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After failing to beat Louisville, Syracuse has two more chances to earn a guaranteed bid to a bowl game. Though if enough teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference are left with a 5-7 record, SU could still have a postseason.
In the Orange’s first chance, they will head to their second ranked opponent in NC State, who dropped to No. 25 in the AP Poll this week. The Wolfpack are undefeated at home, coming off a loss to Wake Forest — the first ranked opponent Syracuse played, also falling by three points like the Wolfpack.
Here’s what our beat writers think will happen when SU (5-5, 2-4 Atlantic Coast) travels to Raleigh to face the No. 25 Wolfpack (7-3, 4-2 ACC) on Saturday afternoon:
Roshan Fernandez (6-4)
One chance gone, one to go
NC State 31, Syracuse 28
Like against Louisville, Syracuse has struggled against the Wolfpack in recent years, losing six of the last seven matchups. The exception, like against Louisville as well, was in 2018 when SU went bowling. This year, head coach Dino Babers is trying to duplicate that.
But teams seem to have figured the Orange out. Selling out to stop the run isn’t a bad strategy when playing SU because Garrett Shrader and the Orange haven’t had much success throwing the ball. Louisville had a mid-tier rushing defense in comparison to the rest of the conference, but NC State has the best one. The Wolfpack might not need to commit extra defenders to stop the run, which presents more challenges for the Orange to diversify their offense by throwing. Plus SU’s defense has given up over 30 points against Florida State, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech and Louisville.
There is an unlikely scenario where Syrause makes a bowl game after going 5-7, in the event that there aren’t enough bowl-eligible teams with six wins. But if the Orange lose here — which I think they will — they’re down to one last chance against likely first-round NFL draft pick Kenny Pickett and No. 20 Pittsburgh to get to six wins.
Connor Smith (4-6)
Down in the Triangle
NC State 35, Syracuse 24
Syracuse hasn’t won at Carter-Finley Stadium since 2013, and that will continue on Saturday afternoon.
NC State has the best rushing defense in the ACC, allowing just above 100 rushing yards per game, and has only given up five rushing touchdowns this season. But SU’s offense relies almost solely on the legs of Sean Tucker and Shrader. Tucker is No. 2 in the NCAA in rushing yards, but this matchup of good-on-good doesn’t bode well for the Orange, who struggled to manufacture offense beyond Tucker. SU’s passing offense is the worst in the ACC, and Shrader threw for less than 50 yards against Louisville.
NC State is coming off a close loss to Wake Forest — who Syracuse lost to in a close overtime game in October — last week. Babers said playing teams like the Demon Deacons and Clemson will help the Orange on Saturday, and this game will be close — just not in SU’s favor.
Anish Vasudevan (6-4)
This isn’t 2018
NC State 40, Syracuse 15
The last time Syracuse defeated a ranked opponent in the regular season was a then-No. 22 NC State in 2018. The Orange won 51-41, led by Eric Dungey’s 411 passing yards and three touchdowns.
That victory also gave the Orange a bowl berth, the same quest they’re on this season. But this isn’t 2018. Syracuse doesn’t have a pass-first gunslinger in Dungey, instead it has a run-heavy Shrader, who will mostly struggle against the Wolfpack’s 11th ranked rushing defense.
Syracuse’s defense is a little better this season than 2018, allowing 24.4 points per game, compared to 27.0. But this change isn’t as significant because the Orange’s defense has struggled recently, coming off of 41 points from Louisville. Specifically, SU has struggled against the pass, and the Wolfpack has the 19th-best passing offense in the country. Unless Syracuse can simply come up with a better game plan against NC State, the numbers have the Wolfpack winning, leaving one more chance for the Orange to get that coveted sixth win.
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