WAKE FOREST DEMON DEACONS (0-0)
at SYRACUSE ORANGE (0-0)
Kickoff: Thursday, 8:00 p.m. EDT
Line: Syracuse -7, Total: 49.5
Syracuse looks to build on a surprising eight-win season when it opens the 2011 campaign at home against Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons had a miserable year, going 3-9 and getting outscored by 13.0 PPG.
Wake was equally bad on both sides of the ball, ranking 108th in the nation in total offense (302 YPG) and 101st in total defense (431 YPG). QB Tanner Price finished his freshman year with zero TD tosses in his final four games, a span of 85 pass attempts. Syracuse also had its problems on offense, scoring 20 points or less eight times. However, the Orange was tremendous on the defensive side of the ball, finishing seventh among FBS schools in total defense (301 YPG) and holding eight opponents to 16 points or less. Considering Wake is 3-11 ATS in its past 14 road games and the Orange are 9-3 ATS in the past 12 games versus non-Big East opponents, the pick here is for SYRACUSE to win and cover.
The FoxSheets also like the UNDER to occur in this matchup.
SYRACUSE is 34-12 UNDER (73.9%, +20.8 Units) when the total is between 49.5 and 56 since 1992. The average score was SYRACUSE 18.1, OPPONENT 28.0 - (Rating = 2*).
Despite 16 starters returning, the cupboard is still pretty bare for Jim Grobe’s Wake Forest team. A subpar receiving corps has hindered QB Tanner Price’s progression. The only reliable pass catcher is Chris Givens (35 rec, 514 yds, 4 TD). For the Deacons to hang around in this game, TB Josh Harris (720 rush yds, 5.7 YPC, 7 TD) will have to gain yards on the ground. On the defensive side of the ball, undersized DT Nikita Whitlock and DE Zach Thompson have to put pressure on Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib, and to keep the pressure off a young secondary that started three freshmen at the close of the 2010 campaign. Wake also lost its two starting ILBs.
Most of the Orange offense returns with QB Ryan Nassib (19 TD, 8 INT) and WR Van Chew (611 yds) trying to improve on Syracuse’s 11.5 PPG in its final four regular-season games. RB Antwon Bailey (5.1 YPC career) must make the jump from a third-down back to the featured rusher replacing Delone Carter. The defense may take a step back after losing six starters, the biggest being leading tackler Derrell Smith.