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2020 Wake Forest Football Opponent Preview: Syracuse Orange

A quick look at the Syracuse Orange

NCAA Football: Wake Forest at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The preview of 2020 Wake Forest football opponents continues with an Atlantic Division matchup featuring the Syracuse Orange. As always, I’ll start with some general information and a quick look at how Cuse fared in the 2019 season.

Game Date: October 31st, 2020

Opponent: Syracuse Orange

Location: Syracuse, New York

Conference: ACC

Head Coach: Dino Babers (23-26, 12-20)

2019 Stats

Record: 5-7, 2-6

2019 vs Wake: Wake 30 — Cuse 39

Highest Ranking: 21st ( Week 1)

Post-Season: N/A

Wins: Liberty, Western Michigan, Holy Cross, Duke, Wake Forest

Losses: Maryland, Clemson, NC State, Pitt, FSU, BC, Louisville

Yards per Game: 394.6 (71st in NCAA)

Yards Allowed per Game: 464.1 (115th)

Points per Game: 28.3 (69th)

Points Allowed per Game: 30.7 (88th)

Key Departures:

  • Moe Neal, RB (170 rush, 846 yards, 7 TD)
  • Trishton Jackson, WR (66 rec, 1023 yards, 11 TD)
  • Lakiem Williams, LB (110 tackles, 12.5 TLF, 4.5 sacks, 1 FF)
  • Brandon Berry, DL (19 tackles, 7 TFL, 5.5 sacks)
  • Christopher Fredrick, DB (53 tackles, 3 Int, 8 passes defended)

Notable returns

  • Tommy DeVito, QB (213-337, 2360 yards, 19 TD, 5 Int)
  • Taj Harris, WR (37 receptions, 559 yards, 2 TD)
  • Aaron Hackett, TE (23 receptions, 205 yards, 6 TD)
  • Andre Cisco, DB (65 tackles, 5 Int, 5 passes defended)

After their best season in 17 years in 2018 (10-3), the Syracuse Orange took a step in the wrong direction in 2019. While the Orange had glaring issues on the defensive side of the ball, giving up a massive 464 yards per game, the biggest issue was likely the play of the offensive line, which allowed the Orange’s quarterbacks to get sacked a shocking 50 times during the season, or 4.2 times per game. That number was 128th out of the 130 FBS teams. If you’ve forgotten the terrors of the 2014 Wake Forest football season, I will remind you that John Wolford was only sacked 48 times during the course of his freshman year.

Despite the lackluster play from the offensive line, the Orange still managed almost 400 yards and 28 points per game in 2019. The bad news for Syracuse is that they are losing almost 2,000 yards and 18 TDs off of last year’s squad. On the ground, the Orange will be without Moe Neal, who graduated after a solid 2,500 yard and 15 touchdown career with Syracuse. Through the air, the Orange lost DeVito’s top target in Trishton Jackson, who declared for the NFL draft after a breakout season in 2019 with 66 receptions and 11 touchdowns.

Fortunately, Syracuse does have a really good quarterback in Tommy DeVito. The fact that he was able to complete over 60% of his passes and only threw 5 interceptions all season having basically no time and getting hit constantly is incredibly impressive in my eyes. Imagine what he will be able to do this season if the Orange are able to protect him even a little better. He will have a reliable tight end in Senior Aaron Hackett and a 3rd year wide receiver, who should be poised for a break out season, in Taj Harris to lead the Orange receiving corps. If he gets time, DeVito should be able to move the ball consistently on offense—that’s a big if.

The outlook on the defensive side for Syracuse isn’t as promising. The Orange were not particularly good on defense last season, and they have lost several key players to graduation. From last years squad, the Orange have lost 5 of their top 6 tacklers, 4 of their top 5 pass rushers, and 7 of their starters. They return just 1 players, Andre Cisco, who recorded more than 50 tackles a season ago. That leaves plenty of question marks and opportunities on the defensive side of the ball.

The silver lining for the defense is that they return a couple of impact players in the secondary. Junior Andre Cisco was voted 2nd Team All ACC last season and was 7th in the nation and 1st in the ACC with 5 interceptions. He is joined by redshirt junior Ifeatu Melifonwu, who had 2 interceptions and 7 passes defended in 2019. The pair tied for 3rd in the ACC in passes defended per game and both had an interception against the Deacs in the season finale last season.

With the losses on the defensive side of the ball, Wake Forest should have a fairly easy time moving the ball up and down the field against Syracuse. The last 3 meetings between Syracuse and Wake Forest have been absolute shootouts (average score of 39-41) with the team that figured out how to get a stop first typically coming away with the win. Last season, it was the Orange who managed to turn the Deacs over 5 times, including 1 in OT, to win the game. If the Deacs can avoid turnovers and take advantage of the Orange offensive line, they should have no trouble picking up a win against Syracuse.