As the Orange enters its last chunk of the season, it has a long road ahead of it. The team, currently sitting at 3-5, needs three wins out of its last four games to become bowl eligible. No upcoming game is bigger or more important than this weekend’s tilt with North Carolina State.
While this third of the schedule is significantly easier than the last third, the Orange can, by no means, underestimate the Wolfpack in the Dome. Winning the opening game in this four game stretch would be huge for team morale, coming off a great defensive effort against Clemson.
NC State is currently 4-4, having lost four in a row after opening the season with four straight wins. While none of the team’s wins are overly impressive, they did play Florida State very closely. NC State arguably should have won its match-up with the top ranked Seminoles after leading by 17, but fell 56-41. The team is winless in the ACC this season.
Over the past couple weeks, it has become very evident that the defense is going to be keeping the Orange in the game. The defense’s main target will be the Wolfpack’s quarterback, Jacoby Brissett. The junior has thrown for over 1,700 yards and rushed for nearly 200 more after sitting out his transfer year from the University of Florida. Terrel Hunt and AJ Long have combined for just 1,400 yards passing for Syracuse. While he has only thrown three picks on the year, Brissett’s most complete game came against the Seminoles, tossing for 359 yards and three touchdowns.
On the offensive side of the ball, Long should have a big day. The Wolfpack is allowing 218 yards through the air every game, and their red zone defense isn’t anything special. Opponents have scored 16 touchdowns in 29 attempts.
Last season, Syracuse handled the Wolfpack on the road 24-10. The Orange decimated the Wolfpack on the ground, with Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley both rushing for over 100 yards. The team rushed for 362 total yards. For this reason, the Orange should have a formidable ground game this weekend.
After the Wolfpack, the Orange will have to face Duke at home, before finishing the season with two games on the road against Pittsburgh and Boston College. Because none of the remaining games seem easy, a win this Saturday is a must. If the Orange loses in front of a packed Dome, the team will have to win out just to gain bowl eligibility. Syracuse has had luck in pressure situations recently, though. In the past two years, the team has won key games down the stretch to gain eligibility. It’s time for the 2014 team to show some resiliency on the field and earn another bowl game for the school.
Posted: Jason Weingold