When looking at the schedule before the season, some probably though Miami’s game against Syracuse would be a bit of a cakewalk. But after last weekend, assuming anything close to that would be a mistake.
Syracuse is fresh off of arguably the biggest upset of the season thus far, following a 27-24 home win over then-No. 2 Clemson last Friday night. Now the Orange will look to knock off a top-10 (and undefeated) team in back-to-back weeks.
Miami moved up to No. 8 in this week’s AP poll following its 25-24 win over Georgia Tech, courtesy of Michael Badgley’s game-winning field goal. He was named ACC Specialist of the Week for his efforts.
Saturday will be the first time Syracuse and Miami, who were former Big East foes, have played each other since 2003. The Hurricanes have a 15-7 edge in the series and have won the past five meetings.
Syracuse at Miami
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 21 at 3:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Miami -16
Three Things to Watch
1. Travis Homer
In his first start replacing injured running back Mark Walton, Homer had a career day against Georgia Tech. He ran for 170 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, and added a touchdown reception for good measure.
Homer may not boast great size (5-11, 195) but he’s a talented, versatile back who can run and show toughness between the tackles as well as be a threat as a receiver out of the backfield.
For the season, Homer has 377 rushing yards and four touchdowns, averaging a robust 8.4 yards per carry. Syracuse’s run defense has been solid this year, holding opponents to 128.9 yards per game on the ground.
2. Eric Dungey
In the upset win over Clemson last week, Dungey threw for 278 yards and three touchdowns against one of the best defenses in the country. Because of his play, Dungey was named this week’s Co-ACC Offensive Back of the Week.
During the last three games, Dungey has completed 62.6 percent of his passes and hast thrown just two interceptions in 131 attempts. Not only will Miami have to worry about Dungey as a passer, but also as a runner.
The junior dual threat has gained 386 yards on the ground to go along with eight rushing touchdowns. If the Orange are going to pull of a second straight upset, Dungey will need to lead the way once again.
3. Hurricanes’ front four
Miami’s has one of the most talented defensive fronts in the nation. The Hurricanes will need to take advantage of this to make Dungey uncomfortable in the pocket and in hopes of forcing some bad decisions and maybe create a couple of turnovers.
Miami currently ranks third in the nation in tackles for a loss per game (8.6) and fifth in sacks (3.4). Nine different linemen have recorded a stop behind the line of scrimmage. Chad Thomas (above, right) leads the way with six tackles for a loss while Trent Harris is leading the team in sacks with three.
If the Hurricanes can generate pressure with their front four, that will give the team multiple opportunities to create possible turnovers during the day as well as frustrate Dungey and the rest of Syracuse’s offense.
Miami enters this game as more than a two-touchdown favorite, but that large of a spread may be doing Syracuse a disservice. Even before the Orange knocked out Clemson starting quarterback Kelly Bryant, they were winning and controlling the pace of that game.
Steve Ishmael had a huge game against Clemson with six catches for 73 yards and a touchdown. He’s second in the nation in receptions per game (8.9) and third in receiving yards (802).
While Syracuse can score, its defense will need another lights-out effort to contain the Hurricanes’ offense. If wide receiver Ahmmon Richards plays, that will give the Orange another talented player to worry about.
This should be a close game entering the fourth quarter, but Miami has too many athletes and weapons on both sides of the ball, and that will likely be the difference.
Prediction: Miami 38, Syracuse 28
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.