No. 20 NC State, still eying ACC title, hosts bowl-hungry Syracuse
Only four points separate No. 20 North Carolina State from being unbeaten in ACC play and in position for a berth in the title game.
After a missed opportunity at making the ACC’s Atlantic Division tighter, the Wolfpack look to rebound from a tough loss to division leader Wake Forest Saturday afternoon when they host ACC Atlantic division-mate Syracuse.
NC State (7-3, 4-2 ACC) begins this week in third place behind unbeaten Wake Forest and second-place Clemson. The Wolfpack went 6-1 in a seven-game stretch after splitting their first two games but were unable to rally from 10 points down in the final 1:47 and took a 45-42 loss to Wake Forest on Saturday.
After last week’s loss, an outside chance at a division title is possible for NC State. If the Wolfpack beat Syracuse and North Carolina, they can win the division if Wake Forest loses to Clemson and Boston College.
“Obviously, winning the Atlantic is out of our control now, some things will have to go in our favor,” Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren said. “All we can control is our next two.”
While quarterback Devin Leary is coming off a performance where he completed 37 of 59 passes for 408 yards and threw four touchdowns, NC State is hoping to rebound from committing three turnovers and 14 penalties. The Wolfpack are also hoping to do better on third downs both defensively and offensively after allowing Wake Forest to convert 10 of 19 and being unable to convert 11 of 14.
“We have a lot to play for and it starts with this game against Syracuse.” Doeren said. “They are a very physical team and a very good defensive football team. They are in the top 20 in a couple of categories (nationally), and in the top three in our league in several.”
Syracuse (5-5, 2-4) hardly looked like a team ranked in the top three in the ACC in any category and in the top-20 in any category nationally when it absorbed a 41-3 loss at Louisville on Saturday after posting consecutive wins over Virginia Tech and Boston College.
Sean Tucker enters Saturday 111 yards behind Michigan State’s Kenneth Walker III for the national rushing title. Against the Cardinals he finished with 95 yards, his second-lowest total of the season, and was unable to get an eighth straight 100-yard game.
“I think the biggest thing is we have to get back to playing Syracuse football,” Orange coach Dino Babers said in his weekly press conference on Monday. “That’s not what we played Saturday. It’s not indicative of what we’re trying to represent. We were very flat. And we weren’t physical. And those things truly bother me.
Tucker leads the ACC with 1,362 rushing yards and along with quarterback Garrett Shrader they have combined for 24 rushing touchdowns while Syracuse leads the ACC with 236.7 rushing yards per game and 26 rushing touchdowns.
The potent rushing attack has Syracuse one win away from being bowl-eligible for the first time since 2018. To reach 6-6, the Orange must win at NC State or against Pittsburgh, which enter this week as the league’s top rushing defenses.
“We understand it’s going to be a difficult venue to play in.” Babers said. “We’ve been there before — we understand that. But we’re looking forward to having an opportunity to put this football team back out front and see if we can change the narrative from what happened the previous week.”
–Field Level Media