Fresh off a huge home win over NC State, nationally ranked Syracuse travels to Winston-Salem to play Wake Forest. These two teams played a high-scoring affair in New York last year with the road team winning 64-43. In that one, the two squads racked up 33 first downs apiece, and the Demon Deacons had more than 700 yards of offense. Wake won the last home contest in this series back in 2016 by the much more normal score of 28-9.
Wake has been hard to figure out this season. The Deacons have lost four of their last six as the defense continues to struggle with slowing down the opponent. They had the rare treat of five straight home games in early September but only managed to pick up victories over Towson and Rice. This team has been the underdog in its losses to Boston College, Notre Dame, Florida State and Clemson. The Deacons have three more games after this and need two more wins for bowl eligibility, so this one is pretty important.
Syracuse is bowl eligible after a 51-41 win at home against NC State. The Orange are 1-2 on the road this season with a win at Western Michigan to go with losses to Clemson and Pittsburgh. They have only one home game the rest of the season, as they will play at Wake and Boston College along with a neutral field game against Notre Dame. The defense has shown a lot of cracks lately, giving up 122 points over their last three contests. We'll see if that changes against Wake on the road.
Syracuse at Wake Forest
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 3 at 12 p.m. ET
TV: ACC Network
Spread: Syracuse -5
Three Things to Watch
Syracuse is flying high after the win over NC State. The Carrier Dome was rocking last Saturday night, and the team got a lot of publicity afterwards for the win. How the Orange will handle the aftermath is the big question. There's a chance they could be unfocused for this one, which would be bad considering the Deacons have an offense that can make them pay. As mentioned above, the Cuse has only one road win, although the two losses were close to Clemson and Pittsburgh.
For the home team, there aren't too many intangibles to worry about. The Deacons need to focus on getting the two wins necessary for bowl eligibility. A road trip is next to NC State just five days later, but it's not necessarily something they'll look towards. This will be their first home game in just under a month as well. Wake has won 10 of its last 18 in Winston Salem.
2. Who can squeeze out some defensive stops?
Both teams' defenses are lacking in certain areas. The Demon Deacons are allowing 215.4 rushing yards and 287.2 passing yards per contest. Boston College, Notre Dame and Clemson all scored over 40 points against them with Florida State and Louisville each scoring in the 30s. They really have some problems generating pressure on the quarterback, which will be important this week, because if you give Eric Dungey time, he will pick you apart with his various weapons out wide.
Syracuse had a brief stretch in September when its defense was really stout; they held four straight opponents under 220 yards passing. Conversely, in the last two games with teams from the Tar Heel State, North Carolina and NC State were able to throw for nearly 800 yards combined, with a lot of those coming from the underwhelming Tar Heels. Injuries have taken a toll on this part of the team with Christopher Frederick, Scoop Bradshaw and Devon Clarke all banged up to some extent. Wake has scored more than 50 points three times, and if the Orange aren't careful, the Deacons could make it four.
3. Weapons aplenty
If you don't know who Greg Dortch is, then I don't think you follow college football very closely, because he's one of the better WRs in the sport. For the season, he has 60 receptions for 751 yards with five touchdowns. He's a game-changer and is usually number one on everyone's scouting reports. Matt Colburn and Cade Carney form a pretty solid duo in the backfield, combining for 10 rushing touchdowns. They both also average over five yards per carry.
Meanwhile, the Orange rely on a group of skill players to get things going on the ground. Moe Neal, Dontae Strickland and Jarveon Howard get things done, as does Dungey, who leads the team with nine rushing touchdowns. Strickland is second with six, while Neal and Howard have five combined. Sean Riley had a huge game in the slot at receiver for the Orange against NC State. Jamal Custis leads the team in both receiving yards and touchdowns. He's the tall option in the red zone.
Syracuse has been a road favorite just twice over the last three seasons, with both of those contests coming in 2018. The Orange won at Western Michigan but lost to Pittsburgh. The Syracuse defense has been concerning as of late, and if they aren't careful, then Wake Forest will run away with this one early. It's concerning that this team will be enjoying its national ranking so much that it won't be ready here. Wake's defense needs to step up and play better, because I don't think the Deacons can win this game if it gets into the 40s. I have a little more faith in them to play better at home, though. I think we see an upset on Saturday.
Prediction: Wake Forest 35, Syracuse 31
-- Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.