Syracuse Football: Top 3 keys to the game vs NC State Wolfpack

Our Paul A. Esden Sr shares his top three keys to the game for the Syracuse football squad on their road trip to face NC State on Thursday night.

So the first part of the season has been like a remake of the Exorcist. On one hand, the Orange is The New Fast goes toe to toe with the perennial No. 1 team in the country, Clemson Tigers.

Then last week where the Orange struggles to convert third downs against a mediocre FCS opponent when Syracuse should have been blowing them off the line of scrimmage. Up next this unsettled group heads into the meat of the ACC schedule, which will then reveal the true identity of this team.

The good news is the first team-up has had similar struggles with establishing their identity.

If it wasn’t for the four points of the compass in Carolina they would not have a winning record.  Two of the three NC State wins were against East & West Carolina (which I didn’t know was a school) combined with a win against Ball state not exactly Power 5 teams.

On the flip side, they have been beaten soundly by West Virginia and Florida State. The bad news is that the national perception of the Orange football squad is low enough that Syracuse enters the game as a current 4.5 point underdog.

Here are my 3 keys to the game:

Special teams. 

NC State has struggled on offense and has had to look for creative ways to win, one of those ways is their special teams with a strong kick returner Thayer Thomas who had a 76-yard punt return against Ball State, this was coupled with a blocked put them in a position to win the game. The Orange special teams will have to come to play.

A little bit of the same old same old. 

Syracuse needs to protect Tommy DeVito. That starts with blocking senior defensive tackle Larrell Murchison who leads the team with sacks, registering 3.5 by himself against Florida State. The Wolf Pack almost had more sacks than points last week, racking up eight sacks. If the offensive line has not taken advantage of the bye week it will be a long night in the Carolinas.

The biggest key to victory lies with the Orange defense. 

Watching each game and reviewing the tape in detail contrary to preseason predictions Syracuse’s defense is the team’s strength.

With the exception of the Maryland game, they have played tough hard-nosed football and bailed out the New Fast on several occasions. Reviewing the analytics it was shocking to discover that Syracuse is ranked 124th in the nation in yards per game allowed and 106th in points allowed, these numbers are prior to the Holy Cross game so that doesn’t unfairly sway them.

The main contributor to this is the inability of the offense to maintain drives and stay on the field.  NC State is in no way an offensive juggernaut and the Orange defense must be up to the task of shutting them down if Cuse is going to have a chance in this game.

Onto the prediction; looking ahead to the main goal of this season (bowl eligibility) this is a must-win game for the Orange.

The Pack may just be what the doctor ordered, with a revolving door at quarterback (as documented here) due to poor play and an average running game our defense should be able to shut down NC State’s offense and leave Tommy DeVito to work his magic.

It’s time to bet that Dino Babers figured it out during the bye week and has tuned up the OITNF and has them ready for a trip south. I predict the Orange will win a tight one 28-27. As always Be Loud, Be Proud, Be ORANGE!