The Syracuse Orange are 4-0 to begin consecutive seasons, something the program hasn’t done since its 16-game winning streak from 1959 to the start of 1960. Now SU is tasked with defending the Dome against a Clemson squad that has shown some serious flaws through the first four weeks.
Prep for conference play officially begins with the weekly check-in from Head Coach Dino Babers:
Dino delivered more of his usual vagueness in regards to several banged up Orange players. The most notable bit has to do with Isaiah Jones, the receiver who was in fact injured during the Week 3 game at Purdue.
Babers previously claimed that his limited snap count was not due to any injury issue, but he’s since backtracked on that statement. He confirmed Monday that Jones suffered a lower-body injury, and his postgame comments on Saturday indicate that the wideout will likely miss at least one more game.
Corner Jeremiah Wilson “should be ok” after leaving the game against Army late in the 4th quarter. The sophomore looked a little shaken up, but his exit seems like a precautionary one.
Trebor Pena did not make the depth chart after appearing against Army as both a punt returner and a receiving option. Babers said he’s “not quite sure” where Pena stands for the upcoming game.
Finally, Joe More wore pads for Army but did not participate, while Kalan Ellis was in sweats on the sidelines. Babers had nothing firm to offer on either lineman.
Clawing past Clemson?
This is unfamiliar territory for SU. The undefeated Orange are hosting Dabo Swinney’s 2-2 Tigers, who received less votes (5) in the AP Poll than ‘Cuse (8) did. They’re still slight underdogs, but Babers is not counting out a rebound from this very pesky foe:
“They’re still a championship caliber team. They were inches from winning the game (against #4 Florida State) this week. They beat them statistically in every category. They beat Duke statistically in every category. This is what they are: a Championship, big-time football team.”
Outside of their miracle win in 2017, the Orange have fallen short again and again against the Tigers. The last two years have been well within reach, and SU missed an incredible opportunity to stun the Death Valley crowd and break Clemson’s home win streak in their last meeting.
If they want to pull off a victory this time, they’ll have to contend with an offense that has found its stride after a rough five or six quarters to begin the season. It’s led by new offensive coordinator Garrett Riley, who helped transform TCU into a playoff contender in 2022. Even with their slow start, the Tigers are averaging around 475 total yards per game in his true “air-raid” system.
It’s a similar philosophy to Rocky Long’s approach as SU’s defensive mastermind - high-risk, high-reward play-calling. Babers said that bouts like this are won by the coordinators, not head coaches, so this mental battle is one to pay attention to this weekend.
As for the players: Cade Klubnik and Will Shipley are the pair Dino is zeroing on this week.
Shipley plays like, in Dino’s words, a “senior, older LeQuint Allen” and is a surefire NFL talent. He has nearly 300 yards on the ground and 100 through the air to start the season; naturally, Cuse fans would love if Allen can replicate that level of production during his time at SU.
Babers also praised Klubnik for his remarkable pocket presence. He will hold the ball until the last second and is not afraid to take a hard hit if it means completing a pass.
Building the Foundation... figuratively and literally
The new football operations center broke ground on Friday as part of the continued Lally Athletics Complex project. It is projected to be complete by the spring of 2025.
Babers calls the addition “sorely needed” to help keep pace in recruiting with other ACC programs. He also shared a story of when he first went to visit Coach Boeheim over in the basketball wing.
At the time (and until very recently), the Melo Center was well beyond any of SU’s football facilities in terms of amenities. Babers was pretty shocked at how modern it was in comparison, but he now hopes that others will have the same feeling about his own side of the complex pretty soon:
“It’s going to be cool to have some people reacting like that on the stuff that we’re going to have in 2025.”