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How Has Syracuse Fared Against Top 10 Teams Under Babers?

There’s a good case to be made that Syracuse’s game against Clemson on Saturday is SU’s biggest since Dino Babers took over in 2016. The 6-0 14th ranked Orange and the 7-0 5th ranked Tigers are the only undefeated teams in the ACC Atlantic division. However, it doesn’t seem like Syracuse is being given much of a chance. Clemson is favored by 13.5 points and has an 83.5% chance to win, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index.

The Orange are the clear underdogs, which makes sense against a highly ranked brand name opponent. The fact that it’s on the road doesn’t help either. Syracuse has been in a similar position before under Babers, and it hasn’t usually ended well.

Syracuse is 1-7 against top 10 opponents since 2016. The best comparison for this year’s team is 2018, the only other that made a bowl game and was ranked this far into a season. The Orange faced a similar challenge in week five of 2018, when SU took on then-No. 3 Clemson in Death Valley. Syracuse had a 10 point lead in the fourth quarter, but Chase Brice, standing in for an injured Trevor Lawrence, led Clemson back for a 27-23 win.

Then there was the Notre Dame game. SU went in ranked 12th, the highest it has been under Babers, and ND was 3rd. The game took place at Yankee Stadium, and, wait for it, the Orange struck out. The Irish led from pillar to post, with Syracuse not getting on the board until the fourth quarter, as Notre Dame won 36-3.

The only win SU has had over a top 10 opponent was the year prior. In week seven of the 2017 season, Syracuse upset No. 2 Clemson 27-24 in the Dome as a three-touchdown underdog. That is arguably the biggest win of the Babers era, but it ended up being the final victory of that season. Syracuse fell the following week to No. 8 Miami, the only top 10 opponent SU has faced besides Clemson and Notre Dame since 2016. The Orange never led, and it was the beginning of a five-game losing streak to end the year.

Syracuse was in two of the 8 games it has played against top 10 opponents, and both came in a 4-8 2017 season. The year prior, SU got trounced 54-0 by No. 3 Clemson. The Tigers had almost 200 more yards of total offense than the Orange. 2019 was a similar story. Lawrence was healthy this time and silenced a sold-out Dome crowd with 395 passing yards in a 41-6 win. 

Syracuse played two top 10 teams in 2020, and it actually went better than the Orange’s 1-10 record would suggest. In week seven against No. 1 Clemson, the Orange were within a touchdown late in the third quarter before the Tigers pulled away. In the final game of that season, Syracuse was down by just 10 against No. 2 Notre Dame, before the Irish broke the game open as time wound down.

Overall, it hasn’t gone well for Syracuse against top 10 teams. The 1-7 record and some lopsided scores make that obvious. However, there are some examples to point to if you’re looking for hope. The 2017 win against Clemson is the obvious one, but the fact that the Orange hung with the Tigers in 2018 on the road shows that, although it may seem unlikely, anything can happen.

The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.


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