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Historical Eye of the Tiger: Clemson-Syracuse

The 2014 football grudge match between Clemson and Syracuse will mark just the third all-time meeting between the two programs, with the series tied at 1-1, both programs registering blowout wins. Will the rubber match render a similar result?

The Clemson family will once again roll out the red orange carpet of Southern hospitality this week for another inaugural visit to Death Valley, this time by the Syracuse Orange. Head Coach "Winfield 'Old Fuss and Feathers'" Scott Shafer and his feisty bunch from Upstate New York will look to "pull a Sherman" and burn the nationally ranked Tigers to climb back in to the ACC Atlantic Division mix.

The 2014 football matchup between Clemson and Syracuse will mark just the third all-time meeting between the two programs, with the series tied at 1-1. In fact, Clemson's record against teams from the state of New York stands at just 1-1-1, for the 1952 Tigers tied the Fordham Rams 12-12 at the Polo Grounds in the only other meeting between Clemson and a New York-based football program. There's even video evidence to prove it.

To illustrate just how rare such inter-sectional matchups are, Clemson's all-time record against teams outside the South (defined very liberally here to include, in alphabetical order, AL, AR, FL, GA, KY, LA, MD, MO, MS, NC, OK, TN, TX, VA, a sure-fire point of contention) stands at 41-21-4.

Clemson South

Take away the games with Boston College, and the record goes to 28-12-2. Many of these have come, somewhat surprisingly, against teams west of the Mississippi River [Cal State Long Beach (1-0); Cal Berkley (0-1); Colorado (1-1); Minnesota (0-1); Nebraska (1-1); UNLV (1-0); Pacific (0-1); Stanford (1-0); Southern Cal (0-1); Utah St. (1-0)].

1986 Gator Bowl Program

If we restrict our historical gaze to football programs in the east, Clemson's record in defending the honor of southern football amounts to a still-dominant 22-6-2 [Ball St. (3-0); Central Michigan (1-0); Duquesne (4-0); Fordham (0-0-1); George Washington (3-1-1); Illinois (1-0); Marshall (0-1); Notre Dame (1-1); Ohio St. (2-0); Penn State (1-0); Pittsburgh (0-1); Syracuse (1-1); Temple (3-0); Villanova (1-1); West Virginia (1-1)].

1991 Hall of Fame Bowl Media Guide

So Southern football pride and prowess is on the line for just the thirty-first time this Saturday in the third edition of Clemson v. Syracuse. But the beginning of this orange-clad series is an ugly memory for Tiger fans. On New Years Day 1996, the Gator Bowl pitted an 8-3 (6-2 ACC) Clemson squad ranked #23 in the country against an upstart Syracuse team that had compiled an identical 8-3 (5-2 in the then-new-now-defunct Big East Conference) record but remained unranked nationally. In one of the soggiest, sloppiest, and most lackadaisical Tiger bowl performances of all-time, 67,940 fans (of whom yours truly was unfortunately one) bore witness to a beatdown of epic proportions as the Orangemen manhandled the Tigers en route to a 41-0 massacre. The Tigers offense had entered the game at number four nationally in rushing, averaging 259yds per game, but eked out just 94yds in a rain-soaked game that should have favored their ground-and-pound offensive attack. Instead, Syracuse freshman QB Donovan McNabb unleashed an aerial assault on a previously solid Tigers defense led by

Anthony Simmons

LB Anthony Simmons and

Brian Dawkins

S Brian Dawkins.

McNabb finished with 309yds passing and three scores to go along with another touchdown on the ground, while WR Marvin Harrison hauled in 7 receptions for 173yds and two scores. Syracuse finished with 467 total yards of offense (309 passing, 158 rushing).

Led by:

Nealon Greene

QB Nealon Greene,

Raymond Priester

RB Raymond Priester,

Emory Smith

FB Emory Smith,

Antwuan Wyatt

and WR Antwuan Wyatt, the Clemson offense was coming off a 38-17 whooping of the rival Gamecocks-which had capped a five-game win streak to end the regular season. But the Tigers power running game never got rolling, and they failed to register a score while finishing with just 159 total yards and two costly interceptions by Greene. Syracuse finished the year 9-3 and jumped into the national polls at #19. Clemson ended the year at 8-4 and dropped out of the final polls.

For video evidence of the 1996 Gator Bowl massacre, click here.

With that painful memory in the rearview mirror, let's channel the historical mojo into more recent times. In 2013, the Tigers exorcised their demons against Syracuse, as QB Tajh Boyd and WR Sammy Watkins did their best McNabb-to-Harrison impression to rout the Orange 49-14 in their own hot-house-of-horrors, the Carrier Dome. The heat obviously got to the ‘Cuse players and coaches more than it did the Tigers, who rolled to an early lead and easy victory. Boyd finished with a single-game school record 455yds passing and record-tying 5tds. Both WR Sammy Watkins and WR Adam Humphries contributed to Boyd's big day by going over the century mark in receiving yards (Watkins 4 catches/126yds/1td; Humphries 3 catches/118yds/2tds), and the Tigers offense rolled up 624 total yards(468 passing, 156 rushing) in an all-around-dominant performance.

First-year head coach Scott Shafer's Syracuse Orange finished their first season in the ACC at a respectable 7-6 (4-4 ACC), capped off with a 21-17 Texas Bowl victory over the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Clemson lost its perfect record two weeks later in a big way, losing 51-14 to eventual-national-champion FSU in the Valley, and would stumble once more against the rival Gamecocks in Columbia to close out the regular season at 10-2. But the Tigers earned an at-large BCS berth in the Orange Bowl, and dispatched of The Ohio State Buckeyes in thrilling fashion, 40-35, to capture the school's first-ever BCS Bowl victory and close the year at 11-2 and #8 in the final polls.

Highlights of 2013 Clemson @ Syracuse

For video of the full game, click here.

As the cool crisp air of autumn finally settles upon Tiger country and Syracuse coaches, players, and dozens of orange-and-navy clad faithful descend with the temperatures into South Carolina, many for the first time, let's hope Dabo and his Tigers have a warm welcome in store on the field. Swinney and Shafer have allegedly "made nice" after last year's sideline pyrotechnics, but we'll see if Cole Stoudt and the Tiger offense can put together some fireworks of their own to complement what should yet again be a stifling Tiger defensive effort en route to another "Great Skedaddle" in the gridiron war between North and South.