The Syracuse Orange are having one of the more surprising seasons in college football thus far.
Syracuse (3-0, 1-0 ACC) is unbeaten after its exciting 32-29 victory against the Purdue Boilermakers last weekend. Now the Orange will look to continue their winning streak Friday night when they host the Virginia Cavaliers at the JMA Wireless Dome.
Virginia (2-1) is coming off a close win themselves, defeating Old Dominion 16-14 thanks to a 26-yard field goal by Brendan Farrell as time expired.
Syracuse will try to start the season with four consecutive wins for the 17th time in program history and the first since 2018. The Orange began that year with four straight victories and went on to a 10-3 record and a win in the Camping World Bowl.
Friday all mark the sixth meeting between Syracuse and Virginia all time as the Cavaliers hold a slight 3-2 advantage.
Virginia at Syracuse
When Virginia Has the Ball
Virginia's offense hasn't produced the results many people expected entering the season. The Cavaliers are 117th in the nation in scoring offense (17.7), although they're 72nd in total offense (413.3 ypg). That's quite a fall from when they scored 34.6 points per contest (21st in FBS) and averaged 516.3 yards per game (third) last season.
However, against Old Dominion, Brennan Armstrong threw for 284 yards, 118 of them to wide receiver Keytaon Thompson, who hauled in nine passes. Running back Xavier Brown is another player Syracuse's defense will need to keep an eye on. He has rushed for 122 yards and is averaging a healthy 7.2 yards per carry.
When Syracuse Has the Ball
Syracuse has an excellent running of its own in Sean Tucker, who put up back-to-back 100-yard games to begin the season. But Purdue was able to limit Tucker's production to just 42 yards on 18 carries.
Last weekend, the Orange had just 306 yards of total offense, but most of that came after halftime. Four of Syracuse's touchdowns came in the final 18 minutes of play – two in the hands of Oronde Gadsden II, one by Isaiah Jones, and a pick-six by defensive lineman Caleb Okechukwu.
Quarterback Garrett Shrader has also been very instrumental in the Orange's success this season. Against Purdue, Shrader completed 13 of 29 passes for 181 yards and three touchdowns passing while leading the Orange in rushing yards with 83.
While it seems like Syracuse is trending up, Virginia, despite the win last week, has a lot of areas to work on. The Cavaliers' offense was supposed to be their calling card, but they got rolled by Illinois and scored 16 points against Old Dominion at home.
On the flip side, Syracuse has a ton of momentum and has its best offense in years. The duo of Shrader and Tucker will likely be too much for UVA to overcome especially with the offense struggling to get the ball into the end zone.
This battle also will be determined by which defense can make stops. Neither unit is anything special, but the Orange have been able to put the squeeze on teams a little more. That and home-field advantage should help Syracuse improve to 4-0.
Prediction: Syracuse 34, Virginia 20
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— 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.
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