As always, we hit the Syracuse Orange offense yesterday, so let’s dive right into the defense.
The Syracuse defense, much like the offense, has been one of the worst in the ACC this season. Through 6 games, they Orange are 64th in the nation in scoring defense, giving up 32.5 points per game, and 87th in the nation in total defense, giving up almost 480 yards per game. Though they do give up a ton of yards, they are actually in the middle of the pack in efficiency, only giving up about 5.9 yards per play. For comparison, the Deacs are giving up about 5.7 yards per play.
The biggest weakness in the Syracuse defense, and the biggest advantage the Deacs will have on Saturday, is that the Orange have one of the worst rushing defenses in the nation. Syracuse is 90th in the nation in rushing defense, giving up 235 rushing yards per game, giving up a little over 5 yards per carry. Before giving up just 147 yards on the ground to Clemson (Etienne still had over 5 ypc and 3 TDs), the Orange gave up 275 rushing yards to Georgia Tech, 363 rushing yards to Duke, and 338 rushing yards to Liberty. They are also 86th in the nation in rushing touchdown defense, giving up 2.5 rushing touchdowns per game. Wake Forest, on the other hand, is 16th in the nation in rushing touchdowns, averaging 3 per game. Advantage: Deacs.
Where the Syracuse defense has been good this season is takeaways. The Orange are actually one of the best teams in the nation in forcing turnovers, forcing 2.8 per game (7th in FBS). Through their 6 games, Syracuse has intercepted 9 passes and recovered 8 fumbles for a total of 17 turnovers forced. That being said, I feel like I should point out that 9 of those turnovers came against Georgia Tech and Duke—two teams that are pretty awful at ball security (3.0 and 3.7 TO per game respectively). Another bright spot for the Orange defense is sophomore LB Mikel Jones, who has been absolutely stuffing the stat sheet this season. Through 6 games, Jones has recorded a team high 44 total tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 3 interceptions, and 2 fumble recoveries.
The Syracuse defense has been pretty bad against the run all season long, but they’ve been very good at forcing turnovers. If the Deacs can protect the ball and avoid costly turnovers, they really should be able to run all over the Orange this weekend. I fully expect another big day from Christian Beal-Smith and Kenneth Walker III.