Florida State v. Syracuse: Preview and prediction

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

It's homecoming and FSU plays the ACC's newest bouncy ball team. They are not bouncy balling. Syracuse is in trouble.

Syracuse lost a lot from last year. A QB. A coaching staff. A left tackle. Two wide receivers. Three starters on the defensive line. And almost every starter was significant. But the 'Cuse has prevailed and sit at a very respectable 5-4. They'll soon be 5-5, though.

Get involved with FSU's touchdown drive to fight fanconi anemia, organized by injured senior tight end Kevin Haplea.

v. Syracuse's defense

The Syracuse defense starts and ends up front. The Cuse will look to out-physical opponents and have done a pretty good job of doing so. While there isn't a ton of talent, there is certainly a lot of hard work. DT Jay Bromley has keyed this unit leading the team in both tackles for a loss and sacks. He'll play in the NFL.

Much like many teams FSU has faced, the defense gets worse the further you get from the ball. The Syrcuse secondary is should not pose any problems for FSU's bevy of pass catchers. If teams can keep their QBs clean they rarely have problems moving the ball through the air.

If the Syracuse defense is to have success it will need some help. They should consistently drop 7 and rush 4, forcing FSU to work it's way down the field. That strategy won't completely stop the Noles, but the goal should be to slow the Garnet & Gold enough and capitalize on any errors the Seminoles make. It's a strategy to limit damage, not prevent it.

The more interesting story line might be the play of Sean Maguire. With Jacob Coker done for the year, Maguire will get the back up calls if and when the game gets out of hand. Coker struggled to move the offense when his name was called, but FSU's second team line is a big drop off from it's first team. Does Maguire have the same problems? He'll likely get ample opportunity to show he can get the job done.

Oh, and how will Jameis Winston play given all the stuff surrounding him this week?

Goals

  • More than 7.0 yards a play before garbage time (350 yards on 50 plays, 420 yards on 60 plays, 480 yards on 70 plays)
  • No more than 1 turnover
  • 60% or greater TDs in the red zone

v. Syracuse's offense

STOP THE RUN. That's the whole goal for FSU. Stop the run and Syracuse can't consistently move the ball to save their lives. QB Terrel Hunt can hurt teams with his legs, but the Syracuse pass game leaves more than something to be desired.

Syracuse will try and keep the ball between the tackles and physically wear teams down. Both RBs Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley fall more in the bruising back category and have done a good job of wearing teams down. Add in a better than average offensive line and you can see why the Cuse should probably be going bowling this year.

When the running game stalls or OC George McDonald gets pass happy, Syracuse really gets into trouble. Hunt is only averaging 6.1 yards/pass attempt, but at the same time doesn't get much help. Jerrod West and Ashton Broyld are Hunt's main targets, but FSU shouldn't have much trouble slowing them down.

So, how can the Syracuse offense succeed? Pound the ball, hope that FSU is undisciplined (good luck with that), and take advantage of turnovers. Most of all, don't turn the ball over and punt, shortening the game. FSU should be able to shut down the rushing attack with it's base nickel line up but don't be surprised to see more 5-2/3-4 to gain more experience from these sets.

Goals

  • Less than 3.5 yards/play allowed before garbage time (175 yards on 50 plays, 210 yards on 60 plays, 245 yards on 70 plays).
  • Force 2 turnovers
  • Less than 50% touchdowns allowed in the red zone.

Special Teams

Remember how we noted Alexander Kinal had punted 64 times through 9 games? Well he's closely followed by Syracuse punter Riley Dixon. Kinal was held well below his 7 kicks/game as he only kicked 4 times against FSU (7 TOs will do that to you) so Riley Dixon actually has a chance to close some ground. Dixon has punted 54 times and it's only that few because Jonathan Fisher has stolen 8 punts from Dixon.

Prediction

Welp:

Is there a positive we can take out of this trip to Tallahassee?

TIS: It will be 30 degrees warmer?

MM: Well, it snowed Tuesday up here. We know it won't snow down there on Saturday.

DL: If Syracuse at least looks like it plays in the same division of football for a bit, and no one gets hurt, I think the road trip will have gone about as well as we can reasonably expect. I'd be content with covering that 38.5 point spread, honestly.

JC: Florida recruits know we go to Florida? If FSU wins it all, we can say we faced them? I don't know, but it's better than a week 12 matchup with a 4-5 SUNJ team. So thanks, ACC.

What do the Orange have to do to beat Florida State ...Nevermind?

TIS: Put on shorts and play a 2-3 zone.

MM: Hope for freak weather to cancel the game, with no possibility of rescheduling it?

DL: Embrace the underdog role, run the ball with Jerome Smith indiscriminately, try to win the time of possession battle, play as aggressively as possible on defense, and hope for some seriously fluky stuff to happen.

JC: Run the ball and hope for insanity. If the Orange commit to the run, it'll at least minimize the amount of points Florida State can point on the board. So for the sake of appearances, SU should probably just go ahead and do that.

Florida State 54, Syracuse 7 | Chance of winning: 98%

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