There will be no postseason for Syracuse after getting blasted by Louisville last week. Now, the Orange host Wake Forest on Saturday in their regular-season finale. These two teams played last year, with Syracuse winning 41-24 in Winston-Salem as the Orange racked up five rushing touchdowns. The last time these two squared off in the Carrier Dome, it went to the Demon Deacons in a shootout, 64-43.
Syracuse sits at 4-7 (1-6 in the ACC) as the momentum they got from beating Duke two weeks ago dissipated quickly in Louisville. The Orange were down 28-10 at halftime on their way to a 56-34 loss to the Cardinals. The defense gave up 608 total yards, with 370 of those coming on the ground. Javian Hawkins put up 233 rushing yards while Micale Cunningham threw for five touchdowns. This game was the perfect illustration for the season — the offense didn't do enough, and the defense didn't get the stops when it needed to.
Wake (8-3, 4-3) halted its two-game losing streak last week by beating Duke 39-27. Jamie Newman accounted for over 400 yards of total offense and two touchdowns in the victory. The signal-caller got a huge effort from QB-turned-wideout Kendall Hinton, who had six receptions for 189 yards and one touchdown. The Deacons may want to work on their special teams, though, after allowing two kickoff returns for touchdowns.
Wake Forest at Syracuse
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 30, 12:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Wake Forest -4.5
When Wake Forest Has the Ball
Newman has taken the next step in head coach Dave Clawson's offensive system, and it shows in the numbers. The quarterback has completed 62.9 percent of his passes with 23 touchdowns to nine interceptions. His mobility has been huge, with only 17 sacks taken. Newman is not afraid to run it — he has 151 attempts and 464 yards to go with six touchdowns on the ground. He's got a great duo in the backfield with freshman Kenneth Walker III and veteran Cade Carney. The biggest changes have come at wide receiver, where Sage Surratt and Scotty Washington are out, along with their 101 catches and more than 1,600 yards. The aforementioned Hinton and Jack Freudenthal must continue to fill the void.
Syracuse's defense was supposed to be the team's strength entering the year. It has been quite the opposite, as the unit has been routinely gashed on the ground and made to look foolish by opponents. The Orange have been terrible against the run, and injuries throughout the year have robbed them of their potential in the secondary. Twelve different players have sacks, including Kendall Coleman and Alton Robinson, who are two big-time talents on the front line. The Orange will always wonder what could have been had McKinley Williams (three tackles last week) been healthy all year.
When Syracuse Has the Ball
Syracuse's offense starts and ends with the offensive line. This group has given QB Tommy DeVito no time to work and in turn has stunted his growth along with the rest of the unit. DeVito has decent numbers, with 19 touchdowns to five interceptions, but he's gone down 44 times with countless other pressures affecting him as well. He's far from 100 percent, and head coach Dino Babers even took him out for Clayton Welch towards the end of the Louisville contest. The Orange have gotten good work from the backfield, and wideout Trishton Jackson has been fantastic with 912 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns.
Wake's defense is nothing special. Leading tackler Justin Strnad is out for the season after collecting 69 stops. The Demon Deacons have allowed 30 points or more four times, twice in their last three contests. Carlos Basham Jr. is one of the main threats up front with 10 sacks and three forced fumbles. Essang Bassey is one of the best corners in the ACC, and he's paired with Amari Henderson, who has four interceptions. This side of the ball struggles when Wake's offense has quick three-and-outs.
There are a few ways this one could play out. Syracuse, with nothing to play for, could lay a massive egg at home in front of a half-empty Carrier Dome. The Orange could also play motivated to finish out the season strong and give the fans some hope for 2020. I think the latter happens, as the Orange come out on top to finish what has been an otherwise miserable season.
Prediction: Syracuse 27, Wake Forest 23
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Josephs prefers non-Power 5 college football and may be the only one wagering on the Sun Belt. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.