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Syracuse’s last four games have been decided by three points, the first time this has happened in a single season for the Orange since 1981. Dino Babers and SU desperately need to end the three-game losing streak where they’ve flashed potential and performed well at times but failed to close out games.
Here’s what our beat writers think will happen when SU travels to Blacksburg to take on Virginia Tech on Saturday at 12:30 p.m.
Roshan Fernandez (4-3)
Coming up short
Virginia Tech 20, Syracuse 17
This game will hinge on one major factor: if Virginia Tech can successfully stop the run, the Hokies can end their losing streak that’s seen them lose three of their last four games. If VT can’t, the Orange will come out of Blacksburg having ended their losing streak that’s seen them lose three of their last four games too. The Hokies rank second in the Atlantic Coast Conference in passing defense and ninth in rushing defense, allowing 156.7 yards per game for the latter category.
SU will have trouble throwing against this secondary and turn solely to the run, but by now, opponents have an idea of what to expect out of this Syracuse offense, as evidenced by Clemson last week. Teams know that SU’s going to run the ball and how the Orange plan to do it, so unless Dino Babers and offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert can get really creative, VT is going to sell out to stop the run — and it will have a solid shot at succeeding. Lane Stadium is a difficult place to win on the road because of VT’s intimidating fans, and even though SU desperately needs to end its pattern of losing close games, it’ll once again come up short here.
Connor Smith (3-4)
Turkey gets its worm
Virginia Tech 24, Syracuse 17
After three straight three-point losses, Syracuse is in need of a win. But that isn’t going to come at Lane Stadium — a stadium SU hasn’t won a game in since 2001 — against Virginia Tech. The Hokies, just like the Orange, are an average football team, but they kept it close two weeks ago against No. 14 Notre Dame. SU is also dealing with the fallout of former starting quarterback Tommy DeVito transferring, and it has had to deal with three straight weeks of late-game shenanigans.
Syracuse’s offense looked bad against Clemson, and I don’t expect a big rebound against VT. The more defenses realize Garrett Shrader is not an accurate passer and that SU’s offense relies almost solely on Sean Tucker, the more they will blitz and pressure the Orange’s beat-up offensive line. Expect the Hokies’ offense to put up just enough points to escape with a win, and expect Babers’ late-game decisions to again be scrutinized after yet another close loss.
Anish Vasudevan (4-3)
Syracuse 24, Virginia Tech 21
Syracuse’s last three games have been decided by three points, so there’s no reason why its fifth one shouldn’t end that way as well. Virginia Tech is ranked 80th nationally with rushing defense, allowing 4.23 yards per attempt. This is a statistic that the Orange’s defense can take advantage of with their Tucker-Shrader read option. If SU milks the rushing attack it can also take time off the clock, allowing its defense to rest — an issue that has led to splash plays from opposing teams at the end of the last few games. But Syracuse’s defense shouldn’t have too tough of a challenge as the Hokies are the second-worst offensive team in the ACC, averaging 21.7 points per game. As long as Babers isn’t forced to make any questionable decisions that could lose Syracuse the ball in crunch time, the Orange should come out of Blacksburg with a .500 record.
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