The Orange move out of the bye and into the fire
Training Camp is underway this week for Syracuse Orange football as we continue to preview their opponents for the 2022 season. After a proverbial bye-week against Wagner, followed by the actual bye-week, Syracuse will host its fourth straight game. This is where things get dicey, as the Orange face four of last year’s ranked teams in a row. Starting off the gauntlet portion of the schedule is an ACC opponent that has been SU’s kryptonite for a long time…
NC State Wolfpack
School: North Carolina State
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Recommended Blog: Backing the Pack
History vs. Syracuse: NC State has a 13-2 series advantage, with notable wins against ranked SU squads in 1997 and 1998. The Orange first beat the Wolfpack in the two teams’ first ACC clash in 2013. The second win was a primetime shootout in 2018 where Eric Dungey outdueled Ryan Finley; that 51-41 victory let SU swipe NC State’s No. 22 ranking. (It also happened to be my first in-person Cuse football game.) Less inspiring moments from recent history include Tommy Devito getting sacked eight times in a disappointing loss and Rex Culpepper spiking the ball on 4th down in a NotTop10 moment.
Coach: Dave Doeren, tenth season. The Pack have thrived under Dave’s leadership so far, going to seven bowl games in nine seasons. Doeren was a TE at Drake, where he also got his college coaching career started. After initially working as a LBs coach, Dave held various defensive coaching positions with USC, Montana, Kansas, and Wisconsin. He was hired as the head coach of Northern Illinois prior to the 2011 season and led the Huskies to a combined 23 wins and a No. 16 AP ranking in just two seasons. Doeren was approached by NC State before NIU’s 2012 bowl game, and he accepted their offer.
2021 Record: (9-3) (6-2)
Recapping Last Season:
After a 2-1 start against OOC opponents, NC State snapped an eight-game losing streak against No. 9 Clemson with a 27-21 triumph in Raleigh. After two more wins, the Wolfpack fell by just one point to the Miami Hurricanes. Rebound victories against Louisville and Florida State put them in a good spot against No. 12 Wake Forest, but the Demon Deacons prevailed 45-42. The regular season ended with home wins against Syracuse and North Carolina. At 9-3, the Wolfpack were supposed to play in the Holiday Bowl, but UCLA withdrew just hours before kickoff. The NCAA does not recognize it as a forfeit, despite a similar situation occurring with the school’s baseball team the previous spring.
Quarterback Devin Leary had a remarkable year, throwing for 3,433 yards and 35 TDs (edging Philip Rivers for a new program record) while only offering up five picks. Zonovan Knight and Ricky Person split touches right down the middle in a fairly successful rushing attack. The three-headed monster of Emeka Emezie, Thayer Thomas, and Devin Carter combined for 20 TD catches and over 1,900 yards, helping the passing game reach the top-20 nationally in yards per game.
The defensive unit was impressive in its own right, allowing less than 20 points on average. Linebacker Drake Thomas was an absolute freak of nature, with six sacks and three interceptions, including a Pick 6. Fellow LB Vi Jones also had six of the team’s 33 sacks. An elite CB group saw Derrek Pitts Jr., Tyler Baker-Williams, and Shyheim Battle all get two interceptions. Kicker Christopher Dunn made all 48 of his extra points but was only 13/19 on FGs; I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt since half of his misses were from over 50 yards.
2022 Season Outlook:
The Wolfpack schedule has a frontloaded OOC lineup. After starting the season at East Carolina, NC State hosts FCS Charleston Southern, Texas Tech, and UConn. They also have home games against FSU, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, and Boston College. Road ACC games are at Clemson, Syracuse, Louisville, and UNC.
Leary is back under center as a redshirt junior, so expect the offense to stick to a more traditional gameplan with very few QB scrambles. Last year’s 1A and 1B RBs both went pro, leaving Jordan Houston as the sole veteran presence. Emezie graduated, but Thomas and Carter will return as reliable wide receivers.
Skill positions on the defensive side remain as stacked as they were in 2021. Thomas, Pitts, Baker-Williams, Battle, and safety Tanner Ingle are all returning. The only minor concern is Jones and defensive end Daniel Joseph’s departures from the font seven, but there should be enough internal options to get back a good chunk of their production.
Syracuse Game Date: Saturday, October 15
Location: JMA Wireless Dome, Syracuse, New York
Odds of Orange Victory: 35%
Very Early Outlook vs. Syracuse:
SU will be the underdog in this one, and for good reason. The Wolfpack defense is capable of shutting down rushes and passes alike. That being said, I can’t imagine Babers’ players looking as unprepared coming out of the bye as they were last season. Against a very stationary QB, one can hope that the D-Line is broken in enough to open holes and keep Leary, well… leery of being sacked. If he has to hurry his throws, then Garrett Williams and Duce Chestnut can keep guys occupied on the outside long enough to take away the deep ball.
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