BTP: While Syracuse is currently on a seven game losing streak, they have played hard in most of those games, coming up just short against Pitt and UVA, in addition to playing Clemson very very tough. Have there been any positives that you have seen during this losing streak that the program can ultimately use to build for next year?
JC: No positives that didn't exist before the losing streak, unfortunately. Syracuse's top playmakers are all fresman and sophomores, really (save Brisly Estime), and that should carry over well into next season no matter who's coaching the team. The Orange defense, on the other hand, is cause for a bit of panic. There are bright spots in young players like Juwan Dowels and Cordell Hudson, sure. But that defense being so young and rough around the edges this year allows thoughts to creep in about whether they can improve enough in 2016 to be significantly better.
BTP: The injury bug bit the Orange particularly hard this season, especially at the quarterback position. Has there been any update on if Eric Dungey will be able to play against the Wolfpack, or do you think he should sit again this week?
JC: Scott Shafer's kept things pretty close to the vest with regard to Dungey's health prior to the weekly injury report. Maybe he can go on Saturday? But it really depends on what his issue is. If it's a concussion, I say you have to sit him for the rest of the year for the sake of his health. Teams have taken a lot of cheap shots on him this season and his head's been through a lot already, concussion or not. You might be able to convince me to play him if he's recovering from a collar bone or neck injury. Without a bowl to play for, and a (hopefully) promising future ahead of the kid, though -- might be best for him to rehab and get back at full strength for 2016.
BTP: What's the overall mood of the fanbase right now? Are they ready to move on from the Scott Shafer era, or are they willing to give him another season?
JC: It's still split with two games to go, though each loss seems to bring more converts to the #FireShafer camp. If Syracuse can at least split the final contests, there will be an interesting conversation to be had. Win both, and it's very likely Shafer's back. Lose out and I don't know how you could rectify bringing a coach back when he's 6-18 over the last two years.
Overall, the fan base is tired of rebuilding and tired of hearing excuses about why we haven't been able to succeed or sustain success. It can be done and we have faith in that. Even if it means making yet another coaching change.
BTP: Who on the NC State roster most concerns you heading into the game on Saturday?
JC: The obvious answer's Jacoby Brissett. He started out last year's game tearing Syracuse apart, and given the state of our secondary this season, that might be the case yet again this Saturday. We also don't fare well against QBs with any amount of mobility, so there's two strikes for us vs. the Pack offense right off the bat.
We've also struggled with some players like Jaylen Samuels in the past, and to me, he's the one to be terrified of. I see him as a Tyler Boyd (Pitt) type, and that skill set -- versatility, speed, good hands, getting open in the flat -- typically tears us apart.
BTP: On the Orange roster, who is someone to watch that should have Wolfpack fans worried?
JC: Steve Ishmael. Syracuse isn't always great at targeting him as much as they should. But the Orange's leading receivers manages to create space against any defense, can be utilized on both short and long patterns and can out-jump nearly any defensive back for a ball. If the Orange get him more involved -- especially further down the field -- that's where SU's big-play ability will rise and fall.
BTP: Let's get a prediction on the game - how do you see this one playing out?
JC: I want to be optimistic and predict that Syracuse follows up a strong effort vs. Clemson with another one in a winning effort against NC State, but history (they laid an egg against USF after playing LSU close) tells me otherwise. I'll be there either way on Saturday, rooting on my alma mater. But I think Brissett shows an ability to slice through the Orange that SU's offense simply can't keep up with. That said, it won't be an incredibly high-scoring affair. It'll just be a Pack team largely outpacing Syracuse on both ends for an afternoon while never truly getting separation. NC State 30, Syracuse 23