Clemson vs. Syracuse prediction: High Noon in Death Valley

by - Senior Writer -
Clemson takes on Syracuse at noon.
Clemson takes on Syracuse at noon.

Syracuse has been a thorn in Clemson's side over the years. The last time they met in Death Valley, the Tigers eked out a 27-23 win as 24-point favorites on Sept. 29, 2018, led by Chase Brice, who is now at Duke. Before that, the Orange bumped off the then-No. 2 Tigers 27-24 in Syracuse on Oct. 13, 2017.

Those Syracuse teams bear little resemblance to the squad heading to Clemson this weekend.

Syracuse is 1-4, banged up and coming off a disappointing 38-21 home loss against Liberty. The Orange allowed the Flames to roll up 368 rushing yards against the depleted SU defense. Clemson, meanwhile, is 5-0, ranked No. 1 in the nation and crushed Georgia Tech 73-7 on Saturday.

NO. 1/1 CLEMSON (5-0, 4-0 ACC) vs. SYRACUSE (1-4, 1-3 ACC)

TELEVISION: ACC Network (Wes Durham, Roddy Jones, Lericia Harris)
RADIO: Clemson Tigers Network (Don Munson, Reggie Merriweather)
SATELLITE RADIO: Sirius 137, XM 193, Internet 955

OVERALL: Clemson leads series, 6-2
HOME: Clemson leads series, 3-0
ROAD: Clemson leads series, 3-1
NEUTRAL: Clemson trails series, 0-1
LAST MEETING: Sept. 14, 2019 (41-6, W)
STREAK: Clemson, Won 2


*Since the start of the Associated Press poll in 1936, the Orange have faced the AP’s top-ranked team 12 times before and are 1-11 in those games. On Sept. 29, 1984, Syracuse upset No. 1 Nebraska 17-9 at the Dome for its only win against the nation’s top team. The victory ended Nebraska’s 23-game, regular-season winning streak.

*Clemson is attempting to win a 26th consecutive home game to extend its school record for the longest home winning streak in school history. Of the 119 players on Clemson's 2020 roster, 110 have never experienced a home loss in their Clemson careers. Nine fifth-year seniors on Clemson's 2020 roster were on the 2016 team that recovered from a home loss to Pitt by winning the national championship that season.

*Clemson is attempting to win a 27th consecutive game against an ACC opponent, including postseason play. A 27-game winning streak against conference opponents would pull Clemson within one game of the 2012-15 Florida State Seminoles (28) for the second-longest streak in ACC history.

*Clemson enters the game having won 34 consecutive regular-season games, the longest such streak in ACC annals. Clemson's last regular-season loss came in October 2017 at Syracuse. A 35th consecutive regular-season win would tie the 2008-10 Boise State Broncos (35) for the longest such streak in ESPN Stats & Info data back to 2005.

*Clemson is attempting to win a 38th consecutive non-bowl game, which would pass the 1992-96 Nebraska Cornhuskers for sole possession of the third-longest streak in the AP Poll era. Clemson has won 37 straight non-bowl games, including 34 regular-season games and three conference championship games.


Remember Eric Dungey? Syracuse finished 10-3 a few years ago, and now that looks like it was more about the grit of Dungey than it was about a program improving. Tommy DeVito was a poor man’s Dungey, but he is done for the season. That means it's Rex Culpepper's offense for the rest of the season unless head coach Dino Babers turns to one of the freshmen behind him in the depth chart. Culpepper was 19-for-40 for 211 yards with three touchdowns and an interception last week against Liberty. Taj Harris – who served disciplinary action this week for flipping off the cameras last week – had nine receptions for just under 100 yards and a touchdown against Liberty.

Sean Tucker ran for more than 100 yards despite an injury and an offensive line that is brutal (24 sacks allowed). Brent Venables knows how to stop good offenses, and while Syracuse has a lot of motion that can confuse the defense, it just won’t be enough. Expect trick plays and the kitchen sink, but also expect a lot of James Skalski and Baylon Spector in Culpepper’s face.



Hey, there is good news for the Orange. The Syracuse defense has 16 turnovers forced so far this season, a mark that leads the nation. LB Mikel Jones leads the Orange with five takeaways in 2020 (3 INT, 2 FR), which leads the ACC. In fact, Syracuse has been stellar in the turnover margin department and has not lost the turnover battle in 12-straight contests and has won the takeaway battle in 22 of its last 31 games (five of the remaining nine were even).

Now the bad news - Syracuse has started six different freshmen (3 R-Fr. and 3 true freshmen) on defense this season across multiple games. If five-or-more start a single game this season, it'll be the most freshmen to start for Syracuse on one side of the ball in program history. 'Cuse has started four freshmen on defense in each of the last-two games. Against Duke, LB Steve Linton and DBs Rob Hanna, Ja'Had Carter and Garrett Williams each started. All four freshmen started in the secondary vs. Liberty, with Aman Greenwood starting at safety along with the same three DBs from the Duke game.

That is not what you want when you have to take on Trevor Lawrence, Braden Galloway, Amari Rodgers, and Travis Etienne. In fact, Liberty rushed for 338 yards last week in their convincing win. If they can’t stop Liberty, can they stop Clemson? No.



Kicker Andre Szmyt is a veteran and has kicked 52 career field goals and is just eight away from the Orange's all-time record, held by Cole Murphy (2014-17). Syracuse had to replace Ray Guy Award finalist Sterling Hofrichter who was drafted in the seventh round by the Atlanta Falcons this season. That job has been taken over by Nolan Cooney, who was the Orange's backup for the past four seasons. Cooney ranks seventh in FBS football among eligible punters (min. 3.6 punts per game) in punting, with an average of 46.9 yards per attempt.

Meanwhile, Clemson’s special teams have been a strength so far this season, and kicker BT Potter hit his lone field goal last week. Punter Will Spiers is putting together a stellar senior season and is averaging over 45 yards per kick.



There is no need to beat around the bush. Syracuse has been beaten down with injuries and opt-outs, and this one won’t be pretty. The only question we have is how long head coach Dabo Swinney keeps his foot on the gas after the Tigers take a big lead. The Orange will put forth a valiant effort and they might spring a big play here or there, but it won’t be enough. Not nearly enough.


More TigerNet picks
Mickey Plyler - 6-9 AM on WCCP 105.5FM - 63-10 Clemson
Nikki Hood - Staff writer - 70-3 Clemson
Brandon Rink - Staff writer - 59-6 Clemson
Pigskin Prophet - 63-3 Clemson
Tony Crumpton - Associate Editor - 42-7 Clemson*

(* Picking the same score all season)

Game Actual David Hood Mickey Plyler Nikki Hood Brandon Rink Pigskin Prophet Tony Crumpton
Wake Forest 37-13 CU 42-9 CU 49-10 CU 49-13 CU 47-10 CU 44-13 CU 42-7 CU
The Citadel 49-0 CU 52-7 CU 57-6 CU 59-7 CU 55-0 CU 62-6 CU 42-7 CU
Virginia 41-23 CU 38-12 CU 41-14 CU 52-17 CU 45-16 CU 41-13 CU 42-7 CU
Miami 42-17 CU 37-16 CU 38-23 CU 38-20 CU 37-20 CU 41-20 CU 42-7 CU
GT 73-7 CU 45-13 CU 51-13 CU 52-7 CU 55-10 CU 44-13 CU 42-7 CU
Syracuse 47-21 CU 62-9 CU 63-10 CU 70-3 CU 59-6 CU 63-3 CU 42-7 CU
Points - 6 8 6 10 10 8

* Points: 3 pts for best prediction of the week (tiebreaker is Clemson score), 2 pts for picking score exactly, 1 pt for picking the correct winner

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