As we countdown to kickoff in September, we’re going to be doing a team-by-team preview each week over the summer. SU will continue its 2016 ACC schedule when it plays Wake Forest on Oct. 8.
BOWL GAME?: Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson is now in the third year of his reclamation project with the Deacons. In his first two seasons, Wake Forest has gone 3-9, but there is some room for optimism year three. Perhaps the biggest reason will be the offensive line, which has been among the NCAA’s worst in the last two seasons. That unit returns four starters, including a pair of seniors. That should help an offense that finished 119th in the FBS last year at 17.4 points per game. With that in mind, Clawson has set the bar relatively high for the 2016 season, saying that he expects the Deacons to play in a bowl this December.
WHO TO WATCH FOR: Last season, the Demon Deacons were forced to press true freshman Kendall Hinton into service after injuries to starter John Wolford. Wolford, now a junior, is the more accurate passer of the two (1791 yards at 60.9 completion percentage), but Hinton was by far the more explosive of the two. He finished second on the team in rushing with 390 yards and also scored seven touchdowns, while throwing for 929 yards, but only completed 52 percent of his passes. Clawson has yet to name a starter for the fall. On the other side of the ball, Wake Forest’s strength is in its defensive line. Junior defensive lineman Wendell Dunn was eighth on the team in tackles last season, including 7.5 tackles for loss. Fellow junior DL Duke Ejiofo led the team with 4.5 sacks despite missing the first five games of the season.
PREDICTION: Syracuse has had Wake Forest’s number since the 2011 season, winning four straight matchups. They are evenly matched this season, but advantage goes to the home team. SYRACUSE 24, WAKE FOREST 21.