A big-time prove it game. The first ever Otto’s Army campout. An Orange-Out inside the Dome. It’s Syracuse vs. Clemson, with the Orange perhaps having their best opportunity to take down the Tigers since it happened back in 2017. Here’s why.
Ever since Clemson lost to Ohio State in the 2020 College Football Playoff Semifinals, the mojo that attaches to the program has not been present. The Tigers went “just” 10-3 in 2021, thanks to a 4-3 start out of the gate that included three narrow victories. Last season, Clemson started 8-0 and looked poised to potentially return to the Playoff, but a non-competitive loss to Notre Dame proved otherwise. The Tigers’ first four games have been uninspiring- a 2-2 start with both losses coming to ACC foes. It’s Clemson’s first 0-2 start in ACC play since 2010. Despite all of that, it’s still a team chalk-filled with four and five-star talent, and can never be taken lightly.
HEAD COACH DABO SWINNEY
Clemson’s bench boss needs no introduction. Ever since he took the reigns of the program in 2008, the Tigers have been pegged as a national championship contender nearly every year. But you already know that, here’s a bit of an inside scoop.
At the ACC Kickoff in July, Coach Swinney was asked what makes Syracuse so tough to play every year. Part of his response? “That doggone Dino.” Regardless of how you feel about Coach Babers, to have that praise from one of the most highly-regarded coaches in the country is very telling. Additionally, Clemson players repeated that the Dome is a very difficult venue to play in. This is going to be fun.
QB CADE KLUBNIK
Klubnik’s initial introduction to SU fans was not a fun one. Regardless of how much credit he should or shouldn’t get, the Austin native came in for DJ Uiagalelei with the Tigers down 21-10 in the 3rd quarter last year against the Orange. When the clock hit zeroes, the score read 27-21 in favor of Clemson. You can blame other things on the loss all you want, it was still remarkable poise from a true freshman at the time. Despite the Tigers’ slow start, Klubnik has completed over 65% of his passes and owns a 9:2 touchdown-to-interception ratio. The QBs Syracuse has faced this year haven’t been awe-inspiring. Klubnik will be a good warmup test before ACC Preseason Player of the Year Drake Maye next week.
RB WILL SHIPLEY
Clemson’s offense runs (pun intended) through its attack on the ground, and Shipley is the leader in the clubhouse in that regard. The now-junior ate the Orange alive in last season’s last matchup in Death Valley for 172 yards and two scores, including what ended up being the game-winner in the fourth quarter. Shipley had 114 yards in Clemson’s week 1 loss to Duke, but hasn’t hit the century mark again since. But, Army showed last weekend that SU’s defense is still not exactly elite against the rush, and Shipley has been successful against it in the past.
LB JEREMIAH TROTTER JR.
Trotter has done a little bit of everything at linebacker throughout his time in South Carolina. The New Jersey native had 89 tackles, 13.5 of which were tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, seven passes defended, two picks, and a forced fumble last season. Syracuse’s performance against Trotter last season was solid, limiting him to five tackles, a very pedestrian number for him. The junior has at least one tackle for loss in every game this season, so he is still very much a force to be reckoned with. What a test for the Orange offensive line.
DB JALYN PHILLIPS
Trotter may get the majority of the attention among the Tiger defense, but Phillips is a name to note. After emerging onto the scene with 74 tackles last season, the grad student has built off it over his four games with 15 tackles, his first career sack, and three passes defended already (he had four in 14 games in 2022). Phillips wreaked havoc against SU last year, with seven tackles and a pass breakup. On a Clemson team with big names out the wazoo, Phillips has often been overshadowed, but that doesn’t make him any less threatening.
What an atmosphere we’re going to have on our hands on Saturday. The Tigers may not have the old school mojo they had when Trevor Lawrence was the signal-caller, but this is still a very deep and talented team. Buckle up.