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Syracuse’s Shafer welcomes Clemson challenge

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Today’s game is a dream scenario for first-year Syracuse University football coach Scott Shafer.

SU, coming off a bye week and two straight victories, will play its first Atlantic Coast Conference game against heavily favored No. 3 Clemson (4-0) at 3:30 p.m. in the Carrier Dome on national TV (WWTI).

The Tigers, led by quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate Tajh Boyd, are a 13 point favorite.

Clemson has the third-longest conference winning streak in the nation and has been ranked in the AP Top 25 for 35 straight weeks — the third-longest streak in the country.

“For me, it’s why you coach football,” Shafer said. “I love being the underdog, always have. I was a Division III guy. I didn’t play big college football because nobody wanted me. I was just a kid that played for the love of the game and we got a lot of kids like that.”

“You add up their five-star players vs. our five-star players and it’s something to nothing,” he added. “So we have no chance in hell to win this game, people say from the outside. So bring it on. Let’s go play football.”

In each of the last two years, SU has beaten a highly-ranked conference opponent in the Dome.

Last year, it was then-ninth-ranked and unbeaten Louisville looking to lock up the Big East title. In 2011 it was Geno Smith and West Virginia, ranked No. 11 at the time.

Shafer has been challenging SU fans to be a “difference maker,” for today’s game, as he believes they were in those two upsets.

“We’ve got the ACC coming in here. We’ve got the No. 3 team in the country. They’ve got a Heisman Trophy candidate. And I challenge the students to come out and make it a mess out there for them,” Shafer said. “Make it the loudest the loud house has been in years, and see if they can’t be the 12th man that’s the difference in the game because they can be.”

Shafer added: “They have been in the past. They were the difference last year when we beat Louisville when they were No. 9 in the country. They were the difference the year before when Geno came in here with West Virginia. That crowd got so loud they couldn’t make their adjustments. And I guarantee you that helped us get a couple of extra sacks.”

SU’s overall record in the Carrier Dome is 126-74-2 and the team has posted a winning home record in 28 of the building’s 33 seasons.

The Orange is 2-0 at home this season and has won its last six overall in the Dome.

“The biggest thing is they play very, very tough at home,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “If you just look at their history, beating Louisville, top ten team, beating West Virginia, top ten team, just in the last two years. So very, very good football team and a hard team for us to go up there and beat.”

Clemson is the highest-ranked team to visit the Dome since then-No. 1 Miami beat Syracuse, 42-7, in 2001.

Should SU pull off the upset, Clemson would be the highest-ranked team it has beaten since Nebraska in 1984. That game is referred to by SU fans as “The Dream Game.”

SU running back and captain Jerome Smith said that he wouldn’t attach such a title to this game if SU were to come out on top.

“It will pretty much say we’re where we thought we were,” said Smith, who leads the ACC with six touchdowns.

“We know we’re a good team. We struggled early on with some of the mistakes we’ve made. So it will give us a sense of ‘OK. We did what we know we can do, so let’s get on a roll and let’s take care of the rest of the ACC.’”

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