Four months from now, the Syracuse Orange and North Carolina State Wolfpack will meet on the hardwood at the Carrier Dome for a basketball game that is sure to draw more attention and hype than their contest Saturday on the gridiron. But don't dismiss the importance of this week's football matchup between the two schools.
Syracuse and North Carolina State collide for their first time ever as conference foes, and the outcome could very well determine which team has an opportunity to extend its season with a bowl invite. Kickoff at Carter-Finley Stadium is set for 3:30 PM (ET), and the college football odds have established the Wolfpack as clear home favorites.
SBR's live college football odds showed the contest opening with NC State favored by 4.5 to 5 points, but action on the Wolfpack sent that spread up to a full touchdown. A 54 point total has remained fairly stagnant all week.
Both teams enter the tilt off losses and still in search of their first conference victories. The Wolfpack underestimated the Demon Deacons last Saturday when Wake Forest pulled off a 28-13 upset at home as 8-point underdogs. Syracuse, meanwhile, was hosting its ACC opener and had the misfortune of that coming against a very good Clemson squad that rolled the Orange, 49-14, to easily cover a 2-TD spread.
Take a look at SBR's College Football Picks: Opening Odds Report for Week 6.
Orange Seek 1st-Ever Win Vs. NC State
Scott Shafer's slow and successful climb up the collegiate ranks finally saw the longtime assistant get his first head coaching gig for the Orange as Doug Marrone's replacement. The Orange came out of the blocks with losses to Penn State and Northwestern before Shafer got his first wins at the helm vs. overmatched squads from Wagner and Tulane.
Shafer's first ACC contest against Clemson last week was over at halftime, leaving the Orange staff with a big job of getting the team up after being so thoroughly schooled by Tajh Boyd and Company. A big problem for Shafer has been finding a quarterback who can perform against the big guys. Syracuse began the season with Drew Allen under center, but after an ugly showing in the loss to Northwestern, Terrel Hunt took over with solid results in the two wins.
But Hunt took a major step back last week against the No. 3 Tigers, completing just 8-of-24 with three picks. Allen came back in but also threw an interception; Hunt is expected to start this Saturday, but any hiccups early could force Shafer to turn back to Allen again.
QB Mitchell Iffy To Return For Wolfpack
The Wolfpack are also in their first season under a new head coach, and like Shafer who spent eight seasons as an assistant at Northern Illinois, Dave Doeren came to Raleigh after success as a head coach with NIU the past few seasons. Doeren also has quarterback concerns at NC State, but it's due to an injury in the case of the Wolfpack as opposed to inconsistent play.
Senior transfer Brandon Mitchell suffered a broken bone in his left foot in North Carolina State's season opener just a few series into the victory over Louisiana Tech, and hasn't seen any action since. He returned to practice this week, but remains questionable to play Saturday. The Wolfpack have a bye week after the Syracuse contest, and Doeren hinted he's leaning towards using that extra time to make sure Mitchell was 100% for the upcoming game vs. Florida State.
Mitchell isn't the only injury that has slowed NC State early on. Running back Matt Dayes missed last week's loss at Wake with an ankle injury, and is probable to play against Syracuse. The Wolfpack also have two of their top receivers, Marquez Valdes-Scantling (hamstring) and Rashard Smith (knee), have spent the past week or more on the trainer's table; Valdes-Scantling is listed as probable while Smith is questionable.
Mother Nature & Final Thoughts
College football handicappers should note that there is rain in the Friday forecast for Raleigh, but it's expected to push out and leave muggy, cloudy conditions for Saturday's kickoff.. Most of the game should be played around the 68º mark with a 10-14 mph north wind.
There are some combative totals trends for the teams as Syracuse's last five true road games have skipped past the number while seven of NC State's last eight home games never reached the scoreboard figure. I'm going to stick with the home team's trend for my free sports pick and go with the UNDER in a 27-20 Wolfpack win.My pick: Syracuse-NC State Under 54 at Bet365