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Virginia Tech Football: A Closer Look at Syracuse

The No. 17 Virginia Tech Hokies are looking to stay undefeated in ACC play, while new Syracuse coach Dino Babers looks for a signature win.

Syracuse QB Eric Dungey
Rich Barnes, USA TODAY Sports

Remember back in 1995 when All-American defensive end Cornell Brown was chasing Syracuse star Donovan McNabb around Lane Stadium in a Big East showdown?

Yeah, that was a long time ago.

That was early in Virginia Tech’s rise to national relevance. While for Syracuse it was the last great era in the school’s football history. McNabb would go on to have a phenomenal college and pro career. However, after he departed Syracuse following the 1998 season, the Orange have struggled to find their way. They’ve gone through several coaches and have won eight games only twice in the last 15 years.

New head coach Dino Babers hopes to change that. In his third head-coaching stop in the last five years, Babers has a history of winning. His first head-coaching gig was at Eastern Illinois where he went 19-7 in two years before taking the job at Bowling Green. Babers went 18-9 there before taking the Syracuse job this season.

Before Babers got his first head-coaching job, he was on Art Briles’ original staff at Baylor. While at Baylor, Babers learned the spread offense and the inverted veer. He’s brought that explosive style of offense with him to Syracuse. The Orange rank No. 36 in total offense and No. 12 in passing offense, averaging over 336 passing yards per game. The Hokies’ secondary will be tested.

For a team that is so good at moving the football, the Orange are averaging just 25 points per game. Some of that is due to players learning a new system, while some of it is attributed to a lack of talent.

Syracuse enters Saturday’s contest with a record of 2-4, 0-2 in ACC play. Just last week, Syracuse struggled against Wake Forest, losing to the Demon Deacons, 28-9, and finishing with 326 total yards. This was one week after the Orange battled Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish led 33-27 at halftime before pulling away in the second half. Orange quarterback Eric Dungey passed for 363 yards ran for 49 yards and totaled five touchdowns.

Dungey is precisely the type of quarterback that has given Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster trouble in recent years. He can spread a defense out with four or five receivers and exploit the open space with his speed and quickness.

Don’t pay attention to the spread on this one, folks. Virginia Tech is a 19-point favorite. Can Tech win by 19 points? Sure, and the Hokies will likely win by three touchdowns or more. However, this is the type of game that should concern Hokie fans.

Tech is coming off a big win last week, while the Hokies get ready for a big showdown against Miami next week. Don’t expect head coach Justin Fuente to allow his team to overlook Syracuse. Babers is looking for his first signature win, while Virginia Tech looks to continue building the positive momentum from a 4-1 start.

The Orange aren’t back yet, but Babers has them heading in the right direction. Just don’t expect any McNabb-like magic against the Hokies this weekend in the Carrier Dome.