Syracuse and NC State enter the week tied at the bottom of the ACC Atlantic Division standings with an 0-1 record in conference play. NC State opens the week as 4.5-point favorites over the Orange, as both teams come in with question marks at the quarterback position. Syracuse starting quarterback Tommy DeVito did not finish the team's 41-3 win over Holy Cross due to an upper-body injury. Meanwhile, the Wolfpack are re-evaluating the position following a disappointing 31-13 defeat versus Florida State. Can the Orange ride their momentum to victory on the road at NC State?
Syracuse faced a couple of easy non-conference opponents in their last two games in an effort to gear up for ACC action. The Orange took down Western Michigan 52-33 before trouncing Holy Cross 41-3 in their previous game two weeks ago. Fresh off a bye, Syracuse will close the regular season with six straight games versus conference opponents, starting this week against the Wolfpack.
The Orange are hoping that starting quarterback Tommy DeVito will be ready for Thursday’s contest after having an extra week to recover from his upper-body injury. The sophomore quarterback has been playing better since the team’s opening week win at Liberty. Over his last four games, DeVito has compiled 11 touchdowns and three interceptions, while averaging a healthy 264 yards passing during that span. DeVito has also helped invigorate Syracuse’s ground game as of late too, rushing for 113 yards and a touchdown over the past two games. Devito expressed confidence that he would be good to go versus the Wolfpack earlier in the week, but his status for Thursday’s game has yet to be confirmed.
Wolfpack head coach Dave Doren is experiencing his toughest year at the helm since his first season at NC State. Since going 3-9 as a rookie head coach, Doren has guided the Wolfpack to five consecutive winning seasons with seven wins or more, however, it seems as if NC State is back in rebuilding mode. NC State has fared well off a bye under Doren. They are 4-4 off of a bye during the Doren era, but they are 4-1 against foes not named Clemson or Florida State.
NC State is still deciding who will start under center this week after a tough loss to Florida State two weeks ago. Matt McKay, who started the first five games of the season, was replaced early in the game against the Seminoles by Bailey Hockman and third-string quarterback Devin Leary entered the game late after Hockman tweaked his knee. Per Joe Giglio of the News Observer, Wolfpack fans have been clamoring for the third-stringer Leary, who was a highly-regarded four-star recruit coming out of high school. The redshirt freshman sensation completed four of five passes for 54 yards in relief versus Florida State.
As the starter, McKay has completed just 57.3 percent of his passes for 683 yards, three touchdowns and one interception through five games this season. The sophomore signal-caller had yet to throw more than one touchdown pass in a game this year and was averaging a paltry 6.1 yards per attempt before being benched versus Florida State.
Syracuse tries for first ACC winAfter a pair of routine victories, the Orange will try for their first conference win of the season on Thursday versus the Wolfpack. Syracuse didn’t stand much of a chance in their lone ACC loss of the season versus No.1-Clemson, but they will have a chance to come away with a road win here against a banged-up Wolfpack team. Devito will indeed be under center this week for the Orange on Thursday after some speculation that he might be hurt. The sophomore signal-caller has thrown for 1,234 yards, 11 touchdowns and five interceptions so far this season, but he is dealing with an upper-body injury from the team’s last game against Holy Cross. He could have a tougher time throwing the ball in this game, especially if Syracuse is unable to establish the run.
Despite being sacked eight times and throwing a costly interception in Syracuse's 41-6 loss to No. 1 Clemson on Saturday night, Tommy DeVito is "still my guy" at quarterback, says SU coach Dino Babers. #OrangeEmpire pic.twitter.com/8A9D3omvPP— Spectrum News CNY/S.Tier (@SPECNewsCNY) September 15, 2019
The biggest challenge for Syracuse will come on the offensive line, where they’ve struggled to keep DeVito upright so far this year. The Orange have surrendered 3.6 sacks per game, which ranks 122nd in the nation, and they are up against a defensive front that recorded eight sacks in their last game against Florida State. The Wolfpack have recorded 18 sacks (8th in FBS) through five games and their 3.6 sacks per game ranks 11th in the country. NC State’s front doesn’t just put pressure on the quarterback, but they are also one of the stingiest teams in the country against the run. Syracuse leading rusher Moe Neal could have a hard time finding running lanes against NC State. While Neal has run for 317 yards and three scores this season, most of that production came against Liberty, Western Michigan and Holy Cross. Neal gained a combined 69 rushing yards on 21 attempts versus the team’s two Power Five opponents (Clemson and Maryland) this year.
"We really worked on- you guys, anytime you get into the bye week, there are two things you have to do, you have to get healthy and you have to try to get better," said head coach Dino Babers. "And we're working on all the positions to get better. We're trying to see if there's somebody locked into the two-deep, that should have an opportunity to be in the one of the 1.5 is how we talked about it. Somebody needs to have more repetition, more repetitions in the game and see if they can help us this year, instead of maybe trying to help us next year. So we're working on all those guys and they did a- they did a good job. But you can only do so much when you have guys that are out and guys trying to get healthy at the exact same time."
Hockman to start at QB for WolfpackThe Wolfpack announced their starting quarterback on Monday. Bailey Hockman will start this weekend’s game at Syracuse after performing well in last week’s loss to Florida State. A Florida State-transfer, Hockman filled in for incumbent starter Matthew McKay, completing 21 of 40 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown against his old team. Doeren said Monday that Hockman and backup Devin Leary "are giving us more in the pass game." The former starter, McKay, is listed third on the depth chart this week.
NC State’s defense has been a strong point for the team this year, keeping them in games all season long. They are giving up just 20.8 points per game and 321.2 yards of total offense through five games. The Wolfpack have been able to make teams one-dimensional, thanks to a run defense that is allowing just 71.8 yards per game on the ground, which ranks eighth in the nation. They’ve also been stellar on third down. Opponents have only converted 32 percent of their third-downs versus the Wolfpack defense (33rd in FBS), so they’ve been able to keep teams from sustaining drives as well. NC State will have to find a way to make up for the loss of senior Nick McCloud in the secondary. The cornerback is expected to miss his fifth straight game, but his replacement, Taiyon Palmer, suffered a season-ending knee injury two weeks ago at Florida State.
The offensive line has also been a bright spot for the Wolfpack this season, especially in pass protection. The o-line has allowed a sack on only 2.6 percent of their passing plays, which ranks 10th in the country, though that figure dips to 5.3 percent (36th) on passing downs. They will be without a key starter on Thursday though, as senior left tackle Justin Whitt is likely to miss the Syracuse game. His absence will force true freshman Ikem Ekwonu to start on the left side, which could be problematic for the Wolfpack offense.
- Orange are 0-3-1 ATS in their last 4 games after allowing less than 275 total yards in their previous game.
- Orange are 0-4 ATS in their last 4 games after allowing less than 170 yards passing in their previous game.
North Carolina State
- Wolfpack are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games after accumulating less than 100 yards rushing in their previous game.
- Wolfpack are 21-6 ATS in their last 27 games following a bye week.
- Wolfpack are 21-10-1 ATS in their last 32 home games vs. a team with a winning road record.