In the post-Eric Dungey era at Syracuse, the Orange offense looks to keep things rolling from last year with a road trip to face Liberty.
Tommy DeVito takes over under center for Syracuse and will make his first start. But Liberty’s experience is could make life tough for the Orange on both sides of the ball. The Flames’ passing game thrives with top receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden and the team is much improved defensively.
Syracuse at Liberty
Saturday, August 31, 2 p.m. EST
Williams Stadium, Lynchburg, Virginia
*All odds and betting info courtesy of OddsShark and originally posted by Bookmaker
Spread: Syracuse (-18.5 at -110)
The Orange will definitely need a little bit of time to gel with redshirt sophomore Tommy DeVito under center. He’s only completed 50 percent of his passes throwing for 526 yards and four touchdowns with three interceptions.
Undoubtedly, Syracuse’s offense will take a step back from its 40.6 points-per-game clip that ranked 11th nationally last year. Much of that production came from a rushing game that averaged 200 yards per contest. Moe Neal (5.3 yards per carry) and Abdul Adams will get the bulk of the carries this season.
As receivers, DeVito will have Triston Jackson and Nykeim Johnson at his disposal. Johnson is particularly dangerous given his physicality and downfield quickness.
The Flames are led offensively by their star receiver Gandy-Golden. He had 71 catches last season for 1,037 yards and 10 touchdowns. That came following a season in FCS where he went for 1,066 yards on 69 catches and another 10 scores.
His 6-foot-4 frame and gymnastics background allows him to be quick and acrobatic in the air, making him a top draft prospect for this coming April. Quarterback Steven Calvert will look to get the ball to his top senior target but might struggle against the Syracuse pass rush.
Out of the backfield, Frankie Hickson will lead a Flames running game needing drastic improvement from last season. The Flames averaged just 160 yards on the ground per game, something that will need to improve to set up a strong passing game.
Both teams have hit the over during recent games and averaged over 30 points a game last year. With most top skill guys back on offense, that trend could continue again this season.
Syracuse ranked near the bottom of the FBS in passing yards allowed per game — 115th out 129 teams. That will spell trouble when it comes to defending Gandy-Golden. In turn, the Liberty offensive line allowed only 21 sacks all last year.
But Syracuse was sixth in the nation with 43 sacks. Their defensive front has largely returned and it could make life miserable for Calvert and the Flames offensive line.
Pick: Syracuse wins a shootout purely because of their pass rush, but when Calvert gets passes off to Gandy-Golden he could shred the ‘Cuse secondary. Take the OVER but take Liberty against the spread (+18.5).