Syracuse, Clemson look ahead to another epic battle

The knock on ACC football: it’s Clemson, and then it’s everybody else.

Interesting thing about that: Syracuse. The Orange beat Clemson in 2017, and had the Tigers down 10 points in Death Valley in 2018 before a late Clemson rally led to a 27-23 win.

The two meet in Week 3.

“Cuse will have a new quarterback with Eric Dungey having graduated. Clemson is … still Clemson.

“Yeah, it’s kind of business as usual for us, to be honest with you. It’s just what we do every year,” coach Dabo Swinney said Wednesday at the 2019 ACC KIckoff.

Just outside the door from where he was talking was the national champion trophy that seems to be a fixture of these events.

The ACC has had three of the past six national champs – Florida State in 2013, Clemson in 2016 and 2018.

FSU has fallen on hard times the past couple of years, leaving it Clemson’s league now and for the foreseeable future.

Swinney, a former interim coach who was a walk-on receiver at Alabama, does his best to play up his team as plucky.

“We’ve had eight 10-plus winning seasons in a row, been very consistent. The reason for that is we start over,” Swinney said. “You heard these guys talk about it. Truly, we don’t carry everything over. It’s a new team, there’s new challenges. You got to redevelop the leadership, reinstall the core values.”

Dino Babers at Syracuse is coming off a turnaround season for his program, which won 10 games in 2018, the first double-digit-win campaign for the Orange since 2001.

Babers is careful not to put too much emphasis on Week 3 against the defending champs.

“They all count at one, whether you win or lose,” said Babers, echoing classic coach-speak.

He does concede that the recent success against Clemson gives his team some level of confidence.

“When you win a game, you always feel like you have the belief that you can win another. You’ve seen the mountaintop,OK? You’ve seen what it looks like. You know how difficult it is,” Babers said.

“I think that gives us a little bit of an edge that we know we can. That doesn’t mean you will. I mean, the last time that those young men at Clemson lost, the year was 2017. It’s 2019 now. They’re very good at what they do. They have fantastic personnel, and they’re always getting better.”

Swinney sees that confidence in the Syracuse group and knows that his team will have to be ready.

“Dino has just done an unbelievable job,” Swinney said. “It’s a great place. It starts with him. I mean, he’s put a good staff together. They have a good philosophy in place. They’re well-coached. They recruit well. They develop well. You can tell that it’s a relationship-driven program. He does a great job in connecting with his players. They play hard. They play hard.

“He’s created the belief in his team that they can win, regardless of who they play. That’s what it takes. He’s done an awesome job of instilling that mindset into their team. He’s had good players, some really good players.

“I don’t see them going away any time soon,” Swinney said,.

Story by Chris Graham

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