Brad (4-0): Liberty 24, Syracuse 20
This is one of the most difficult games to predict on Syracuse’s calendar. Liberty’s run game should flex against the 3-3-5 defense that gave up over 360 rushing yards to Duke last week. On top of that, the Orange are relying on redshirt senior quarterback Rex Culpepper in his first career start. If his limited 2020 snaps are any indication, SU will have a tough time moving the ball behind a struggling offensive line.
John (3-1): Syracuse 24, Liberty 20
This one may not be the most fun to watch. A defensive struggle between the two squads, Malik Willis struggles to pass the ball efficiently. I think Syracuse forces three turnovers, two of which are interceptions. Offensively, Rex Culpepper throws one long bomb to Taj Harris and Sean Tucker carries the ball 15 or more times for 100 yards. The offensive line will struggle with Durrell Johnson and TreShaun Clark, but does just enough to escape with the win.
Ian (3-1): Liberty 28, Syracuse 20
While Rex Culpepper has looked decent at times, he’s not the answer. Syracuse is going to struggle against a Liberty defense that is sure to key in on Sean Tucker. Culpepper might have luck with his legs or in the short passing game early, but the offensive line won’t be able to hold up for four quarters. On the flip side, the Orange might do a better job of stopping Liberty’s backs than they did against Duke’s, but Malik Willis is going to be a major problem for a defense that has shown an aversion to tackling in space. SU won’t get beat in the passing game, but the Auburn transfer’s legs are the difference on third down. Liberty covers. Yikes.
Matt (3-1): Liberty 24, Syracuse 20
Syracuse is just far too beat up right now. DeVito gone, Cisco gone for good, and the possibility of Sean Tucker not playing doesn’t bode well for the Orange. The SU defense will play at least a little better after a tough performance against Duke last Saturday, but it simply won’t be enough to get the job done. Malik Willis is going to run all over the SU front 7, and it’ll be curtains from there.
Jaron (2-2): Liberty 24, Syracuse 17
Fair warning, I haven’t made a correct pick in the last two weeks. So if history has anything to say, I’d fade me and pick Syracuse. But with that being said, I’m still going with the non-Power 5 team to beat the Power 5 team. Wow, that is such a tough look for the Orange. Listen, they don’t have Tommy DeVito. They don’t have Andre Cisco. Their defense is overhyped by many (including me) because they force turnovers, when in actuality they rank in the bottom ten of FBS teams in terms of total defense. Their offensive line still stinks. There is just really no reason to pick Syracuse this week. Plus, Liberty isn’t a bad team this year. The Flames received votes in the AP Poll last week. Malik Willis is a transfer quarterback from Auburn and is going to run all over SU. Give me Liberty in this one.
Harrison (2-2): Liberty 31, Syracuse 21
To think I would ever have the Orange losing this game seemed pretty unfathomable, for a while. Unfortunately, times have changed, especially over the past few weeks. Syracuse and Liberty have gone in opposite trajectories this season. Now 1-3 and after a home loss against Duke, things went from bad to worse for SU, as news of no more Andre Cisco and (most likely) Tommy DeVito ensued. One could say as these stories broke, the chances of SU righting the ship this season crumbled, simultaneously. So much so, that a win over Liberty this coming Saturday is not only far from guaranteed, but perhaps not even likely. That’s because as the Orange has struggled, the Flames – on the other hand – have notched four straight wins to start the campaign. Head Coach Hugh Freeze seems to be coaching like it’s 2015, and quarterback Malik Willis has been a dangerous dual-threat weapon. Not to mention Joshua Mack in the backfield, who is averaging an impressive six yards per carry. Despite the undefeated start, Liberty’s defense is yet to face a legitimate offensive unit, however, it remains to be seen if that will change against Syracuse. Rex Culpepper will be taking over under-center, for an offense that ranks dead-last in the conference in both scoring and yardage. At the end of the day, things seem to bode better for the Flames, heading into this Saturday’s matchup. Unfortunately, for the Orange, things only get much, much tougher from here with a trip to Clemson on the docket.
Thomas (2-2): Syracuse 27, Liberty 21
At this point – without Tommy DeVito, Andre Cisco and potentially the top four running backs from the preseason depth chart for SU – Liberty is the better team. But Syracuse avoids embarrassment as Rex Culpepper teams up with Taj Harris and a strong secondary to squeak out a win. While Syracuse allowed 363 yards on the ground to Duke last week, it regroups to win its only non-conference game of the season. Even with the injuries, Syracuse has enough playmakers to defeat Hugh Freeze and the Flames. This game will be far too close for comfort, and will raise eyebrows of the current state of SU football. But when the clock hits zero, Syracuse will have its second win of the season.
Gill (2-2): Syracuse 23, Liberty 20
I’ve gone 0-2 in the last two weeks, so my confidence is almost as low as SU’s. I’m interested to see how the Orange respond psychologically this week against Liberty. They’ve lost their leaders on offense and defense and are now underdogs against a team that’s only been in the FBS for two seasons. Is the adversity enough for Syracuse to quit, or are they going to play with a chip on the shoulder?
Ultimately, I still think this is SU’s to win. Don’t read into Liberty’s spotless record. Their opponents have combined for one victory all season. Syracuse will be a big step up. The Orange will need to win with a strong defensive performance, which I think they can get as long as they stop Flames running back Josh Mack, who’s averaging over six yards per carry. Sean Tucker also needs a big game.