The Fizz Five takeaways from the NC State game offer insights into bowl chances.
The Orange went on the road and knocked off NC State for its first win in the ACC. It was a big win for the Orange, picking up the pieces after a blowout to Clemson last week, and leveling its record to 3-3, keeping a bowl game legitimately in view.
1) The Orange must rely on the running game
Over the past two weeks, the Orange has rushed for nearly 685 yards and 5 touchdowns. Jerome Smith has gone over 100 yards in both games and has a touchdown in each game. Against NC State, Prince-Tyson Gulley got it going on the ground as well. PTG went over 100 yards for the first time this year, a lot of them coming at the end when the Orange was going for the lead and then looking to extend it. To add a third piece into the running game, Terrel Hunt was extremely effective, going for 92 yards and a touchdown on the ground. The ground game carried this team, and it looks like it will need to stay that way for the team to keep winning.
2) The passing game needs to improve
In two games against ACC opponents, Hunt has looked lost. The most distressing part is that against NC State, the Syracuse wide receivers had just four catches. Jeremiah Kobena and Chris Clark both had two—that coming after no Syracuse wide receiver made a catch against Clemson. And for all the talk when Drew Allen was struggling about the chemistry between Jarrod West and Hunt, West has just six catches from Hunt, with five coming against Wagner and the other against Tulane. West is supposed to be the number one receiver on this team, and he doesn’t have a catch since the beginning of the second quarter against Tulane. Understand that part of playing a young quarterback, like Hunt, is going through the growing pains and mistakes. But the Orange will need him to complete more passes and be able to pick up enough yards to get first downs.
3) The front seven on defense is legit
NC State had been averaging almost 190 yards a game rushing before this weekend. Syracuse held the Wolfpack to 129 yards on the ground. More so, the longest run the Orange allowed came from the quarterback Pete Thomas, who finished with just 31 yards rushing. The front 7 of the defense did a great job stuffing holes and keeping the running game at bay for most of the game. Linebackers Cam Lynch, Dyshawn Davis and Marquis Spruill played well, clogged the holes during the running game and also created pressure in the passing game. Jay Bromley again had a huge game up front, getting penetration through the line with relative ease.
4) The secondary looked better
The Orange did not allow the big play like they had against Clemson, Penn State, and Northwestern. The longest passing play was 29 yards— not bad, especially when you consider it was the Orange’s first game without its top cornerback. Brandon Reddish and Julian Whigham played well in Keon Lyn’s place. Durell Eskridge came up with a timely interception right after Hunt threw his first interception of the game. Overall, the secondary played well, and looked a lot better without Tajh Boyd dissecting it.
5) Seven or eight wins is still very much within reason
Before the season, the Fizz staff made its predictions for the Orange. Two of us predicted seven wins, and one of our brave staffers went out on a limb and said eight. With the road win, seven wins is very much within reason, and eight isn’t completely out of reach. For seven wins, the Orange needs to finish 4-2—or in simpler terms, beat Georgia Tech and win the three remaining home games. All four of those games should be winnable for the ‘Cuse, especially if they continue to stop the run the way they did against NC State and Clemson.
Eight wins would be more difficult. It would mean finishing 5-1. The easiest way to do that would to be losing to Florida State and winning the remaining games. That, of course, would mean going into Maryland and winning, a very tough task. This win was big for Syracuse’s bowl hopes, but also for hopes of guaranteeing an above-.500 season for the second consecutive year.
Posted by: Seth Goldberg