After a 38-3 loss last week to Florida State at home and on Senior Day, it’s safe to say Syracuse has hit the lowest point of their season. The bright side? The only place to go is up.
That seems likely as the toughest stretch of SU’s schedule is over, and the Orange end the season with two winnable games- the first being a short trip to Winston-Salem to take on Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons are also 6-4 and coming off a few tough losses of their own. Here’s what to watch for.
- Teams: Syracuse Orange (6-4, 3-3 ACC) v. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (6-4, 2-4)
- Date: Saturday, Nov. 19
- Game Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
- Venue: Truist Field (Winston-Salem, North Carolina)
- Network: ACC Network
Fearless Prediction: Wake Forest 25, Syracuse 23
The Juice Online Season Record: 9-1
SAM HARTMAN IS THE OFFENSE
Syracuse fans know how good Wake Forest QB Sam Hartman is, having watched him throw for 330 yards, three touchdowns, and rush in another score in their 40-37 OT win over SU last year. This year is no different. Wake is the 14th ranked passing offense in the country with Hartman at the helm and he’s only played in nine games since coming back from injury. He’s completing 62.2% of his passes, throwing for 2,743 yards, 28 touchdowns, and 10 picks.
Wake’s rushing attack, on the other hand, isn’t as successful. They currently sit at 94th overall, with a paltry 128.0 yards per game. Hartman isn’t much of a threat with his legs which definitely hurts their rushing totals compared to other schools, but it really just illustrates how much the team leans on their prolific QB’s arm.
Despite Syracuse being the 9th overall passing defense in the country, I don’t like the match up for SU given the recent injuries to Garrett Williams and Ja’had Carter. The silver lining is that SU is second in yards per completion, the only school in the “nine” range (9.56) meaning SU simply doesn’t give up big plays. That is often attributed to scheme more so than players, and I’d expect that to continue. The problem is an offense like Wake is more than capable of dinking and dunking their way down the field, and could take their shot against some of SU’s backups on the outside.
WAKE DEFENSE MORE “DEACON” THAN “DEMON”
The good news for this pitiful recent version of the Syracuse offense is that Wake’s defense is lacking in all areas. Against the pass, the Demon Deacons are 98th overall giving up 252.8 yards per game. Garrett Shrader and Oronde Gadsden have struggled getting on the same page since the Clemson game, and I’d expect this to be a match up where they get back on track.
Even better news is Wake’s run defense at 59th in the country giving up 142.0 yards per game. Sean Tucker hasn’t had 100 rush yards since his 232 yard explosion against Wagner in week 5, and in this same match up last year he went off for 153 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, with another score through the air.
SU had themselves a day in that last game against Wake, giving Tucker 26 carries and Shrader 29 carries, yet somehow still finding a way for Shrader to attempt 27 passes. I fully expect this to be a “get right” game for Syracuse’s offense in particular, whether it leads to a win or not.
WILL DISAPPOINTMENT FUEL THIS TEAM?
As I said earlier, last week’s loss to Florida State had to be rock bottom for the 2022 Syracuse Orange. When I say had to be, I mean it. If SU loses either of its last two games after their 6-0 start to finish either 6-6 or 7-5, that has to be viewed as unacceptable, bowl eligibility be damned. This team was legitimately able to contend with anyone until the collapse.
I’ve covered it already, but outside of the FSU game, Syracuse’s three previous losses were winnable games derailed by coaching… let’s say “missteps.” Injuries occurred but players were not put in a position to succeed with questionable game plans and a lack of adjustments in-game.
I’m hoping that a prime-time, final home game, Senior Day beat down was exactly the kick in the pants needed for the coaching staff to wake up and realize what they’ve been doing isn’t working- namely an over reliance on downfield passes over quick, short passes and screens, and the lack of work for the best player on the roster, Sean Tucker.
Despite all evidence to the contrary, I’m giving the coaches the benefit of the doubt and betting they fix what ails this offense right now with a perfect match up against a team they had great success against last year. Will it be enough? Unfortunately no, as the injuries to the defense and lack of a consistent second wide receiver that Shrader can count on will once again doom this squad and send them to their fifth straight loss.