It seems like just yesterday I was writing about the Utah State players to watch and now here we are already on the final regular season game of the year. I guess time really does fly when you’re winning games and becoming Big 4 champs. The final game for the Deacs comes on the road against the Syracuse Orange, a team who started the season ranked, looked like they might not win a conference game all year, and then put together solid performances in the past 2 weeks with almost 42 points per game against Duke and Louisville. While they may not be able to get bowl eligible, it certainly looks like the Orange are playing their best football to closeout the season, so it should be a competitive game. Let’s take a look at the players to watch for the Orange.
Offense: Moe Neal | Sr. RB | #21
Aside from playing against him for the past 3 years, Wake Forest fans may remember Gastonia native Moe Neal because he was heavily recruited by the Deacs in high school. Neal ultimately narrowed his decision down to Syracuse and Wake Forest before deciding to commit to the Orange in 2015. In his time with the Orange, he has run the ball for almost 2,500 yards and 14 touchdowns. This season, despite the offensive line trouble for Syracuse (the Orange are giving up over 4 sacks per game and just 3.6 yards per rush) Neal has run the ball 150 times for 748 yards (5 avg) and 6 touchdowns. He has been on a hot streak as of late, breaking the century mark in each of the Orange’s last 2 games. Against Duke he racked up 115 yards in 17 carries (6.8 avg), and against Louisville he ran for 163 yards on 20 carries (8.2 avg). Forcing a team that has already given up 48 sacks on the season (that’s 129th out of 130) into obvious passing downs would be a huge advantage for the Deacs. Keeping Neal under wraps on 1st and 2nd down should accomplish just that.
Defense: Andre Cisco | Soph. DB | #7
Andre Cisco isn’t just one of the best safeties in the ACC, he’s one of the best safeties in all of college football. Last year, he received 3rd Team All American honors as a true freshman with 60 tackles, 7 interceptions, and 9 passes defended. Did I mention that he did that as a true freshman? This season, he is tied for the ACC lead with our own Amari Henderson with 4 interceptions, including 1 returned for a touchdown. He has also added 4 passes defended and 56 tackles, which is 4th best for the Orange, showing that he can make plays in both the pass game and the run game. Like Neal, he has also played well in Syracuse’s previous 2 games, accounting for 6 tackles and a pick 6 against Duke and 9 tackles and 1 interception against Louisville. The Deacs will definitely want to make sure they know where a ball hawk like Cisco is on every play, especially when they try to throw the ball down the field. A couple of momentum changing plays from a dynamic safety could just change the whole outcome.