Duke at Syracuse
12:30 PM ET
Saturday, November 8
TV: RSN (Affiliates)
Radio: Blue Devil IMG Sports Network, Sirius Ch 92 and XM Ch 193
Duke in 2014: 7-1 (3-1 ACC)
Syracuse in 2014: 3-6 (1-4 ACC)
PROBABLE: S Deondre Singleton
OUT: CB Alonzo Saxton II
OUT FOR SEASON: LB Kelby Brown, TE Braxton Deaver, DE Taariq Shabazz
A lot, including - DOUBTFUL: QB A.J. Long
Coach Cutcliffe and the Blue Devils will make their first trip to the Carrier Dome this week as they face off with the Syracuse Orange. Saturday will be Senior Day for the Orange, who finish the year with road games at Pittsburgh and at Boston College. Scott Shafer's squad will need to win their final three to return to the postseason in 2014.
HOW DUKE CAN WIN
The Coastal Division leaders are favored on the road in the Carrier Dome this weekend, but by less than a touchdown. The Orange have played tough against some of the ACC's best, including Florida State and Clemson. As in any ACC game, the Blue Devils will need to play sound fundamental football by winning the turnover battle and controlling the line of scrimmage. The Duke offensive line has proven to be one of the top units in the country, effectively keeping opponents out of the Blue Devil backfield all season long. A balanced offensive attack will continue to move the chains, and Duke's speedy backfield should benefit from the quick turf to break a few runs.
Defensively, Duke needs to force Syracuse into long fields and obvious passing situations. The Orange have struggled to move the ball consistently through the air, and Duke's opportunistic secondary should be able to match-up with Syracuse's receiving corps. A depleted offensive line allowed 8 sacks a week ago to NC State, which should have Jim Knowles looking for ways to dial up pressure on an inexperienced Orange signal-caller. After an injury last week, A.J. Long is doubtful, leaving redshirt-freshmen Austin Wilson and Mitch Kimble next on the depth chart. A strong day from Will Monday will make for a long afternoon for the Orange offense.
HOW SYRACUSE CAN WIN
For Syracuse to accomplish the upset, their defense will have to find a way to ground the Blue Devils. The Orange have struggled mightily on offense this year, ranking near the bottom of the ACC in total offense and scoring offense. Defensively, they have been effective at stopping the run, and will need to continue that trend against a balanced Duke rushing attack. Senior LBs Cameron Lynch and Dyshawn Davis must challenge Duke's veteran offensive front; Lynch ranks 3rd in the ACC in sacks entering Saturday's contest, while Davis is among the active career leaders in tackles for loss. Led by their two senior LBs, the Syracuse defense has proven to be stout against the run, holding opponents to just 3.3 yards per carry. A veteran secondary that starts all upperclassmen will have its hands full matching up with All-ACC WR Jamison Crowder, who is coming off his best game of the season at Pittsburgh.
Field position will be crucial for the Orange, who are not well-equipped to sustain long drives. A few critical takeaways or special teams plays will be needed to provide the Syracuse offense with a short field. The Blue Devils have proven to be quite vulnerable to the run, and a heavy dose of Prince-Tyson Gulley will be a challenge for Duke's front six. The senior already has two 100-yard rushing games on the season and will be looking to add a third on his Senior Day. Whichever young QB takes the snaps, they will have to play mistake-free football against the opportunistic Blue Devil secondary.
WHY DUKE WILL WIN
Boone and Crowder found their rhythm on the road in Pittsburgh last week. Under the friendly conditions of the dome, expect Boone to have another strong game against a Syracuse defense that has allowed 14 touchdowns through the air. The Blue Devils' senior QB will look to move to 18-1 in regular season games, leading another balanced Duke offensive attack. With an inexperienced QB starting for Syracuse, expect the Blue Devils to add to their ACC-leading turnover margin. The Orange have attempted the most field goals of any team in the ACC, which should play right into the hands of Duke's bend-but-don't-break defense. While the Orange will continue to settle for field goals, the Blue Devils will find their way into the end zone.
The Blue Devils again control their own destiny in the ACC Coastal Division race, but continue to take things one game at a time. After a narrow escape on the road in Pittsburgh, expect Duke to put together a strong second half to seal the win in Syracuse.
Duke 34, Syracuse 23