clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Wake Forest Football Preview: Syracuse Orange

The Deacs close out the season in the Dome

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Florida State Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

In the final game of the season, the Deacs are in New York to take on the Syracuse Orange inside the dome. Because of the altered schedule due to covid and the new ACC schedule that took effect this year, this will be the 4th time in 5 years Wake has played Syracuse on the road. Despite that, the Deacs are currently on a 3-game winning streak and have won 5 of their last 7 games against the Orange.


  • Opponent: Syracuse Orange
  • Date: Saturday, November 25th, 2023
  • Location: JMA Wireless Dome | Syracuse, NY
  • Vegas Win Total O/U: 6.5
  • 2022 Record: 7-6
  • Previous Matchup: Wake 45—Cuse 35 (2022)
  • All time vs Wake Forest: 6-6

Syracuse almost pulled off the impressive 6-0 start with an 0-6 finish last season, avoiding it by a single game. After winning their first six games and reaching 6-0 for first time since 1987, the Orange found themselves with a 21-10 lead over Clemson in the 4th quarter of game 7. The Tigers went on to score 17 unanswered points, handing the Orange their first loss of the season. From that point, Syracuse lost their next 4 games and avoided finishing the season 6-6 by beating a hapless Boston College team in the final game of the regular season. After losing to Minnesota in the Pinstripe Bowl to finish the season 7-6, one has to wonder what could have been if the Orange had been able to hold out for just a few more minutes against Clemson.

The Orange were a decent offensive team last season, putting up 27.7 points and gaining 375 yards per game. The big question for this season will be how they deal with the loss of offensive coordinator Robert Anae (now at NC State) and their biggest offensive weapon, Sean Tucker (now at the Tampa Bay Bucs). In his three seasons with the Orange, Tucker amassed 3,182 rushing yards and 27 rushing touchdowns, was an All-American in 2021, broke Syracuse’s single season rushing record with 1,496 yards, and finished his career 3rd all time in career rushing yards for the Orange. That is quite the resume. Last season, Tucker accounted for 1,308 of the Orange’s 4,867 yards from scrimmage and 13 of their 40 offensive touchdowns. As far as his replacement goes, no other back on the team had more than 50 carries last season. To make matters worse, the Orange will also have to replace 3 starters on the offensive line, including 2nd team All-ACC tackle Matthew Bergeron, who was the 38th pick in the 2023 NFL draft.

Losing Tucker is a setback, but the Orange do get back an integral part of the offense in dual threat quarterback and Charlotte native Garrett Shrader. Shrader had the best year of his career last season, completing 65% of his passes for 2,640 yards, 17 touchdowns, and just 7 interceptions. He was also Syracuse’s second leading rusher (behind Tucker) with 444 yards and 9 rushing touchdowns. He will have his go-to receiver (they claim he’s a tight end) again this season in 6-5 Oronde Gadsden III, who caught 65 passes last season for 975 yards and 6 touchdowns. The Orange are probably going to have to rely heavily on this duo this season without a big-time weapon at running back.

On defense, Syracuse was one of the better teams in the ACC last season, allowing just 23.1 points and 328 yards per game. Just like with the offense, the Orange will have a new defensive coordinator this season after Tony White headed to Nebraska in the offseason. The Orange hired Rocky Long as his replacement—Long has almost 50 years of experience coaching and is most notable for creating/popularizing the 3-3-5 defense. Last season as the DC of New Mexico, Long helped the Lobos hold opposing teams to 26 points and 360 yards per game despite being paired with the worst offense in the nation (New Mexico’s offense failed to gain more than 150 yards in 4 games last season).

The weakness of the Orange this season will probably be the secondary, where Syracuse lost Ja’Had Carter, Garrett Williams, and Darian Chestnut—that trio combined for 111 tackles and 6 interceptions last season. Syracuse is hoping that transfers Jayden Bellamy from Notre Dame and Jaeden Gould from Nebraska can help fill the void at DB. A solid pass rush led by redshirt senior DL Caleb Okechukwu (48 tackles, 7 sacks) and linebacker Marlowe Wax (91 tackles, 4.5 sacks) will also help take a lot of pressure off of the secondary.


With two completely new coordinators, Syracuse could look completely different this season. Garrett Shrader has given the Wake Forest defense a lot of trouble in the past—in his two games against Wake, Shrader has accounted for 686 total yards and 5 touchdowns. That being said, without Sean Tucker and Robert Anae, the Orange offense is likely to take a step back this season. The Syracuse defense will probably be solid, but Wake’s receiving corps should be able to take advantage of the weaknesses in the secondary. This is another game that feels like a toss-up, but I think the Deacs can get a win here.