‘Cuse Countdown Previews Syracuse’s Primetime Battle with NC State
NC State’s Ryan Finley is one of the elite quarterback talents in the country, but his one weakness this season seems to be his inability to cope with heavy pressure. Last week against Clemson, the Tigers’ pressured Finley all day, sacking him twice and forcing him to throw two interceptions. Syracuse’s defensive front is not on the same level as Clemson’s, but if Dino Babers can get his guys on defense to put the same amount of pressure on Finley that the Tigers did, it could force Finely into making a couple bad decisions. In a game that should be pretty close, pressuring Finley into throwing an interception could be a major turning point in the Orange’s favor.
Prediction: NC State 35-27
This game is full of intrigue and might be the most anticipated football game the Carrier Dome has seen in awhile. Bowl eligibility is on the line for the Orange, and on paper, these teams seem very evenly matched. The most interesting matchup to watch will be the Orange’s secondary against Kelvin Harmon. Harmon is the Wolfpack’s leading receiver and Finley’s go-to deep target, so it’s likely Babers will put extra emphasis on containing him and forcing Finley to look elsewhere. This game will be close most of the way through, but Ryan Finley leads the Wolfpack offense on a late drive that ends in a heartbreaking home loss for Syracuse.
Key to the Game: Commit to the Run Early
Syracuse’s offense struggled for the majority of the second half against North Carolina due to two reasons: Eric Dungey’s underwhelming performance and a lack of rushing attempts. Don’t be fooled by the box score, which shows SU ran the football 33 times; Dungey kept the pigskin on nearly half of those attempts. Moe Neal is averaging five yards a carry this season, but has only been handed the ball 25 times in the past three games. The results of those contests: loss, loss, and barely scraping a win against a feeble UNC program. The junior tailback received double-digit carries in three of the first four games this season. All those resulted in a win. If Tommy DeVito is inserted as the starter, he’ll need a rushing attack behind him to provide balance. If Babers selects Dungey to be the starter, the senior signal caller could use some help in the ground game to alleviate some of his struggles.
Prediction: Syracuse 30-28
Even though NC State sports the ninth best rushing defense in the nation, I really don’t believe this Wolfpack team is up to par with last year’s squad that beat SU by eight points. Bradley Chubb, who collected two sacks against ‘Cuse last year, is now an Denver Bronco. Nyheim Hines, who racked up more than 100 yards, is now an Indianapolis Colt. Meanwhile, Syracuse clearly has improved from one season ago. These primetime games inside the Carrier Dome always seem to be close ones, and in a tight contest, the kicking game could be a difference-maker. NC State kicker Christopher Dunn is a respectable 8/11 so far in 2018, but he has only made 1/2 from 40 yards or more and hasn’t even attempted a field goal from past 50. On the other side, Andre Szmyt has been terrific from every distance all season. Give the Orange the elusive sixth win.