The Syracuse Orange embarks on the stretch run of its schedule this Saturday when the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-4, 2-3 ACC) visit the Carrier Dome for a 12:30 tilt. Syracuse, fresh off a bye week, has had 12 days to stew over the embarrassing 56-0 walloping delivered by Georgia Tech its last time on the field. Five games remain on the Orange’s slate. Three of those – Wake, Pittsburgh and Boston College – are at home. With three victories on the season, Syracuse needs to find three wins out of the five games if it wants to return to a bowl game. Running the table at the Dome will accomplish that goal.
Syracuse’s maiden voyage into the Atlantic Coast Conference has been a mixed bag to date. Some good with some very not so good. In addition to the 56-0 Georgia Tech debacle, the Orange suffered a 49-14 butt kicking in front of the home fans to Clemson. Sandwiched between those two contests was a gritty 24-10 road win against N.C. State.
One constant factor in all three league games so far has been the inability of quarterback Terrel Hunt and Syracuse’s wide receiver corps to muster up any semblance of a passing attack. Hunt has yet to break 100 yards through the air in any of the games and hasn’t connected on a single touchdown pass while throwing six interceptions. Such futility in the passing game ramps up even more pressure on the Orange’s ground attack, in particular, Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley.
Former starter and current back-up, Drew Allen, who relieved Hunt in the Georgia Tech loss, has been taking snaps with the first team offense this week. Hunt’s ability to scramble – 234 yards on 42 carries with three touchdowns – brings the offense an added element that Allen doesn’t possess. With Allen departing after the season and Hunt only a sophomore, the job is still his to seize for the long term. But an inability to adjust to the speed and talent level in the ACC will likely open the competition next year for freshmen Mitch Kimble and Austin Wilson and incoming recruits A.J. Long and Alin Edouard.
The Deacons enter the game on a roll despite dropping a tight 24-21 affair at Miami last weekend. Wake opened conference play with a lackluster road loss to Boston College before following that up with a 56-7 annihilation at the hands of Clemson. Since that rocky start, the Deacs have rebounded nicely with a pair of home wins over N.C. State and Maryland before the setback to the Hurricanes.
Syracuse’s defensive backs, a unit that has consistently been torched all year long, need to pay special attention to receiver Michael Campanaro. The senior has been sensational so far with 65 receptions for 792 yards and six touchdowns. He’s caught 33 passes for 363 yards with four scores in the past three games.
The Orange still has time to right the ship, save its season, and earn bowl eligibility. But that won’t happen until Hunt and the receivers figure it out. They’ll have their chance this Saturday.
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