Syracuse head coach Dino Babers used a Biblical reference earlier this week when he described his team’s chances against second-ranked Clemson on Saturday in Death Valley.
“Give us a sling shot and a rock,” Baber’s said in referring to the story of David vs. Goliath in the Book of 1 Samuel chapter 17 of the Bible.
Swinney, a devoted Christian, is all too familiar with the story as David, God’s true King of Israel, defeats the Philistines’ giant warrior, Goliath, near the Valley of Elah. The story, especially in sports, is used to show how the underdog should never be taken likely when it goes up against a much bigger and stronger opponent.
The odds makers in Vegas have Clemson pegged as a four-touchdown favorite for the 3:30 p.m. kickoff in Death Valley on Saturday.
“David beat Goliath, too. The last time I checked,” Swinney said. “We are going to make sure we are prepared and we are ready to go.”
Syracuse (4-4, 2-2 ACC) has already played the role of David a couple of times this year, and it did slay one of the giants, when it beat No. 19 Virginia Tech three weeks ago in the Carrier Dome. But Babers explains Clemson is a different kind of giant than what his team saw out of the Hokies.
“You know, I think that Virginia Tech and Clemson are entirely two different football teams. And when you look at Clemson, there’s really no weaknesses,” he said. “You may be talking about the best college football team in America, regardless of how the (College Football Playoff Committee) vote came out.
“This team doesn’t have any weaknesses.”
Swinney appreciates the kind words Babers has for his team, but he will be the first tell anyone his Tigers are not perfect and can beaten on any day if they don’t play to their potential. They have already come close to losing twice in Death Valley this season as they survived a scare from Troy in Week 2, and then three weeks ago needed a missed field goal from NC State as time expired to avoid its first loss.
“It’s a challenge every single week, and that’s why to be consistent, you have got to have a true plan of preparation that you believe in and you’ve got to stay committed and focused and put everything that you’ve got into each game,” Swinney said. “That’s the only way you’re going to be consistent.”
Clemson, in the role of Goliath, has not lost to an unranked team in its last 43 tries, and has not lost to an unranked opponent at home since Swinney’s first game as a head coach against Georgia Tech in 2008.
But the Tigers are not looking at Syracuse as a David. They see them as formidable opponent who got their attention not from just the Virginia Tech game, but how they have been playing all year.
“You just turn the tape on and they handled Virginia Tech pretty good, they really did,” Swinney said. “They played well and then they come back and beat Boston College at BC. Now they have got an open date.
“They are really playing with a lot of confidence. There’s no doubt about it. Our guys have a lot of respect for Syracuse.”
It does not hurt that all Swinney has to do is remind his players that a lot of these same players on the Orange’s roster played them tough at Syracuse last year as well.
“They did a good job against us last year, especially offensively, they hit a lot of big plays on us,” Swinney said.
So give Babers and Syracuse a sling shot and a rock. However it appears Clemson, unlike Goliath, is going to be looking for it.