‘Cuse Countdown Analysts Give Their Keys and Predictions for SU Football vs. Wake Forest
How Syracuse Wins: Eric Dungey Needs to Play
If the Orange wants a chance at staying strong for this game and for the rest of the season, Eric Dungey needs to play. He has been one of the top passers in college football this season and is a keystone to the Orange offense in both pace-of-game and targeting-of-receivers efficiency. He also leads SU in rushing. Fortunately for SU, Dungey has been healthy throughout most of the season up to this point (breaking a trend of Syracuse quarterbacks getting hurt early in the season for the past three years). The Orange hasn’t had to go to its backups for many plays this season. Now, at the climax of its 2017 season, trying to get enough wins to secure a bowl game, the Orange needs Dungey.
Prediction: Syracuse 27, Wake Forest 24
It’s a toss-up now that Dungey had the potential of being sidelined on Saturday. The Orange has been strong offensively and defensively with the exception of a few holes (notably the offensive line and the secondary), and Wake Forest has matched SU’s success. Coming off a tough loss at Florida State, Syracuse needs to regain momentum at home this weekend. It’ll be close, but ultimately Dino Babers will find a way to out-coach Wake Forest and get the close win.
How Syracuse Wins: Stop the Run
Wake Forest is 5-1 on the season when they rush for 150 yards or more in a game. With freshman standout wide receiver Greg Dortch injured, the Demon Deacons have had to rely more heavily on junior Matt Colburn to tote the rock out of the backfield. Stopping Colburn early on first and second down would not only stifle Wake’s most effective tool to gain yardage, but it would also allow SU’s fierce third down defense to attack a mediocre Demon Deacon’s third down offense. LSU is the only Orange opponent to convert more than 25 percent of its third downs against Syracuse this season. Forcing Wake Forest into third-and-long situations would only help that trend to continue.
Prediction: Wake Forest 31, Syracuse 27
Syracuse is still learning to win football games. That doesn’t mean they ever will, but, historically, as programs and teams rebuild, there is often an adjustment period where teams are talented enough to win, but they struggle with turnovers, penalties or giving up big plays. Big plays like Dungey throwing a first-drive interception FSU, followed by a 51-yard passing touchdown from freshman quarterback James Blackmon and two 45-yard rushing touchdowns from freshman running back Cam Akers. In time, Syracuse will clean these mistakes up. Younger players are getting playing time, and Dino Babers has this program churning in the right direction. At this point, the safer bet is to pick against Syracuse until they prove more consistently that winning against good competition isn’t just a fluke, but a habit.
How Syracuse Wins: Screen Passes
This could be the hottest of takes surrounding the Syracuse offense, but it should bring back the bubble screen. Ervin Philips has been exceptional in the slot and Steve Ishmael has been an incredible deep threat, but that means Dungy has to remain in the pocket longer. Dungy is banged up, and bubble screens to Ishmael reduce the chances of him getting hit and knocked out of more playing time. The bubble screen was somewhat successful in the beginning of the season, now might be the perfect time for its revival.
Prediction: Syracuse 31, Wake Forest 27
Dungy is not playing at one-hundred percent, so expect the Orange to look a little slower on offense. However, that being said, Syracuse is back in the Dome with a home crowd, where Cole Murphy converts. Wake Forest will certainly give the Orange a run for their money, but ultimately John Wolford doesn’t have the offensive tools surrounding him that Syracuse has.
How Syracuse Wins: Take a Deep Breath
Eric Dungey needs to settle in and limit the first half turnovers. He has thrown first-drive picks against LSU, NC State, Miami and FSU, all of which have resulted in single-digit losses. But most importantly, STAY HEALTHY. Momentum may not seem to be on your side, but it is because you’re at home. Stick to the game plan and don’t turn the ball over.
Prediction: Syracuse 31, Wake Forest 26
This is a do-or-die game, and I have no doubt that Dino Babers will have the entire team ready. Eric Dungey is a warrior and will give infinite effort, enough to get the job done. SU moves back to .500, and more importantly, within one win of a bowl game.
How Syracuse Wins: Attack a depleted Wake secondary
Syracuse boasts one of the best passing games in the country with an offense littered with weapons. Wake Forest, on the other hand, isn’t an exceptionally good pass defense. The Demon Deacons rank 55th in the nation in pass defense, but gave up 330 yards last week to a Notre Dame offense that goes for less than 200 yards per game through the air. A lot of that yardage can be attributed to another huge injury for Wake. The Demon Deacons’ leading tackler and best defensive back, safety Jessie Bates III, was hurt last week and he’s likely to miss the game versus Syracuse. With that being said, it’s going to be crucial for Dungey and company to attack the middle of the secondary and go after a secondary that is going to be without its best player.
Prediction: Syracuse 34, Wake Forest 21
Wake Forest is just too beat up to be able to keep up with a Syracuse team that, despite losing last week, has shown flashes of brilliance on both sides of the ball. Eric Dungey has had a stellar season and is more than talented enough to tear up an injured Wake Forest secondary. The Bates injury takes away Wake’s best player on the defensive side of the ball and with him not playing, there just doesn’t seem to be enough evidence to suggest that the Demon Deacons’ defense is going to be able to withstand the high-powered Syracuse offense.
How Syracuse Wins: Protect Eric Dungey
Dungey has been sacked more than anyone else in the ACC. But he’s been able to overcome that through the air. But since the bye week, Eric Dungey has thrown five interceptions. He needs the offensive line to give him time in the pocket to make accurate throws. Especially since he hobbled out of Doak Campbell Stadium last week, protecting him against Duke Ejiofor and the rest of the Wake Forest squad will be crucial.
Prediction: Syracuse 35, Wake Forest 24
After two straight road losses, Syracuse returns home. It will come down to dome-field advantage that will give Syracuse the edge. They have gotten out to faster starts in the Loud House, as they did against Clemson. Notre Dame did this against Wake Forest, building a lead in the second quarter that the Demon Deacons could not recover from. Plus, with John Wolford missing his favorite receiver, Greg Dortch, who is out for the season with an abdominal injury, it will be difficult for Wake Forest to produce the offensive numbers it has had in past wins.
How Syracuse Wins: Win the Turnover Battle
In a game like this, turnovers are crucial. Syracuse should have the advantage playing at home, and winning the turnover battle would only strengthen its advantage. The Orange too often turns the ball over early in contests. Taking care of the ball will be crucial for Syracuse to pick up its fourth straight win in the Carrier Dome.
Prediction: Syracuse 38, Wake Forest 32
This is going to be a competitive game. With that, I think Syracuse comes out firing on all cylinders. After two tough losses in Florida, the Orange is going to prove beating Clemson wasn’t a fluke. It won’t be a blowout, but it will be more than enough to show why Syracuse deserves a bowl game this year.