Sure, Syracuse beat Clemson last year. But it was a home game, there were some potential injury issues (no excuses!) and they also benefited a bit from the element of surprise. This time around, with Syracuse at 4-0, there will be no such ambush occurring. Still, somehow, the Orange currently sit as bigger underdogs in this one (+25.5) than they did last season at kickoff (+23.5).
Despite the line, there’s an interesting conversation to be had about this game, and where a potential win would rank in Syracuse football history. Syracuse.com had a list of “impactful” wins earlier this week, but that didn’t necessarily limit things to BIGGEST victories. Rather, just the ones that had a lasting impact.
This game could potentially qualify as both. SU may be better this year than last, but this Clemson team could be better than they were too, and the game’s on the road. The Vegas line is inflated in part because they’re probably trying to encourage action on Syracuse — but also because there are some potential concerns about the secondary against a legit Clemson passing offense. If SU wins, it wouldn’t even be the biggest upset they’ve pulled off in terms of point spread (thanks, 2007 win against an overrated Louisville, when SU was a 36.5-point ‘dog).
Still, IF Syracuse wins (and I’m not necessarily banking on it by any means), where would this upset rank in terms of scope and impact — both this year and going into the program’s future?
First, that takes establishing the wins it would be up against. That list, in order (to me):
1. 23-14 over No. 4 Texas (1960)
2. 48-21 over No. 10 Penn State (1987)
3. 17-9 over No. 1 Nebraska (1984)
4. 27-24 over No. 2 Clemson (2017)
Those aren’t the only big wins or big upsets. But those are probably the most important ones. We won’t have the benefit of knowing what a win here could potentially yield in terms of this season or the future arc of the program. However, we can assume that a win means a top-15 ranking, contending for a conference title and who knows what else.
With that in mind, I’d probably toss this one in at No. 2. The Clemson win last year was a sign things were going to turn around, as it ends up, not a sign that they were in the middle of doing so. The Nebraska game functioned similarly, being a precursor to the turnaround not the turn itself.
A lingering question is Texas in 1960. On the one hand, the Cotton Bowl is an iconic win for the program, completing an unbeaten and untied season while also standing up to racial prejudice in the Deep South. On the other, the national championship was awarded before the bowls at that time, so Syracuse’s triumph didn’t alter or enhance the fact that they won the title. If they’d lost, the same outcome would’ve occurred.
Still, for now, you probably slot a potential Clemson win below it. And really, if this was the victory that propelled Syracuse to even greater heights this year, than that would probably include even bigger wins down the road.
But what do you think? Where would a win on Saturday rank for Syracuse? Feel free to debate things we can’t actually decide definitively below. Or, like most on Facebook will probably say about this article, tell us how “this is just a distraction before the game we can’t lose focus” despite the fact that WE aren’t actually participating in this game...