Matchup Preview: Syracuse vs Virginia Tech

Important players, critical matchups, keys to victory, top story-lines and more in our huge Syracuse vs Virginia Tech matchup preview.

SYRACUSE (2-4, 0-2) VS VIRGINIA TECH (4-1, 2-0)

Time – Saturday, October 14th, 3:45pm, Carrier Dome

TV/Radio – ESPNU, 99.5FM WTKW

Series – Syracuse leads 9-8 (Streak: Va Tech 1)

Last meeting – 2003, Virginia Tech won 51-7

Coaches: Syracuse – Dino Babers (1st season, 2-4); Virginia Tech – Justin Fuente (1st season, 4-1)



Old Rivals – After squaring off in some memorable games as Big East rivals, Syracuse and Virginia Tech meet for the first time as ACC rivals. Since they are in opposite divisions, these matchups will not occur on a regular basis, but are still fun for those who enjoy nostalgia.  

New Coaches, Different Circumstances – Both Syracuse and Virginia Tech have new head coaches this season, but under very different circumstances. The Hokies said goodbye to a retiring legend who left a roster with experienced talent while the Orange fired their former head coach as they welcomed a new era. The roster Dino Babers inherited featured less experience and less depth. 

Paper Tigers – This game is a significant mismatch on paper. Virginia Tech has one of the top offenses and defenses in the country, while Syracuse has had one of the worst defenses in the nation. Offensively, they are gaining a lot of yards, but scoring has been inconsistent. 



Syracuse offensive line vs Virginia Tech defensive line

If Syracuse wants to pull off the upset or keep this game competitive, their offense has to be much better than a week ago. That starts up front with the offensive line. They have to protect quarterback Eric Dungey to allow him time to get the ball to his playmakers. They gave up six sacks a week ago, but get starting left tackle Cody Conway back. Even with that, they face a deep and talented Virginia Tech defensive line that will test Syracuse rushing the passer and stopping the run. Syracuse will have to be more creative on the ground, as running straight up the middle will be quite difficult. Stretch runs, counters, misdirection and sweeps may help the Orange here. But watch this matchup early, and it will tell you whether or not Syracuse can hang in this one. 

Orange Wins if …

They take out the bag of tricks, force turnovers – Whenever a significant underdog pulls an upset, a couple of things generally happen. First, the underdog forces turnovers. Virginia Tech has had fumbling issues early in the season, and Syracuse needs that to come back this week. Second, a trick play or two must connect. Something unexpected that catches Virginia Tech off guard and can shift momentum in a hurry.


Hokies Win if …

They are focused – Virginia Tech is the favorite for a reason. If they come into the Carrier Dome, play smart, take care of the football and bring their A game, the Hokies should leave Central New York with a victory. 




Impact Player

QB Eric Dungey – For Syracuse to pull off an upset, Dungey must have a big game. When he is accurate and efficient, the Orange offense is very difficult to stop. Syracuse needs Dungey's best on Saturday. 

Something to Prove

Syracuse Offensive Line – After their worst performance of the season giving up six sacks, Syracuse faces one of the best defensive fronts they will see all season. This is a huge test for a banged up group.   

Looking to Build

WR Steve Ishmael – Ishmael's role within the offense appears to be growing. With teams focusing on Etta-Tawo, Ishmael is seeing consistent single coverage for the first time in his career. He is coming off of back to back five catch games, and may be on the verge of breaking out. 

Freshman to Watch

CB Carl Jones – With Cordell Hudson out this week, true freshman Carl Jones gets the first start of his career. Jones is more in the mold of what Syracuse wants in their corners. He is long, athletic and can run. Jones lacks experience and is still getting stronger. This will be a huge test for Jones, who has been solid so far this season.  

Opposing Players to Watch

QB Jérod Evans - Evans is a big time quarterback who can beat you with his arm or his legs. Evans is second on the team in rushing, has only thrown one interception in five games compared to 15 touchdowns, and is a natural leader. He has the trust of the coaching staff and has become one of the best quarterbacks in college football.   

RB Travon McMillian - McMillian is Virginia Tech's leading rusher. He has a nice combination of speed and power, and is dangerous with the ball in his hands.   

WR Isaiah Ford - Few receivers in the ACC are more productive than Ford. He has all of the physical tools you look for in a number one wide receiver. Size, length, athleticism, speed, hands and footwork. Ford will be a monster test for the Orange secondary.

DE Ken Ekanem - A skilled edge rusher, he will test a Syracuse offensive line that is coming off of its worst performance of the year. Ekanem leads the Hokies with 4.5 sacks in five games, and can be a disruptive force along the defensive line.  

LB Andrew Motuapuaka - Virginia Tech's leading tackler with 49 in five games, Motuapuaka also has three tackles for loss, a sack, an interception and a fumble recovery so far this season. He is a sure tackler, great against the run, reads plays very well and has great instincts.  

CB Greg Stroman - Stroman is a true cover corner who may match up with Syracuse star Amba Etta-Tawo. Stroman leads the Hokies in interceptions, pass breakups and passes defended.

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