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Syracuse Orange vs. Virginia Cavaliers Preview and Prediction

Albert Reid

Albert Reid

While the Virginia Cavaliers do not have a victory over an FBS opponent this season, they don’t have a bad loss on their resume either. Three of Virginia's losses have come against opponents that are currently ranked, and the fourth was against the Pittsburgh Panthers, who have a 4-1 record.

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The Syracuse Orange are coming off a terrible 45-24 loss to the South Florida Bulls. Syracuse has lost two straight games and Scott Shafer's team enter Saturday's game needing a win to inch closer to bowl eligibility.

Saturday will be the first time Syracuse has played Virginia as a member of the ACC. The last time both teams played each other was in 2005 when the Cavaliers defeated the Orange 27-24.

Syracuse at Virginia

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET

Channel: ESPN3

Spread: Virginia -7

Three Things to Watch

1. Eric Dungey

Last week in the loss to South Florida, Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey completed 21 of 34 passes for 232 yards and two touchdowns against one interception. Dungey also added 31 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown on 17 carries.  

This week, Dungey and the Orange will be facing one of the worst passing defenses in the country in the Cavaliers. Virginia is ranked 106th in the nation in passing yards allowed as they average 272.8 yards through the air.

This season, Dungey has thrown for 660 yards, seven touchdowns and only one interception. The freshman could have a career day against the Virginia defense.

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2. Cavaliers’ running game

Last week against the Pittsburgh Panthers, Virginia was able to establish some sort of a running game. Albert Reid was able to rush for 74 and the Cavaliers as a team was able to rush for 139 yards.

Virginia quarterback Matt Johns has had the propensity to turn the ball over at times during the season. That’s why the Cavaliers need to establish the running game against the Orange on Saturday.

Syracuse ranks 44th in rushing defense as they give up an average of 137.8 rushing yards. Virginia rushed the ball 31 times last week, so expect them to be committed to the run against Syracuse.

3. Turnover margin

Whenever average, middle-of-the-road teams play each other, turnovers are usually a critical factor in determining the outcome of the game. If that’s the case this Saturday, then Syracuse has a distinct advantage in that department.

The Orange are 29th in turnover margin this season as they have recorded 10 takeaways against losing six turnovers. 

Virginia is 122nd in turnover margin. The Cavaliers have only taken the ball away from opponents twice this season as opposed to losing it 10 times.

Final Analysis

Both Syracuse and Virginia come into their game on Saturday struggling, so it is tough to say who has a clear advantage. The Orange running back Jordan Fredericks could be an x-factor in the game.

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Fredericks is now the Syracuse starting running back after he has averaged 5.6 yards per rush through the team’s first five games. If he can keep the Orange out of third and long situations, that will take pressure off of Dungey and the rest of the offense.

Virginia has played well against Notre Dame and Pittsburgh this season and can certain win this game. Should be a close game, but Syracuse should pull off the upset.

Prediction: Syracuse 24, Virginia 21

— 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, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.