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Wake Forest Football Preview: Syracuse Orange

Finally, a home game against Syracuse

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

For the final home game of the season, the Deacs will take on Atlantic rival Syracuse on Senior Day. The last few years have been pretty rough for the Orange; after winning 10 games and reaching 12th in the AP Top 25 in 2018, Syracuse has won just 11 total games over the past 3 seasons. Despite that, 2 of the last 3 games Wake has played against the Orange have gone into overtime, with both teams picking up a win on the final play of the game. It will be nice to finally get to play Syracuse at home again, as the Deacs have played 3 straight road games against the Orange in the Carrier Dome.


  • Opponent: Syracuse
  • Date: Saturday, November 19th, 2022
  • Location: Truist Field | Winston Salem, NC
  • Vegas Insider Total Wins: 5
  • 2021 Record: 5-7 (2-6)
  • Previous Matchup: Wake 40—Cuse 37 (2021)
  • All time vs Wake Forest: 6-5

The Orange were not a very good offensive team last season. Syracuse finished the season 91st in the nation with 25 points per game and 93rd in the nation with just 367 yards per game. They were, however, a very good rushing team, finishing top 20 in the nation in rushing yards per game (214), yards per carry (5.3), and rushing touchdowns per game (2.3). This was pretty obvious against Wake Forest last season, where the Orange ran the ball 58 times for a season high 354 yards and 3 touchdowns.

The rushing attack for Syracuse is basically a two-man attack with QB Garrett Shrader and RB Sean Tucker. Tucker is an absolute star and has become one of the best running backs in the nation. In 2021, he ran for nearly 1,500 yards, 12 touchdowns, and over 6 yards per carry on his way to breaking Syracuse’s single season rushing record. He ran for over 100 yards 9 times last season and scored in 8 of the Orange’s 12 games. After his record-breaking season, Tucker was named an AP Preseason All-American and was listed at #15 on ESPN’s list of the top 100 college football players for 2022. I don’t know if it’s possible to completely stop Tucker, but he is absolutely the guy teams will need to focus on slowing down if they want to beat the Orange this season.

At 6-4, 230 lbs., Garrett Shrader is not exactly the most elusive player, but he is a big physical runner that is difficult to bring down in the open field—his size aided him in rushing for nearly 800 yards and a team high 14 touchdowns in 2021. He is not a great passer (completed just 52% of his passes for 1,500 yards last season), which is perfectly fine because Syracuse ran the ball on over 63% of their plays last year. His best game running the ball last year came against—you guessed it—Wake Forest, where he ran the ball 29 times for 178 yards and a touchdown. Obviously the Deacs had a bit of trouble getting him on the ground.

Outside of the duo of Tucker and Shrader running the ball, the Orange really didn’t have anything else on offense. That duo combined for 89% of the Orange’s rushing yards and 93% of the rushing touchdowns. The passing game was pretty lackluster; Courtney Jackson was the only receiver on the team to catch more than 25 passes and led the team with 389 yards and 3 touchdowns receiving. It should be noted that Jackson is also a great punt returner, averaging 18 yards per return and taking 1 back to the house last season. Hopefully the Deacs don’t punt much in this game, but if they do, keep on an eye on Jackson.

On defense, Syracuse was actually pretty solid last season. The Orange only gave up about 26 points and 332 yards per game last season, which was 65th and 21st in the nation respectively. That was a huge turnaround from 2020, when Syracuse was one of the worst defenses in the country, allowing opponents to rack up over 460 yards per game. Part of that improvement was helped by the previously mentioned rushing attack, as the defense stayed on the field a whole lot less in 2021. Still, in terms of yard per play average, Syracuse had a top 30 defense last season, holding opponents to just 5.2 yards per play. Another part of that turnaround was junior linebacker Mikel Jones, who was 1st Team All-ACC last season with 109 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, and 3 sacks.


By this point in this season, we will probably know whether or not the Deacs have figured out how to stop the run. Wake was one of the worst teams in the nation last season against the run, which allowed Syracuse to match one of the best offenses in the nation without having to put the ball in the air. Syracuse is a pretty one-dimensional team, so if Wake can even somewhat slow down the ground attack, they should really be able to keep the Orange from scoring 30+ points again this season. The senior night boost plus being at home gives the Deacs a win in this one, unless the defense has somehow gotten worse against the run than it was last season. I don’t think that will be the case.