The No. 19 Syracuse Orange takes on the Wake Forest Demon Deacons in Winston-Salem, N.C. on Saturday. The Orange have struggled on the road in the ACC under Dino Babers (just one win so far), but this week seems like the best chance to buck that trend. The narrative, has been both teams have a bad defense, so be ready for points. But what will help determine if ‘Cuse wins? These five questions!
Will the Orange generate turnovers?
‘Cuse is seventh in the county in turnover margin (plus-9), which has certainly been due to some luck, according to Bill C’s S&P+. However, Wake isn’t exactly a team that takes advantage of turnovers. They are 81st in expected turnover margin (-0.5) which isn’t good! Wake is going to try and run the ball a bunch, but forcing some turnovers when they try to pass would be huge for killing drives. Because...
Will ‘Cuse defense/special teams keep Wake out of the red zone?
The Deacs have yet to turn the ball over in the red zone and have a 100% goal line success rate. Crazy stats aside, they are 19th in the country in inside the 10 success rate (59.6%), but are significantly worse between the 11-20 yard lines, with a success rate of 31.9%. Meanwhile, the Orange defense is 16th in inside the 10 success rate and 33rd between 11-20. Wake will try to run the ball here more than anywhere else on the field, so let’s try to keep them out, since that seems like a recipe for the Deacs to win that battle.
Can the Orange defense hold on first and second downs?
A big part of the Orange success has been holding teams to 3 and outs. Early vs NC State, SU’s pass defense makes huge stops, letting the Orange offense attack early. Wake isn’t like the Wolfpack, i.e. a third down conversion machine. However, they are pretty damn good at getting third and mediums/third and shorts. On the season, 15% of their third downs are third and shorts, a top twenty rate. Syracuse’s 87th-rated rush defense is probably not a great counter to this, so making stuffs on first and second down to force the Deacs into passing downs will be important.
Will the Orange air it out?
Wake Forrest has a terrible defense, ranked 109th in passing defense and 108th in rushing defense. This means the Orange have the opportunity to take a balanced approach to this game, but with how well Eric Dungey played last week versus NC State (411 passing yards on 38 attempts), I can’t imagine they’ll real him in. BUT, the Orange are ranked 33rd in the country in rushing offense S&P+. It seems like the safer way to win on the road is to run against a team that can’t stop the run, even less so than the Orange.
Any improvement on the red zone offense?
The Orange continue to baffle inside the red zone. They are 105th (!) in the country at converting inside the 10 (43%), yet they are 40th when between the 11 and 20 yard lines (45.2%). I would argue this is because there’s more room for Dungey and the receivers to work, and the offense hasn’t quite figured out how to create needed space when the defense can pack the box. In a game like this? Field Goals instead of touchdowns will make this a very “Edge of seat ‘Cuse game.”