to-back close games, a win on Friday would likely turn their year around.

“That’s Clemson over there,” Babers said. “Everybody knows what that represents.”