Item: Sure, the defending national champions possess more top-to-bottom talent and are three touchdown favorites to continue the nation’s longest winning streak (11) when they head to the Dome Friday night (7:00 p.m. ET / ESPN), but here’s the opportunity, even as formidable as it appears, for the program’s biggest landmark win as a huge underdog since the upset of No. 1 Nebraska in 1984.
When you haven’t been ranked in the Top 25 for 16 seasons, joining just a handful of Power 5 teams that have had the same fate, it’s hard to be relevant as FBS football has moved into the BCS then College Football Playoff era separating the biggest and most lucrative programs from the rest of the pack.
Syracuse’s entrance into the ACC changed the dynamic, and football budget moving forward, with last season’s win over then-No. 17 Virginia Tech becoming the initial highlight victory of the Dino Babers, “Our House” era.
Coming off the first ACC win of this year versus Pittsburgh last week and just the 10th league win in five seasons, Friday’s home opportunity to knock off a team that’s played for the national title the last two seasons is something that Babers has had no trouble getting excited about.
“This is huge,” the SU coach exclaimed during his weekly media session Monday. “To have the community, to have everyone (support us), to have the nation tuning in Friday night to the Carrier Dome. We need to have that thing packed with everyone involved and come watch us.”
Clemson has outscored the Orange 156-47 in the four previous conference meetings including last year’s 54-0 road drubbing, a rout that wowed Babers with his up close view of the Tigers overall speed and athleticism.
“Not only solid starters but solid backups,” Babers said in analyzing Clemson’s roster and the challenge his team has of keeping up with speed and depth.
“You can tire them out and they put someone else in and we don’t know their name, but they play just like the guy in front of them. Their front four guys, their linebackers, they’re as good as anybody. There’s no holes, sorry, there’s no holes.”
So what has to transpire for the unimaginable outcome to occur by late Friday night? There’s already plenty of motivation in defending “Our House” as Babers repeated after the Pitt win. It’s going to come down to flawless execution, avoiding self inflicted errors (7.5 penalties per game so far), some great play calling, and some good in-game fortune.
“It’s a heck of a task,” Babers said in seeking home team support for a large and loud Dome crowd. “Let’s all get in the chairs. Let’s have an opinion, let’s watch and see what can happen.”
With recruiting already improving each year since Babers arrival in December 2015, and with the new early signing period just over two months away, a huge upset would do wonders for that aspect of the program and simultaneously put the Syracuse name back on the sport’s national stage.