Orange, Wolfpack aim for first ACC win in Thursday night battle
Teams that combined for 19 wins a season ago will each look for their first ACC victory on Thursday night as NC State plays host to Syracuse. Neither team has defeated a Power 5 opponent yet this year.
The Orange (3-2, 0-1 ACC) have won back-to-back games over Western Michigan and FCS opponent Holy Cross after getting blown out by Maryland and Clemson. After a 10-win season last year, Dino Babers' team will try to get back on track after a slow start.
NC State (3-2, 0-1) is coming off a 31-13 loss at Florida State in its ACC opener and had last week off. The Wolfpack hold a 10-2 edge against Syracuse and had won four straight in the series prior to last season's 51-41 shootout victory for the Orange in the Carrier Dome. NC State hasn't started 0-2 in conference play since 2015.
Syracuse at NC State
Kickoff: Thursday, Oct. 10 at 8 p.m. ET
Spread: NC State -4.5
When Syracuse Has the Ball
Eric Dungey and Jamal Custis are proving to be hard to replace this season for the Syracuse offense. The Orange currently rank 11th in the ACC at just under 386 yards of offense per game, but most of the damage has been done against lesser competition.
Quarterback Tommy DeVito has 12 total touchdowns compared to five interceptions this season, but nine of those touchdowns have come in the last two games. DeVito did play well in the loss at Maryland and will be on the road for the first time as a starter in ACC play.
Senior running back Moe Neal and junior wide receiver Trishton Jackson have combined for eight of the Orange’s 18 offensive touchdowns this season. The Syracuse offensive line has given up 18 sacks so far this season. As a team, the Orange are averaging just 3.4 yards per rush.
NC State currently ranks fifth in the ACC in total defense and second in scoring defense, but against Power 5 competition this year, the Wolfpack are giving up 37.5 points per game and are surrendering a lot of big plays in the passing game.
The heart and soul for NC State up front is defensive tackle Larrell Murchison. Murchison leads the team with five sacks this season, which ranks third in the ACC. The Wolfpack are not great at linebacker, but they do have some capable defenders in the secondary. Sophomore safety Tanner Ingle leads the team with 34 total tackles this season and a forced fumble. The best cover man for NC State is junior cornerback Chris Ingram, who has a team-high two interceptions this season. In its two losses this season, NC State has given up an average of 294 yards through the air.
When NC State Has the Ball
After being inserted into the lineup for Matthew McKay against his former school last time out, sophomore Bailey Hockman is set to make his first career start for NC State on Thursday night. The lefty from Georgia passed for 208 yards and a touchdown in the loss to Florida State in the Wolfpack's last outing.
Hockman will have a young but talented corps of skill players around him. Freshman Zonovan Knight has been the top back for NC State this season with 293 yards rushing and three touchdowns, but Jordan Houston flashed for the Wolfpack in the loss in Tallahassee, finishing with 61 yards rushing on just nine carries. Junior Emeka Emezie is the go-to wide receiver for NC State, but keep an eye on 6-7 tight end Cary Angeline in the red zone.
The Wolfpack are sixth in the ACC in total offense and ninth in scoring offense and will be facing a Syracuse defense that ranks just 12th in the conference in total defense. Still, the Orange have one of the ACC’s best pass rushers in senior Alton Robinson. Robinson has just 2.5 sacks so far this season and a forced fumble. Robinson recorded 10 sacks a season ago but was held to just three tackles against the Wolfpack.
The best player defensively for the Orange this season has been senior linebacker Lakiem Williams, who leads the team with 39 total tackles and 3.5 sacks. That puts him in the top 10 in the ACC in both categories. Sophomore cornerback Andre Cisco leads the Orange with two interceptions.
On special teams, NC State has a nice duo of specialists in kicker Christopher Dunn and punter Trenton Gill, but Syracuse may have the best duo in the ACC in reigning Lou Groza Award winner Andre Szmyt and punter Sterling Hofrichter.
Nearly 100 points (combined for 92) like last season may be a bit much to ask, but expect the offenses to again outplay the defenses in this one. Both teams have had an extra week to rest, and the Orange appear to be the team with the more stable situation at quarterback. The Syracuse offense has not looked good against Power 5 teams, but the same could be said for the NC State defense. When it comes down to it, this contest is at Carter-Finley Stadium, and the Wolfpack are better in the trenches on both sides of the ball.
Prediction: NC State 38, Syracuse 28