In this week of “Bless Your Heart” we take a look at this week’s opponent, none other than the Syracuse Orange. A team that any Clemson football fan (and most ACC fans) will agree needs to go back to the Big East.
At this point next week, Clemson will be 2/3rds of the way through the season, going into a much (MUCH) needed bye week (for everyone) before a stretch run that begins in November in South Bend against The Fighting Irish.
That’s what we know.
What we don’t know yet is the outcome of a surprisingly highly-ranked game that will be played out in Death Valley on Saturday.
Whether you like it or not, Syracuse has outdone all expectations this season. Dino Babers was viewed by many as someone on the hot seat to begin the year. His squad sits 6-0 and has some impressive wins on the resume.
We’ll dive into the matchup itself shortly. But I feel like the next little bit needs to be rehashed whether you share this opinion or not: Why is Syracuse in the ACC?
Look, that may come off as a slight to our acquaintances in Upstate NY, but I don’t mean it in that sense. Syracuse coming into the conference is a prime example of when realignment goes too far. They aren’t the only school. Missouri has no business being in the SEC. Maryland and Rutgers seem questionable add-ons in the Big Ten (not to mention USC and UCLA, sheesh). West Virginia made the decision to move to the Big 12 in an experiment that has not been as great as it looked like it would be.
Syracuse saw an opportunity in the ACC with basketball. I totally understand that, but even then, I don’t think of intense rivalries with Duke/UNC/UVA/etc and Syracuse…..I see them playing Georgetown, Villanova, Seton Hall, and the like.
This year has worked out for them in football. They haven’t been 6-0 since 1988. But this game just doesn’t feel right. It feels kind of forced, like having a trophy game with a team from Boston….oh, wait.
And that’s not all Syracuse’s fault. It’s more of a diatribe that realignment shouldn’t just be a consolidation of brands, but rather an extension of the region. Syracuse would be better suited for the Big 10 if they really wanted to. You have rivals in Penn St and Rutgers. I’d imagine they would quickly learn to dislike Maryland (who doesn’t) and they’d get to play serious contenders year in and year out in both football and basketball.
But I have to digress. If you want to waste 10 minutes (or hours) around me, just ask me what I would do for realignment.
On to the game.
As I said, this Orange team (like the nickname, not the actual color) has surpassed all expectations to start the year. They lead the ACC in total defense. Their offense is balanced between the already known commodity Sean Tucker and the lesser-known Garrett Schrader. Schrader has improved to an almost Uiagalelei-ian level (trademark pending).
But while the Orange have hit their stride, there are still some holes to be poked in the confidence in this team. They have played 1 true road game, a 48-14 shellacking of a tepid UConn team. I’ll go out on a limb and say there’s probably a pretty big difference in environments between that landing strip they call a stadium and Death Valley.
Secondly, looking over the stats game by game, it can be surmised that Syracuse has yet to be tested by a complete roster. They have 2 wins over bad UConn and Wagner teams. A win over a Louisville team that was in a coma to start the season and haven’t quite looked like themselves all season. They beat a ranked NC State team!……Without Devin Leary. The Wolfpack’s offense looks putrid since Leary was knocked out against FSU. Their 2 best wins have been against UVA and Purdue.
But on further examination, it was Virginia, despite looking absolutely dreadful on offense, that was able to take Cuse to the final minute before The Orange prevailed 22-20 in the dome. Purdue only ran for 61 yards, showing why Syracuse is tops in the ACC in run defense. However, when you pair that with the fact that Purdue was able to light the skies of south-central NY ablaze with a staggering 424 yards passing, it looks a bit concerning.
Clemson football takes on a confident Syracuse team for Homecoming
But here is the biggest issue: You have 2 players telling the media “I feel bad for them, we’re going to beat them” and talking about ending Clemson’s home winning streak.
I am totally fine with the confidence in the comments from Garret Schrader and Deuce Chesnut. Some players have an edge, and I understand that. What that tells me though is that if you didn’t have the Tigers’ attention already, you do now.
And believe me, you already had their attention; that fire was already stoked. Past history with tough games with Cuse and Dino Babers will be beat into the players’ heads all week along with this being a Top 15 matchup.
You’re not just poking a bear at this point; you’re showing off a platter of honey-covered steaks to the bear….in his cave.
That in itself may get Clemson to a complete performance. In the meantime, I will stick with my score prediction:
Bless your hearts, Syracuse.