Swinney: "No doubt" Syracuse will be ready

Zach Lentz

CLEMSON—The No. 1 Clemson Tigers (2-0, 1-0 ACC) take their show on the road for the first time this season, as they travel to upstate New York to take on the Syracuse Orange (1-1, 0-0 ACC) Saturday night (7:30 p.m., ESPN) in a homecoming game for the Orange.

The Tigers and the Orange enter the primetime matchup as 27-point favorites, coming off two completely different performances. The Tigers beat No. 11 Texas A&M by 14 points last Saturday, while the Orange lost 62-20 at Maryland.

But even after suffering a demoralizing loss that knocked the Orange out of the top 25 and cost them a shot at hosting ESPN's College GameDay for the first time in school history, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney believes the Tigers will get their best shot on homecoming.

"No. I don't have a doubt. They went 4-8 on the season when we lost up there,” Swinney said. “That game got away from them yesterday. If a 4-8 team can beat us, a 1-1 team can. That game got off to a bad start for them. Maryland also is probably better than some people think. That has nothing to do with this game, though. This is a division game. They are going to be confident. They beat us there last time and almost beat us last year. They'll want to get their season back on track."

On Saturday, Clemson will be in search of its 51st win in a road opener in program history. The Tigers are 6-4 in their road debuts under Head Coach Dabo Swinney. They have won four straight road openers and will attempt to extend its current streak to five for the first time since a school-record six-game streak across the 1984-89 campaigns.

Saturday will represent just the eighth meeting between Clemson and Syracuse all-time and only the seventh 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 has won five of six 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.

The trend of close games continued for the second straight season in 2018, as the Tigers narrowly escaped a second-straight loss to the Orange when Clemson overcame a double-digit fourth-quarter deficit for a 27- 23 win. 

Quarterback Chase Brice, who had entered the week as the team's third-string quarterback, etched his name in Clemson lore after entering the contest in relief of an injured Trevor Lawrence and guiding Clemson on its 13-play, 94-yard game-winning drive.

For Swinney, the fact that the Orange have been successful, at least in their last two games, is a testament to the job that head coach Dino Babers has done.

"Syracuse, Dino has just done an unbelievable job," Swinney said. "It's a great place. It starts with him. I mean, he's put a good staff together. They have a good philosophy in place. They're well-coached. They recruit well. They develop well. You can tell that it's a relationship-driven program. He does a great job in connecting with his players. They play hard. They play really hard.

"He's created the belief in his team that they can win, regardless of who they play. That's what it takes. He's done an awesome job of instilling that mindset into their team. He's had good players, some really good players."

While this incredibly young Tiger team—with 80 freshmen and sophomores—has experienced a great deal of success already this season, picking up wins against conference foe Georgia Tech and against No. 11 Texas A&M, that success has been at the friendly confines of Death Valley. 

Now it is time for the Tigers to show they can have the same success on the road, against a hostile homecoming crowd.

"It has been two good home games," Swinney said. "So now we are excited about heading out on the road and see if we can find a way to win in a really tough place next week.”