Two teams looking to get back on track meet in the Carrier Dome Saturday afternoon as Syracuse and North Carolina State square off. Scout.com breaks down each matchup within the game to see who has the edge.
Syracuse quarterback/receivers/tight ends vs. NC State secondary
A.J. Long has provided the Syracuse offense with a spark during his first two outings of the season. Last week against Clemson, however, he looked like a true freshman for the first time. This week, he faces a Wolfpack defense that struggles with mobile quarterbacks and does not have the same caliber of athletes on the defensive side of the ball
Despite that, the Syracuse passing game has been wildly inconsistent this season. Ashton Broyld is back but is not fully healthy and the status of Brisly Estime is in doubt this week. Steve Ishmael did not have a catch for the first time this season against Clemson. There are still a lot of question marks surrounding the Orange aerial attack.
The Wolfpack have some solid corners that will test Syracuse. Jack Tocho is the team’s top cover corner and had two interceptions against the Orange last year. Josh Jones is also a physical safety who can play in the box or make plays in the secondary. Given Syracuse’s struggles through the air, the Wolfpack have an advantage in this matchup.
Edge: NC State
Syracuse running backs vs. NC State linebackers
The Syracuse ground attack was actually somewhat productive last week despite the struggles of the offense overall. Throughout the season, the Orange have had success on the ground. With Prince-Tyson Gulley receiving more carries, the rotation has become clearer. Ervin Philips and Adonis Ameen-Moore will also rotate in.
The Wolfpack run defense has struggled this season. The key players are defensive tackle Thomas Teal and linebacker Airius Moore. If those two are playing well, filling the gaps and making tackles, it bodes well for the NC State defense.
NC State is 90th in the country against the run, however, and Syracuse should be able to exploit that. Look for a lot of Gulley early with some Ameen-Moore mixed in to wear down the Wolfpack front seven.
Syracuse offensive line vs. NC State defensive line
The Syracuse offensive line has played better recently. This is a much better matchup for that group than in previous weeks. Syracuse has only allowed 10 sacks this season in eight games while NC State is 90th in the country in team sacks.
Combine that with a porous run defense and Syracuse should have an advantage here. The key is the interior matchup with guards Rob Trudo and Nick Robinson matching up with defensive tackle Thomas Teal. The winner of that battle should have the edge.
Left tackle Sean Hickey will have a much easier assignment this week as well, not having to face All-American Vic Beasley. Look for him to dominate in pass protection and the Orange line to open up running lanes for their backs.
NC State quarterback/receivers/tight ends vs. Syracuse secondary
NC State’s best player is easily quarterback Jacoby Brissett. One of the most dynamic, intelligent and efficient signal callers Syracuse faces this season, Brissett will be another dual threat that will test the Syracuse secondary. His primary weapons will be freshman wideout Bo Hines and tight end David Grinnage.
Hines has a nice combination of size and speed and will really test Syracuse’s secondary down the field. Grinnage has started to emerge as a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. His ability to line up as a traditional tight end and line up in the slot.
Syracuse’s secondary has been much improved from early in the season. Brandon Reddish has emerged as a strong open field tackler and skilled cover corner. Safety Durell Eskridge is a playmaking NFL prospect who can be a factor against the run.
Despite that, the Orange have been prone to the big pass play. With Brissett’s ability to extend plays with his feet, the Wolfpack have the edge on paper.
Edge: NC State
NC State running backs vs. Syracuse linebackers
The Wolfpack running backs are talented Shadrack Thornton and Matt Dayes are both averaging nearly six yards per carry. Thornton is a physical runner who is also a big play threat. His ability to run between the tackles against Syracuse will be a big key in determining whether NC State’s offense will be one-dimensional.
Dayes is also a strong runner, but is the better option out of the backfield. Not only is he strong in pass protection but he is a skilled receiver.
The linebacking corps is the strength of the Orange defense. Cameron Lynch and Dyshawn Davis are skilled blitzers who make plays in the backfield routinely. Marqez Hodge has been up and down this season, but has shown flashes over the last two weeks.
The Syracuse run defense is ranked 34th in the country in run defense and only giving up 3.25 yards per carry. The linebackers are a big reason why they have had that success
Over the last three games, the Wolfpack are averaging less than three yards per carry. Given the success of the Orange rush defense over the course of the season and the recent NC State struggles, Syracuse has a slight edge here.
NC State offensive line vs. Syracuse defensive line
The Syracuse defensive line has been solid against the run but struggled to consistently put pressure on the quarterback. The Orange have had to largely rely on the blitz for that. They have made some plays, however, with two touchdowns against Wake Forest.
The Wolfpack offensive line has been solid in run blocking but have struggled to protect Jacoby Brissett at times. Both units have been inconsistent and have clear weaknesses.
Because of this, this battle is a push. If one unit can play above their current level this season, it could go a long way in deciding this game.
Syracuse special teams vs. NC State special teams
This is a very intriguing matchup here where the two special teams squads seemingly mirror each other. Both punters, Riley Dixon for Syracuse and Wil Baumann for NC State, are in the discussion for the best in the conference. Both have been big time weapons in the field position battle.
Both return units are solid but unspectacular. Conversely, both coverage units have been solid all season, especially in kick return coverage.
Where Syracuse has the edge, ironically, is in the kicking game. Early in the season, the Orange really struggled in this area behind Ryan Norton. Since freshman walk-on Cole Murphy took over, he has gone 11-13 and brought stability to the position.
Kicker Niklas Sade for NC State is just 6-10 on the season. He does have a strong leg, but has been inconsistent.