Syracuse is 4-2 and will try to end a two-game losing streak when it returns home to play North Carolina. Ahead of the game, The Juice Online’s Brad Bierman and Wes Cheng gave their predictions for the game.
BRAD BIERMAN (Season Predictions, 4-2): Hello, Syracuse football?
It seems like forever with some big basketball recruiting news in the spotlight in-between, but it’s only been two weeks since that lighting delay followed by the bitter disappointing loss at Pittsburgh dropped the Orange to 4-2 and 1-2 at the halfway point, with the much needed break.
Dino Babers spent a portion of his time on the midweek ACC coaches’ teleconference outlining the keys to the second half of this season not being a repeat of his previous two second halves of a season at SU.
The first point: Stop the run…stop the run…stop the run. Both Clemson and Pitt gashed the ‘Cuse “D” for chunks of yardage in the fourth quarter and/or overtime in their comebacks. The Tar Heels Michael Carter (165 yards vs. Virginia tech last week) figures to be in the Syracuse crosshairs Saturday.
The next key to Babers: Successfully run the football when needed (40% third down conversion rate). Third and three at the minus 42 yard line; run the ball for a first down to stay on the field. Whether that’s Eric Dungey, Moe Neal, Dontae Strickland, Jarveon Howard, or a wide receiver screen with yardage after the catch.
Finally, cut down on mental mistakes, penalties (seven per game average), missed tackles and turnovers (seven lost fumbles/four interceptions), and a bowl game is well within reach. If only it were that easy.
North Carolina, after all, beat Pittsburgh for its only win, and played a strong game in a close 22-19 loss last week to Virginia Tech.
The home Dome factor may come into play if the Orange Out crowd gets loud, and we think that Dungey will stake Syracuse to a 28-17 fourth quarter lead. The defense will bend yielding 10 points to make it 28-27 with 3:00 left, before a final Orange TD with 1:00 to play in regulation ices a 35-27 victory.
WES CHENG (Season Predictions, 4-2): Syracuse raced out to a 4-0 start thanks to the outstanding play from its starting quarterback, Eric Dungey. He’s been at the center of every single Orange win (and loss) since he started his career in Central New York.
But he struggled in SU’s 44-37 loss at Pitt on Oct. 6. He threw for just 195 yards and was intercepted twice, while completing just 18 of 38 passes. The last interception came on the final play of the game in overtime.
Syracuse will obviously need more from Dungey this week, and expect him to have a nice bounce back week.
I’m going to predict a similar bounce back from a defense that was gashed on the ground by the Panthers and goes up against a stout UNC rushing attack (as Brad mentioned above).
But the Tar Heels have had major issues taking care of the ball. They rank 127th in the FBS, at a turnover margin of -1.6 per game.
Meanwhile, the Orange rank at the top of the ACC, and seventh overall in the country, at +1.33. That will give the offense (and Dungey) plenty more opportunities, resulting in a 31-21 win for the Orange.