If Syracuse is trying to catch up with No. 1 Clemson, Orange coach Dino Babers believes his team has plenty of company.
"The entire country is chasing Clemson," Babers said. "Alabama is chasing Clemson. Everybody is chasing Clemson. I think it's fortunate for us every year we get an opportunity to play them. I don't look at that as a thing that's bad. I look at that as something that's good."
It has not been good recently. The teams, which meet Saturday, are headed in opposite directions.
Clemson (5-0, 4-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) has won the past 26 straight against league opponents and is seeking a 6-0 start for the sixth straight season.
Syracuse (1-4, 1-3) is coming off a loss at home to Liberty and has struggled to stay competitive.
That wasn't always the case in this series. Babers and the Orange were the last ACC team to take down the Tigers with a 27-24 upset in 2017. Syracuse was on the verge of doing it again a year later, holding a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter before the Tigers rallied for a 27-23 win.
Since then, Clemson has gone on to two more ACC titles and a national championship. Syracuse is 12-13 and Babers may be sitting on the hottest coaching seat in the league.
Clemson, coming off a 73-7 win at Georgia Tech, is a more than six-touchdown favorite to blow apart Syracuse.
Defensive lineman Josh Black said Syracuse can't get caught up in off-the-field scenarios. "They're football players just like us and whoever competes the best on that said day will get the win," he said.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney also doesn't want his players thinking about the way Syracuse has played so far. He remembers too well losing to the Orange. "This isn't about a record," Swinney said. "This is about (Clemson) playing well, period."
Some other things to look for when Syracuse plays No. 1 Clemson:
Look for Clemson fourth string quarterback Hunter Helms to see some action as Trevor Lawrence's backup. Helms is a 6-foot-1, 210-pound freshman walk on who threw two touchdown passes in last week's 73-7 win at Georgia Tech. But with backup D.J. Uiagalelei enduring shoulder tightness and third-string Taisun Phommachahn having surgery to repair a broken bone in his hand, Helms could get the first call in after Lawrence.
Syracuse is allowing more than 400 yards and nearly 30 points a game this season as Babers tries to find the right combination. To that end, he's started four freshman on defense each of the last two games and lost both at home to Duke and Liberty. The Orange, though, lead the country with 16 forced turnovers.
On a team known for dancing after victories, freshman receiver Ajou Ajou stands out for Clemson. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence said he's never met anyone who loves to dance more than the 6-3 freshman from Canada. Ajou was among 17 different pass catchers last week and caught a 35-yard TD in the rout of Georgia Tech.
BIG APPLE TALK
Swinney has gotten plenty of questions about quarterback Trevor Lawrence's eventual NFL landing spot the past few weeks. Lawrence, the 6-foot-6, long-haired junior, is widely expected to the No. 1 pick in next year's draft. Swinney and Lawrence have gotten their share of attention from the New York media since the Jets are 0-6. "Man, we're popular in New York," Swinney said.
NO. 1 CLEMSON VS. SYRACUSE
Syracuse (1-4, 1-3 ACC) at No. 1 Clemson (5-0, 4-0), Saturday at noon ET (ACC Network).
Line: Clemson by 46.
Series record: Clemson leads 6-2.
WHAT'S AT STAKE?
Clemson's run at another perfect regular season. The Tigers have not lost a regular-season game since 2017 at Syracuse. Since, they've won 26 straight over ACC games - and they're heavy favorites to keep things going against the Orange. Syracuse is struggling to show signs of life and give the school reason not to jettison embattled coach Dino Babers.
Clemson tailback Travis Etienne vs. Syracuse's defense. Etienne is the two-time defending ACC player of the year making a case for three in a row. He's rushed for 465 yards and five TDs despite spending much of the second half on the bench with scores out of hand. Syracuse enters dead last in ACC rushing defense, allowing 12 rushing touchdowns this fall.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Syracuse: LB Mikel Jones leads the Orange in tackles and in takeaways with three interceptions and two fumble recoveries. He is tied for the lead in the Football Bowl Subdivisions with his three picks.
Clemson: QB Trevor Lawrence. Better look quick or Lawrence could be on the bench with the game out of hand in favor of the Tigers. Lawrence has thrown for 1,544 yards and 15 touchdowns this season with his near flawless play - although he did throw his first pick of the season last week.
FACTS & FIGURES
Syracuse appeared to be a rising challenger to Clemson in the ACC after defeating the Tigers in 2017 and losing late in a 27-23 Clemson victory at Death Valley the following season. ... Tigers had 17 players with a reception in a 73-7 win at Georgia Tech last week, the most in coach Dabo Swinney's 12-plus seasons. ... Syracuse has won the turnover battle in 12 consecutive games. It has gone 3-9 in that stretch. ... Clemson has won its past 26 home games, dating to a Nov. 2016, 43-42 loss to Pitt. ... Clemson has scored at least 37 points in its first five games, the longest such streak in school history. ... Syracuse has started four freshmen on defense in each of its last two games.
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