When Syracuse visits Wake Forest Saturday night in an all-ACC affair, weather could play a huge role. Hurricane Matthew is hammering the southern portion of America’s east coast, and heavy rain and winds are expected to hit BB&T Field during the game.
Hurricane Matthew carried a Category 4 rating (on a 1-5 scale) on its rampage through the Caribbean, bringing sustained winds of up to 145 MPH to several countries, including Cuba, Haiti, and the Bahamas. The storm weakened as it traveled to the States, and now registers as a Category 1 hurricane.
While less dangerous than a Category 4 — which leads to “catastrophic damage” and leaves impacted areas “uninhabitable for weeks or months,” according to the National Hurricane Center — a Category 1 hurricane can certainly have an enormous impact on a football game. Winds hover between 74-95 MPH, causing power outages and damage to “well-rooted” structures.
As of noon on Saturday, Hurricane Matthew had caused at least six deaths and left more than a million people without power in Florida, the first state in which the storm touched down. In South Carolina, Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg said over 100 roads are “impassable,” and the hurricane has begun to touch North Carolina.
“I cannot stress how serious an issue this hurricane could cause to North Carolina,” Gov. Pat McRory said Saturday morning. “Not only in damaging structures but also risking human life.”
The Weather Channel forecasts a temperature of 56 degrees during the contest, with a 40 percent chance of rain. In terms of how a storm affects a football game, the most significant element is wind, which is expected to remain between 15-25 MPH throughout the night, and gusts could occasionally reach 40 MPH.
The forecast could be much worse — earlier in the week, it was reasonable to question whether the game would be canceled or postponed. Now, AccuWeather meteorologist Tom Kines doesn’t even expect it to be raining in Winston-Salem at kickoff.
Still, the heavy winds should be enough to impact how the Orange and Demon Deacons play on Saturday night. Strong gusts make passing incredibly difficult, which is a huge issue for SU — Dino Babers’ team has struggled in the run game, on both sides of the ball. Syracuse is averaging just 3.24 yards per carry (120th out of 128 FBS teams), and Wake Forest has allowed only 110.8 rushing yards per game (good for 19th in the country). The Deacons’ ground attack is slightly below average (4.08 YPC, 88th in the nation), but should find room against an Orange defense currently surrendering an ugly 5.37 yards per attempt (119th among FBS teams).
“Obviously, the nastier the weather, the more you play field-position football,” Babers said on ESPN Radio Syracuse. “[Bad] weather is definitely in favor of their philosophies, rather than ours.”