The Syracuse Orange football team is now 5-5 following last week’s unfortunate showing vs. Louisville. So they’ll now get two opportunities to get to six wins and a bowl game, though we’ll see if that can happen with two ranked foes to close out the season. The first of those, the N.C. State Wolfpack, are on the schedule this Saturday. And before things kick off, we’re highlighting some elements of the matchup worth keeping an eye on.’
John: Unstoppable force vs. immovable object
While we’ve seen some Syracuse opponents hunker down for stretches to stop the run, no one’s really done so consistently all season, with Sean Tucker’s two games falling short of 100 yards more a product of fewer carries than anything else. In NC State, though, the Orange face the best run defense on the schedule so far. The Pack allow just 100.9 yards per game on the ground (10th in the country) and 3.18 yards per carry (14th). Getting past that group could pose some challenges — especially given recent offensive line injuries for SU, and the questions surrounding Chris Elmore’s availability, too.
If Tucker gets his carries and the Orange avoid throwing too much (for some reason, always a concern), SU should be able to move the ball on the ground to some extent. But having a mix of Tucker and Garrett Shrader running the ball along with some semblance of a passing attack is when this offense is most effective. That hasn’t been the case much in recent weeks, against defenses not as stout against the run.
Christian: Don’t play like DeVito
Ok this probably sounds weird given that most of us on this site, me included, think the switch to Shrader at quarterback shouldn’t have happened in the first place, but we’re here now. What do I mean by this? Shrader is falling deeply into one of DeVito’s worst traits as quarterback that we all wanted to see him improve on. That trait? Holding onto the ball. We already know that this offensive line, save for Matthew Bergeron, is not the best unit in the world, and the pocket is going to collapse quickly. Now is some of this on the wide receivers for not getting open or not running better routes? Possibly. But Shrader has got to get rid of the ball quicker. Otherwise, it’ll be too easy, as has been the case most of the year, to just hard commit to stopping Tucker.
Kevin: Contain the Wolfpack receivers
When NC State has the ball they have a trio of receivers who can do damage. Can the Syracuse secondary limit the group of Emeka Emezie, Thayer Thomas and Devin Carter? The Orange have been pretty good against opposing quarterbacks but they won’t be able to key on just one of these receivers in Raleigh. If Syracuse wants to pull off the upset they can’t afford to let NC State hit big play after big play through the air.
Andy: Can Tony White find the pressure?
The Orange were able to win 5 games and almost win another 3 in ACC play because they were one of the better teams in the country at generating pressure without blitzes. Most of this work was done up front led by Cody Roscoe, but the last game, the Orange managed just 1 sack and 6 tackles for a loss, compared to the 5 and 9 they mustered against the stout Boston College offensive line. The difference was only 9 total instances of pressure were mustered against Louisville, and that simply won’t be enough against NC State. Devin Leary’s been pressured on just a quarter of his dropbacks this year, but when he has, his completion percentage is almost cut in half and he looses 2 yards per attempt.