clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Syracuse football 2023 opponent preview: Clemson Tigers

Is this the year that Orange Magic returns?

NCAA Football: Clemson at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve reached the conference portion of our football opponent preview series. After wrapping up the manually scheduled part of 2023 with Army, the Syracuse Orange begin ACC play with their fourth home game in the first five weeks.

The toughest portion of the calendar begins with the team SU has had circled on their calendars every year since joining the ACC....

Clemson Tigers

School: Clemson University

Nickname: Tigers

Mascot: The Tiger

#BRAND Slogans: #ALLIN, “Best is the Standard”

Alternate #BRAND Slogan Suggestions: #FALLIN(G) or “Running Down That Hill”

Recommended Blog: Shakin the Southland

Conference: ACC

History vs. Syracuse: The Tigers have been many opponents’ kryptonite. The Orange are no exception, posting a lopsided 1-9 record against them since they began playing annually in 2013. While 2017’s victory was a nice precursor to the following year’s 10-win season and Top-15 ranking, even that 2018 team was unable to replicate the magic down in Death Valley. There have been some close games in the series, including the last two years (17-14 and 27-21, respectively).

Still, I’m sure most ‘Cuse fans are thankful that under the new schedule model, Clemson won’t play SU in 2024 or 2026. They can at least look back at the two teams’ sole meeting before becoming conference foes: a 41-0 Syracuse schooling of the Tigers in the 1995 Gator Bowl.

NCAA Football: Furman at Clemson Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

Coach: Dabo Swinney, 16th season. There’s no sugarcoating the accomplishments of one of the game’s best head coaches. Dabo walked-on at Alabama in 1989, earned a scholarship, and later finished his playing career on the undefeated 1992 National Championship Team. He spent the next eight years as an offensive assistant coach with ‘Bama, before being let go along with the rest of Mike DuBose’s staff. Two years later, he was offered a job as the Tigers’ wide receivers coach. When Tommy Bowden resigned after a 3-3 start in 2008, Dabo was named the interim head coach. Soon after, the ‘interim’ was dropped, and Swinney’s superb recruiting turned Clemson into a national powerhouse. So far, he’s won eight ACC Championships and a pair of College Football National Championships - and being that he’s signed through 2031, those numbers will probably increase.

2022 Record: (11-3) (8-0)

Recapping Last Season:

The Tigers cruised through the first three games of the season, including a thumping of Georgia Tech at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, before outlasting Wake Forest 51-45 in double overtime. Four more wins followed, with close calls against NC State, Florida State, and (big sigh) Syracuse. After the bye, they were surprisingly sluggish in a three-score loss at Notre Dame. A pair of convincing wins seemed to get Clemson back on track, until South Carolina stunned them 31-30, snapped their 40-game home winning streak, and booted them from Playoff consideration. They took their anger out on #23 UNC in the ACC Championship, winning 39-10 and punching a ticket to the Orange Bowl. In a battle of inferior Orange uniforms, #6 Tennessee capitalized on three missed Tiger FGs to win 31-14. Clemson finished ranked #13.

D.J. Uiagalelei started most of the season at QB, with an impressive 22/7 TD/INT ratio, but inconsistencies and failing to secure a win in the final regular season game led to him being replaced. Highly rated freshman Cade Klubnik stepped in for both postseason games. RB Will Shipley was the conference’s second-leading rusher with 1,182 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground. Antonio Williams, Joseph Ngata, and TE Davis Allen formed a three-headed monster, combining for nearly 1,500 receiving yards.

The Clemson defense was Top-10 in the country against the rush, but it had issues defending against more pass-heavy offenses. Jeremiah Trotter Jr., Trenton Simpson, and Barrett Carter formed one of college’s truly elite linebacker cores, amassing 14.5 sacks, 16 pass breakups, five picks, five forced fumbles, and over 200 total tackles. Take out the bowl mishaps and kicker B.T. Potter was 20/23 on the season.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 03 ACC Championship - Clemson vs North Carolina Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

2023 Season Outlook:

Clemson’s non-conference slate has buy games with Charleston Southern and FAU, a home rematch with Notre Dame, and a trip to east-coast USC to close out the season. Home ACC games are against FSU, Wake, GT, and UNC; road games are at Duke (another Monday night opener), Syracuse, Miami, and NC State.

D.J. transferred out to Oregon State, so this is Klubnik’s offense to run now. Shipley and Williams return as the top running/pass-catching options. Beaux Collins and Jake Briningstool, last year’s #4 and #5 in receiving volume, are the top options to replace the drafted Ngata (Eagles) and Allen (Rams). Garrett Riley, who won the Broyles Award for best assistant coach, was hired as the new OC after guiding TCU to the CFP.

Two of the three heavy hitters are back, with only Simpson (Ravens) gone to the NFL. Top safety Jalyn Phillips stuck around for a graduate season, while senior DTs Tyler Davis and Ruke Orhorhoro will also put off the Draft for another year. There is an absurd amount of depth across every position group, with even the corners group finding form down the stretch of last season. On paper, it’s one of the best outfits in the nation.

Syracuse Game Date: Saturday, September 30

Location: JMA Wireless Dome, Syracuse, New York

Odds of Orange Victory: 22%

Very Early Outlook vs. Syracuse:

I don’t know whether to be more or less optimistic now that I know Clemson and Florida State play the week prior. It regrettably seems like a lose-lose scenario, where a 4-0 Tigers team is cruising on all cylinders, and the 3-1 version is out for blood after a devastating home loss. SU had two legit chances to beat Clemson and squandered them both, and Dabo surely has his sights set on getting back to a 14th (and 15th) game.

On the positive side, if both teams are 4-0, then it’d be the perfect time for Syracuse to finally host College Gameday. There really aren’t many other interesting matchups in Week 5, and that spectacle would be well deserved for the Orange fans who then have to sit through a barren October calendar.