NC State vs. Syracuse is a pivotal top 25 showdown in the ACC on Saturday afternoon.

Both teams are still in the hunt for the ACC Atlantic title. NC State has just 1 loss, while the Orange remain undefeated and are 2-0 in ACC play.

Quarterback Devin Leary’s injury status is a big factor to watch int his matchup. Coach Dave Doeren told reporters Thursday that the team will decide on Saturday if he’s able to play.

NC State vs. Syracuse preview

This is arguably the biggest game Syracuse has hosted in years. It’s a top-25 showdown between two teams who are still in the running for the division title. The Orange are one win away from getting back to bowl eligibility for the first time since 2018. For the occasion, Syracuse is close to a sell-out crowd.

Syracuse is favored in this contest, although that may be factoring in Leary’s injury. He left the Florida State game with a shoulder issue after taking a hard hit in the third quarter. If Leary can’t play, the Wolfpack are expected to start backup QB Jack Chambers. The former Charleston Southern standout led NC State on 3 second-half scoring drives to win the game, but he did not complete a pass. If Leary is unable to go, expect NC State to deploy a run-heavy attack vs. the Orange.

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Syracuse’s rushing defense has been excellent so far this season. It’s one of the biggest reason why the Orange are 5-0 and still contending for the Atlantic division title in mid-October. Syracuse is giving up just 95 rushing yards per game so far this season, which ranks second (behind Clemson) in the ACC. The Orange are giving up 3.39 yards per rush, which is third in the conference. Teams have only attempted 140 rushes vs. Syracuse so far this year, which is by far the fewest any team in the ACC has faced through 6 weeks.

On the other side of the ball, NC State’s defense is coming off of a masterful performance in the second half vs. Florida State. The Wolfpack are allowing just 4.8 yards per play so far this season, which is tied for second in the ACC.

Syracuse’s offense has become one of the more explosive attacks in the league. With the introduction of offensive coordinator Robert Anae, the Orange suddenly have a top 3 offense in the ACC. Quarterback Garrett Shrader has been nothing short of phenomenal this season. Amongst ACC quarterbacks, he ranks first in completion percentage and second in passer efficiency rating. He’s also thrown just 1 interception so far this season and has 5 rushing touchdowns as well.

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Like NC State could in this matchup, Syracuse has a run-heavy offense that features Shrader and running back Sean Tucker. The sophomore running back is second in the ACC in rushing yards per game with 109.20. He’s one of the best offensive weapons in the ACC and is someone that NC State will have to keep track of on Saturday.

NC State vs. Syracuse prediction

Even if Devin Leary doesn’t play, NC State still has a good chance to win this game. The Wolfpack can put together an effective rushing attack and they have the best defense that Syracuse has seen to this point in the season. It should be a close game, but NC State’s veteran roster is built to win games like this.

Prediction: NC State 17, Syracuse 15