The Syracuse Orange aren't making a bowl this year. But they do have two more games left to play, including this weekend's against the NC State Wolfpack.
Below, Will Thompson (who you can follow on Twitter) from SB Nation's Backing the Pack stops by to tell us a little bit more about NC State. We answered some questions over there too, which you can check out over there.
At 6-4 through 10 games, has this season gone as planned for NC State fans? Or will it leave larger goals unreached?
It's been slightly disappointing, sure. I keep going back to this, but the losses to Louisville and Virginia Tech really derailed some higher aspirations the team had at the beginning of the year. I think, given the schedule, a lot of fans expected to get at least 8 wins this season. That's still attainable, but they'll have to win out now. I think if that happens and State wins whatever bowl they end up in, fans will ultimately be satisfied. But there's definitely, at least for me, a "what could have been" aspect to this season.
Without Matt Dayes and Shadrach Thornton, the Wolfpack run game takes a bit of a hit. How has State adapted to life without its two best ball-carriers?
It's certainly made things a lot more difficult for the offense, that's for sure. For those that may not know, Shadrach was dismissed from the team, and Dayes suffered a season ending toe injury in the loss to Clemson. Ultimately, it's forced State to be a lot more balanced on offense between the run and the pass. Prior to Shadrach's dismissal and Dayes' injury, this was a very run heavy offense. There's still some aspects of that now, particularly with designed runs for Jacoby Brissett, but not like it was when Dayes was in the lineup. To Brissett's credit, he's stepped up and improved his down the field throws, but the offense has not been able to adjust well mid-game to defenses without their strong run game to rely on.
Jaylen Samuels has received some All-America talk at tight end. What does he do better than other tight ends, and how's that proven beneficial to the Wolfpack's offense?
Samuels is the Wolfpack's Jack of All Trades. While he is listed as a tight end, he can line up just about anywhere on the field, whether it's in the backfield in the tailback spot, in the slot, or lined up out wide - he's extremely versatile. He's had a lot more responsibility in the offense now with Dayes out, so his usage has gone up in running plays a lot. He's extremely quick, and if he can turn a corner on you, look out.
The NC State defense has played pretty well this season. How does it successfully create opportunities for big stops and/or turnovers?
All starts with the defensive line for State, and in particular Mike Rose, who has been sensational this year. The Senior defensive lineman has 10.5 sacks this year, and has been a force for the Wolfpack. Turnover wise, State has a pretty good turnover margin, with 16 forced turnovers to 8 turnovers of their own, but that stat is a bit misleading. Throughout the month of October, the Pack really struggled to force turnovers, and ultimately that was one of the reasons that cost the games against Louisville and VT just because the defense couldn't get off the field. Also, five of those forced turnovers came against FSU last week...in a game the Pack lost by 17. Basically, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ is the best way to describe that.
If there's one unsung Pack player Syracuse fans should get familiar with, who might he be?
I mentioned Mike Rose above, but his freshman squadmate on the defensive line, Darian Roseboro, is also one that can really disrupt the offensive line. On the offensive side of the ball, we talked about Samuels, but both Bra'Lon Cherry and David Grinnage are both individuals that are capable of stepping up to make big plays, so they're ones to keep an eye on as well.
Any Orange player(s) stand out to you as concerning weapons going into this one on Saturday?
I was very impressed by George Morris last week, when he was able to fill in for Jordan Fredericks against Clemson without missing a beat. It looks like from what I read after that game that Fredericks had his arm in a sling, but it sounds the run game will be just fine with Morris if Fredericks is unable to go.
State avenges a home loss to SU in 2013 by _____.
Not turning the ball over and scoring early and often. Also, the Pack needs to account for any adjustments the 'Cuse defense might make in the second half. This has been something that's plagued NC State for most of the season.
Syracuse pulls off its second straight win down in Raleigh by ______.
Pressuring Jacoby Brissett into mistakes and keeping the NC State offense off the field. The longer the Pack's defense is on the field, the better chance Syracuse has to win.
Prediction time: What happens in this one, and how?
Vegas seems to think State is going to win by a large margin, as they currently have the Pack as a 17 point favorite. I'm not going to go quite that high, but I do think the Pack will pull this one out, 31-24. Syracuse has been playing some teams close lately, and I think they'll keep up that trend, even if Eric Dungey is unable to go.
Thanks again for taking the time out for these, Will! Be sure to follow him on Twitter and check out Backing the Pack for whatever you want to know about NC State.