CAM (3-0) (Exempt from prediction):
This is Syracuse’s most important game of the season. Already halfway to bowl eligibility, a win nearly assures that the Cuse have beaten their three-year postseason curse. But it’s also worth looking at last season’s final stretch meltdown as a possible scenario, which enhances the narrative of this game to the “most important” level. Now that housekeeping is out of the way, let’s dive into this matchup. Virginia has developed a new scheme behind quarterback Brennan Armstrong, balancing his usage with the run game (which as of now is by committee). The same has occurred with Syracuse under the leadership of former UVA offensive coordinator Robert Anae and quarterbacks coach Jason Beck, enacting more of an air raid offense rather than following last season’s mantra, “Tucker or nothing”. With this in mind, the entirety of this game is fixated on the Cavaliers’ ability to run the ball behind a brand new offensive line and Syracuse’s ability to torch Virginia’s secondary, as they did to Purdue’s back line in the fourth quarter last weekend. Ultimately the X factor for SU is Sean Tucker and the Cuse’s defense. If Tucker can finally find his stride, it’s lights out, and if Syracuse’s defense mitigates any sort of succinct offense, then it’s the Orange’s game to lose.
ETHAN (3-0): Syracuse 31, Virginia 24
Syracuse just has not showed me enough to cover a double-digit spread. Yes, they did it against Louisville, but I need to see it again before I’m confident. Garrett Shrader will once again have a good game and Sean Tucker will bounce back to be pleased with his performance as former UVA coaches Robert Anae and Jason Beck win their first matchup against their former team. The Orange are 4-0, with 5-0 in sight and a date with NC State on the horizon.
IAN (1-0): Syracuse 31, Virginia 17
The Virginia offense has taken a drastic step back compared to last year when the Cavs had the 2nd-best passing offense in the nation. Why? Robert Anae is now in Syracuse, and the results are telling. UVA is averaging under 20 points a game and has been terrible with the red zone. The Tony Elliot offense shoehorns people into roles. The main example? Keytaon Thompson. The ‘Hoos multi-purpose man doesn’t have a carry this year after starring in a Deebo-Samuel-esque role last year. Elliot’s strict structure has forced the Virginia offense to play tight, and it’s not going to work in the Dome against a defense which faced a better offense last week and caused chaos towards the back end of the game. UVA’s defense is middling. ‘Cuse moves to 4-0.
LIAM (2-1): Syracuse 31, Virginia 13
The Cavaliers have fallen flat on their faces since the departure of offensive coordinator Robert Anae. Sure, they jumped on an FCS school in Richmond, but since then they only managed three points against the Fighting Tommy Devitos (Illinois) and barely held on to beat Old Dominion 16-14. With that, QB Brennan Armstrong has looked alarmingly bad in those three games, throwing more interceptions than touchdowns. Syracuse QB Garrett Shrader has looked alarmingly good despite struggling against Purdue, with eight touchdowns and zero interceptions so far. A big reason why? The arrival of Anae to the 315. UVA’s offense has looked much worse without Anae while SU’s offense has looked much better with him, and that trend won’t change Friday.
JOHN (1-1): Syracuse 31, Virginia 20
SU stole the two best things to ever happen to the Virginia Football program in Robert Anae and Jason Beck. Now those two are directing the ‘Cuse offense to the success that the Cavs have experienced since 2016. Brennan Armstrong’s numbers have been sliced in Half after leading the ACC in total offense one year ago. It’s clear that the Tony Elliot regime is going to take some time to develop and this season is going to be a struggle. UVA has a brand new offensive line left to right and its defense is nothing to write home about. We’ve been waiting for that big game from Sean Tucker, I think we see it under the Friday Night Lights.
CARTER (1-1) (EXEMPT FROM PREDICTION):
Syracuse proved a number of things last week, including that it could buckle down to beat a resilient Power Five opponent and do so without much from Sean Tucker. His struggles (18 carries, 42 yards) and a not-so-efficient day from Garrett Shrader suggest that there may be a better book on (former Virginia) offensive coordinator Robert Anae’s system three weeks into the year. Facing a UVA defense with experienced, quality talent like cornerback Anthony Johnson and linebacker Nick Jackson means that SU might struggle to score points – much like the Cavs have all season long. Virginia put up just 16 points on noted Sun Belt force Old Dominion last week and has racked up eight turnovers in three games. If SU’s secondary can have a slightly better game against quarterback Brennan Armstrong and UVA’s wideouts than it did against Aidan O’Connell and Charlie Jones a week ago, the Orange should muster well enough to get past the anemic Cavaliers.