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Syracuse vs. Virginia Tech Football Prediction and Preview

Jermaine Waller, Virginia Tech Hokies Football

Jermaine Waller and the Hokies look to defend home field against the Orange on Saturday in a matchup of ACC teams looking to end losing streaks

Syracuse and Virginia Tech have played 18 times throughout the years, but only once as members of the ACC. Meeting number two will occur this weekend when the Orange head south to Blacksburg to square off with the Hokies. The Cuse comes in at 3-4, but they have lost their four games by a total of 19 points with each of their last three resulting in three-point defeats. Getting to six wins and bowl eligibility would be huge for Dino Babers' program after last year's 1-10 finish.

The same is not true for Justin Fuente. Just making the postseason will not be enough to satisfy Hokie supporters, and, at 3-3, Fuente is on thin ice as it is. The remaining schedule is conducive to a late-season surge, but a third consecutive home loss, especially one to a team that is 1-9 in its last 10 ACC road games, could seal Fuente's fate.

Syracuse at Virginia Tech

Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 23 at 12:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Virginia Tech -3.5

When Syracuse Has the Ball

If Syracuse had won all of the close games that it lost, Sean Tucker would be near the top of the Heisman contender lists. As it stands, the sophomore running back is still vying for All-American honors after his sensational start to the 2021 season. Tucker has 948 rushing yards and has gone over 100 yards in six of the team's first seven games. Last Friday night, he had 157 yards on the ground versus Clemson. Say what you will about Clemson this year, but rushing for that amount against the Tigers' defense is spectacular.

Unfortunately, there's not much more to get excited about when discussing the Syracuse offense. Quarterback Garrett Schrader is completing just 54 percent of his throws and is averaging less than seven yards per pass attempt. Needless to say, there aren't many great threats out wide, especially now that Taj Harris has entered the transfer portal. It will come as no surprise to know that Syracuse's leading receiver by yardage is none other than Tucker. Babers' plan is to get him the ball any way he can.

So Virginia Tech's primary goal this week will be to stop the run, and that has proven to be difficult in recent games. Pittsburgh had 208 yards on the ground this past week, and Notre Dame ran for a season-high 173 seven days earlier. Even FCS Richmond had 160 rushing yards against the Hokies. Defending the pass, primarily due to pressure from the edges and a talented secondary led by Jermaine Waller, has been a strength. But slowing down Tucker will be the most important factor in a successful defensive effort this Saturday.

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When Virginia Tech Has the Ball

At 310 yards per game, the Hokies are last in the ACC in total offense. And the issues are only getting worse. The offensive numbers against Pittsburgh were disturbing: 90 rushing yards on 28 carries and 11-of-32 passing for 134 yards. As terrible as those passing numbers look, Braxton Burmeister remains the quarterback in part because there aren't a lot of other options. And to be fair, drops by receivers played a role in his meager passing totals.

How this offense generates offense at this point is really unclear. Tré Turner and Tayvion Robinson have plenty of talent, but their production has not been maximized. And with the 13th-ranked rushing offense (130.0 ypg) in the ACC, relying on the running game is not a credible option. Right now, the Hokies have to hope the passing game clicks, whether it be Turner and Robinson or Raheem Blackshear becoming a bigger factor out of the backfield.

Going up against the Syracuse defense won't help matters much. The Orange rank second in the ACC in total defense and are tops in the league against the pass. McNeese State transfer Cody Roscoe has been a terror so far this season, leading the ACC in sacks (7.5) and tackles for a loss (10.5). But he is not the only disruptor on the team. Linebacker Mikel Jones leads the ACC with 65 total tackles, 6.5 of which have resulted in lost yardage. As a team, Syracuse is the conference's best at tackling opponents behind the line of scrimmage.

Final Analysis

Despite three straight losses, Syracuse's confidence has to be building, especially after giving Clemson a battle all night long last Friday. On the other side, there are a plethora of questions surrounding Virginia Tech. The close losses to West Virginia and Notre Dame were one thing; getting drubbed by Pittsburgh was another. While Syracuse has offensive issues, they have Tucker and the defense is more than capable of shutting down Virginia Tech. Moreover, Lane Stadium has not proven to be a huge home-field advantage in recent years and Cuse will be ready. In a low-scoring contest, Syracuse will inch closer to bowl eligibility while the heat gets turned up on Fuente in Blacksburg.

Prediction: Syracuse 17, Virginia Tech 14

Podcast: Previewing Week 8 + CFB Expansion + Washington State Coaching Search

— Written by Jon Kinne, who has been part of the Athlon Contributor Network for three years, covering the ACC and Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.