Following a crisp performance in its season opener, Syracuse hosts Middle Tennessee on Saturday in an intriguing matchup against a familiar face. Middle Tennessee’s defensive coordinator is Scott Shafer, former head coach for Syracuse who was fired before Dino Babers took over prior to last season.
Babers’ squad kicked off the 2017 campaign with a 50-7 rout of Central Connecticut last weekend as Eric Dungey threw for three touchdowns and ran for two others. The final yardage margin was 586-167 in favor of Syracuse, but Babers is hoping for more improvement in Week 2. “Football teams grow the most between the first and second week. We’re looking for a lot of growth for our next game,” he said. Middle Tennessee lost 28-6 to Vanderbilt in its season opener in a contest that coach Rick Stockstill later termed “a complete mismatch.”
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network. LINE: Syracuse -8.5
ABOUT MIDDLE TENNESSEE (0-1): Brent Stockstill needed 31 pass attempts to throw for 166 yards and did not get his team on the board against Vanderbilt until the fourth quarter. The rushing attack did not give him much help, totaling 49 yards on 26 attempts. On the bright side, Middle Tennessee did a nice job limiting turnovers (one) and penalties (four).
ABOUT SYRACUSE (1-0): The Orange allowed only eight first downs in Week 1 - the fewest ever given up by a Babers-coached team. Dungey led the squad in every facet offensively with 328 passing yards and 51 more on the ground, while Steve Ishmael registered career highs with 12 catches for 134 yards. Dungey, a junior who has missed time to injury in each of his first two seasons, needs one 300-yard passing effort to break the all-time Orange record.
1. Shafer went 14-23 in three seasons at Syracuse.
2. Middle Tennessee WR Richie James set the school’s all-time record with his 15th 100-yard receiving game last week.
3. Last season, the Blue Raiders (eighth) and Orange (11th) were both among the top passing offenses in the nation.
PREDICTION: Syracuse 37, Middle Tennessee 27