Syracuse (2-3) at NC State (3-2)
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 12, 3:30 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Carter-Finley Stadium (57,583) -- Raleigh, North Carolina. Television: ROOT-PIT, MSG+. Home Record: Syracuse 2-1, NCST 3-1. Away Record: Syracuse 0-1, NCST 0-1. Neutral Record: Syracuse 0-1, NCST 0-0. Conference Record: Syracuse 0-1, NCST 0-2. Series Record: NCST leads, 6-0.
GAME NOTES: Two teams both in search of their first Atlantic Coast Conference victories of the season will meet up at Carter-Finley Stadium on Saturday, as the NC State Wolfpack play host to the Syracuse Orange.
This will be the first ACC road game of the year for Syracuse. The Orange, formerly of the Big East, lost their first game as an ACC member last week, falling to third-ranked Clemson by a 49-14 final. Beginning with this weekend's contest, four of their next five games will be played on the road.
After beginning its schedule with four straight home games, NC State lost its road opener at Wake Forest this past Saturday, 28-13. Injuries have decimated the Wolfpack offense, and the they are expected to be shorthanded once again this weekend. The 'Pack have also faced Clemson earlier this season and battled to a hard-fought 26-14 loss.
This is the first time these two teams will square off as ACC foes and marks the seventh meeting overall. NC State has won all six prior matchups, the most recent of which occurred in 1998.
Syracuse lit up the scoreboard against also-rans Wagner and Tulane, totaling 106 points in those two victories. But in their three losses, the Orange totaled only 58 points against tougher competition (Penn State, Northwestern, Clemson). They ran for 323 yards against Clemson last week, led by Jerome Smith's 125 yards and Devante McFarlane's 95. Smith is tied with Miami's Dallas Crawford for the ACC leads with eight touchdowns (7 rushing, 1 receiving). SU averaged a healthy 6.7 yards per carry as a team against Clemson but gained only 13 first downs for the game. The primary reason for that was an anemic passing game, as Terrel Hunt and Drew Allen combined to complete only 11-of-28 passes for 74 yards with four interceptions and four sacks.
The Orange defense simply had no answer for Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, who tied his own school record with five touchdown passes. The Tigers scored touchdowns on five of their first seven drives, all but erasing any doubt about the outcome. Despite giving up big play after big play in the passing game, there were a few positives for the Orange defense to build on. They did manage to compile eight tackles for loss, including four sacks. Additionally, the secondary notched two interceptions. Julian Whigham's pick in the second quarter snapped Boyd's school-record streak of 187 passes without an interception. Marquis Spruill finished with a team-high nine tackles, all solo, including two behind the line of scrimmage.
Injuries have been an unfortunate but major theme for the NC State offense. The Wolfpack played Wake Forest without its leading rusher and top two receivers. Freshman Matt Dayes, who has run for a team-best 180 yards and four TDs, missed his first game. Fellow freshman Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who led the team in receiving through three games, sat out for the second straight week. The team has also been without starting left tackle Rob Crisp and starting quarterback Brandon Mitchell. All of the injuries have created a real lack of continuity for the unit. The Wolfpack have had a different player lead the team in rushing in all five games so far this season. Pete Thomas, who has stepped in for the injured Mitchell, has been intercepted seven times and has just two passing TDs. He is also the team's second-leading rusher, averaging 30.6 yards per game, which speaks more to the Wolfpack's offensive woes than to Thomas' running prowess.
While the offense has hardly resembled the unit that was supposed to take the field each week this season, the defense has made some strides. NC State ranks second in the ACC and 17th nationally in rushing defense (107.6 ypg). Two of its first five opponents failed to crack 100 yards on the ground. A year ago, the 'Pack ranked 53rd in rushing defense (154.8 ypg). A lot of credit goes to the front-seven, which has been disruptive at the point of attack. NC State is second in the conference and fifth nationally in tackles for loss, averaging 8.8 per game. Robert Caldwell is seventh in the ACC with 8.4 tackles per contest. Dontae Johnson stepped up against Wake Forest with seven tackles and an interception.
If Clemson was the litmus test for both of these teams, NC State fared much better in its matchup with the high-powered Tigers. Look for the Wolfpack to get back on track at home.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: NC State 27, Syracuse 20
10/09 10:45:58 ET