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Wake Forest Football Opponent Preview: Syracuse Orange

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In the second installment of our football previews, we analyze Wake Forest's game in the Carrier Dome versus Syracuse.

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Opponent: Syracuse Orange

Date: September 12th, 2015

Time: 12:30 pm E.T.

Stadium: Carrier Dome (49,262 capacity)

Head Coach: Scott Shafer (3rd season; 10-15 overall; 5-11 in ACC)

Series History: 1-3 (lost 30-7 last season)

2014 Record: 3-9, 1-7 in ACC

From David Hale's piece on ESPN- "Check Athlon’s recent ACC preview or our ACC power rankings, and there’s widespread agreement that Syracuse is at best marginally better than Wake Forest and, at worst, the black hole of the conference. Jockeying for position with rebuilding Wake Forest isn’t exactly a spot anyone wants to be."

If Wake Forest iss in the ACC's football cellar, they have some company with Syracuse. Both teams are coming off 3-9 seasons with one ACC victory. And both programs project the cliched r-word (rebuild) to their fanbases.

While the Demon Deacons should be better than last year, there is little reason to believe the Orange will take the next step out of the cellar. Syracuse's defense carried an offense that ranked 116th in yards per game and 121st in points per game at 17.1. To make matters worse, Shafer's pesky defense loses four of their top five linemen, three of their top five linebackers and their four best in the secondary. Going back to his days as a defensive coordinator at Syracuse, Shafer has a track record producing physically-imposing, sound defenses. But Shafer will have to pull a rabbit out of a hat to muster up a top half defense with his dearth of talent.

Coming off of a putrid season, this year's offense is equally as questionable. Under center, the Orange feature the double-edged sword of Terel Hunt. On the positive side, he is a virtuouso athlete that can make any defense uncomfortable with his legs. In merely five games, the 6'3 senior ran for 324 yards on 49 carries and reached the end zone six times. Without his dynamic playmaking in the second half of the season, the offense tailed off precipitously. The problem is his ability to make quick reads and accurate passes, critical in Syracuse's uptempo offense, to give his receivers a chance to gain yards after the catch. Last season, Hunt went 83-145 for 983 yards, throwing merely one touchdown and four interceptions.

However, some in Orange Nation attribute their limited passing attack to Cuse's less than stellar wide receivers- not Hunt's arm. And Syracuse is losing their top receiver Jarrod West (49 catches for 700 yards) from last season. Expect the dynamic sophomore Steve Ishmael to have a breakout season after an impressive freshman campaign with 27 catches for 415 yards. In addition, juniors Ben Lewis and Brisly Estime will get a chance to prove themselves out wide.

Just like at the wide receiver position, the Orange are unproven in the backfield following to graduation of their top two running backs. Their top returning rusher? Terrel Hunt. Expect a three-way competition for carries between sophomore Ervin Philips, senior George Morris II and junior Devante McFarlane.

On the bright side, the Orange will have lots of continuity on the offensive line. Seven lineman who have started a combined 90 games are back in uniform to pave holes for the backs and give Hunt some (much-needed) time.

Prediction:

Wake Forest 19

Syracuse 17

An ugly game between decent defenses and inferior offenses. Turnovers will play a huge factor, but kicker Mike Weaver makes the difference in a big road win.