Syracuse will try for their first ACC win of the season when it travels to North Carolina to face Duke on Saturday afternoon (4:00 p.m. ET / ACC Network). Ahead of the game, The Juice Online’s Brad Bierman and Wes Cheng give their predictions below.
BRAD BIERMAN (Season Record: 3-4): The Syracuse football team is going to accomplish something Saturday afternoon that no Syracuse football team has completed since 1939; that is playing Duke in a football game in Durham, N.C. When the Orangemen fell to Duke 33-6 in ’39, the now 90-year old U-shape facility (renovated in 2015) was only in its 11 th season.
Moving forward to the ACC era, the Blue Devils won in the Dome 27-10 in 2014. This season’s game completes the initial Coastal Division cross-over rotation with Duke and leads to Saturday’s drama. Will Syracuse (3-6, 0-5) keep its tiny bowl hopes alive, or will Duke (4-5, 2-3) protect home turf and keep its quest alive for a third straight bowl appearance needing to subsequently also beat either Wake Forest (A) or Miami (H)?
Both teams have had season-long offensive questions, Duke scored just one touchdown last week losing to Notre Dame, and while we know the struggles of the Orange “O”, Saturday the spotlight will be on interim SU defensive coordinator Steve Stanard to see what wrinkles he brings to the table to stop DU quarterback Quentin Harris and company.
The ‘Cuse sports a dismal 5-17 league road mark in now its seventh ACC season, and is one of only four Power 5 teams (Arkansas, Northwestern, and Rutgers) not to have knocked off a Power 5 opponent this season, so the track record makes it hard to pick against Duke.
The Orange will play a spirited game, the defense will be bullish most of the day and there will be turnovers on both sides, but the Blue Devils will hold on for a 27-24 victory extinguishing SU’s flickering bowl hopes.
WES CHENG (Season Record: 6-0): While Syracuse-Duke in football isn’t the same kind of marquee matchup as it is on the hardwood, Saturday’s contest has huge implications for both teams.
On the line for Syracuse is its outside shot at bowl eligibility. They’re the only ACC team without a conference win, and with a loss to Duke, would drop to 3-7, eliminating them from the post season.
It’s a critical game for the Blue Devils as well. After starting the season 4-2, Duke has dropped three in a row, and with games at Wake Forest and home against Miami, Syracuse represents a must-win in order to get to six wins.
Duke’s defense has been particularly suspect during the losing streak, with the Blue Devils surrendering a little over 35 points per game. That squares off nicely against SU’s anemic offense, which has scored just 16 points per game in conference play, and is currently tied with Old Dominion for an NCAA worst 45 sacks allowed.
Then again, the Blue Devil offense isn’t much better, averaging 27.2 points per game, which is ranked 159th. It will be interesting to see how Syracuse’s defense will perform following the dismissal of defensive coordinator Brian Ward following an abysmal performance against Boston College where the Eagles hung 58 on SU at the Carrier Dome.
Syracuse comes in as a 9.5 underdog, and that sounds about right to me, with Duke defeating Syracuse 30-21, eliminating SU from the postseason.