With a victory on Saturday, one of these teams will take a major step forward towards becoming bowl eligible. Both teams are 3-3 on the season and both have at least two games remaining on their schedules where they will be decisive underdogs. That leaves little room for error which means in scope of these two programs, this game is huge.
Georgia Tech has lost three straight games and the last two they have given up 83 points to Miami and BYU. Quarterback Vad Lee has turned the ball over six times during that span after only giving away the ball twice in their three opening wins. But of course, the Yellow Jackets were playing Elon and Duke in this first two games.
Syracuse has won three of four including their first-ever road victory in the ACC and first of the 2013 season. Last week against N.C. State, the Orange found that running game that everyone was expecting at the beginning of the season with Prince Tyson-Gulley and Jerome Smith each eclipsing the 100-yard mark.
On paper, the teams look very evenly matched so let’s take a look at the matchups.
SCOTT SHAFER COMMENT OF THE WEEK
Defensively, we played 22 kids on defense last week. I was happy about that. Some kids want to play every snap, but very seldom can they play to the high level. I want to keep everybody healthy and play as many kids as deserve to be playing.
WHEN GEORGIA TECH HAS THE BALL…
The Ramblin’ Wreck is a common moniker of the Georgia Tech football team and it fits the 2013 squad to a T. The Yellow Jackets want to run the ball and run it again. And again. In fact, head coach Paul Johnson likes to run the ball so much, he adopted a old-school offense where all you do is run the ball. He calls it a spread option, but really it looks like Army is playing Navy.
Georgia Tech is first in the ACC in rushing yardage with 290 yards per game. David Sims is their leading rusher with 353 yards, but he not their big play maker. That role would go to Robert Godhigh who is averaging 8.8 yards per carry.
Lee has thrown only 96 passes and completed only 43%. However, he has thrown seven touchdowns in only 41 completions which means the Orange must stay on their toes because you could call Georgia Tech’s passing game opportunistic.
The good news for the Orange defense is this plays right into their strength. Syracuse is 2nd in the ACC against the run, but only 12th against the pass. Linebacker Cameron Lynch had his best game of the season last week and will have to lead a linebacking corp that is disciplined against the option. He will have the opportunity to make big plays.
Another item to watch is third downs for the Yellow Jackets. They have converted 53% while Syracuse has allowed only a 29% conversion rate. Those 3rd downs have allowed Tech to stay on the field and keep opposing offenses on the sideline. The Yellow Jackets have a 35 to 25 advantage in time of possession. Something will have to give on Friday.
WHEN THE ORANGE HAVE THE BALL…
Syracuse is much more balanced than Georgia Tech, but quarterback Terrel Hunt will have to make more plays like his 8-yard touchdown run rather than the two interceptions he threw. The Yellow Jackets’ defense is also very strong against the run (132 ypg; 4th in ACC) so Hunt will have to make some throws to take pressure off the running game.
The Orange need to find a way to get Ashton Broyld more involved in the game. He had a big 39-yard catch last week, but he only had four total yards with his two other grabs. The sophomore from Rochester is too talented to not get at least 10 touches a game.
The defense has been an issue for Georgia Tech. Defensive lineman Adam Gotis has not. He leads the Yellow Jackets with three sacks and eight tackle for loss. Brandon Watts has also been a bright spot with a team-leading 34 tackles. But overall, Tech has not been very good on that side of the ball and Syracuse needs to take advantage of that.
Syracuse offense is actually the key here. The Orange defense will be able to get off the field enough to let their offense do what their supposed to do. If Hunt can make a couple plays down field in the first half and avoid the picks, Syracuse should be okay. The running game will flourish in the second half like it did last week.
Syracuse 27, Georgia Tech 20
Here is the ACC video preview for the game: