The Syracuse Orange are facing a must-win game as they head down to Tobacco Road this weekend to face the Duke Blue Devils. Game time is set for 4:00 EST on Saturday, November 16 at Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham, North Carolina. Fans can watch all of the action on the ACC Network.
Current odds list the Blue Devils as 9.5-point favorites at home with an over/under of 55 points. Click here to get a full list of the Week 12 college football odds.
One year after winning 10 games and arguably being the second-best team in the ACC, Syracuse looks unlikely to even make a bowl game. The Orange has lost four games in a row and remains winless in conference play. Their last game prior to last week’s bye may have been the most disconcerting loss of the season, as Syracuse was blown out 58-27 by Boston College on their home field.
As it stands, the Orange is 3-6 and need to win their final three games of the season to become bowl eligible. With their next two games coming on the road, that’s no small task. It’s not impossible for Syracuse to turn things around, but they’ll have to find a way to beat Duke on Saturday to keep their bowl hopes alive.
Duke isn’t doing much better these days. The Blue Devils were blasted by Notre Dame on their home field 38-7 last week. It was Duke’s third straight loss and fourth loss in their last five games, as their season is quickly spiraling out of control.
After sitting at 4-2 midway through the season, the Blue Devils are 4-5 and need to win two of their final three games to qualify for a bowl game. While few people would refer to Duke as a football powerhouse, the Blue Devils have been to six bowl games in the last seven years, so falling short of six wins would be a significant setback for the program. With games left against Wake Forest and Miami, the Blue Devils will have a hard time making a bowl game if they can’t hold serve at home this week.
This will be just the second time that Syracuse and Duke have met on the football field since the Orange joined the ACC in 2013. The Blue Devils won 27-10 in the Carrier Dome in 2014 in the only other meeting.
The difference between these two struggling teams is that Duke has actually proven that they can beat a decent team. Syracuse is 0-6 against power-conference teams, losing three of those games by at least 30 points. At times this season, the Orange has had serious issues on both sides of the ball. I think the Blue Devils are just good enough to take advantage of that and win by a comfortable margin.
The high-scoring Syracuse offense from a year ago is no more. The Orange is averaging just 16 points per game against ACC opponents, scoring no more than the 27 points they got against Boston College, who is one of the worst defensive teams in the league. The Syracuse rushing attack is gaining just 3.1 yards per carry on the season, in large part because the offensive line has allowed starting quarterback Tommy DeVito to be sacked 41 times. DeVito hasn’t been bad otherwise and has a nice set of receivers. However, the Syracuse offensive line isn’t helping to generate a running game and isn’t protecting the quarterback.
To be fair, the Duke defense hasn’t been anything special this season. However, lopsided losses to Notre Dame and Alabama have skewed some of their defensive numbers this season. The Blue Devils have at least put together a few good defensive efforts, most notably against the likes of Virginia Tech and North Carolina. More importantly, Duke has been able to create takeaways, which is something they might be able to do if they can get consistent pressure on DeVito.
On the other side of the ball, the Syracuse defense has had an up and down season. At times, they’ve been able to hold teams in check enough to at least stay competitive in games. However, they’ve also allowed over 50 points twice this season. Syracuse will have a new defensive coordinator for the Duke game after Brian Ward was fired after the disaster against Boston College. But it’s hard to expect a complete turnaround in such a short period of time.
In fairness, the Duke offense isn’t necessarily explosive, but they can be difficult to face. Quarterback Quentin Harris isn’t the same caliber of passer as his predecessor Daniel Jones. But his mobility gives the Duke offense a different dimension. If he’s able to avoid the turnovers that have plagued the Duke offense during their losing skid, Harris will be a handful for the Syracuse defense.
In the end, the Duke offense may not even have to score that many points to cover the spread in this game. Syracuse has eclipsed 20 points in just one of their six games against power-conference teams this season. The Blue Devils should be good enough defensively to continue that trend, putting them in a good position to win by 10 points and cover.