Syracuse is ranked for the first time since 2001, and will try to keep its momentum when it heads down to North Carolina to play Wake Forest. Ahead of the game, The Juice Online’s Brad Bierman and Wes Cheng gave their predictions for the game.
BRAD BIERMAN (Season Predictions, 6-2): Win or lose, Saturday’s game against Wake Forest is a historical one for Syracuse football (6-2, 3-2). It’s the first SU has played as one of the 25 ranked teams by the 13 member College Football Playoff selection committee since the debut of the format in 2014.
Now the trick is to stay among those teams that the committee deems major bowl game and playoff worthy, by accomplishing something Saturday afternoon in Winston-Salem (on a day they’ll be celebrating BB&T Field’s 50th anniversary) that the Orange have not been successful at achieving in the ACC under both Scott Shafer and Dino Babers, winning on the road in conference play.
SU is just 4-17 away from the Dome heading into the meeting with Wake, one of the four road game victims (in 2014 along with North Carolina State and Maryland in 2013 and Boston College in 2016), with the two lost leads against Clemson and Pittsburgh this year adding to the misery.
At 4-4, 1-3, Wake Forest is not in the mood to see its bowl game run end at two straight years. The Demon Deacons are healthy, confident, improving each week, and come off a 56 point blitz of lowly Louisville last weekend, after putting up 64 points and a school-record 734 yards of total offense in the Dome last season.
That’s not going to happen this time around, although Wake will get its points. In a shootout between Eric Dungey and Wake true freshman quarterback Sam Hartman, the nation’s leading scorer, the Orange’s magnificent first year kicker Andre Szmyt (103 points), will calmly boot a 37 yard field goal with 0:12 to play to provide a 38-35 Syracuse victory.
WES CHENG (Season Predictions, 5-3): Defense has come at a premium for these two teams recently. Over the last three games, Syracuse has given up an average of 45 points per game. During that same span, Wake Forest is yielding 45.3 points.
Part of SU’s problem is its secondary, which is thinning by the game. Christopher Frederick, Scoop Bradshaw and Devon Clarke have all had injuries over the past month, and that was a glaring point in SU’s narrow win over NC State, when the Wolfpack gashed the Orange for 473 yards through the air.
Wake Forest’s Sam Hartman isn’t Ryan Finley, but he’s averaged 235 yards and a pair of touchdowns in his last two contests against Florida State and Louisville. And he’s thrown plenty to wide receiver Greg Dortch who’s already notched 60 receptions for 751 yards and five touchdowns.
For the season, the Demon Deacons for the season are averaging 33.4 points per game, or 40th in the FBS.
Everything has the makings of a shootout, and I expect a 45-41 Syracuse win.