Syracuse-NC State will be the 6th top 20 football game at the Dome. What happened in the other 5?

Syracuse, NY — It has been 24 years since the last time a top 20 football game was played inside what is now known as the JMA Wireless Dome.

It’s been 31 years since Syracuse football won a top-20 game on home turf.

And the Orange has never beaten a conference opponent — ACC or otherwise — in a top-20 encounter.

All of that could change on Saturday when No. 18 Syracuse hosts No. 15 NC State. SU is favored in the game, albeit by less than a touchdown, and could continue their undefeated run to start the season. If Orange wins, it will be the first 6-0 start for the program since 1987 and only the third time.

A win would also give SU its first 3-0 start in ACC play in program history.

While only one current Orange player was alive for this final top-20 game in Salt City, several said on Tuesday they recognized the importance of the game and looked forward to adding to the history of Syracuse. It is expected to be the busiest match of the season so far for SU.

Here’s a quick look at each of the other five matchups in the Dome’s top 20.

1998: No. 17 Syracuse vs. No. 10 Tennessee

SU’s 1998 season opener often angers Orange fans thanks to a last-minute penalty that set up Tennessee for a game-winning field goal.

The Dome was packed almost to the brim with 49,550 in attendance for the Volunteers’ 34-33 victory. Syracuse coach Paul Pasqualoni had guest #10 Tennessee to Salt City to face its No. 17 team with senior quarterback Donovan McNabb leading the offense.

It was a fourth-quarter matchup not unlike the ones this year’s SU team played against Purdue and Virginia.

The Oranges were down 11 points early in the final quarter but quickly took the lead over Tennessee with two touchdowns. The Volunteers then came back up before SU took a 33-31 lead with around 2:30 to play.

An incomplete pass from UT quarterback Tee Martin to Cedrick Wilson on the fourth and seventh of Tennessee’s last drive appeared to seal the game for SU, but cornerback Will Allen was called for pass interference. The Volunteers received an automatic first down that landed them at the Syracuse 46-yard line.

A few plays later, Tennessee threw a game-winning field goal from 27 yards. The Vols finished the ’98 season undefeated, winning the BCS National Championship. Syracuse went 8-4.

1994: No. 10 Syracuse vs. No. 5 Miami

“The thrill may be gone in Syracuse, but the swagger is definitely back in Miami,” The New York Times wrote to begin its to sum up of that game in 1994.

Although the early November game started quite well for the Orange, it ended in a 27-6 loss to the Hurricanes. There were 49,656 in the Dome to see SU lose a 6-0 halftime lead by giving up four second-half touchdowns.

Syracuse quarterback Kevin Mason was beaten by the Miami defense, which included future NFL Hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp.

The win kept Miami undefeated in Big East play and gave SU its first loss in the conference that season. Syracuse finished 7-4.

1992: No. 8 Syracuse vs. No. 1 Miami

It was another game that went to the wire for the Orange and didn’t go in their favor.

Although Miami would go on to play for the national championship in the Sugar Bowl — it lost to Alabama — the Hurricanes didn’t get there easily. Before squealing a 16-10 victory against Syracuse in the penultimate week of the regular season, Miami had already barely won games against Florida State and Penn State on last-minute baskets.

An ailing Marvin Graves nearly led Syracuse to a victory, connecting with tight end Chris Gedney was the clock down four seconds. Gedney was brought down three yards from the end zone and a match winner.

There were 49,857 people inside the Dome to see Syracuse’s crushing defeat, as well as Graves vomiting on the pitch in the final practice. It was one of two games lost by Orange all season.

1991: 18th Syracuse vs. 5th Florida

SU hosted Florida in week three of the 1991 season in front of a crowd of 49,823.

Both teams were undefeated going into the game, with the Gators coming off a shutout and a rivalry win over Alabama.

Syracuse started the scoring on the opening kickoff with a 95-yard touchdown return and didn’t look back. SU beat Florida 38-21, and the victory propelled them into the top 10 in the AP poll for the following week.

The Gators were so shocked by the Orange that head coach Steve Spurrier said he would never leave Florida for a real non-conference road game again in his career — and he didn’t.

1987: No. 13 Syracuse vs. No. 10 Penn State

For SU fans who were old enough to remember this game, it might just be the top 20 game with the fondest memories.

The 1987 season was the last time Syracuse started 6-0. His sixth game that year was against rival Penn State, then the nation’s No. 10 team and defending national champion. The Orange upset the Nittany Lions 48-21 in front of a sold-out crowd (50,011) in the Dome.

It was the first time in 17 years SU also beat Penn State. Quarterback Don McPherson was responsible for five of the team’s seven touchdowns and set a then-program record for single-game passing yards with 336.

Orange’s defense held Penn State scoreless until the end of the third quarter and kept eventual Heisman Trophy finalist Blair Thomas to just 42 rushing yards.

Syracuse would go on to win the rest of its schedule and tie Auburn 16-16 in the Sugar Bowl.

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