A week after recording one of its biggest wins in recent memory, North Carolina State must be wary of a letdown Saturday when it hosts Syracuse in ACC action. The Wolfpack led wire-to-wire in a 27-21 victory at Florida State in Week 4 and may be primed to join the top 25 if they can upend the Orange.
N.C. State has scored on its opening possession in all four games and will look to make it 5-for-5 against Syracuse, which fought hard in last week’s nine-point loss at LSU. The Wolfpack have scored at least 27 points in all four outings, capped by their first road victory against a ranked team since 2012 (when they also defeated Florida State). “We beat a lot of teams that people think we should beat and knocked on the door with a ton of teams and didn’t finish. Now we finished,” N.C. State coach Dave Doeren told reporters after the win. “If you want to be in the conversation, you have to win games like today.” The Orange’s schedule gets tough in October, and the team likely will need to pull a couple of upsets this season — Saturday’s game, for instance — in order to reach a bowl game.
TV: 12:20 p.m. ET, ACC Network Extra. LINE: N.C. State -12
ABOUT SYRACUSE (2-2, 0-0 ACC): The Orange need more out of their running game, as Dontae Strickland is averaging 3.0 yards per carry and quarterback Eric Dungey is currently the only player on the team with more than 134 yards on the ground. Dungey threw 52 times against LSU and averaged barely over five yards per attempt, although Steve Ishmael (national-best 45 catches) continues to be a revelation on the outside. “I think that we’re playing well,” coach Dino Babers said Monday. “I know that we’re getting better, but I can’t prove it in the box score. I can’t prove it with the win-and-loss record, but we’re a better football team. This team would really get after the 2016 Syracuse team. But the schedule may be so difficult ... you may not be able to see that in the W’s and L’s.”
ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA STATE (3-1, 1-0): The Wolfpack have four of their next six games on the road — and the two home games in that stretch are against nationally ranked squads Louisville and Clemson — so this is a critical contest for coach Doeren. He was particularly thrilled, of course, after last week’s win, which featured two touchdown passes from Ryan Finley and a crisp performance (five catches for 112 yards and a score) from wide receiver Jakobi Meyers. “Just to see the euphoria in (the players’) faces in that locker room and feel how much went into that journey, that’s why I coach,” Doeren said. “I loved every second of that, and I’m so proud of those guys.”
1. N.C. State is 9-1 in the all-time series with Syracuse.
2. Ishmael is already three catches from matching his career high of 48 set last season.
3. Wolfpack TE Jaylen Samuels, who is second in the nation with 38 catches (only behind Ishmael), has five touchdowns in the last two games.
PREDICTION: North Carolina State 43, Syracuse 36