Before the season even began, there was a group of three games circled by many Wake Forest fans as the key to moving up the ranks of the ACC.
One of those games is upon us as the Syracuse Orange (2-3) are set to face Wake (4-1) at 7 p.m. Saturday night at BB&T Field.
Most preseason rankings had Boston College, Virginia and Syracuse toward the bottom of the ACC, and the Deacs were fortunate enough to have all three scheduled for home games at BB&T Field. Not only is it believed that Wake is an improving squad in coach Dave Clawson’s third year at the helm, but the schedule seemed to lay out in their favor.
It’s a big game under the lights, with a potential big crowd (weather permitting), with dozens of recruits scheduled to make the trip — this is one the Deacs need to grab.
Here’s five Syracuse players to watch Saturday night.
Eric Dungey - Sophomore quarterback - 6-foot-3, 207 pounds
To say there’s been a system change at Syracuse under first-year head coach Dino Babers would be quite the understatement. Last year Dungey was 105-for-176 passing for 1,298 yards in EIGHT games. So far, through five with Babers at the helm, Dungey is 148-for-230 for 1,730 yards and 11 touchdowns.
The Orange are throwing the ball more consistently and with more accuracy, and Dungey’s numbers are taking off as a result. Syracuse has roughly three times as much production in the air as they do on the ground with their fast-paced attack.
Dungey had more than 10,000 passing yards for 65 touchdowns in his high school career.
Last year vs. Wake: 8-for-13 passing for 221 yards and two touchdowns. (he’s not attempted less than 40 passes in any game so far this season)
Amba Etta-Tawo - Redshirt Senior Wide Receiver - 6-foot-2, 202 pounds
Etta-Tawo came to Syracuse as a graduate student transfer from Maryland, and he’s making the most of this opportunity. He came into this season with 61 total catches in three years playing for the Terrapins. He’s snatched 47 grabs already for the Orange this season for an amazing 840 yards — 168 yards per game average.
He played against the Deacs in 2013, with six catches for 69 yards in a 34-10 Wake Forest victory over Maryland.
Last year vs. Wake: NA
Chris Slayton - Redshirt Sophomore Defensive Line - 6-foot-4, 296 pounds
Slayton is the top disruptor on the Orange defensive line, with five tackles for loss this season, three sacks, two quarterback hurries and one forced fumble.
Slayton played in all 12 games last season as a redshirt freshman, including five starts, and made the 2015 Campus Insiders Honorable Mention list for top freshmen. He made the 2016 Phil Steele Preseason All-ACC Fourth Team.
Last year vs. Wake: Three tackles
Aaron Roberts - Redshirt Sophomore Offensive Line - 6-foot-4, 280 pounds
Starting left guard for the Orange, Roberts has become one of the more valuable players on the line this season. Left tackle Cody Conway has missed the last two game for the Orange, and it’s uncertain if he will return Saturday against the Deacs.
Roberts played in just three games last season,
Last year vs. Wake: Played one snap
Moe Neal - Freshman Running Back - 5-foot-9, 169 pounds
It’s homecoming for the Gastonia, N.C. native Neal, who had Wake Forest as one of his final schools before ultimately choosing Syracuse. Neal has 34 carries on the season for 137 yards and a touchdown.
Neal rushed for 1,381 yards and 20 touchdowns as a senior last year for Forestview High School, where he was rated as a three-star prospect.
Last year vs. Wake: NA