Syracuse will enter the heart of its ACC schedule when it travels to play NC State Thursday evening (8:00 p.m. ET / ESPN). Ahead of the game, The Juice Online’s Brad Bierman and Jim Stechschulte give their predictions below.
BRAD BIERMAN (Season Record: 2-1): The last game image we have of Syracuse quarterback Tommy DeVito was him rushing off the field minus his helmet and some pads late in the win over Holy Cross Sept. 28. But he said earlier this week he’s good to go, ready and amped for games six through nine, before another open week Nov. 9.
So while the story of the SU quarterback is one looking to build off the momentum of two straight wins and record a rare ACC road win (SU is 5-15 on the road in ACC play) in what will likely be a loud atmosphere on Military Appreciation Night in Raleigh, the Wolfpack are rebuilding at the QB position, if you will, naming southpaw Bailey Hockman the new starter following his 21-for-40/208 yard passing performance in NCSU’s 31-13 loss to Florida State also Sept. 28.
Hockman will be in the hairs of the Orange pass rush as he tries to get the Pack passing attack going, and will face an Orange secondary still likely to be without two starters to injury. But we think the Syracuse defense will do what it does best; cause a turnover or two, and provide DeVito and company with good field position.
DeVito will take advantage, finding multiple receivers both on short and long range throws, and North Carolina native Moe Neal will have a second-to-last homecoming hurrah (SU still plays at Duke in Nov.) with a beautiful TD run, which will help propel the Orange in the fourth quarter – Syracuse 31, North Carolina State 24.
JIM STECHSCHULTE (Season Record: 2-0): While it was noteworthy that North Carolina State announced a quarterback change this week, more concerning to Syracuse are the Wolfpack’s stingy run defense and strong pass rush, as well as their emphasis on ball security.
N.C. State allows just 2.6 yards per rushing attempt and only West Virginia has averaged more than three yards a carry against them this season. College football statistics count quarterback sacks as running plays, so the 17 sacks by the ’Pack factor into that. Offensive line issues have been a significant part of SU’s offensive struggles, as evidenced by the team averaging 3.4 yards per rushing attempt and allowing 17 sacks.
Regarding ball security, the Wolfpack have turned the ball over just four times this season, throwing a pair of picks and losing two fumbles. Syracuse has been successful forcing turnovers again this season, splitting their dozen forced turnovers evenly between fumbles and interceptions. Those 12 turnovers have Orange tied for seventh in the nation in turnovers forced per game.
Getting a couple turnovers will certainly help SU’s cause, but even the extra time between games won’t shore up their offensive line’s deficiencies. Give this close one to the hosts – North Carolina State 27, Syracuse 23.