The good news is that the Syracuse defense just prepared for this kind of offense last week. The bad news is that we all saw what that Louisville offense did to the Orange last week. The Cardinals racked up 56 points and 608 total yards while averaging 10 yards per play against the SU defense. Malik Cunningham proved to be a handful. The dual-threat quarterback was responsible for six touchdowns in the game – five through the air and one on the ground. Wake Forest quarterback Jamie Newman is quite capable of putting up monster numbers as well. Last week against Duke, Newman finished with 284 yards passing and 144 yards rushing. The Demon Deacons are averaging 33 points per contest this season. They hung 59 on Louisville (in a loss) and 44 on NC State (in a win). If SU has any chance of making this game close, it starts with making the necessary adjustments on defense. After taking a step forward against Duke, we saw the defense take several steps backwards against Louisville. The missed tackles and missed assignments were reminiscent of what got Brian Ward as the team’s defensive coordinator. At the very least, the ‘Cuse “D” needs to be disciplined and sound fundamentally to have any chance of slowing down the Wake attack.
If a bowl game was on the line on Saturday, I would’ve liked SU’s chances of beating Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons are banged up, it’s a home game for the Orange, and playing with a sense of urgency generally makes any team more dangerous. Now that the possibility of a bowl game is off the table, it’ll be interesting see how vested the Syracuse players are in doing what it takes to win this game. On paper, this is a fairly even matchup. The Las Vegas oddsmakers have Wake Forest favored by less than a touchdown. I think so much of this game will come down to which team is more motivated. While the Demon Deacons aren’t likely to go to the Orange Bowl, they’re still in line for a nice invite somewhere. A win on Saturday would force a tie with Louisville for second place in the Atlantic Division standings behind Clemson. They have plenty to play for, Syracuse does not. The SU players need to find that motivation throughout the week leading up to kickoff on Saturday.
Prior to the game, 23 seniors will be recognized for their contributions to the program. So, maybe that’s where the team finds its motivation. As Dino Babers said earlier in the week, the fourth and fifth-year seniors on this roster signed on to play for Syracuse when the program was struggling. This class was a big part of last year’s 10-win campaign. While this season didn’t go the way anyone around the program wanted or expected, it would be nice to give the seniors one last winning moment inside the Dome to cap off their careers.