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Syracuse football vs. NC State preview: Q&A with Backing the Pack

Let’s learn more about the Wolfpack ahead of Saturday’s game.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 21 NC State at Georgia Tech Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With just two games left, the Syracuse Orange football team needs one more win to make a bowl game. Unfortunately, they’ll have two ranked teams standing in their way, starting with the N.C. State Wolfpack in Raleigh this Saturday. Great...

Since we’re not NC State fans, we went ahead and asked one about what to expect from the Wolfpack on Saturday. Steven (who you can follow on Twitter) at Backing the Pack provides responses to our questions below. We give some answers over there too, which you can check out here.

Obligatory: Who’s winning the ACC this year?

Wake Forest. I figure Pittsburgh will do some unfortunate Pitt thing in the ACC title game. Wake Forest, on account of not being Pittsburgh, I expect will play well. And I don’t see the Deacs losing their last two games of the regular season, unfortunately.

Yes, Syracuse fans remain miserable about how last year’s game ended. Feel free to share the NC State side of that fateful play.

That was certainly a thing that happened, wasn’t it. I can recall the shock of that fourth down spike like it was yesterday. And hey, Syracuse probably wasn’t going to score on that last play anyhow, so why not go out in a blaze of crazed stupidity? These opportunities are rare! Now everyone involved has a story for their future children.

Did you expect Devin Leary to be this good in 2021? What are his biggest strengths? Any weaknesses to speak of?

I was cautiously optimistic that the way he played in 2020 would carry over into a full season if he could stay healthy, but even so, he’s surpassed expectations. You can really tell how comfortable he is in this offense and the familiarity he has with the skill guys around him helps quite a bit as well. It took him a minute to shake the rust early in the year but after that he’s been impressively consistent. Good decision-maker, confident kid, accurate passer. I definitely would not have guessed his interception total would be this low.

His biggest downside is his lack of mobility, but hey, you can’t have everything.

NC State has one of the best run defenses in the country, while the Orange have one of the top rushing attacks. How do you see the Wolfpack containing Sean Tucker in this game?

This will be interesting for sure. I’m thinking Tucker will have at least a decent afternoon but hopefully NC State is up to the task of preventing home run plays. That’s going to be the big thing. It’s an extra challenge having to account for the quarterback in the run game as well, which is also why I think Tucker won’t be completely shut down. Against FSU, for instance, Jordan Travis being out of the equation allowed NC State to completely focus on the backs without having to worry about the QB at all—guys in the secondary were able to cheat a bit—and the result was a total stymying of that ground game. The Pack defense doesn’t have the same luxury against Syracuse.

What’s your biggest takeaway from the narrow loss to Wake Forest?

There were encouraging aspects to it but after that performance I’m now resigned to NC State not having any sort of success on the ground the rest of the season. If they couldn’t run the ball against that Wake defense, they aren’t going to be able to do it against anybody else on the remaining schedule. It’s a tough handicap to play through and I thought some success there would be the key to beating Wake. Alas.

Any thoughts on the job Dino Babers’s doing at Syracuse? Should he stick around another year if SU misses a bowl game in 2021?

I give him credit for showing a willingness to adapt his offense and I feel like the progress the Orange have shown this year warrants more time for Babers whether they get to six wins or not. Tucker and Schrader are going to be back, right? So give Babers the opportunity to build on this season—it seems like there’s an opportunity for sustained success in the near term. Y’all know the situation far better than me, obviously, and making a change wouldn’t be completely unwarranted, but coaching change chaos means you have to worry about dudes hitting the portal and maybe \all the progress of this season gets destroyed.

Name an unsung NC State player that Syracuse fans should get more familiar with.

Because of some injuries, defensive tackle Cory Durden has become one of the most important players on that side of the ball. He was one of two guys from Florida State who transferred in during the offseason, and man did he end up being a crucial addition. He doesn’t have eye-popping numbers (4 TFL, 3.5 sacks) but his role is critical and he’s been good.

Other than Tucker, which Orange player scares you the most in this matchup?

Cody Roscoe’s ability to throw a wrench into NC State’s passing game is worrying. NC State’s offensive line is going to have to be at its best in pass protection.

Prediction time: Who wins this one and why?

I don’t think Syracuse will get enough on the ground to win the game, but I also won’t be surprised if NC State has an emotional letdown after the Wake loss. Give me NC State 27, Syracuse 20.


Thanks again to Steven for taking the time to answer these. Follow the site on Twitter and check out Backing the Pack for all things NC State-related as well.