Friday will represent just the 10th meeting between Clemson and Syracuse all-time and only the ninth in regular season play. The Orange won the first meeting at the 1996 Gator Bowl in Jacksonville following the 1995 season by a 41-0 score.
Clemson was ranked 23rd entering the game and was coming off a five-game winning streak to close the season. Syracuse was unranked going into the game, but jumped to 17th in the final USA Today poll with the win quarterbacked by Donovan McNabb. Clemson has won seven of eight meetings since Syracuse joined the ACC in 2013. The Tigers had won four in a row by at least double digits before Syracuse ended the streak with a 27-24 Friday night win over the Tigers at Syracuse in 2017.
With Clemson relegated to the receiving votes category in this week's AP Poll, Saturday's game will mark the first meeting between the two schools all-time in which Clemson has not been ranked in the AP Top 25.
However, Clemson is No. 25 in the AFCA Coaches Poll ranking this week, so Clemson will continue its streak of ranking in the Top 25 of at least one of the major polls in every game of its all-time series with the Orange.
What to watch for:
- Clemson attempting to improve to 8-2 all-time against Syracuse. - Clemson attempting to win a fourth straight game against Syracuse, matching the longest streak in series history (four from 2013-16).
- Clemson attempting to improve to 4-1 in road games at Syracuse all-time. -
- Clemson attempting to improve to 32-25-5 all-time in Friday games and improve to 26-20-5 in Friday regular season games all-time.
- Clemson attempting to win its first game on a Friday since 2016 against Boston College.
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- Clemson attempting to improve to 28-1 in October games in the College Football Playoff era (since 2014). The contest will be played in similar circumstances to its lone October loss of that time span: a Friday night game at Syracuse in 2017.
- Wide receiver Justyn Ross (20) needing one receiving touchdown to tie or two receiving touchdowns to pass Mike Williams (21 from 2013-16) for fourth on Clemson's all-time leaderboard for career receiving touchdowns.
- Quarterback DJ Uiagalelei attempting to record his third career 300-yard passing game to bring him within one of tying his position coach — Passing Game Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach Brandon Streeter (four) — for fifth-most in school history.
- Uiagalelei attempting to become the first Clemson quarterback to rush for at least 50 yards in three straight games since Kelly Bryant in 2017 (Georgia Tech, NC State and Florida State)
Brad Senkiw: Clemson’s had so much time to work on offensive execution that it better show improvement or else this becomes a losable game. In the end, though, the defense will limit Syracuse’s run-game strength and carry the Tigers to a close win, as long as they aren’t on the field too long.
Clemson 21-Syracuse 18
Jason Priester: Clemson found a little something in the running game with Kobe Pace and Phil Mafah in the win over BC behind a reworked OL. Expect to see more of the same against Syracuse and after a week off, the passing game will take another small step forward. However, it's the defense that will once again prove to be the difference-maker.
Clemson 24 Syracuse 13
Zach Lentz: The Clemson Tigers will attempt to secure their first road victory of 2021. If they are going to do so, they had better hope that their offense figured out some of their issues. The Orange are coming off back-to-back close losses at Florida State and in overtime against Wake Forest, and they are hungry for an upset win. The Tigers win an ugly game that has the defense having to make a play to secure a win.
Clemson 17 Syracuse 13