Syracuse will try to halt a two-game losing streak when it hosts Western Michigan on Saturday (12:00 p.m. ET / ACCN). Ahead of the game, The Juice Online’s Wes Cheng and Brad Bierman give their predictions below.
BRAD BIERMAN (Season Record 2-1): There is no other way to put it, Western Michigan is a tricky match-up for a Syracuse football team Saturday afternoon that has gone through 360 degrees of emotions from a tune-up win over Liberty, to being dominated by two Power 5 programs the last two weeks. It was quite a site to have Dino Babers call the entire squad back out to midfield post-Clemson for an instant state of the program address.
Now the Broncos are riding high over a record-breaking school rushing performance in their big win over Georgia State last weekend, GSU already famous itself this season for knocking off Tennessee in Week 1. Syracuse has struggled against the run in the first three games, so the D-line and linebackers will be spotlighted.against WMU.
Two other items that can’t be ignored; the Tim Lester factor, with ex-Orange assistant molding his own program in the MAC and they’ll be ready to play in the Dome, and a veteran quarterback in Jon Wassink ho figures to be in command of the Broncs offense.
We see a hangover from the Clemson loss making this a tight game headed into the fourth quarter with SU in fact trailing by six with 5:00 to play. Tommy DeVito shows command of his own leading the Orange on a five play scoring drive with just over a 1:00 left, and the successful PAT decides a 35-34 Orange victory.
WES CHENG (Season Record: 2-0): Syracuse played Western Michigan for the first time in program history last year, with the Orange holding off a late surge from the Broncos in a 55-42 win in the 2018 season opener in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Western Michigan quarterback Jon Wassink and wide receiver D’Wayne Eskridge starred in the game, and both return for the 2019 matchup.
Wassink ended up throwing 379 yards three touchdowns, with 240 of those yards and two touchdowns going to Eskridge. Wassink is off to a solid start this year, throwing for 866 yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions, while Eskridge has mostly been featured on the defensive end, only recording a single catch.
I think you have to excuse the Syracuse defense in 2018 as it was still feeling its way through the first game of the season. We’re now four games into the season, and SU’s defense showed marked improvement against an elite Clemson offense, holding them to 17 points into midway into the third quarter before the Tigers pulls away for a closer-than-the-final-score-indicated 41-6 win.
The focus will be on whether Tommy DeVito can limit his mistakes and lead the Orange to its first auspicious offensive performance of the season. DeVito threw another inexplicable interception against Clemson, turning a 17-6 game with the Orange inside the red zone into a 24-6 game just four plays later. I think this game will mark exactly that, with DeVito throwing for more than 300 yards, three touchdowns and one interception as the Orange finally exude some confidence on offense in a 42-28 win.