Priority No. 1 for NC State's defense is to come out and squash any confidence or optimism that Syracuse might have.
The Wolfpack will be playing at home with a lot on the line as the Pack is looking to exceed last year's win total. Facing a run-based offense, it's vital that they start fast and prevent the Orange from gaining any confidence.
Syracuse, for the most part, has struggled this season offensively. They rank No. 120 nationally in total offense (330.6 yards per game), No. 70 in rushing offense (166.3), and No. 73 in scoring offense (27.8). However, they're coming off a game where they gave top-ranked Clemson all they could handle.
Syracuse quarterback Zack Mahoney will also be making his first career road start. NC State must come out and pressure Mahoney... rattle his confidence. They can't allow the young quarterback to get going early on and putting pressure on him early would benefit the Wolfpack defense.
WIN THE TRENCHES
The strength of State's defense is the front four. NC State is currently No. 19 nationally in rushing defense, yielding just 121.4 yards per game and it has been due to the effective play of the front seven and sure-tackling in the secondary.
Sophomore defensive tackles B.J. Hill, Kentavius Street, and Justin Jones are stout against the run, and defensive ends Mike Rose and Bradley Chubb are playmakers. The Wolfpack's depth across the front line has also allowed them to rotate in defenders and stay fresh all game.
The front seven must come up big this weekend because Syracuse brings in a potent running game that can bust big plays. Their offense is geared towards establishing the run, and they do it by being physical at the point of attack, utilizing option principles, and stressing defenses on the perimeter.
Syracuse utilizes a rotation at tailback, but against Clemson their success started with Mahoney, who totaled 76 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries against the Tigers.
To win this game, NC State has to shutdown Mahoney and Syracuse's option attack. To do so they must be physical and aggressive defensively, and it all starts by winning the battle in the trenches.
LIMIT THE BIG PLAYS
It has been the kryptonite for NC State's defense this season.
As strong as they've been overall, NC State has yielded several big plays, and that's scary with an option-based attack looming. It all comes down to playing assignment football and doing your job. If NC State can do that, they should have the personnel to handle Syracuse's offense, but if they don't it could be a long day.
Most of those big plays are expected to come on the ground as Mahoney hasn't shown a lot as a passer, completing just 8-of-21 passes for 80 yards last week. With that being said, the Orange have some explosive playmakers in wideouts Brisly Estime and Steve Ishmael and tailback Jordan Fredericks.
The players have talked all week about stopping the option attack of Syracuse, but most of all they know they must prevent big, explosive scoring plays for the Orange.