Syracuse, N.Y. — The Syracuse football (4-2, 1-2 ACC) team will face North Carolina (1-4, 1-2) at 12:20 p.m. Saturday (WSTM-3) at the Carrier Dome.
Syracuse storms out of the bye week and puts its foot on the proverbial throat of a team it should beat. The Tar Heels were starting to find themselves last week against Virginia Tech, but I think they will struggle against the Orange pass rush with their quarterback situation a bit in flux.
This game will be telling for the Orange. Coming off a well-timed bye week, SU is relatively healthy and will be back in the Carrier Dome against an opponent it should beat. Players believe focus intensified last week and that the group can channel the frustration of consecutive heartbreaking losses. A win against the Tar Heels would give SU a chance to become bowl eligible against No. 15 North Carolina State next Saturday.
Im not the play-calling guy, but after the first two Orange touchdown drives, the Orange offense suddenly started sputtering. Bill C. has repeatedly said he doesnt love Cuses offense on Podcast Aint Played Nobody because it is too inefficient and reliant on Dungeys legs. Setting the tone early with scoring drives will do a lot for fan confidence in what should be a packed Dome. The staff has had an extra week to prepare and get a gameplay together; Its officially time to open up the playbook and start really mixing up the calls to get the team rolling.
North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Syracuse Orange Prediction and Preview
On the flip side, a loss would indicate to me, particularly if the run defense is gashed again, that there are issues here that cannot be fixed. But Im inclined to believe at least some of those holes can be plugged.
Syracuse gets a lift from the return of tight end Ravian Pierce and wide receiver Devin Butler to help the passing game pick up more first downs and scoring chances.
This is also a spot where SUs special teams will make a big impact on the outcome, limiting Anthony Ratliff-Williams in the return game.
Share Share UNC Football vs. Syracuse: Q&A with SB Nations Syracuse Blog tweet share Reddit Pocket Flipboard Email Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images Thanks to division play, even though it feels like Syracuse has been in the league for a while now, your North Carolina Tar Heels will play the Orange for the first time since they joined the ACC. That means you may not be very familiar with the opponent this weekend.
On Wednesday, I tried to represent the site as best as I could, and based on the comments I did well until I tried to predict a final score. The lesson, of course, is never read the comments. The site editor over there, John Cassillo, was the one who interviewed me and was good enough to return the favor by answering some questions on Carolinas opponent this weekend.
North Carolina had 16 days to recover from the beatdown it received from Miami on Sept. 27, and the Heels responded with a valiant effort in defeat against Virginia Tech. If not for a Carter fumble as he was going in for the clinching score (the story of North Carolinas season), the Heels would have taken down the Hokies. Carolina needs some positive energy, because it is up against a Syracuse squad that is rested and ready after two difficult-to-stomach losses. Along with the disturbing turnover and third-down stats, UNC is 0-3 on the road this season and has lost the last two by very wide margins. On the other side, the Orange are unbeaten at the Dome and havent really been tested. They wont be this Saturday, either, as Syracuse will cruise to another comfortable victory.
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports So when exactly is your stadium thats named after a HVAC company getting an HVAC system?
The Syracuse quarterback is a veteran who has had plenty of ups and downs in his career. Hes also had a good start to his senior season. But the Pittsburgh game was not his finest performance. He was just 18-of-38 passing and turned the ball over three times. The final turnover is the one that Orange fans will remember most, a floater in overtime that was picked off by Pitts Therran Coleman. Backup Tommy DeVito is a much-hyped prospect, but this is Dungeys team, and Syracuse needs him to be better.
Soon, actually! The never-ending joke will soon disappear, as the Dome (which may or may not still be sponsored by Carrier at that point) will have air conditioning by the time the $118 million renovation project concludes in 2022. There are other features too, we promise. Thats just the one everyone cares about.
Immediately afterward? The fan base was in meltdown mode, in part due to over-inflated expectations following a 4-0 start and a close loss at Clemson.
Now, I think weve moved past that, toward a more realistic view of the last six games (and the six that came before them). Are we frustrated that we lost two straight one-possession games? Of course. But beating Clemson two years in a row was a tall order, and they should have the talent to beat us nine of out of every 10 times. Pitts had our number for almost two decades now for some reason — especially on the road. I dont get it, and they probably dont either.
That changes this Saturday as the Tar Heels head to the Carrier Dome to square off against the 4-2 Orange. Syracuse had a much-needed open date last weekend after dropping consecutive heartbreakers to Clemson and Pittsburgh. Carolina fell to 1-4 with an equally tough loss to Virginia Tech in which the Tar Heels led for much of the game.
All of this realism and optimism about whats remaining goes to hell if we lose to UNC on Saturday, however. Youre going to have to talk a lot of Orange fans off a ledge if that happens (no offense).
North Carolina and Syracuse have been members of the same conference for more than five seasons. But thanks to division schedules and locked-in crossover rivals, they have never battled on the football field as ACC programs.
The offense is producing at a torrid pace this season, even with the losses, whats been the key to that success, beyond the obvious?
Dino Babers system has taken awhile to perfect, given the injuries suffered since hes arrived and the team he inherited being built for a much slower offensive scheme. But this season, it looks like things are finally running as they should. Part of that is due to a resurgent run game thats not entirely dependent on Eric Dungeys legs. When SUs running backs can move the ball well between the tackles, youll notice Syracuse is far more effective and the tempo takes a lot more out of defenses. That same rushing attack did not function as well for the past two games, which plays some part in the losses.
Having downfield receiving options is another key aspect of this offense. And while weve yet to really find consistency there, having a variety of targets in the passing game (versus relying heavily on just two players, as we did last year) makes that part of the offense a bit more deadly just the same. Dungey having a bit more protection up front this year has also helped create better opportunities to pick up larger chunks of yardage through the air.
Certainly. His style of play comes pre-loaded with a stop button: Injuries, which hes suffered in each of the past three seasons. But beyond getting hurt, solid linebacker play helps keep him in check by preventing him from rolling out of the pocket. Hes far more comfortable throwing on the run so keeping him confined not only stops him from taking off (which he does very well) but disrupts the passing game as well.
Last week, Pitt took away the screen game too, and that created all sorts of issues for the senior who didnt really have a checkdown receiver to speak of in the second half. Hell still be able to put up some numbers no matter what you do, but if hes inefficient in doing so, thats just as good for UNC.
The Orange Defense, at least by points, does not look like its been great this year, is that an accurate read?
Tempo makes simple points-per-game metrics less important, so its probably better to look at what the defense has done without that being a factor. Bill Connellys S&P+ metrics rank Syracuses defense in the top half of the country (57th), on the strength of its line causing quite a bit of havoc with a relentless blitz, and the secondary being far more aggressive and opportunistic in creating turnovers.
That said, the run defense has been poor due to inexperienced linebacker play, and thats made the blitzing style of the line a bit of a liability against run-focused teams. The last two games have put the teams struggles stopping the ground game on display in full, with Clemson and Pitt riding workhorse backs to wins. Tar Heels fans are probably getting pretty excited for what their rushing attack can do, and I hate to admit that they should be.
If you can contain Dungey, thats the biggest piece of the puzzle to beat this team, and it renders speedy playmakers like Sean Riley and Nykeim Johnson (both receivers) far less dangerous. That puts the onus on the run game instead, which (as mentioned) has been a dicey proposition. Syracuse uses three different running backs, with the shifty Moe Neal being the most dynamic ball-carrier and getting the majority of the carries. However, Jarveon Howard has shown that he can be a capable power back with some speed as well. Dontae Stricklands role in the run game has declined a bit, but hes still a potential breakaway threat.
Based on everything Ive mentioned so far, it should be no surprise that the Carolina run game is whats most concerning on your offense. Michael Carter carved up Virginia Techs line last week, and is likely to pick up yards in bunches again against Syracuse — though well see if the Orange scale back the blitz with a lesser passing threat in this game than the last two. The one potential saving grace for the SU run defense is that neither Carter or Antonio Williams are true power backs, so perhaps its a little easier to clog the middle. Im not getting my hopes up, though.
Defensively, Cole Holcomb is probably your big difference maker, as a linebacker who could potentially keep Dungey in check and could also assist in stopping the run game. Malik Carney will also be a challenge for the O-line. If he can get any consistent penetration, that causes serious problems for Dungey getting through his progressions and having time to identify downfield targets.
Despite the fact that hes been tied for the national interceptions lead for a month now (with four), it doesnt seem like Andre Cisco gets enough love for the playmaking ability hes introduced to this defense. The true freshman safety plays a high-risk, high-reward style and its seemingly rubbed off on the rest of the previously under fire defensive backs, too. Chris Fredrick is another name to be aware of. Hes not putting up the gaudy stats Cisco is, but hes a great cover corner and has gotten better each year hes been on campus.
Maybe Im being naive, but I think Syracuse rights the ship this week and grabs win No. 5. With tight end Ravian Pierce back in action, I think the passing game looks improved from the two losses while Dungey recovers from whatever bumps and bruises hes been amassing over the course of the season. Defensively, were still not going to stop the run well, but itll be better than what youve seen from us lately, and thats enough to preserve the win. Give me 38-30 in favor of SU, with the defenses taking center stage in the fourth quarter.
Thanks for returning the favor, John. You can follow him on Twitter, and check out him and his crew over at Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician. In fact, they are on Twitter as well. Id wish you good luck on Saturday, but who are we kidding?