Day & Time: Saturday, October 27 at 7 p.m. ET
Location: Carrier Dome, Syracuse, N.Y.
Line: Syracuse opened as a 1-point favorite, but the line’s since trending in favor of NC State (the Orange are now 1.5- or 2-point underdogs, depending on where you look).
Radio: Cuse.com, TK 99/105, WAER 88.3, SiriusXM: (will update)
NC State blog: Backing the Pack
Rivalry: Wolfpack lead, 10-1
Current Streak: 4, NC State
First Meeting: Syracuse rotated random opponents around their Eastern Independent schedule back in the day, and at some point, the dial landed on State. In 1972, SU headed down to Raleigh and proceeded to get blown out, 43-20. It started a nasty habit of the Orangemen scheduling the Pack when they were a better team than was typical. The 1972 team was 8-3-1 and won the Peach Bowl, while finishing in the top 20.
Last Meeting: Down 26-7 at halftime last year, it looked like Syracuse was about to get run off the field by State. But Eric Dungey threw for 385 yards and helped drag the Orange almost all the way back in a 33-25 loss. We all had some thoughts about bogus missed pass interference calls late, but in any case, it still went up as an ‘L’. Appropriately, SU had 444 total yards on the day.
Head Coaches: SU: Dino Babers (3rd year, 13-18); NC State: Dave Doeren (6th year, 39-31)
Coach Bio: You’d be surprised to learn that Doeren never ran the human resources department for Dunder Mifflin’s Scranton office prior to becoming a football coach.
Originally from Kansas, Doeren played tight end up at Drake from 1990-93, then started coaching high school back in his hometown of Shawnee soon after. By 1995, Drake wanted him back and he served on the staff there through 1997 when he moved onto USC to be a grad assistant with the Trojans. He left just as things were getting fun, taking over the defensive backs coach role at Montana for the next two years.
Heading back to his home state, Doeren was a member of the Kansas defensive staff for three seasons, then served in various defensive coordinator-type roles at Wisconsin from 2006 through 2010. His success with the Badgers earned him the top job at Northern Illinois, where we won 23 games and got to an Orange Bowl. He’s been at NC State ever since, steadily increasing the returns over time.
Last Year: The Wolfpack sported an NFL defensive line and a slew of talent on both sides of the ball, which aided them in winning nine games for the first time since 2010 and just the third time since 2000. Other than a 21-point loss to Notre Dame, State’s other losses were all by a touchdown or less. They beat Arizona State in the Sun Bowl, and finished 23rd in the polls.
Last Game: A battle of unbeaten ranked foes could’ve been an interesting game, and the latest way to test Clemson. Instead, the Tigers won 41-7 and NC State never really got anything going on either side of the ball. The typically accurate Ryan Finley completed just 21 of 34 passes for 156 yards and two picks, while the Pack only rushed for 104 yards on the day.
“Fear Me, I’ve Killed Hundreds of Timelords”: Though Syracuse’s run defense typically gets the criticism, we saw last week how focusing on the run more significantly could leave us susceptible to even a moderate passing attack. Finley, as mentioned, is typically highly accurate (68.3 percent on the year) and has already thrown for nearly 1,800 yards over six games, with 10 touchdowns. If the Orange can’t get pressure on him, this could be a very long evening.
If Syracuse Wins: SU scores an upset over a ranked team at home for the third consecutive season, this time likely vaulting them into the top 25 themselves for the first time since 2001. It would also mean a sixth win and a eventual bowl invite come December — the goal we were working toward from the start of the 2018 season.
If Syracuse Loses: It wouldn’t necessarily come as a surprise, with NC State coming into the game ranked, but a defeat would still be a tough pill to swallow, even with a 5-3 record. Under Dino Babers, Syracuse is 0-8 so far in November and would need to find a way to break that streak if they have any shot at going bowling. A loss would also make for four straight efforts featuring less-than-stellar play, even if not for full games.
Fun Fact No. 1: You probably don’t need to be reminded that one of the assistants on Doeren’s staff is former SU offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach George McDonald. I’m pretty sure he hates me for a certain series of play-calling articles from 2013 to 2014, but it’s nice to see that he’s found a more permanent spot in Raleigh, where he’s been since 2015.
Fun Fact No. 2: NC State has never finished higher than 11th in the final AP Poll (in 1974), which sounds pretty miraculous and has become college football podcast fodder for a good portion of this fall so far. Would also like to point out that Syracuse has finished 10th or higher in the polls five different times.