TN: Welcome to the #goacc! By and large, FSU fans are not particularly familiar with the Syracuse program. What are your personal favorite moments and who's a favorite player or two of yours in program history? How do you feel about the move to the conference?
TNIAAM: (Oh man, there's that #goacc with the lowercase "G". I got yelled at by B.C. Interruption Tuesday night for using #GoACC. FYI, I am never going to use the lowercase "G" from now on after getting yelled at. Sorry, if that makes you other ACC folks mad.)
If we're strictly talking football, then easily the biggest moment I remember is the 1998 Syracuse Vs. Virginia Tech "comeback" game (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ai6ApPXw2R4). Now, I have a long personal story about this game that I will not go into (as does Sean Keeley), but this game pretty much summed up the McNabb era for me and a lot of TNIAAMers. Another moment, for me, is the 2010 Pinstripe Bowl against Kansas State. I was at Yankee Stadium covering the game as a reporter and it was a fantastic game and finish.
McNabb is easily my favorite SU football player of all-time, while current running back Jerome Smith is working his way up my rankings. I did always love watching Dwight Freeney sacking Big East quarterbacks too.
TN: What is the legend behind the name of your blog?
TNIAAM: The name of our blog was created by founder Sean Keeley, who started the site in 2006 and got the idea for the name after watching a Syracuse at Auburn football game in 2002 that featured our quarterback, Troy Nunes, being called a magician by the broadcasting team as he helped the then Orangemen rally late.
Now, if you're a general fan of Syracuse sports you may not know or remember Troy (there's a good number of SU fans that only follow basketball or gave up on the football program after the Donovan McNabb years), who is a great person but was a mediocre quarterback at SU. Which is why the phrase "Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician" is the name. Not only is it funny, because Troy wasn't much of a magician at all, it sorta gives you an idea of what our blog is about -- Syracuse sports with a huge hint of snarkiness, which most of the time revolves around our ability to make fun of ourselves (or Georgtown; or UConn; or Boston College).
So, if you come onto our site, please, make sure to keep you snark guard up (Clemson fans didn't and they got pretty upset).
Oh, and us here at TNIAAM really like college football and our football team. That's just usually not the norm around Syracuse fan base.
TN: After losing its excellent quarterback and head coach at the end of last season, Syracuse sits at 5-4 so far in 2013. What were your expectations for this season and how are you feeling about the direction of the program under Scott Shafer?
TNIAAM: If you took a preseason poll of the TNIAAM contributors, I think most thought a 6-6 record was what we were shooting for and expected. So, we got one more win to go to meet those goals, however, we understand the next three games will not be easy. If Syracuse loses out it would not shock anyone. If they win 2 of 3, it would not shock anyone. Honestly, it is a week-by-week process with this team.
As for national expectations, a lot of experts had Syracuse finishing 4-8 or 5-7 overall, so we have exceed a lot of those expectations with still a few games to play. So, that's good.
As for Shafer, he has done a fantastic job of getting his players to play hard and physically beat the crap out of inferior or equally-talented opponents (that how SU beat N.C. State, Wake and Maryland). Shafer is a smart dude and a good football coach that we feel can keep the ball rolling forward. He may not have all the talent yet and, maybe, going through some growing pains as a first-year head coach, but once he figures things out the Orange will contend for an ACC Atlantic Division crown -- I think sooner than most people think.
TN: We've gotten to the point in the season where everyone is banged up. What does the injury report look like for Syracuse on Saturday?
TNIAAM: To be honest, the Orange will be facing FSU at, pretty much, full strength. Backup running back Prince-Tyson Gulley was banged up against Maryland with an ankle injury, but he will be a go for Saturday. Safety Durell Eskridge, who also left Saturday's game with an injury is also set to return. We did miss linebacker Dyshawn Davis for a game this season, but he came back and played well against Maryland.
As I said earlier in the week, SU has no built-in excuses coming into this one -- well, other than you guys are a lot more talented than us.
TN: George McDonald's offense has had a rough go of it so far this season, ranking 93rd in the nation to date. What sort of scheme does Syracuse use on offense? What are its strengths and weaknesses?
TNIAAM: On paper, Syracuse's offense is a dumpster fire. If you're trying to put together a scouting report on the Orange by just looking at the stat sheet there's no doubt you would think FSU could shutdown the Orange with its second or third-stringers. But, don't let the stats fool you too much.
Yes, SU isn't going to toss the ball for 400, 300 or even 200 yards per game (and if they try to do that it is going to get UGLY). However, that's not what Syracuse is good at (and I think George McDonald is slowly figuring this out).
What SU is very good at is using quarterback Terrel Hunt and running backs Jerome Smith, Prince-Tyson Gulley and George Morris II -- he will play a bit since PTG dinged up -- to run the ball down an opponent's throat (mainly, in-between the tackles).
The idea is to play mistake free football and pound it to wear down the opponents defense a bit and sooner or later anyone of those four players will make a big play (and, honestly, I can say that besides the GT game they have made big plays).
To give you an idea of a perfect Syracuse offensive drive: Against Maryland, SU's opening driving went 80 yards on 16 plays and took nearly 8 minutes off the clock; the Orange's opening, second-half drive against Wake went 75 yards on 14 plays and took over 6 minutes.
My guess is you will see McDonald try to run, use quick bubble screens to the wide receivers and a trick play or two. That's what has been working on offense, it is ugly, but effective if SU doesn't get behind too much.
The question is, how much will the talent disparity work for FSU and against SU, if the Orange stick to this offensive strategy?
TN: Which matchups will be key for the Orange against the FSU defense?
TNIAAM: The tale of the tape will be on the offensive and defensive lines. If the Seminoles are bulling right through SU's offensive line, which is a pretty solid unit, then the Orange are out of this thing after the first quarter. However, if the Orange can maintain blocks and give their runningbacks/quarterback some cracks to run through than they could move the ball a bit.
TN: The defense under Chuck Bullough has fared a bit better, checking in at 61st in the country. What do the Orange do well on defense, and how do you think they'll try to defend Jameis Winston and the ‘Noles?
TNIAAM: It has been said many-o-time this week that you don't blitz Jameis Winston because he will kill you. Well, I am going to tell you that Syracuse should blitz the crap out of Winston because they can't rely on its secondary to cover FSU's wide receivers, because our secondary is awful. The rest of the unit is pretty solid.
Honestly, if I am Bullough, I stick to what my bread and butter is and that's trying to beat the crap out of the opposing offensive line and quarterback. I'd also try and double his best two targets to try and make Winston make a read or two; and then hope the pass rush is good enough to make him uncomfortable. That's the only way I see Syracuse standing a chance in this game defensively.
(Really, if Syracuse could play 13 players on defense it would really help out.)
TN: How do you see the game playing out? What do you hope to see from Syracuse on Saturday with a bowl bid very much within reach as the season draws to close?
TNIAAM: Honestly, if this game isn't over by halftime. I'd be shocked. However, I will say this: I've have seen crazier things happen, so I wouldn't be taken aback if the Orange muck this game up to the best of their ability and keep it within two touchdowns heading into the third quarter.
It is all going to come down to how well Syracuse can run the ball and make a play or two on defense. If the Orange do that early you guys might be sweating a bit at halftime. However, you will know VERY early if that's going to happen and if I were a betting man I'd take the latter of the scenarios.
Thanks to Jared for answering our questions! Be sure to head over to Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician for all things Cuse!